Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3: which tablet to buy this holiday season?

Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3: which tablet to buy this holiday season?

The Nexus 9 has finally broken cover and it looks every bit as great as we expected, showing off a new Apple-esque aspect ratio. The iPad Mini 3, however, is a giant amongst smaller tablets and looks to be every bit the business too, even if it's kinda packing last year's specs still. So if you're considering picking up a new tablet, take a look at our Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3 comparison to see what's what.

ipad mini 3 nexus 9 comparison
Take your pick in our hardware comparison: Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3. © Google; Apple, ANDROIDPIT

Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3: Design

The Nexus 9 is, a little like the Nexus 5, a relatively unassuming looking tablet. It has relatively large bezels and no particular design flair to mention other than metallic trim on the sides, that actually aligns it nicely with the new Nexus 6. Even the front-facing stereo speakers (BoomSound!) are discreet. But the trademark HTC class is clearly in abundance. The back is the same rubberized plastic found on the Nexus 5. All in all, it's a nice mix of the old and the new.

nexus 9 1
The Nexus 9 combines elements of HTC design and even some Nexus 4, 5 and 6 features. © Google

The iPad Mini 3 is typically Apple design. Stylish and metallic, the iPad Mini looks every bit as nice as its predecessors. The Touch ID button is in its rightful place and the iPad Mini 3 looks to have smaller bezels than those found on the Nexus 9. The new iPad Mini 3 is thinner than ever.

The iPad Mini 3 comes with a 7.9-inch Retina LCD display. © Apple

Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3: Display

The Nexus 9 packs a 8.9-inch IPS LCD display, and the iPad Mini 3 an 8.1-inch Retina LCD display. However, both devices have the same resolution 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. The Nexus 9 squeezes a pixel density of 281 pixels per inch compared to the iPad Mini 3's 324 ppi - right on Steve Jobs' magic spot. In terms of pixel density, neither of these tablets is anywhere near as crisp as many Android smartphones but we'll let you know more when we have both in-house.

nexus 9 teaser
The Nexus 9 has a 8.9-inch IPS LCD display with 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution. © Google

Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3: Software

Until we see both version in real life it's hard to make much of a comparison on software, but the iPad Mini 3 runs the new iOS 8.1 and the Nexus 9 a stock version of Android 5.0 Lollipop. We'll bring you a full breakdown between operating systems when we have both devices but in the meantime you can take a look at our preliminary iOS 8 vs Android L comparison to see what we know so far. (iOS 8.1 is coming next Monday, by the way).

iOS 8.1 will be out Monday for iPhones and iPads. © Apple

Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3: Performance

Again, this one will have to wait a bit for a judgment based on experience, but on paper, the Nexus 9 is packing an impressive 64-bit, dual-core Tegra K1 CPU clocked at 2.3 GHz and a Kepler DX1 GPU with 2 GB of RAM. The iPad Mini 3 has last year's Apple A7 setup (dual-core 1.3 GHz), M7 motion co-processor and what we assume will be 1 GB of RAM.

Both Nexus devices and Apple devices are notoriously smooth and lag-free, so speed and stability shouldn't be an issue on either tablet. Just what their respective hardware components can squeeze out though is going to be very fun to see but both are clearly geared to being excellent multimedia and graphics tablets.

The iPad Mini 3 gets a 5 MP iSight camera and 1.2 MP front-facing camera. © Apple

Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3: Camera

The Nexus 9 comes with a 8 MP main camera and 1.6 MP front-facing camera compared to the iPad Mini 3's 5 MP iSight camera up front and 1.2 MP camera on the front. We're not sure what kind of performance the Nexus 9 is capable of, but at lest it hasn't been hobbled by HTC's UltraPixels. Nevertheless, outgunning an iSight camera is no mean feat, even with higher resolution so we look forward to seeing what each camera is capable of too.

nexus 9 keyboard
Google wants you to see the Nexus 9 as a potential business tool too. © Google

Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3: Battery

The Nexus 9 houses a respectable 6,700 mAh battery, which is non-removable. The iPad Mini 3 isn't revealing its battery capacity yet – but some are claiming a 6,470 mAh battery. W'll confirm that once the first tear downs occur. We'll just have to wait and see what both of those equate to in real life usage. We're also interested to see if heat becomes an issue in either device considering the considerable processing power and graphics performance capabilities of each tablet.

Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3: Price and availability

The Nexus 9 will arrive in three variants: a 16 GB with Wi-Fi for 399 USD, a 32 GB version with Wi-Fi for 479 USD, and a 32 GB LTE model for 599 USD. The iPad mini 3, on the other hand, starts at 399 USD for a 16 GB version with Wi–FI only, right up to the top end for 729 USD for a 128 GB version with LTE. Clearly the Nexus 9 is better value for money, depending on where your priorities lie.

ipad mini 3
The iPad Mini 3 missed out on some key specs. © Apple

Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3: Tech specs

  iPad Mini 3 Nexus 9
System iOS 8.1 Android 5.0 Lollipop
Display 7.9-inch Retina display (LCD), 2,048x1,536 pixels, 324 ppi

8.9 inch IPS LCD, 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, 281 ppi

Processor Apple A7, dual-core 1.3 GHz Cyclone, M7 motion coprocessor Dual-core Nvidia Tegra K1 Denver, 2.3 GHz, Kepler DX1 GPU
Internal memory 16/64/128 GB 16 / 32 GB
Battery 6,470 mAh 6,700 mAh
Camera 5 MP iSight (rear), 1.2 MP (front-facing) 8 MP (rear), 1.6 MP (front-facing)
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, GSM/HSDPA/LTE (optional),  Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, USB OTG, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, GSM/HSDPA/LTE
Dimensions 200 x 134.7 x 7.5 mm 228.2 x 153.7 x 7.9 mm
Weight 331 g (Wi-Fi) / 341 g (3G/LTE) 425 g (Wi-Fi) / 436 g (3G/LTE)

Nexus 9 vs iPad Mini 3: Early verdict

Absolutely no point in even trying to pick even an early winner here, although the 2013 specs sheet of the iPad Mini 3 has me favoring the Nexus 9 (not surprisingly). Nevertheless, there are so many variables at play it's impossible to compare things evenly without having access to the relative performance, battery life, camera results, software enhancements and more going on in both the Nexus 9 and iPad Mini 3.

I expect even once both devices arrive it would still be advisable to swing by a store and try them both out for yourself before committing to either Team Android or Camp Apple. But whichever one you choose, you're looking at two world-class tablets.

  • For more information on the Google tablet, check out our Nexus 9 review.

What do you think? Which tablet is better, Apple's iPad mini 3 or Google's Nexus 9?

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  • CJ Brown Oct 22, 2014 Link to comment

    The ONLY epic fail I see, is that the Nexus 9 should be sold as two models - 32gig / 64gig (memory has gone down in price, 64gig shouldn't be so expensive to offer)

    Nexus 9 looks good, but like the Nexus 7, I think a 2nd gen model will be a better design overall.

    I actually like the iPad Mini vs the iPad (in fact? I honestly thought a slim iPad Mini was going to be the 1st Apple phablet)

  • Brian Olmstead Oct 17, 2014 Link to comment

    I'd love a N9 but my money is going for a new phone..A Nexus 6