Nexus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 comparison review

Google has launched the Nexus 9 with some help from HTC but how does it stand up to Samsung's impressive Galaxy Tab S 8.4? Find out in our Nexus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 comparison review. Also see: The best tablets of 2014.

Nexus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Price UK

Since Apple launched the iPad mini at £319, it's become a semi-standard price for tablets of this size. Samsung initially announced a higher price for the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 but quickly dropped it to match. Google has opted to mirror its rivals with the Nexus 9 which means a price jump from the Nexus 7. See also: Nexus 9 release date and price.

£319 is the starting price but you can add £80 for 4G cellular data on the Samsung and £60 on the Nexus 9 but 4G is only available on the 32 GB model. See the table below for full pricing.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4

Google Nexus 9

16 GB Wi-Fi only

£319

£319

32 GB Wi-Fi only

-

£399

16 GB Wi-Fi + cellular

£399

-

32 GB Wi-Fi + cellular

-

£459

Those are the official prices but because the Tab S has been on the market for a while, you can get it cheaper. Amazon has as cheap as £249 if you don't mind the white model – the bronze one is £275. It also has the 4G model for as little at £319 (in white, again). The Nexus 9 is unlikely to drop in price.

Nexus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Design and build

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.4 comes in Titanium Bronze or Dazzling White while the Nexus is available in Indigo Black, Lunar White and Sand – you can take your pick. Read: Nokia N1 vs Nexus 9 comparison.

With a smaller screen, the Tab S 8.4 is understandably a more compact and lighter tablet. It's just 294 g compared to the Nexus 9's 425 g which is quite a big difference. It's also impressively thin at just 6.6 mm making it one of the thinnest money can buy. The Nexus 9 is a bit chunkier at 7.95 mm.

Both use a plastic rear cover and the Nexus 9 certainly looks and feels more stylish. We're not keen on the spotted back of the Tab S with the holes ready for an optional case. The Nexus 9 also has a brushed metal frame and although its rival looks like it has a similar design, Samsung refused to confirm it is actually metal so we're assuming it's not.

Nexus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4

Nexus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Hardware and performance

Screen

As we've mentioned Samsung uses a smaller screen by half and inch – 8.4in vs 8.9in. There's also a difference in aspect ratio as the Tab S offers 16:10 while Google has followed Apple's lead with 4:3.

Both have impressive resolutions with Samsung's at 2560 x 1600 and Google's at 2048x1536. If you're quick at mental arithmetic then you'll know this means the Tab S wins the pixel density-off with 359ppi which is the highest we've seen on a tablet but the Nexus 9's is still good at 287ppi.

The Samsung display is the best for content consumption although the eye popping AMOLED technology isn't for everyone. With the 4:3 aspect ratio, the Nexus 9 is the better all-rounder and is more suited to work – especially when you factor in the optional Keyboard Folio case, even if it does cost £110.

Nexus 9 keyboard case

Processor, memory and benchmarks

Under the hood of the Tab S 8.4 is Samsung's own Eynos 5 Octa-core chip, which pairs four 1.9GHz cores with four 1.3GHz cores. There's also a whopping 3 GB of RAM.

The Nexus 9 is one of the first devices with an Nvidia Tegra K1, a 64-bit chip listed at 2.3 GHz but shown to be running at 2.5GHz in GeekBench 3. Google has opted for 2GB of RAM.

Both are speedy tablets from a user perspective but we saw occasional lag from the Tab S and this is reflected in the benchmark results where Nexus 9 took all the honours. See below for the results.

GeekBench 3

GFXBench T-Rex

GFXBench Manhattan

SunSpider

Galaxy Tab S 8.4

2765

14fps

3fps

1089ms

Nexus 9

3352

48fps

22fps

955ms

Storage

As we mentioned briefly earlier, the Tab S 8.4 was supposed to come in 16- and 32 GB models but we can't find the larger size anywhere (let us know in the comments if you've seen it). Its saving grace is a microSD card slot which can take up to 128 GB which the Nexus 9 doesn't have. Google's tablet is definitely available in 16- or 32 GB and bear in mind you'll have to get the latter if you want 3G/4G connectivity.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 screen

Wireless and unique features

It's no surprise to see 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi and GPS on both tablets but things are different elsewhere.

The Nexus 9 has NFC and Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX while the Tab S is on older Bluetooth 4.0 and doesn't have NFC. However, it does have things which its rival is lacking including a fingerprint scanner and IR blaster.

Both offer stereo speakers which is good to see but the Nexus 9's are properly front facing where the Tab S 8.4's are located on the sides.

Google's unique feature is really offering stock Android 5.0 Lollipop which we'll talk about below in the software section.

Nexus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Battery life

Neither tablet has a removable battery but it's the Nexus 9 which proved the best in our video loop test lasting a whopping 11 hours. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 will still go a decent distance at nine hours but that's a little off Samsung's claim of 12 hours.

The difference is partly down to the components but mostly the Nexus 9's capacity of 6700 mAh compared to 4900 mAh. That extra weight might be worth it if you need better battery life.

Nexus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Cameras

Photography isn't as important on a tablet compared to a smartphone but you may be interested nevertheless. Things are closely matched at the rear with both tablets wielding an 8 Mp camera with LED flash and the ability to shoot video in up to 1080p quality. At the front, the Galaxy Tab S comes out on top with a 2.1 Mp compared to the Nexus 9's 1.6 Mp.

Nexus 9 Android 5.0 Lollipop

Nexus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Software

As we said already, one of the key features of the Nexus 9 is that is comes with stock Android 5.0 Lollipop which is the latest version. Google has launched it on the tablet along with the Nexus 6 smartphone.

Lollipop runs silky smooth on the Nexus 9, has the new Material Design and plenty of new features. We love it and you can read more about it in our full Lollipop review and Top 10 Android Lollipop tips, tricks and hidden features.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 comes with Android 4.4 KitKat and Samsung's own TouchWiz user interface. It is likely to be updated to Lollipop at some stage but it will remain a different experience to the Nexus 9 due to Samsung's modifications.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 software

TouchWiz has advantages like the ability to run two apps side-by-side and the pop-up recent apps menu. It's a little over complex though and features like Magazine UX, Papergarden, Kick and SideSync may be of no use to you so simply waste storage. We suspect it's Samsung's software which is causing the tablet to be laggy.

Luckily, you can install the Google Now launcher on the Tab S giving it the plain Android look, although it hasn't been updated with the Lollipop style yet. Overall we prefer the simplicity and style of vanilla Android over TouchWiz but it's a personal decision.

Google Nexus 9: Specs

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 8.9in IPS LCD (2048 x 1536)
  • nVidia Tegra K1 2.3GHz 64-bit
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16/32GB storage
  • 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi (2x2 MIMO)
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • NFC
  • GPS
  • optional 4G LTE
  • HTC BoomSound stereo speakers
  • 8Mp rear camera with LED flash
  • 1.6Mp front camera
  • 6700mAh battery
  • 7.95mm
  • 425g
  • Black,white,sand
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 8.9in IPS LCD (2048 x 1536)
  • nVidia Tegra K1 2.3GHz 64-bit
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16/32GB storage
  • 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi (2x2 MIMO)
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • NFC
  • GPS
  • optional 4G LTE
  • HTC BoomSound stereo speakers
  • 8Mp rear camera with LED flash
  • 1.6Mp front camera
  • 6700mAh battery
  • 7.95mm
  • 425g
  • Black,white,sand

OUR VERDICT

This is a close call as the Nexus 9 and Galaxy Tab S 8.4 both have pros and cons. If you don't mind spending more, then Google's tablet has better performance and battery life but is chunkier. Samsung's isn't as slick but is impressively svelte and has features not found on the Nexus 9. Now the Tab S is cheaper you can save money by going this way and installing the Google Now launcher if you don't like TouchWiz so it just nips the win here but both are great choices for an Android tablet.

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