Go Big Or Go Home – iPad Air 2 Nexus 9 And Galaxy Note 4 Dissected Analyzed And Compared


Apple launched the iPad Air 2 the day before yesterday and now we can finally see how well the device stacks up against it's competition. Just before the iPad Air 2 launch, Google also launched the Nexus 9. The Nexus 9 has the distinction of coming with Nvidia's Tegra K1 on board, a SoC that has created quite the hype in the mobile market.

But two devices won't be enough for a comparison. And the equation won't be complete without the third major player in the mobile market: Samsung. So, even though the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is placed in the phablet category, with it's 5.7 inch Quad HD Super-AMOLED screen, we're going to include it in our in depth analysis of the three top devices in the mobile market currently. So let's start.



All three devices are made out of metal. Sticking to Apple tradition, the iPad Air 2 is the only device on the roster made out of a complete aluminum unibody. The Nexus 9 on the other hand has it's sides manufactured from brushed metal and it's front design does not follow a fixed pattern or formula. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 also departs from Samsung's plastic tradition for it's devices and now features a aluminum frame. Material wise, all three devices offer premium quality, with the iPad Air 2 taking the lead however with it's top finish.

Dimension wise, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 measures 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm and is the smallest device in our comparison since it's a phablet. The iPad Air 2 is slightly larger than the Nexus 9 and measures 240 x 169.5 x 6.1 mm while the Nexus 9 has measurements of 228.25 x 153.68 x 7.95 mm. Thickness is one aspect however in which the iPad Air 2 does not take the lead and is almost a complete 2 mm thinner than the Nexus 9. So for all the tablet lovers out there who prefer sleek devices, the iPad Air 2 truly is the thinnest tablet in the market right now.



All three devices have top notch performance specifications and for this piece, we're comparing the Exynoss Galaxy Note 4 rather than the one featuring the Snapdragon 805. Starting from the Nexus 9, until now it seems that Google's tablet is hands down the most powerful tablet available right now. The Nexus 9 is the first tablet to feature Nvidia's Tegra K1 based on Project Denver. This is coupled with 2 GB of RAM on the device.

The Tegra K1 is the first implementation of Nvidia's custom designed ARMv8 architecture and uses dual cores to better utilize the chip's surface area for performance and power consumption. The Tegra K1 also comes with 192 GPU Shader cores on board and is capable of achieving frequencies of up to 2.3 GHz. The Tegra K1 also comes with the Kepler DX1 which is capable of offering desktop grade graphics performance on mobile platforms. Initial benchmarks of the Nexus 9 put the Tegra K1 ahead of almost all devices out there, even Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

The Galaxy Note 4, with it's Exynos 5433 does not shy away from hardcore performance specifications. Samsung recently relaunched the Exynos 5433 as the Exynos 7 Octa and unsurprisingly, the Exynos 7 Octa also leads whichever benchmarks it comes across. The Exynos 7 Octa is based on the 20 nm manufacturing process and comes with four Cortex A57 and four Cortex A53 cores on board. The loads on the Galaxy Note 4 are distributed between these cores depending on performance and power load. The Note 4 comes with 3 GB RAM on board.

The iPad Air 2 comes with Apple's custom A8X. The A8X is a variation of the A8 which debuted on the iPhone 6 and is based on Apple's second generation 64 bit architecture. The A8X offers up to 40% increased CPU and 2.5% graphics performance performance over the A7 (it's predecessor in the iPad Air) with it's 3 billion transistors on board. If Apple's figures are taken true for their word, then the K1 and the A8X should end up having similar figures in performance. We'll know more about the A8X once detailed testing is carried on the iPad Air 2. The A8X on the iPad Air 2 is supplemented by 1 GB of RAM and a new M8 motion co-processor, which also promises increased graphics performance. Whether Apple's software optimization will be enough to make up for the 1 GB RAM remains to be seen.



Apple's taken a step ahead with the iPad Air 2 and integrated the device's LCD, Touch sensor and glass into one single piece. Not only does this work wonders for the device's thickness but it also improves overall display quality the tablet has to offer by nearly eliminating pixel bounce and internal reflection coupled with improved sharpness, contrast and colors. Resolution wise, the iPad Air 2 has a resolution of 2048 x 1536 with a pixel density of 264 ppi. The iPad Air 2 also has an anti-reflective screen which reduces screen reflection on the device by up to 56%.

Google's Nexus 9 also has a similar resolution of 2048 x 1536 but has higher pixel density due to decreased screen size of 8.9 inches, when compared to the 9.7 inches on the iPad Air 2. Both the devices feature an IPS LCD. The Galaxy Note 4 on the other hand comes with a Super AMOLED Quad HD 5.7 inch screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1,440. The Galaxy Note 4 also has adaptive display on board, a feature which changes the display brightness of the device based on surrounding light.


The iPad Air 2 and the Nexus 9 have near similar camera specifications. Both the devices feature rear camera with 8 MP resolution and f/2.4 aperture size. Both the devices can record 1080p HD video at 30 fps. While the iPad Air 2 lacks a LED flash for the rear camera, the tablet has several Apple specific video tweaks such as Slo-Mo, Time Lapse, digital image stabilization and more. Apple's FaceTime HD camera with a resolution of 1.2 MP loses to the front camera on the Nexus 9 which has a slightly higher resolution of 1.6 MP.

The Galaxy Note 4 on the other hand is primed for phablet photography. The rear camera on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 comes with a sizeable resolution of 16 MP, which is a 3 MP bump over the Note 3. The rear camera also comes with Optical Image Stabilization which allows for blur free photographs and is not found on either the iPad Air 2 or the Nexus 9. The Galaxy Note 4's front camera doesn't fall short either with a resolution of 3.7 MP and f/1.9 aperture size for plenty of light capturing. The Note 4 even has panorama on the front camera, which means group selfies will never be the same again. Camera wise, the Note 4 wins hands down when compared to the iPad air 2 and the Nexus 9.



The launch of Nexus 9 also marked the launch of Android 5.0. Android 5.0 or Android Lollipop is the latest in Google's lineup of mobile operating system and is being said to be the one of the biggest Android launches so far. It comes with several new features on board. The most emphasized feature of Android L is Material Design. Material Design ends up offering the OS better visuals, more control with voice commands and improved multitasking capabilities. Alongside these, through Material Design, Google is for the first time attempting to unify different Android devices under a single platform. This includes improved multimedia sharing options between different devices running on Android Lollipop.

With iOS 8, Apple has for the first time opened up it's ecosystem to enhancements such as third party keyboards. Apart from this, iOS 8 also comes with Health Kit which stores all of your medical data on your device for emergency use. Apple's latest OS release also includes improved accessibility features such as greyscale, improved zoom, guided access and an all new speak screen. You can also manage mail and other options with simple swiping gestures and use Siri, integrated with Shazam to find out which song is playing.

The Galaxy Note 4 comes with Android Kit Kat and Samsung's own TouchWiz. TouchWiz on the Galaxy Note 4 includes several features to help the user manage information on the screen of their Galaxy Note 4. Briefly put, these include the ability to resize apps on the screen and to open more than one windows on the screen of your phablet. While TouchWiz might not be the perfect solution for everyone, it nevertheless ends up offering several unique features for the Galaxy Note 4.


So Which One Is It?

Both the iPad Air 2 and the Nexus 9 are strong gadgets with solid offerings. With the time and money invested in their developments, any thing less than top specifications would speak volumes about their manufacturers. Like every other gadget out there, it all boils down to personal preference in the end. Looking for a tablet with a sleek design, great functionality and top notch performance? Go for the iPad Air 2.

Need a performance intensive gadget that spoils your mobile gaming needs? Go for the Nexus 9. But be wary of the battery on the Nexus 9. The 28nm manufacturing process of the Tegra K1 will drain the device's battery faster than you'd expect. So keep a charger handy. And if you need a smaller device and aren't bothered by screen size but still require great performance and photography? Go for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. But not before you check out it's comparison with Apple's iPhone 6. And the iPhone 6 can take some pretty decent pictures too.