Tablet Wars Redux: Nexus 9 vs. iPad Air 2

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The tablet computer market, despite being dominated by the iPad, is in a constant state of agitation. With Amazon, Samsung, and Google coming out with their own line of tablets, the war for the bigger devices gets more and more intense every year. 2014, though was another one of those Apple vs. Google fights where both parties came out with the best line of products.

Apple released the iPad Air 2 while Google came out with Nexus 9. Both of these tablets are flagship products from two of the most popular tech companies in the world. With Nexus 9, the search giant brings along promises of a polished, Android Lollipop-laden tablet experience that will get the latest and greatest updates. With iPad Air 2, on the other hand, Apple makes sure that the users get the best features from their top-of-the line products into this tablet. A faster processor, lighter weight, and a fingerprint scanner may seem like small additions, but they do make a product that is already ruling the market into a superb all-round device.

When a casual consumer decides to head into the market to buy a new tablet, he's faced with many tough questions. The price aside, the main thing many people worry about is that: does this tablet meet my needs? And for years, Apple's iPad line has answered positively to that question, and noticing that, Google has decided to step up their game and launch their own tablet called the Nexus 9.

Aimed at the general public rather than Android fans, the Nexus 9 is a direct competitor to the iPad 2. It offers pretty much everything the iPad offers with the added bonus of a much freer OS that is Android. This leaves the customers with two top-of-the-line tablet devices to choose from. While we won't accompany you to the store to help you make the choice, we'll surely help you better discriminate between the two products and buy the one that appeals to you the most. 


Build Quality:

Both the Nexus 9 and the iPad Air 2 are almost the same weight and you won’t feel much difference between them if you were to hold them with both of your hands. The build material, however, differs a lot. Apple’s tablet comes with the trademark aluminum unibody finish that not only looks gorgeous but also feels premium and strong. On the Nexus 9’s back, there’s the matte plastic back; which, though looks good, doesn’t quite measure up to what Apple offers to its customers. Even by just holding the iPad for a few seconds one can tell that Apple’s tablet offering is way superior in terms of build quality when compared to the Nexus 9.

Winner: iPad Air 2.


The display on these devices is the top-of-the-line screens you will find in the market. Whether you are choosing a tablet for reading, watching movies, or playing the latest mobile games, both Apple and Google have done a great job at finding some of the best displays. Both have IPS panels with 2048x1536 resolutions on each of them. While Apple’s is a 264 ppi display, the Nexus 9 is 288 ppi making the difference between the two tablets marginal. However, despite the high quality of these displays, iPad somehow manages to edge out Nexus 9 by adding some small-but-useful features to the mix. One of the glaring omissions (no pun intended) in Nexus 9 is the anti-reflective coating; something that helps you read books in the sunlight. This feature alone, as Apple claims, reduces reflections by half, thus making it a superb outdoor device. While Nexus 9 is not that bad for reading, but the small feature does indicate why Apple is still dominating the market.

Winner: iPad Air 2

Extra Features:

When it comes to goodies and extra features, the iPad Air 2 manages to edge out the Nexus 9. Its nifty fingerprint scanner does a lot of things other than to provide a one-touch security solution. While the Nexus does pretty much all things okay, it does miss that little X-factor that Apple’s fingerprint sensor brings along.

Winner: iPad Air 2


The Nexus 9 is about $100 cheaper than the iPad Air 2 in most markets thus making it a great budget tablet for the general public.

Winner: Nexus9


While Android Lollipop looks just as gorgeous as it could ever look, it does fall short when it comes to scaling. The Nexus 9, running the latest version of Android, does look like an awesome tablet, but there’s a lot of blank space that’s wasted making it look as if the phone’s software was just stuck on the tablet. While this is not a big issue, but compared to the iPad Air, the Nexus does lose out a couple of points. iPad with iOS8.1 not only looks good on a tablet but also looks as if the software was made for a big screen. Furthermore, you’ll find many apps in the Apple App Store that are designed specifically for tablets thus making the iPad an even worthy purchase.

Winner: iPad Air 2


Both the iPad and the Nexus could be used for reading, watching movies, checking mail, and playing games. While Google has the Play Store, Apple offers the famous iTunes Store to its users. iTunes, as many of you know, is one of the most popular content stores out there. While many may choose iTunes over Google Play, it may not necessarily affect the decision of a buyer who's just looking for a good tablet. However, if you come from the Apple ecosystem of apps, music, and games, iTunes will definitely lure you into buying the shiny tablet.

Winner: Tie


While both have an 8MP camera at the back, the front-facing camera is where the similarity between the two devices ends. Apple’s Air 2 comes with a 1.2 MP front camera while Nexus comes with a 1.6 MP one. The aperture for both is the same, which is f/2.4. However, there’s one big difference here. The Nexus 9 camera comes with a flash. Yes, while we don’t expect to see professional tablet-wielding photographers anytime soon, having a flash at the back is a welcome addition and it does score Google some brownie points.

Winner: Nexus 9


While the Nexus 9 is a great device on paper, it does lack the maturity and the premium quality of the iPad Air. Since this is Google’s first big tablet, we might overlook some flaws, but they do have to pull up their socks if they want to catch up with Apple in the tablet market. If you have an extra $100 to spend, you should consider getting an iPad Air rather than going for Nexus 9. It offers much more value for money for its high price.

Overall Winner: Apple iPad Air 2

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.