Apple’s new iPads vs Nexus 9 & Samsung Galaxy Tab S


Apple has announced a pair of iPad updates today, refreshing both models from last year with the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. The two devices don’t change much in terms of design from the previous models, but a few key upgrades promise to once again make Apple’s tablet offerings the talk of the town.

Before we get swept up in another round of Apple hype, let’s breakdown how these slates really stack up against the best Android has to offer. We compare the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini head-to-head with the newly announced Nexus 9 by HTC and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S line.

iPad Air 2 vs Android competitors

Air 2 N9 Tab s

Apple’s iPad Air 2 picks up where last year’s model left off, packing plenty of punch the lightest and thinnest tablet (437g, 6.1mm) we have ever seen. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S, which launched earlier this year, gets close at 6.6mm (467g). The Nexus 9 is the odd man out with a thickness of 7.9mm, a measurement that is still nothing to scoff out. The N9 is the lightest of the tablets at 425g.


With tablets seeing plenty of use as media devices, the display is without doubt one of the most important hardware elements to consider. The iPad Air, Galaxy Tab S, and Nexus 9 are all in the ballpark of 10 inches and all feature resolutions in excess of 1080p Full HD.

The Nexus 9 straddles the line between the large and mid-size tablets at 8.9 inches. It’s 1536×2048 resolution equates to a pixel density of 281ppi across its surface area. The Galaxy Tab S offers the biggest display option at 10.5 inches. Its Super AMOLED display slightly edges the IPS LCD of the Nexus 9 with a resolution of 1600×2560 and a pixel density of 288ppi. The iPad Air 2 sits in the middle with its 9.7-inch Retina display, an IPS screen touting a resolution of 1536×2048 and a pixel density of 264ppi.

Processing Power & Battery

Between the Nexus 9, iPad Air 2, and Galaxy Tab S, there is plenty of processing power to go around. Each device is supported by a SoC from a different manufacturer, and each has its own advantages.

Apple’s latest offering features the 64 bit A8X. The A8X is a iPad-tailored version of the A8 processor that debuted in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus last month, a dual-core chip that has been tested to reveal clock speeds around 1.4GHz (Apple does not reveal detailed figures for its processors). The chip also includes an M8 coprocessor for handling motion sensor inputs and promises improved graphical capabilities.

The Nexus 9 relies on the NVIDIA Tegra K1 chip, a quad-core chipset clocked at 2.3GHz. This chip also includes a Kepler DX1, which comes with the claim of offering desktop-grade graphics on a mobile device. The Nexus 9’s processor suite is supported by 2GB of RAM.

The Galaxy Tab S comes in two flavors. Some regions have access to the tablet with an Exynos 5420 octa-core processing, but most will see the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 variant. That device sports quad-core 2.3GHz processing and Adreno 330 graphics and 3GB RAM.

The iPad Air 2 features a battery that promises up to 10 hours of use (Apple did not reveal a specific capacity). The Galaxy Tab S features a 7900mAh battery that offers up to 11 hours of multimedia use. The Nexus 9 features a 6700mAh battery.

Fingerprint Scanner, Camera & Other Features

The latest generation of iPads are the first to feature Apple’s Touch ID technology, allowing users to unlock their devices with a fingerprint and provide additional security for supported apps and services. The Galaxy Tab S offers a fingerprint scanner with similar capabilities, though it has been known to be slightly more finicky than its Apple competitor. The Nexus 9 does not include a finger scanner.

All devices feature rear and front facing cameras. The iPad Air 2 sports a 8MP rear camera and 1.2MP front-facing camera, while the Nexus 9 and Galaxy Tab S both feature an 8MP rear shooter and 1.6MP and 2.1MP front-facing sensor, respectively. All are capable of capturing 1080p HD video in addition to hi-res still photos.

All three devices feature dual-antenna MIMO WiFi for enhanced connectivity and improved data speeds. The three devices all also offer LTE-enabled variants to take advantage of mobile data over a cellular network.


While two of our devices run Android and only one runs iOS, all three offer different software experiences. Chalk this up to the inclusion of Samsung’s TouchWiz interface on the Galaxy Tab S (based on Android 4.4 KitKat) and the debut of Android 5.0 Lollipop on the Nexus 9. The new lineup of iPads sports iOS 8, Apple’s latest update to their mobile platform.

The differences between the Galaxy Tab and Nexus 9 are mostly surface level — core Android features like widgets, multitasking, and access to the Google Play Store remain the same. The N9 does benefit from new features introduced in Android 5.0 including its Material Design interface (a new design language geared at unifying the Android experience across devices) as well as improved notification controls and a new battery saver mode.

iOS 8’s differences are a bit more drastic. Users still have access to features like multitasking and over a million apps via Apple’s App Store, but widgets are refined to the notification shade and other core differences exist in how iOS functions versus Android. Apple made a point of emphasizing continuity features that allow users to easily move from smartphone to tablet to Mac, enabling text message and voice calling support across devices paired with a connected iPhone.

Android Lollipop boasts some continuity features, but Google has focused on media. Users can start a movie or video on one device and pick right up on another, including televisions thanks to the new Nexus Player.

iPad mini 3 vs Android competitors

Mini 3 N9 Tab s

Apple also unveiled a new edition of their iPad mini, a device featuring an 8-inch display. This tablet perhaps best compares with the Samsung’s smaller Galaxy Tab S, the 8.4-inch edition, but the Nexus 9’s 8.9-inch form factor is still an option for those looking for a slightly smaller slate.

The iPad mini 3 features a 7.9-inch Retina display at 2048×1536 resolution and 326ppi. The Galaxy Tab S 8.4’s Super AMOLED display measures 8.4 inches with a pixel dentist of 359ppi. Specs for the iPad mini and Galaxy Tab S 8.4 are otherwise identical to their larger counterparts.

Availability & Pricing

The iPad Air 2 will be available starting at $499 for a 16GB model, identical pricing to the equivalent Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 model. The iPad mini will retail starting at $399, a price point that again matches the Samsung Galaxy Tab S at the 8.4-inch level. The Nexus 9 will retail for an identical $399 for a 16GB model.

The Nexus 9 will go up for pre-order on October 17th with official availability beginning November 3rd. The new iPads will also be available for pre-order starting October 17th and ships next week. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S is currently available from a variety of retailers and carrier partners.

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  1. Glad to see the competition forcing Apple’s prices down, even if by just a little.

    1. Those are the prices Apple always had in place for iPads and iPad Mini. The only deal people will get is when the old iPads and iPad Minis be reduced.

  2. The first line in the table is a deal breaker.

  3. The Mini still uses the same chip as last year.

  4. Doesnt the nexus 9 have 3gb ram?

    1. no. 2gb.

    2. You must be thinking about the Nexus 6.

  5. I never trust the battery life from these charts. Apple never lets you know the mAh they just say “10 hours”. Ten hours is great but I’d also like to know what battery it’s using not just the estimate of how long, it’d be great to see every company say “We get 10 hours on a (Insert Number here) mAh battery”

    1. That’s because Apple’s power management with software/hardware integration is far superior to all others. Their tablets have long been best in class in battery life. They can get by with a smaller battery, and last longer than the competition with a larger spec’ed battery. When they say 10 hours, in video tests, it typically will last 10.5-11 hours. They are always accurate, and usually on the conservative side.

    2. The reason mAh is irrelevant is due to inherent difference in OS power management, iOS is significantly superior over Android in power management due to hardware and software optimization hence even with a lower mAh battery, the iPad can best higher mAh Android tablets

      1. When iOS was single threaded till ios4 yes my iPad was good 6-8 hours after iOS 5 and now ios8 my iPad last as much my nexus7 2nd gen or my Samsung tablet . IOS 8 is buggy as hell lots of freezing up and crashes. While nexus 7 is smooth and no issues.

        1. I have an iOS device too (iPhone 5 issued by work) and iOS 8.0.2 runs flawless on it, not sure what your issue is.

    3. Both figures are needed because on the other hand quoting mAh is equally as pointless when you have no idea how well optimized the OS is or how much power it’s components draw.

  6. I cant help but think the most important camera on a tablet is the front facing one, not the back yet companies continue to ramp up the quality of the wrong one.

    1. Makes you wonder if adding better front facing cameras would further compromise the experience of these facetime / skype apps that already struggle with the lower res stuff (especially over 3G).

  7. I’m torn… the Nexus is better price/performance…. but the iPad still has better apps…. SOOOOO torn.

    1. What apps are better on the ipad?

      1. I had a Tab S up until yesterday when I sold it to get either the Nexus or iPad. Here are some apps that are better:

        NY Times,
        ANY musical instruments and production apps

        Those are just the ones off the top of my head.

        1. Really? I was thinking about the Tab S and it’s beautiful screen.

          1. The screen is definitely what had me sold originally. If you watch a lot of movies then get it… Nothing beats it, even this new iPad…. but I spent too much time browsing the web with multiple tabs open, while listening to music and performance started to deteriorate. Touchwiz is also poorly coded and is sluggish all the time, but you can alleviate a lot of it with a different launcher, I used the Google’s.

          2. Do you even have Samsung s tablet mine beats my iPad any day.

          3. That’s what I said? Read again.

        2. Spotify and ebay operate pretty much the same.

          NY Times I haven’t used on either platform.

        3. I was thinking either Tab S or Nexus, but you actually sold your Tab S? Is it because of the Tegra K1 of Nexus 9?

          1. Yes. The Tab S has a pretty shitty processor…. You could tell when it slipped into the lower power cores, which hurt performance quite a bit. Touchwiz was a joke, but adding a different launcher helped with that.

            I’m thinking Nexus 9 due to vanilla Android, and the k1. The screen is still high res (not as high, but still wonderful) and IPS… so I shouldn’t be too disappointed. Honestly as I was saying before though, i would have gone iPad if it wasn’t for their 16b base model bullshit. I don’t think they realize how many people are going to go Nexus because of that… $600 is too much for a wifi only media consumption device.

          2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Have you considered the Sony Z3 tablet? It’s not out yet, but I like the claim that you can view it in bright sun (which is a huge problem for my laptop) and water/dust proof.

        4. I feel like the one thing holding me back is that Android still doesn’t have a garageband-like app to go toe to toe with iOS… which is sad

        5. erm …. there are other news site that are as good, if not better on android. And how is ebay better on iOS?

          For music app, I do agree. So if you are a music junkie, perhaps iOS is for you and you have to live with the walled garden. But for the rest, the apps are not that must superior on either side, each have its strengths and weaknesses.

        6. Nice story bro. I don’t see any difference between these apps on iPad and nexus tablets

          1. Ok, enjoy. Tab S is a great product.

      2. Pick any of the 675,000 iPad specific apps! Far, far more than is available for Android tablets.

        1. Most of em are fart apps . just 100 apps are made for iPad screen BTW android tablet beats iPad any day

        2. That means nothing when I only need about 10 apps. Not to mention all those 675,000 apps doesn’t let you access the file system for a file manager, download files from the web browser, or run emulators just to name a few. An Android tablet is stil far more powerful regardless of app count.

          1. I’m betting those are 10 free apps! LOL Typical Android cheapskate! No love for the devs. That’s why I’ve got 675,000 to choose from and I pay for them too! You know, to show support for the developer community! They reward us with great apps that support iPad. Let me know when you find the eleventh free app and I’ll laugh some more.

          2. Cheapskate? I don’t buy crap I don’t need, only something that adds to functionality that I need. And considering I mainly use my phone for email, text, maps, photos and web browsing I have little need for “apps”.

    2. At this point that argument is pretty much void. The apps are equal on both from what I’ve seen lately.

  8. Please don’t fall into marketing gimmicks. “Facetime HD” is not a camera type or resolution, and doesn’t mean anything.
    If anything, HD means 1280×720 so only 0.9 MP. Can’t shoot 1080p video either.

    And Nexus 9 is dual core.

    1. But marketing gimmicks work. There’s no such thing as a SuperAMOLED screen. OLEDs are inherently active.

      1. Samsung’s AMOLED technology is different to normal AMOLED tech just as there are different LCD technologies. It’s not marketing hype that IPS LCD’s are better in pretty much all aspects than TN LCD’s. Do you have proof that Samsung’s AMOLED is just a marketing gimmick?

        1. You’ve totally missed the point.

          SuperAMOLED is just OLED just like Facetime HD is just a 1+ Mp camera.

          They give them special names to be more distinctive and less technical for the non techie consumers.

          1. You’ve missed the point. Samsung’s AMOLED implementation, whatever they call it, is different to standard AMOLED tech. Hence the LCD analogy I provided.

            Please go do your research before trying to call me out on something that you’re wrong about.

          2. Samsung tablets resolution beats iPad any day

          3. Right they are all LED displays. But it is definitely true that Samsung’s lately have the best color accuracy and brightness. Just look at the new Moto X, I think the brightness is only about 300nits, not great for outdoors. Samsung’s is seeing 500+nits. I don’t think there is any doubt their “Super” AMOLED is probably the best on the market.

    2. So what you’re saying is that the Facetime HD front camera is perfectly decent for facetime, selfies or whatever silly thing people do with a camera on a tablet.

      1. I think a <1MP camera is pretty crappy for video calls and selfies.

  9. I’m really hoping for a Galaxy Note 10.5 with a SuperAMOLED screen.

    1. I think that’s next. The Tab S is great and all, but the CPU needs an update. The Note product line could see the new screen tech AND an improved CPU. That may be my next tablet.

      1. Really do you even have a Samsung s tablet it smokes ipad

  10. iDon’t care! My next tablet and smartphone will be Nexus 9 and 6!

  11. Ill just stick to my ipad mini 2 and my nexus 5 for now

  12. iPad mini still has the old A7 SoC.

  13. You need to add the term “hardware” to the title of this article. Because thats all this compares. We all know its not the hardware that makes a device great, its the software.

    1. Erm, because .. you know .. these are actually the HARDWARE that are being compared. They will talk about software WHEN they compare the OSes.

  14. What’s a pixel dentist??

    1. haha

  15. What about the Sony Z3 tablet compact?

  16. When is apple going to drop this stupid “Retina” moniker?

    1. When customers stop falling for it.

      1. So in other words um never.)

  17. 16GB + 128GB microSD support for the Tab S devices.

  18. Over priced crappy iPads no wonder sales are going down while android tablets are 60% market share

    1. but.. but.. but… they innovated by, uhm.. making it the thinnest iPad yet! uhm… yeah..

  19. Does the Galaxy Tab have an SD card slot ?
    I know the Nexus won’t and Apple definately not!
    I would rather pay less money for the device and upgrade the SD card to have more storage.
    Also allows for swapping a music SD card with a movie SD card for car trips etc. :)

    1. Good point, but Touchwiz.

      1. I like TouchWiz! Yum yum yum yum yum.

    2. A Nexus with an SD card slot would be a dream come true. <3

      1. Amen.)

  20. Attention to details: the new Dell venue tablet is 6mm thick.

  21. I think it’s pretty much iPad and iPhone sales domination for the rest of the year!

  22. Front facing speakers ……

  23. £400 for a 32GB Nexus 9 vs a £319 16GB + microSD Galaxy Tab S 8.4″

    If I am paying £400 for a tablet, it better be 10″.

    And I wanted the Nexus 9 to be my first Nexus device =/

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