Nexus 9 Vs. iPad Air 2 And Microsoft Surface 3: Comparing Specs For This Year's Newest Tablet Releases

By Connor Sears , Updated Nov 04, 2014 10:56 AM EST
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With yesterday's release of the Nexus 9, all three big tech players – Google, Apple and Microsoft – have released their newest tablets offerings for this year. Last month, Apple unveiled and released its two new tablets, the more powerful of which being the revamped iPad Air 2. Back during the summer, Microsoft released its latest device that blurs the line between tablet and laptop, the Surface Pro 3. Now that every company has its fighter in the ring, let's take a look at how they stack up.

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Size and Display

The Nexus 9 is the smallest tablet of the bunch. Its 8.9-inch screen is just a little shorter than the iPad Air 2's 9.7-inch display. Of course, both are overshadowed by the Surface Pro 3's sizable 12-inch display. Despite the size differences, the Nexus 9 and Air 2 actually share the same 2048x1536 resolution. More surprisingly is that fact that the Surface Pro 3 only packs a 2160x1440 display in its massive screen, which comes out to fewer pixels than either of the other two tablets.

In terms of portability, the Nexus 9 and iPad Air 2 are going to be easier to lug around for casual use. Both of these tablets weigh in at just shy of a pound. The Surface Pro 3 is the literal heavyweight here, weighing a full 1.76 pounds. Not an extraordinary weight, but certainly on the larger side in the tablet market.

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Hardware Specs

Here's where the Surface Pro 3 gets to brag a bit. The smallest model of the Surface Pro 3 packs 64 GB of storage space, 4 GB of RAM and an Intel i3 processor. If you spring for the most powerful model, you'll get 512 GB of storage, 8 GB of RAM and an Intel i7 processor. The Nexus 9 and iPad Air 2 are punching in their own weight class here. Both come with 2 GB of RAM and a minimum storage capacity of 16 GB. The Nexus 9 also comes in a 32 GB model, and the iPad Air 2 is available in 64 or 128 GB versions.

Both the iPad Air 2 and Nexus 9 come with an 8 MP rear-facing camera, a bit more powerful than the Surface Pro 3's 5 MP camera. The Surface Pro 3 is symmetrical, though, and also includes a 5 MP camera on the front of the tablet. The front-facing cameras on the Air 2 and Nexus 9 are 1.2 and 1.8 MP, respectively.

Features

A big difference between the Surface Pro 3 and the other two tablets is that Apple's and Google's tablets both can come with cellular capabilities (though the LTE version of the Nexus is currently not available). Though other Surface tablets include something like 4G or LTE, the Pro 3 can only connect through Wi-Fi.

One of the new features Apple advertised with the iPad Air 2 was the introduction of Touch ID technology, allowing users to log into apps and the tablet itself using only their fingerprints. With the advent of Apple's new Apple Pay cardless payment system, the Air 2 can also utilize the service thanks to Touch ID. Unfortunately, since the tablet doesn't include NFC capabilities, this Apple Pay functionality is restricted to online purchases.

The Surface Pro 3 includes a number of features not present on the other two. Some are simple additions, like the inclusion of a stylus pen in the box, the presence of a full-size USB 3.0 port and the built-in kickstand that lets the tablet stand upright on its own. Some features are much more substantive, however, like the fact that the Surface Pro 3 comes with the Windows 8.1 Pro desktop operating system, not a specialized mobile operating system like the Nexus or iPad. Because of this, the Surface Pro 3 can install desktop software and includes Windows desktop features like Snap functionality.

Price

Remember the powerful specs that the Surface Pro 3 was able to hold over the other two tablets? Here's where the Nexus and iPad make up for it. The 16 GB Nexus 9 is the most cost efficient of the three, starting at $399. The 32 GB version starts at $479, with the inclusion of LTE bumping that price up to $599. The iPad Air 2 starts at $499 for 16 GB of storage, and it moves up to $699 for 128 GB. Add $130 to that cost to get the price of a model with cellular capabilities.

The cheapest Surface Pro comes with an Intel i3 processor and 64 GB of storage. It'll run you $799. There are four other models of varying power and storage, increasing in cost all the way to $1,949 for the top-of-the-line model.

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