Nexus 9 vs the new iPads: specs comparison

by: Robert TriggsOctober 17, 2014

Nexus 9 vs iPad

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.

 Nexus 9iPad Mini 3iPad Air 2
Price$399 - $599$399 - $728$499 - $829
Resolution2048x1536 (281ppi)2048x1536 (326ppi)2048x1536 (264ppi)
SoC2.3GHz Tegra K11.3GHz A7unspecified A8X
Memory16GB / 32GB16 / 64 / 128GB16 / 64 / 128GB
Battery6700 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.

Related: iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3

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.

Nexus 9 Keyboard

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.

 Nexus 9iPad Mini 3iPad Air 2
Rear camera8MP, f/2.45MP, f/2.48MP, f/2.4
Front camera1.6MP, f/2.41.2MP1.2MP, f/2.2
DataWiFi / LTEWiFi / LTEWiFi / LTE
SpeakersDual FrontStereoStereo
Fingerprint ScannerNoYesYes

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.

  • Nabeel

    The only one thing I love about iOS is….. 1gig of RAm…!!!! WTH….??……And it is Competitively fast!!

    • Jaime A.G.

      That’s because it uses NATIVE (C++) code, while Android still uses fucking VIRTUAL MACHINES (resource wasters).

      • TyH

        Does ART still use VM ?

        • animaonline

          No, ART uses AOT (Ahead of time compilation), meaning java code is compiled to native code when you install an application.

      • Felix Jones

        There are some mistakes in your post, C# is by no means native, C# is just like Java in that it uses a Virtual Machine. Also; iOS does not use C#, it uses C and Objective-C, all C# usage is forced to run virtually on top of C and Objective-C (So it’s definitely not native on iOS).

        VMs themselves aren’t resource wasters, the problem with Java is that the garbage collection is slow and causes a jolting pause in the operation (Ever opened the app draw, started swiping but have it stop for a split second?)

        Xobot will have a very efficient virtual machine that prioritises speed of execution over some other factor, the Android Java implementation aimed to be compatible with the original Java spec which favours correctness, safety and compatibility over speed.

        In addition to all that, Android now uses “Android RunTime” (ART), which will compile the bytecode of the Java application into machine code to be executed on the processor directly, this removes all the overhead of running a Virtual Machine (However the memory management will still be there; Garbage collection).

        What Apple have done is gone with natively compiled languages (C and Objective-C) which do not feature memory management (At one time Objective-C on Mac OS X did feature garbage collection, but that has been deprecated in favour of Automatic Reference Counting, a form of automatic cleanup of RAM).
        They did this because garbage collectors are slow and consume a lot of battery (A garbage collector typically has to parse over every large object in memory twice to both mark and clean up the memory).

        The result of this is; Android needs more CPU and RAM to handle the garbage collection (A programmer famously said “The only way to make Java faster is to throw more power at it”, which is exactly the trap that Android is now in) and iOS can be light and efficient.

        The negative of this is; iOS apps must be compiled for ARM only (Not a problem as Apple control the hardware) and the programmer must control the program’s memory management (Not a problem as a good programmer can do this and Objective-C’s automatic reference counting makes this easy).

        Android does support C/C++ with NDK and JNI, but Google are refusing to make this a focus of development, so we’re stuck with very painful to use and debug native code on Android, on top of this it still has Java binding it together.

        • Karly Johnston

          You clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

          • Grahaman27


        • T Hartman

          There’s a great deal this week on an iPad Case & Keyboard at — TabletMaxx – which offers a premium bluetooth keyboard – leather case combo package for $19.95 (regularly $49.95).

          TabletMaxx also offers a few new tablets worth reviewing, including the Pipo P8 ($229) which launched this week, which compares to the new Nexus 9 tablet, but at about half the price with much of the same premium features including a Retina-quality display, a quad core processor, MicroSD storage and GPS.

          TabletMaxx also offers the Ramos i12 ($299) with an ultra-size 12-inch HD display and Intel processor; also available is the Ramos i10 Pro ($399) – a new model similar to the Microsoft Surface, with the key advantage of a dual boot system that makes it the first tablet to run both Android and Windows OS on one device with easy access to Android Apps and Windows software — the Ramos i10 Pro is powered by a high performance Intel Bay Trail processor and features Bluetooth, 8-hours battery life and a 10-inch, Full HD display.

        • Jaime A.G.

          It can be C++, C or whatever variant, the point is: Android needs to get rid of any Java related things ASAP.

          • animaonline

            You have zero knowledge about compilation, Android’s Dalvik is so heavily optimized that you won’t probably notice any difference between the performance of JIT or AOT / NATIVE compiled code, go back to school, sign up for some courses, simply put, STFU until you have something good to add.

        • Marcelino F Abou-Haidar

          Thank you for the explanation. :-)

        • JP

          You know your stuff

      • animaonline

        For Pete’s sake, read up before you make these dumb posts, man you have no idea what you’re talking about, get a life and gtfo, please…

    • Ivan Clemente Cabrera

      no one know exactly ho much ram it has until ifix do the teardown it has been rumoured 2gb…but off course they want the ipad to look bad

    • Karly Johnston

      Air 2 is 2GB

      • Kuzy

        If they upgrade it to 2Gb they advertise it… But all the publications think that is still 1Gb, well see next days…

        • Karly Johnston

          They never advertise it. The leaks showed 2 gigs along with benchmark registry.

  • bob

    according to rumors, it has 2gb of ram

    • bob

      and a8x is 40% faster than a7 which is about 1950 in geekbench single core, right on par with k1

      btw, why didnt you write a single word about metal?

      • Felix Jones

        What did you want them to say about Metal?

        • bob

          you know, the usual… facts

          • Felix Jones

            What do facts about Metal have to do with this article? There isn’t much that a discussion about Metal can add to this comparison

          • abazigal

            Metal allows iOS games to make more efficient use of the GPU, thereby allowing better performance with the same specs. In this context, straight benchmark tests may no longer be accurate or necessarily tell the whole story. Even if the Tegra K1 has better benchmarks on paper, the same game may still end up performing better on an iPad because it has been better optimised for ios.

            Apple’s ability to optimise their products at both the hardware and software level has allowed them to do some truly amazing stuff, and I think that cannot be overlooked here.

          • Felix Jones

            Metal is an optional API, if you’re going into optional stuff then maybe look at the K1’s desktop GL NV extensions which give similar levels of performance with low level GL4.5 EXT functions?

            Comparing software API for performance is unfair as you can take other routes on each devices, it is more fair to compare performance on the latest shared graphics API (GLES 3)

            I’m all for APIs like Metal and AMD Mantle, but the most beneficial aspect of them is encouraging the low level GL extensions to enter main branch in the next version (desktop GL has the GLNG version which is a rewrite with low level operations in mind).

  • akiet00

    iPad for sure. Android tablet just sucks

    • carter taylor

      Isheeps, only listen to what they’ve been lied into their head. Have you actually had a nexus 7? Or maybe the nexus 10? Maybe the Samsung Galaxy tab S? Your trapped in your apple pen.

      • animaonline

        He’s just an Apple-brainwashed, moronic troll, can’t blame him.

    • Jayfeather787

      Android tablets are great. I love my Nexus 7 2013.

    • Remy Basi

      Nexus 9 > Ipad Air 2. Android is far superior when compared to ios.

  • Ivan Clemente Cabrera

    how do they know it’s 1gb of ram? guessing?

  • kpom

    I don’t think the 1GB of RAM on the A8X has been confirmed. There are rumors it has 2GB.

  • Peerpressure

    The iPad Mini 3 is almost a joke. Same specs as the iPad Mini 2, just with the Touch ID sensor. And the iPad Mini 2 is now $100 cheaper. Plus, no NFC in the iPads, so it’s not like you can use the fingerprint sensor for the Pay system.

    I currently have an iPad 3 (I love jailbreaking), and with that price decrease, those iPad mini 2s are looking better and better. A used one would probably be $200 – $250. Of course, that’s the same price as a new Nexus 7, but I do like the bigger screen size and a jailbreaking platform.

    • player911

      Android doesn’t need jailbreaking. It already can do the stuff out of the box. You don’t even need root unless you need a specific root-required app such as Xposed or a Root File Explorer.

      • Peerpressure

        That is true. When I switched from the iPhone 4S to the Galaxy S4, I was surprised at all the tweaks I had to jailbreak for that were just on the Play Store. Like dimming your display even more, or pop-up replies.

        That being said, there is just something fun about taking an ipad, something that is supposed to be so safeguarded behind Apple’s walled garden, and giving it new life. It’s like finding a kid that’s been locked up their whole life, and taking them to Disneyland. :)

    • abazigal

      I guess Apple is losing interest in the iPad mini now that they expect their iPhone 6+ to cannibalise the sales of smaller tablets.

      Maybe the iPad mini will be the next iPod touch. It will stick around as a lower-cost alternative that is always 1 generation behind when it comes to specs. :/

    • AlphaOne

      Your point about Apple Pay on the Mini is redundant really: I don’t think anyone would want to shove a Mini to a kiosk at shop checkout. No, the true benefit is online shopping and Phil Schiller mentioned as much in the launch event. If you can pay through participating apps on the Mini, this is actually quite an attractive feature depending on the level of integration in the App community.

      Of course, the extra £100 to the price tag makes it a hard sell for a single added feature…

  • Robin Lauren

    I may be an incurable Android fan boy, but who really needs 128 GB storage space on a tablet these days when most content comes over the net anyway? And for the _really_ security conscious, the fingerprint reader is merely an identification device for convenience. It’s not something you’d actually use to authenticate to something of higher security value (when you can log in to a fingerprint scanner with a piece of sticky tape).

    • Felix Jones

      I think storage is a good commentary on where each company lies; Google previously invested it’s time into web-apps believing that users would move to having their content and applications wholly on the net whilst at the same time Apple were investing in having on-device Apps, which is most likely reminiscent of their on-device music and video from the iPod; in that battle on-device Apps certainly won but as for content it is up in the air, with iOS still favouring on-device media and Google moving everything onto web-storage.

      As for the fingerprint scanner, it isn’t perfect security (There is no such thing as perfect security) and like you said you can copy a fingerprint (However the Apple scanner is high-resolution, you’ll need something more than sticky tape! A high res copy of the finger is needed) but it expands to a nice solution to the problem of the security holes that NFC has, Apple were unwilling to go NFC until they had a security system they could control and they got that with fingerprint scanning.

      It’s probably more fair to look at the fingerprint scanner as part of Apple’s NFC solution than as it’s own thing, by itself it is just a gimmick but when paired with NFC payments it adds a layer of security that simply isn’t there with NFC on it’s own.
      EDIT: Just re-read what I wrote in that last paragraph, it’s not just NFC but the whole payment process being supplemented by the fingerprint even on devices without the NFC is an attempt to improve security on an existing insecure feature. For us developers TouchID being on iPad is very awesome as it means streamlining payable content for the end user.

      Personally I still like to have my media content on the device, so I’ll be getting the 32GB Nexus 9, and most likely we’ll see Nexus devices having 64GB+ storage in the future so I think the argument in the future will be the services around our content on the web (Recommendations based on history, price comparisons, stream first episode of a TV series for free, etc) rather than if our media content is on web storage or local storage.

      • abazigal

        Apple is still admitably very weak when it comes to its cloud and internet services (I updated to Yosemite and icloud drive over the weekend, and have been having syncing issues ever since). I can understand why Apple would want users to store their data directly on their devices so ease the strain off their cloud infrastructure.

    • abazigal

      Apps really add up. The more powerful iPad games can easily take up a few gb of storage each. As a teacher, I have much of my teaching materials digitised and stored in notability, which is already quite a few gb. A few more gb of photos. I store a lot of articles in Pocket. Standard apps like iWork’s are already a few hundred mb each (not including files).

      Not to mention that you would really appreciate having some “scratch disk” space at times. For example, I record a video at 1080p. At 8mp, that comes down to 9 or 10 gb of storage for a 45-minute video. I then want to edit it in iMovie on my iPad, which creates a duplicate of the file (another 10gb). Then after editing it, I save a copy back to my camera roll, which takes up another few gb, before I go back and delete the duplicate files. It really adds up.

      64gb is a comfortable spot for me (which is the same price as the old 32gb iPad, so no loss there).

      • Robin Lauren

        Excellent comments, @abazigal:disqus & @felix_jones:disqus. I don’t do any video editing on a tablet, so your use case is quite different from mine. When i’m on the tablet, i’m just the average media consumer. And i only play Clash of Clans and Hey Day :)

        I’ve heard it said on a podcast (Mac Power users perhaps?) that Google focuses on a smart cloud and a thin client, whereas Apple focuses on a storage cloud and a full featured client. Both views are valid, but living with sufficiently available wireless bandwidth (and sensible off-line capabilities), i tend to go with the Google train.

        • abazigal

          To clarify, I don’t really do video editing all that often on my iPad (or video editing on any device for that matter). Probably a few times a year, when I need to record videos of my teaching to use for professional development. I have this Swivl mount that lets you clamp a smartphone or tablet and it will rotate the device to keep it entered on you (it’s marketed towards ios device users, and comes with a 30-pin cable, but any mobile device should work).

          Since I do the recording on my iPad, and only need to make quick edits (mainly to cut out the useless parts, add some animation and compress the video), it feels more seamless to edit it directly on my iPad via iMovie than copy it over to my Mac. The 5mp camera still produces fairly clear videos, and I use my iPad for the larger screen when working on videos. However, it’s still nice to have this extra storage handy when I need it.

  • Marty

    Don’t forget that the wifi-only iPads do not have a GPS chip or location-based services. The Nexus 9 as well as all Android devices do have GPS and location-based services.

    If you want GPS in an iPad, you have to tack on an extra $130 to the already very high price for the data-enabled versions.

  • crutchcorn

    Nexus 8 wins. Why? Android

    • Jayfeather787

      This guy knows what’s what.

      • crutchcorn

        Well hey, gotta have your priorities straight.

  • swlee

    No Nexus 9 for me because there is no complete white version, with white front. Black electronics look just cheap ass and dirty with fingerprints. If I get an android tablet, I would choose Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact or Galaxy Tab S 8.4, with white versions. Sucks though that my iPad mini 2 is super cheap now.

  • Itamar Baum

    Add much as I love android, the iPads are still better than any android tablet I used.

    • Jerry Rich

      I doubt that you “love android”, and I doubt that you’ve “used ” any android tablet.

      • Itamar Baum

        Xoom and nexus 10

  • Jerry Rich

    Too expensive. Where is the Nexus 7 2014?

  • Magnetic1

    If in doubt which one to choose, ask your local thief which one would you steal?
    Enuff said. Apple iPad Air 2.0 wins hands up.

  • TVB

    My choice would be iPad mini retina. Cheaper & portable.

  • Apurv Zoad

    Nexus 9 wins !!

  • Apurv Zoad

    Who wants fingerprints ?

  • abazigal

    Well, latest updates – the iPad air 2 has 2gb of ram and a tri-core processor. The iPad Air 2 is comparable to the Nexus 9 for single-core benchmarks, but beat the latter in multi-core performance by about 35%.

  • Android Developer

    What about Infra-red ?Does the new Nexus 9 have it?
    I also wonder about Nexus6.

  • Gary W

    I was going to buy both the Air 2 and Nexus 9 and see who wins, but only got the Air 2 because local BestBuy was out of stock. The Air 2 is very nice, and I am guessing its pure performance would beat the Nexus 9 as well. However the Air 2 got too thin to the point that the whole tablet vibrates when you play audio, the audio quality has degraded mainly due to the thinness. I will try the Nexus when it’s available in store. If it’s good enough then I will return the Air 2.

  • jamesvii

    The deciding factor for me will be whether or not with the recent updates to iOS whether or not I can send and receive text messages to non-iMessage users from an iPad Mini 3. I want the Nexus 9, it’s beautiful and I want to explore Android L but if I can send and receive text messages on an iPad Mini 3 I will be going with that one. Can anyone tell me if this is possible? I have a MacBook Pro with Yosemite and of course, the Messages app.