Nexus 9 vs iPad Air 2 vs Mini 3: Release Day

Chris Burns - Oct 17, 2014, 12:14 pm CDT
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Nexus 9 vs iPad Air 2 vs Mini 3: Release Day

There’s a collection of tablets appearing on the market today – two from Apple, the other from Google and manufactured by HTC. These tablets are amongst the thinnest, highest-powered, and finest tablets ever made. But supposing you’re going to get one of them – which one do you choose? We’re not going to make it that easy for you – but we will tell you the differences between the three. And there’s a tablet made by NVIDIA in the mix as well – released previously, but still very much in this competition.

The following article compares the iPad Air 2 to the iPad mini 3 to the HTC-made Nexus 9 to the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet.

Operating System

The Apple tablets here run iOS 8. That’s the newest version of Apple’s “mobile” software, running on their iPhones as well. The other two tablets run on Android. The Nexus 9 works with the newest, Android 5.0 Lollipop, while the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet works with KitKat but will be updated to Lollipop soon.

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Display

Both the Nexus 9 and the iPad Air 2 work with the same amount of pixels: 2048 x 1536. The iPad mini 3 also works with 2048 x 1536 pixels, while the SHIELD tablet has 1920 x 1200 pixels. With display sizes, each unit has a different screen density:

iPad mini 3: 7.9-inch display, 326 PPI
HTC Nexus 9: 8.9-inch display, 288 PPI
SHIELD Tablet: 8-inch display, 283 PPI
iPad Air 2: 9.7-inch display, 264 PPI

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So the iPad mini 3 has the most densely-packed display while the iPad Air 2 has the least dense display. The Nexus 9 is the second most dense while the SHIELD Tablet is ver, very close behind.

Processing

The difference in processors between the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet and the HTC-made Nexus 9 is the relative power of the Tegra K1. While the SHIELD Tablet runs a 32-bit Tegra K1, the Nexus 9 works with the 64-bit Tegra K1 “Denver”. That’s the first Android device to run a 64-bit SoC, by the way. UPDATE: cancel that! The first 64-bit Android device was the HTC Desire 510.

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It’s very difficult to compare Apple product processors – or what they always call “chips” – to Android product processors. That said, we can still name the names.

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The iPad Air 2 runs the newest and the best Apple chip – the A8X chip with M8 motion coprocessor. This is also a 64-bit chip. The iPad mini 3 works with the previous generation A7 chip with M7 coprocessor, also a 64-bit chip.

Special Features

The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 have Touch ID sensors under their home buttons for fingerprint reading. The iPad Air 2 has a Barometer – which we’ve not seen in action yet. The iPar Air 2 has the new Apple SIM card which works with data only and allows users to choose their own data network without physically switching SIM cards each time they do so.

The SHIELD Tablet has its own dedicated stylus for Tegra K1-optimized writing and artwork. The SHIELD Tablet also has the ability to mirror your PC’s games and desktop from wherever you are, local network or remote web. Keyboard, mouse, and NVIDIA SHIELD Controller input included.

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These special features are the reason why I called the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet the world’s most versatile tablet.

Industrial Design

Both the iPad mini 3 and the iPad Air 2 have full metal backs with rounded edges and smooth transitions between back and sides. This device comes in silver, space gray, or gold. The front is flat, fully covered with a single pane of glass, while a single circular physical button includes Touch ID for fingerprint reading.

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iPad Air 2: 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm, 437g
HTC Nexus 9: 228.25 x 153.68 x 7.95mm, 425g
SHIELD Tablet: 221 x 126 x 9.2mm, 390g
iPad mini 3: 200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm, 331g

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The iPad Air 2 is the tallest, but also the thinnest. The SHIELD Tablet is the thickest, and also has the smallest secondary dimension. Takeaway: every one of these devices has seriously different dimensions from the other.

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The Nexus 9 has a metal rim which reaches about halfway down its sides, while its back is indigo black, lunar white, or sand colored. This back panel is an almost-rubbery soft plastic. The front has no physical buttons – only a black bezel around its display.

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Both the Nexus 9 and the SHIELD Tablet have front-facing speakers. While the Nexus 9 has almost-hidden speakers with HTC BoomSound branding, the SHIELD Tablet has both front-facing grilles for speakers and side-facing bass reflex speakers.

All four units have standard headphone jacks and microphones for audio input and output.

Wrap-up

Which tablet is best? It really depends on which devices you already own and use. It also depends on what you’d like the tablet to do. If you’re all about using your device to play games streamed by your PC, go for the SHIELD Tablet.

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If you want the most powerful Android tablet, bar-none, go for the Nexus 9. The Apple Tablets are both part of the Apple ecosystem which has the unparalleled support brought on by Apple stores as well as Touch ID, as well as the glee you’ll feel knowing you own an iPad, not just a tablet everyone will ask “is that an iPad” about.

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I have a SHIELD Tablet right this minute, and I can’t imagine a tablet being better at what I’d like it to do for everything a tablet CAN do. But the rest of these units aren’t out yet. We’ll just have to wait and see!


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