Tablet Showdown: Google Nexus 9 vs. Apple iPad Air 2

eHow Tech Blog

tabletsLet’s face it: When it comes to tablets, Apple seems to own the market. According to a Gartner report, iPads made up 36 percent of all tablet sales in 2013, with Samsung coming in at 19 percent and various other companies making up the rest.

On the other hand, the Android operating system has captured nearly two-thirds of the market, meaning although iPads are the single most popular tablet, Android is the most popular OS.

iPad Air 2

You can interpret that data in a number of ways. My take: If you’re shopping for a tablet, you’ve probably already decided whether to buy Apple’s new iPad Air 2 or Google’s new Nexus 9. So what the heck do you need me for?

In fact, if you’re anything like most of my friends and relatives who ask me, “Which tablet should I buy?”, you’ll ignore my advice and just choose the one you secretly wanted anyway.

Nevertheless, my advice you shall have. And here it comes: Stick with the tablet you already own. Although both models offer some nice amenities, neither one is revolutionary. Heck, they’re barely evolutionary. As upgrades go, they’re not worth the expense.

Don’t own a tablet yet? Cool. Now it gets interesting.

Keeping it in the Family

Well, sort of. As a general rule, ecosystem trumps everything else. If you already own an Android-powered phone, it’s a good bet you’ll want an Android-powered tablet — namely, the Nexus 9. And with good reason: You’ll have instant access to all the apps, movies, music and other stuff you’ve already purchased. Same goes for iPhone owners: An iPad affords access to iTunes, where you’re already invested, so to speak.

That said, I know plenty of people who like to mix their gadgets and their ecosystems. Me, for example: I’m a die-hard iPhone fan, but my small tablet of choice is Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX.

But let’s skip past all that for a moment and view these products in a vacuum. If you know you want a big tablet (by which I mean something in the 9 to 10-inch range), the iPad Air 2 and Nexus 9 represent the bleeding edge, the latest and greatest tablet tech has to offer. Is one hands-down superior to the other?

Tablet Smackdown — or Letdown?

Physically, they’re very similar. The 9.7-inch Air 2 is slightly longer and wider than the 8.9-inch Nexus 9, but also thinner and just a smidgen heavier (like, 0.35 ounce). Screen resolution is identical at 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, though the Nexus 9 has a slightly higher pixel density.

Dual cameras, check. Fast processors, check. Recently updated operating systems, check.

So, what, did these two come from the same factory? Not quite. The Air 2 is the prettier tablet by far, with your choice of aluminum bodies. The Nexus 9 sports a strip of brushed metal around the edges, but otherwise it’s all plastic. If you prize aesthetics, there’s no question which model wins the day.

Google Nexus 9 plastic backs

As to price, the Nexus 9 starts at $399; the Air 2, at $499. That’s for models with 16GB of, sadly, unexpandable storage. The 32GB Nexus 9 runs $479, while a 64GB Air 2 costs $599. (Apple no longer offers a 32GB model, which is weird.) I’m not convinced tablet users need tons of storage, but it does irk me that Google elected (again) not to provide a memory-card slot. That’s one of Android’s major benefits over iOS; why not leverage it?

Ultimately, though, it’s all about personal preference. If you want the pretty tablet and don’t mind spending a few extra bucks to get it, the iPad is wonderful. If you don’t mind a slightly smaller screen and plastic shell, with a lower price to match, there’s plenty to like about the Nexus 9. For me to declare an outright victor would be silly.

But perhaps you feel differently? If you think one of these two tablets is the clear winner, tell me why in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo credits: Apple, Google

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