With the Nexus 9, Google and HTC are trying to hit a sweet spot between mini- and full-sized tablet. It comes out 5 percent shorter and 9 percent narrower than Apple's tablet.
The iPad Air 2, though, is one damn thin tablet. At a mere 6.1 mm (0.24-in), it's 24 percent thinner than the Nexus.
Both tablets are light, but the iPad Air 2 has the relative advantage. Despite having a 16 percent larger face, it's only 3 percent heavier.
The iPad Air 2 still has the higher-end build materials, with its smooth aluminum unibody design.
We're looking at three very similar color options for the Nexus 9.
The Nexus 9 gives you 84 percent as much screen as the iPad Air 2. If 9.7-in iPads were a little too big for you, and 7.9-in iPad minis a bit too small, then the Nexus' 8.9-in display might be the Goldilocks slate you've been looking for.
The biggest reason that the Nexus 9 looks like an iPad (at least at a quick glance) is its 4:3 aspect ratio. During the last few years, it's been rare to see any non-iPad tablets in 4:3. 16:10 is much more common on the Android side of the aisle.
We're also looking at the same resolution on both tablets, which gives the smaller Nexus a slightly higher pixel density.
Both slates use IPS tech for their screens.
This might be the iPad Air 2 feature we're the most intrigued by: it has an anti-glare coating on its screen. Apple says it can reduce reflections by 56 percent.
Similar to what LG has done with its recent flagships, HTC has added sensors that let you turn on the Nexus 9's display by double-tapping it.
Apple's excellent Touch ID sensor makes its way to the iPad Air 2. It lets you easily secure your device, as well as log-in to Touch ID-supported third-party apps.
The iPad's fingerprint sensor also works with Apple Pay, the company's new payment service. But it only works for online purchases, not the in-store portion of Apple Pay.
Both tablets start at 16 GB, but once you get to the second tier, the iPad doubles the Nexus' internal storage.
Neither of these tablets lets you augment your internal storage with a microSD card.
Apple's chips typically outperform what you'd expect from their cores and clock speeds alone (often by a wide margin).
We look forward to the first iPad with 2 GB of RAM. Backgrounded apps and browser tabs needed to reload a bit more often than we'd like on older (1 GB RAM) models.
You know tablet-makers are running out of obvious areas to upgrade when they start making their cameras more like smartphone cameras (have you ever tried using a full-sized tablet as a camera?). Still, it should be a nice bonus to have (quite possibly) very good cameras in both of these slates.
Both tablets' rear cameras have the same ƒ/2.4 aperture.
The Nexus 9 has something no iPad has had: a flash for its camera. It's a single-LED flash, though, not a superior dual LED.
Apple and Google are listing their respective batteries in different formats, so we can only draw so much from these specs. Perhaps more telling is that Apple estimates 10 hours of web use (over Wi-Fi), while Google and HTC are advertising up to 9.5 hours.
The iPad Air 2 launches this week, while the Nexus 9 starts shipping soon after, at the beginning of November.
With the latest pair of Nexus devices, Google is scaling back its budget pricing. While the Nexus 5 and 7 were priced very aggressively, the Nexus 6 and 9 are priced more like top-tier flagships. That has the Nexus 9 starting at just US$100 cheaper than the iPad Air 2.
Also worth mentioning is last year's iPad Air: it's sticking around at the same $400 as the Nexus 9. If you prefer the iOS ecosystem, but like that price tag, that model could still be worth a look.
Want a cleaner, faster loading and ad free reading experience?
Try New Atlas Plus. Learn more