iPad Air vs Google Nexus 9: Two amazing tablets from 2 big companies

Posted by B. Johnson
Google Nexus 9 VS iPad Air: Tablet BattleHi guys, welcome back to this site

When it comes to making tablet, it’s very obvious that HTC has never been really good at in this field.

This really contradicts with Apple that always gains such a massive global success everytime it introduces the new iPads.

Actually, HTC used to have its own tablets in the past – HTC Flyer and HTC Jetstream. However, these 2 devices didn’t have much to say around the tablet the market.

In fact, most people didn’t really notice the existence of these HTC tablets.

But interestingly, this year Google manages to convince HTC and raise its interest of making a tablet from the dead.

Alongside Google, this manufacturer works closely together to design, develop and engineer a new tablet powered by NVIDIA’s latest and greatest Tegra K1 processor.

It is a Google-branded tablet, however, under the Nexus line. Yes – it is no other than Google Nexus 9.

Google Nexus 9 VS iPad Air benchmarks and gaming performance

As the name of this device suggests, Google Nexus 9 sounds like it is a 9-inch tablet.

And that’s true because this tablet comes with an 8.9-inch display, which is very interesting because it sits between the screen size of iPad mini (7.9-inch) and iPad Air (9.7-inch).

More interestingly, Google Nexus 9 also adopts the same 1536x2048 pixel resolution of the iPads.

So this is the reason why today i’m really interested to bring up these 2 tablets into my next comparison review and see how they stack up against each other.

I think the comparison review between these 2 tablets could be pretty interesting because Google actually has been trying even for years – since the first-gen Nexus 7 – to attract many tablet shoppers out there to buy Android tablets instead of iPads.

Impressively, Google with this Nexus program has been pretty successful on that goal with more and more people now starting to consider of buying Android tablets instead of iPads.

Now they are familiar with the term “tablet” even when buying iPads. This really contradicted with the past when many people generally called all tablets as “iPad”.

I’m also really attracted to explore about the gaming performance of both devices.

I know that Google Nexus 9 with its Tegra K1 is just more superior than the A7 chipset embedded beneath the iPads.

However, i think gaming performance is not just about how the tablet handles the games smoothly in full graphics.

But there are many factors that take integral parts on the gaming experience as a whole on these 2 tablets. And this is also one other thing that i would like explore more in this comparison review.

Well, if you’re interested to see more of these 2 devices, including my comparison of their gaming performance, then here you go, my comparison review between Google Nexus 9 and iPad Air.


It’s not a secret anymore that Google and many of its Android device manufacturers used to be really jealous with the massive global success that Apple always gained everytime it released the new iPads.

And all of these guys had also been trying really hard for years to make the competing devices that could ruin iPad’s full control over the tablet market, which was originally pioneered by the Apple itself through its iPads.

And apparently, after gaining experience on tablet market for years, now more and more people finally started knowing the existence of Android tablets.

And amazingly, last year, Android tablets all over the world finally managed to turn things around and even eat iPad’s market share by a huge margin from just below 50% to even 70% globally.

And that was a huge turning point that entirely changed this used-to-be ‘iPad market’ into a general ‘tablet market’.

I believe Google had a really huge influence to alter people’s perception of a tablet. I know that Google Nexus line is mostly recognized by tech geeks.

However, thanks to the release of Google Nexus tablet series, it really helped Android tablet manufacturers find the best formula to create the ideal Android tablets for consumers, the tablets that can compete with iPads.

Now more and more people around the world finally realize that tablets are not just iPads, tablets can be from other manufacturers outside Apple and they are still as great as iPads.

Anyway guys (sorry for the long introduction above.. lol), this year, Google decided to partner with HTC to build its next-gen Nexus tablet.

And as a 9-inch tablet (actually 8.9-inch tablet), no wonder if Google picked the name “Google Nexus 9” for this device.

Through this tablet, it’s really obvious that Google now doesn’t want to do the experiment anymore on tablet market – just like it did with Nexus 7 tablet.

Now it’s really clear to see that Google wants to fight Apple iPad straight away.

And it’s shown clearly by how Google Nexus 9 adopts the same unique 1536x2048 pixel resolution that has been the ‘trademark’ of iPads especially on the last-gen models.

Google Nexus 9 shows how Google is really serious when competing with the iPads as it decides to shake hands with NVIDIA to bring its latest and greatest Tegra K1 processor inside this tablet.

And if any tablet is powered by Tegra K1 processor, then it means this tablet will be insanely powerful and in fact, is capable to deliver the same graphical performance even as today’s desktops or PCs.

And more impressively, according to some benchmark tests, Tegra K1 processor is so powerful it can even beat Apple A7 processor and deliver 3 times graphics power as A7 chipset.

However, Google Nexus 9 is not just about a fast performance or powerful graphical capability.

This tablet has a lot more stuff to bring to users especially the ones who are looking for a productivity tablet that has powerful gaming performance.

And that’s proved by Google’s decision to release the keyboard case/cover officially for Google Nexus 9.

I’m not really sure if this tablet can have a massive global success around the productivity tablet market in the next few months, but i think Google is just doing what it’s been good at for the past few years, which is testing and experimenting the markets.

But the questions still remain. With all of these powerful set of hardware,

does Google Nexus 9 have what it takes to be an iPad Air killer?

Do these 2 tablets deserve to be positioned alongside other flagship devices on today’s tablet market?

Which one between Google Nexus 9 and iPad Air that is a better tablet in the whole aspect?

You'll find out more about the answers of these questions in my final conclusion of this review. So be sure to keep reading this post!


In terms of design, i think both tablets have their own strengths. iPad Air – as we all know already – is thin, rich and famous..

No, i mean, it’s really thin and really light to hold even with one hand – despite using 4:3 aspect ratio and large 9.7-inch display.

But Google Nexus 9 is also superior on the same sector.

The most prominent point on this Google-branded tablet is definitely its dual-front-speaker grills, which deliver such a great sound quality (as told by many famous tech reviewers on YouTube).

Google Nexus 9
Google Nexus 9
iPad Air
iPad Air
However, there is one downside found on the design of Google Nexus 9. And that is its rear-core.

According to theVerge and PhoneArena, the rear-cover of this tablet is really prone to catch fingerprints and grease.

And this really contradicts with iPad Air that not only feels really comfortable to hold because it’s thin, but its aluminum material is also not fingerprint-friendly.

But even so, i think Google Nexus 9 still looks nice and elegant with its design, but it might not look that good anymore if there’s a lot of finger prints or oils all over the rear cover.

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Google Nexus 9 (HTC )Apple iPad Air
4G Network LTE
Released November 2014
8.9 inch IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 1536 x 2048 pixels (~281 ppi pixel density) 16M colors
Dual-core 2.3 GHz Denver Nvidia Tegra K1
Kepler DX1 GPU
Android OS 5.0 Lollipop
No Memory Card slot
16/32 GB Internal storage
8 MP rear-facing camera 3264 x 2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
1.6 MP front-facing camera, 720p
Bluetooth v4.1
No Radio
Java MIDP emulator
Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass Sensors
Indigo Black, Lunar White, Sand Colors
Non-removable Li-Po 6700 mAh battery
Talk time (multimedia): for up to 9 hours
4G Network LTE
Released November 2013
9.7 inch LED-backlit IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen
1536 x 2048 pixels (~264 ppi pixel density) 16M colors
iOS 7 (upgradable to iOS 8)
Apple A7 Dual-core 1.3 GHz Cyclone ARM v8-based Chipset
PowerVR G6430 quad-core GPU
No micro card slot
16/32/64/128 GB Internal storage
5 MP
1.2 MP, 720p@30fps
Wi-Fi 802.11
Bluetooth v4.0GPS
No Radio
USB v2.0
Accelerometer, gyro, compass Sensors
HTML5 (Safari) Browser
No Java
Non-removable Li-Po 8600 mAh battery
Talk time (multimedia): for up to 10 hours

On paper, i think both devices are equal one to another. It has the same 1536x2048 pixel display, it has powerful processor and GPU, it has great quality cameras, it has longer battery life and they both are great gaming tablets.

However, if we go a bit deeper into their specs, i think i have to go with Google Nexus 9 this time because it has more powerful Tegra K1 processor than on the iPad Air.

In fact, benchmark tests already showed that Tegra K1 chipset is capable to deliver 3 times of graphical performance as Apple’s A7 chipset. But overall, these tablets are really well-prepared in terms of specs.


If there is one sector that iPad Air is really superior at compared to Google Nexus 9, then it’s definitely its display.

This is actually kind of weird because both tablets are sporting the same exact 1536x2048 pixel resolution but in different screen sizes - Google Nexus 9 with a smaller 8.9-inch display, while iPad Air has a larger 9.7-inch screen.

So supposedly, Google Nexus 9 will win this sector easily given that its display is smaller yet with the same resolution of iPad Air.

But apparently, that’s not the case here. Despite using a much larger 9.7-inch screen, the display quality of iPad Air is just better than Google Nexus 9 because iPads have been known for years with its great sharp Retina Display.

On the other hand, even though Google’s tablet is equipped with a smaller 8.9-inch screen (with the same "Retina" resolution), the display of this tablet – according to theVerge -, is not nearly as nice looking as iPad Air – the colors look washed out, the backlight is visible on the side of the screen and there’s a visible gap air between the glass and LCD.

User Interface

Most of iPad users really love how iOS works. It’s fast, smooth, fluid but still has its elegance despite being a simple UI.

Meanwhile, many Android tablet users mostly love this platform because it offers many great and useful features even than on the iOS of iPad Air.

So when it comes to UI, i think both Google Nexus 9 and iPad Air has their own strengths and weaknesses.

I mean, even though iOS is really simple, this platform now has been improved a lot by Apple with many tweaks and added features.

It goes the same with Android. This platform used to be plagued with laggy issue. However, that doesn’t happen ANYMORE on Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Thanks to Google’s never ending effort in the developments and improvements on this platform – plus powerful specs on Google Nexus 9 -, Android now runs really fast and smooth, but still has it own identity, which is a full-featured platform.

So it’s up to you now. If you love iOS and are willing to be caged into this ecosystem for long time, then go buy iPad Air.

But if you want the same fast and smooth OS, but has more features and better visual presentations, then Google Nexus 9 is your best shot here. Both tablets are great, both UIs are awesome. Period.

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Apple has been doing a really amazing job at making its iGadgets (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) the best gaming devices out there on the market.

In fact, according to Apple’s research, its iDevices had a massive global success to steal such a huge share around the gaming handheld market (PSP, Nintendo DS, etc).

Well, this doesn’t happen overnight though.

Apple has been through a lot of testing and tweaking for years not only on its devices and its software, but also on the entire iOS ecosystem and its App Store.

And this is quite complicated even for a huge company like Apple (and this is the thing that keeps holding back Nokia from reaching success with its Ovi Store).

So when it comes to gaming performance, there’s no doubt that iPad Air is perfectly prepared for that. In fact, this iPad Air is made for gaming, besides as a media-consumption device.

It has a powerful set of hardware that is more than adequate to execute any games on App Store, and there is a huge catalog of games that have been well-optimized for iPads.

These 2 elements in fact are really important to ensure the best gaming experience for iPad users.

Not to mention, iPad Air has a great long lasting battery life, even for intense gaming. So as an iPad user, you just need to worry about playing games, not recharging the device.

But that’s not it. There’s more.

On the latest-gen iOS 8, Apple releases one piece of software or development kit (like JDK or Java Development Kit) specifically made for game developers called Metal API.

Long story short, with this Metal API, game developers now have much easier access to use the full potential of the GPU power of all iOS devices.

And this means, they will have much bigger space to improve their games in terms of graphics, visual effects and other goodies.

However, with this Metal API, game developers – especially the big ones – will be tied with more serious commitment to bring their best into iOS games instead of other platforms like Android.

So this is why future games (made using Metal API) on iPads will be really hard to ported to other platforms along with all of the graphic and visual effect resources, making iOS games much even more superior than Android games in the future.

However, it doesn’t mean that Google Nexus 9 will be left behind than iPad Air in overall gaming experience.

Similar just like Apple iPad Air, this Google-branded tablet is equipped with NVIDIA’s latest and greatest Tegra K1 processor, which undoubtedly is really powerful and it’s even the current best mobile processor on the market today.

The more impressively is, the Tegra K1 processor that NVIDIA puts on this device is the dual-core Denver processor, which is made with 64-bit architecture.

Accompanied with a staggering 192-core of Kepler GPU inside, this tablet is nothing but a powerful machine that is more than capable to handle any Android games on the market today.

So basically, with this type of hardware specs, you’ll be able to play any Android games even the most graphics intense titles like Asphalt 8: Airborne, Modern Combat 5, NOVA 3, Need for Speed Most Wanted and even GTA San Andreas – all in buttery smooth performance and even in full highest graphics.

As a matter of fact, Tegra K1 processor inside this device is so powerful you can even play any console-quality next-gen games that are about to arrive in 2015.

Not to mention, given NVIDIA’s close partnership with many console/PC game developers (like Activision, EA, Ubisoft, etc), you can expect to see some console-quality games for this Google Nexus 9 in the near future.

You can actually play them now as Trine 2 and Half Life 2 have been ported from PS3 and PC specifically for Tegra K1 devices like Google Nexus 9.

The other thing that – in my opinion – makes the gaming experience of Google Nexus 9 probably better than iPad Air is definitely its sound quality.

As a matter of fact, there are many famous tech reviewers across the YouTube (including theVerge, PhoneArena, etc) that give great reviews over the sound quality of Google Nexus 9.

And this thanks to the dual-front-speaker grills on this tablet, making the gaming experience of Google Nexus 9 more realistic to gamers.

So in terms of gaming experience between Google Nexus 9 and iPad Air, i think it’s quite hard to determine which one of these tablet that is a better gaming tablet.

I mean, iPad Air has a powerful gaming performance and Metal API, plus it has a huge collection of games well-optimized for iPads.

Not to mention, it has a great touch response, long lasting battery life for gaming, thin design (which makes it comfortable to play games for hours), sharp Retina display and its sound quality is guaranteed top notch (given that it is Apple we’re talking about here).

But Google Nexus 9 is also as great as iPad Air on the same sector.

It also has a powerful set of hardware, a GAMING processor, better sound quality, well-optimized Android games for Tegra K1 tablets, great design, great touch response and not to mention, there will be many console-quality games that will be ported for Tegra K1 tablets like Google Nexus 9.

So i think, between Google Nexus 9 and iPad Air, both tablets are just great equally in terms of gaming experience and performance.

Even you pick any of these tablets randomly, you won’t make any mistake. It will be the best gaming tablet on the market right now.


Camera has always been one of the strongest points on all iPads. And Apple still continues that tradition on this latest-gen iPad Air.

With the new and much improved iSight 5MP camera on the back of iPad Air, you’re guaranteed great sharp looking photos and videos, even without any manual tweaking provided from the users.

So even if you’re not good at taking photos, this tablet is still capable to deliver the best shots for you – but of course, the quality will be a lot better if you’re a good photographer.

It goes the same with the video recording of this device.

The quality will be sharp and even worth sharing on your HDTV in your house. So if you decide to buy iPad Air, you must accept the fact that this tablet takes great pictures.

Actually, the same applies with Google Nexus 9.

Even though Google Nexus devices have been through a lot of ups and downs in terms of camera quality (especially with Nexus 5 smartphone and Nexus 7), i believe things will get better this time with this 9-inch Nexus tablet.

Google Nexus 9 is equipped with an 8MP rear-facing camera and the other 1.6MP shooter on the front.

And given HTC’s years of experience on camera development of its devices (like ‘Ultra Pixel’ technology), not to mention Google’s involvement on the camera software, then you can expect some great quality shots taken with its rear 8MP camera.

As a matter of fact, according to theVerge, the rear-facing camera of Google Nexus 9 indeed takes decent quality shots (although it’s still not as great as the camera on iPads).

But i think this is huge improvement over the predecessors because Google has been trying really hard to improve the camera department of its Nexus line.

And the good news is, it finally delivers the results that Google always wanted, which is the camera that takes great shots.

So even if the camera of Google Nexus 9 is not as good as iPad Air’s iSight camera, at least, it’s on the right track. And in fact, it’s closer for becoming a tablet with great quality camera.

Battery Life

The most important issue that has been plaguing today’s gadget is the weak battery life.

It’s in vain if the device has the best powerful hardware specs on the market, but it always requires user to recharge it twice a day, especially in heavy intense use.

The good news is, both Google Nexus 9 and iPad Air are already well-prepared for that matter. With iPad Air’s huge 8120mAh battery (if i’m not mistaken) and Google Nexus 9’s 6700mAh battery inside, you’re guaranteed an all-day-long battery life.

As a matter of fact, the battery life of iPad Air is so powerful even one famous tech reviewer on YouTube (Marques Brownlee) said that iPad Air is just really strong in terms of battery life.

Even if you are a hardcore gamer or movie viewer (movie viewer, really?), iPad Air can even survive in 2 days, of course on a 100% full charge.

It goes the same with Google Nexus 9. Thanks to HTC’s decision to cram a pretty huge 6700mAh battery inside this 8.9-inch tablet, you’re also guaranteed an all-day-long battery life.

However, if compared to iPad Air, of course this Google Nexus 9 is probably not as strong as the iPad Air.

And this is due to its Tegra K1 processor, sharp 1536x2048 pixel display and pretty heavy UI, which can be power hungry and drain the battery life much faster.

But the good news is, on this Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google has made a lot of tweaks especially to make this OS more efficient with the use of battery (as seen on new feature that lets user to wake up the screen with one tap on lock screen without waking up the entire pixels of the screen, etc).

So i think both Google Nexus 9 and iPad Air are equally great on this department, although iPad Air is much stronger.

My Personal Opinions

So in conclusion, just like i mentioned above, i think it’s pretty hard to determine which one between Google Nexus 9 and iPad Air of that is just a better tablet in the whole aspect.

I mean, iPad Air has its own strengths, while Google Nexus 9 also has them too. And both of these devices are powerful gaming tablets, with also great gaming experience.

So yes, it’s kind of hard to pick which one is a better tablet.

However, given that Apple has been really good at delivering good quality iPads to users, i think i have to go with the iPad Air this time because it’s slightly more superior than Google Nexus 9 in entire aspect.

First of all, let’s start with the display.

Both Google Nexus 9 and iPad Air may share the same exact 1536x2048 pixel display – and even Google-branded tablet has the sharpness given its smaller 8.9-inch screen size with the same resolution.

However, it doesn’t straightly mean that the screen of Google Nexus 9 is better than iPad Air.

According to theVerge, the screen of Google Nexus 9 is not nearly as nice looking as the Retina Display of iPad Air.

The colors often look washed out, there’s a visible air gap between the glass and LCD and the backlight is visible on the side of the screen.

And all of this really contradicts with the Retina Display of iPad Air, which looks great, sharp and flawless compared to its rivals (and probably only Samsung with its Super AMOLED display that could kill it)

However, Google Nexus 9 is still more superior than iPad Air on the sector of performance.

And that’s thanks to Tegra K1 Denver processor with 64-bit architecture, which according to some benchmark tests, is capable to deliver 3 times graphical performance as A7 chipset on iPad Air.

In fact, this Tegra K1 processor is also able to bring the quality of graphics of today’s desktops/PCs on a tablet device. So the score is now 1 – 1 for Google Nexus 9 and iPad Air.

But iPad Air wins again on the sector of design.

It’s now much thinner, lighter and more comfortable to hold even with one hand – despite the large footprint thanks to 4:3 aspect ratio and 9.7-inch screen size.

The good thing is, Google Nexus 9 wins on the sector of sound quality – thanks to its dual-front-speaker grills, making the gaming experience much better than on iPad Air.

But iPad Air is not giving up there yet.

It has a slightly better iSight 5MP camera, much longer battery life, huge collection of games/apps well-optimized for iPad Air, huge support from game developers with Metal API, smooth experience and don’t forget one thing – fingerprint scanner.

This last aforementioned element might not be such a big a deal for some users.

However, when the mobile payment system has become viral all over the world, this could turn out to be the killer feature of iPads.

Meanwhile, Google Nexus 9 still wants to continue the fight against iPad.

It has:
  • good 8MP rear-facing camera (with HTC’s ‘Ultra Pixel’ technology), 
  • good battery life (thanks to Google’s massive tweaks and battery saving mode on Lollipop), 
  • huge support from console game developers to bring their titles specifically for Tegra K1 tablets like Google Nexus 9, 
  • NVIDIA’s close collaboration with giant console game makers (which is good for Tegra K1 ecosystem) and the most importantly, 
  • the full-featured Android UI, which comes with many great features and new improved interface than iOS 8 of iPad Air.
So bottom line, i think between Google Nexus 9 and iPad Air, these tablets are just great equally. The have their own pros and cons.

iPad Air may be thinner and lighter (plus premium), but Google Nexus 9’s dual-front-speaker grills and modern-looking design make the competition balance on the design department.

It goes the same with other sectors.

So at the end of the day,i think the decision to buy this tablet will finally come down to your personal preference.

If you love iOS and its simple-to-use UI, then iPad Air is your best shot here.

On the other hand, if you want a more powerful gaming tablet that has more features on its UI, then Google Nexus 9 is your destination here.

Besides, Google has released the official keyboard case for this Google Nexus 9 on Play Store, so it probably add a lot of points compared to iPad Air that still doesn’t have the official keyboard cover from Apple.
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