Consumers looking for a new tablet in time for Christmas are going to be spoiled for choice this year. In the space of just two days we’ve seen the launch of the new high-end Nexus 9, iPad Mini 3, and iPad Air 2. So let’s break down exactly what each tablet has to offer.
For starters, let’s take a peek at the hardware that each tablet is packing and if it’s a good deal for the price.
iPad Mini 3
iPad Air 2
|Price||$399 – $599||$399 – $728||$499 – $829|
|Resolution||2048×1536 (281ppi)||2048×1536 (326ppi)||2048×1536 (264ppi)|
|SoC||2.3GHz Tegra K1||1.3GHz A7||unspecified A8X|
|Memory||16GB / 32GB||16 / 64 / 128GB||16 / 64 / 128GB|
|Battery||6700 mAh (9.5 hours WiFi browsing)||23.8 watt/h (10 hours WiFi browsing)||27.3 watt/h (10 hours WiFi browsing)|
The Nexus 9 sits right in between the two new iPad tablets, in terms of size, and the bump up in resolution for the Nexus 9 means that display clarity will be pretty evenly matched across all three tablets. Given the iPad Mini 3’s slightly smaller size, and therefore higher PPI, it will probably look ever so slightly sharper, but the same applies when you look at the Nexus 9 compared with the Air 2.
On the processing side of things, it’s a little tough to compare Apple’s SoCs directly to the Nexus 9. We’re yet to see how the new Nvidia Denver CPU cores in the Nexus 9’s Tegra K1 perform in the real world, but early benchmarks have shown that the new Tegra K1 outpaces the iPhone 6’s Apple A8 in single and multi-core performance. The 1GB RAM amount is also an interesting choice for the Apple tablets, as more demanding applications and environments that make use of the SoC’s horsepower could end up strangled by the limited amount of memory.
Graphical power is another area where the Nexus 9 should compete well in. Nvidia’s Kepler architecture has already proven formidable in the mobile space. Similarly, Apple’s A8 chip offers up impressive graphics performance and the A8X apparently offers up more horsepower still, but it could be a much closer call between the Nexus and Air tablets this time around. The older A7 chip in the smaller Mini 3 is perhaps a little disappointing by comparison, given that’s its the same chip that powered that last generation Mini 2.
Performance looks to be a close run race, so we’ll turn to some of the tablets’ other features.
iPad Mini 3
iPad Air 2
|Rear camera||8MP, f/2.4||5MP, f/2.4||8MP, f/2.4|
|Front camera||1.6MP, f/2.4||1.2MP||1.2MP, f/2.2|
|Data||WiFi / LTE||WiFi / LTE||WiFi / LTE|
The Nexus 9, iPad Mini 3, and Air 2 all come in both WiFi and LTE options, with the latter feature adding to the price tags quite significantly. The 32GB LTE Nexus 9 will set you back $599, while a comparable LTE iPad Mini 3 costs $529 or $629, depending on storage, and $629 or $729 for the Air 2.
As for cameras, again it’s a very close call on paper. The Nexus 9 looks to compete with the more expensive iPad Air’s 8MP rear and front camera options, and will offer higher resolution snaps than the Mini 3. The f/2.4 aperture should result in similar levels of performance in low light conditions between all of the tablet cameras. Although we’ll have to do some hands on tests for a more definitive answer here.
The iPad range has a wider selection of storage options, which helps offset the lack of microSD card support across all the tablets. Although you will pay a hefty fee for the 128GB options. 32GB should see people through a large enough collection of music and films for your trips out, but a 64GB Nexus option would have been nice.
As for some unique features, the Nexus 9’s dual facing front speakers will provide a better stereo sound when watching moves, whereas the iPad’s two speakers are both located at the bottom end. Apple’s TouchID fingerprint security system is embedded into its new tablets, which is a nice feature for the security conscious.
Time to choose
The Nexus 9’s hardware appears to go toe-to-toe with the much more expensive iPad Air 2, but is aggressively priced against the smaller and slightly cut-down iPad Mini 3. The smaller range of memory choices might be a problem for some, but other than that there’s very little to fault with the Nexus 9.
Your preference for Android or iOS has probably already made up your mind for you. Even so, there’s no denying that the Nexus 9 is a really high-end piece of kit that easily justifies its price tag. Of course, there are other high-end Android tablets which might suite your needs too.