Apple goes small with the iPad mini after years of the company stating the 9.7″ device is the only good tablet size; Microsoft gets into hardware game after years of saying it won’t do that (but lying time and time again through ventures like Xbox and Zune, not that we’re complaining); and now Google has unveiled the Nexus 10, a 10″ tablet to beat them all with a killer low-price, remarkably high resolution display, and all of the bells and whistles you could want from a tablet of this size.

Oh, and it’s the first 10″ “Google” tablet. So unlike the incredible ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T, it’ll get updates first and regularly.

But how does it stack up to the upcoming 4th generation iPad which Apple only announced just a week ago? Let’s find out.

Size

The Nexus 10 is completely new but follows the same 10″ screen size design of most Android tablets. It’s a widescreen display, so it’s longer down than across. So it’s no surprise that the Nexus 10 is longer and less wide (thinner across) than the iPad. But it’s also thinner at 8.9mm, compared to the iPad’s slightly thicker 9.4mm frame. It’s also significantly lighter at 603 grams vs. the iPad’s 652 g.

In a strange way, everything about the Nexus 10 — with the possible exception of the length to width ratio, which really is a personal choice on feel — is better than the iPad when it comes to size. The Nexus 10 is thinner, lighter, and both longer and smaller across.

Winner: Nexus 10, which lighter, thinner, and smaller across.

Appearance

As much as Google has improved over the years, their devices (that is, anything called a “Google” phone or tablet) are always lacking in the appearance department. They aren’t lookers. You wouldn’t think twice if you saw one in a shop window. Apple products have always been the exact opposite: incredible design so that it looks good, and that makes you want it more. Design is Apple’s biggest marketing trait.

That’s why Apple always tries to make the thinnest, lightest devices possible. In the case of the iPad they didn’t change a thing, but the design was already great, and it still is. The Nexus 10, on the other hand, looks like an enlarged Galaxy Nexus. Not bad, but it lacks character and definition, and as the kids say today, swagger.

Winner: iPad, which looks great while the Nexus 10 has a very neutral design and look.

Display

Ahh, my favorite part. The Nexus 10 does something tremendous for the world of tablet computing, something that even Microsoft and Windows 8 tablet makers haven’t done with the new operating system yet: made a crazy high resolution display. Leave it to Google or Apple to stomp all over your coverage Microsoft.

The Nexus 10 has an incredible 2560×1600 resolution display with a pixel density of 300ppi (actually 299, but we’ll let Google’s marketing slide on this one). The iPad’s Retina display boasts a powerful 2048×1536 resolution display, but that pales in comparison to Google’s screen. The amount of screen space on the Nexus 10 is equivalent to high-end 30″ computer monitors, which typically go for $500+, and generally sell for around $800-$1000. So having that option on a $400 standalone device is unprecedented.

Whether the actual display is better is something we’ll have to see, but screen resolution is a big deal. As we saw with the Nexus 7, the display was decent but not great. The manufacturers are also very different; ASUS build the Nexus 7 as a low-cost tablet, so the display is the first area I’d expect to suffer. Samsung is building the Nexus 10. With a starting price of $400, we aren’t likely to see the same occur with the Nexus 10. What is important for potential buyers is this: the Nexus 10 is a 10″ super high resolution widescreen display. It’ll be better for viewing media, reading, and while I’m sure it’ll be a lot slower than the iPad (which also has trouble rendering webpages because of the HD display), at least the resolution is at a format that websites are used to. After all, the 2560×1600 resolution has been around for over a dozen years…in part thanks to Apple. Sweet irony.

Winner: Nexus 10, with a denser, much higher resolution widescreen display.

Operating System

When we compared the Nexus 7 to the iPad, Apple won in the operating system comparison because iOS 6 is a better user experience than Android 4.1. We then got a ton of comments asking how I could say such a thing. Then again, if I wrote the opposite, I expect I’d see the exact same comment from Apple readers.

The Android 4.2 update doesn’t do very much in terms of additional features. The few are really basic updates to the 4.1 updates. I expect that another significant speed boost will be in place, and that 4.2 is really specific towards the Nexus 10 with its massive display. A restructuring of how the processor handles data is the most crucial thing on such a large screen. But as you’ll see below that may not be the biggest thing.

No, I say that iOS is better than Android for three main reasons: first, iOS has more and better apps available than on Android. The quality of even identical applications is better on iOS every time, and as Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out just two weeks ago, the iPad-specific apps are uniquely designed for that device. That, sadly, is rarely the case for Android tablets.

Two, iOS is easier for users to navigate and use, especially when it comes to menu selections. That’s not to say it’s better overall. There are some devices, like the LG Optimus G or Motorola Razr M, where customizations by the hardware manufacturers actually make it use and adjust than iOS. But for the most part anyone can pick up any iOS device and use it immediately. Android takes time to get used to, and while you can say that’s semantics or personal choice, it really is a design issue. iOS is better designed, as a whole, than Android.

Finally, iOS is way more efficient than Android. You can look at any benchmark, any comparison, anything that pits two devices together. Whenever the Android device should clearly win because of a faster processor, more RAM, better GPU, it rarely does. Even the iPhone 4S is more powerful than most of today’s Android smartphones, a year after it’s release. Why? Because it’s so damn efficient that it doesn’t need the increased processing power that Android devices employ. The same goes for power management and battery life. And iPhone’s pathetic ~1400mAh battery pales in comparison to 2100mAh in the Galaxy S III or 2500mAh in the Galaxy Note…but that doesn’t stop it from having fairly similar battery life over the course of the day.

Winner: iPad, because iOS is both better as an OS and is better suited for tablets, while Android uses phone apps for tablets.

Processor

This is another fun one for me. The first ARM A15 chip, which we thought would ship in the iPhone 5, is actually shipping in the first Google 10″ tablet. The A15 is the next generation chip from ARM over the A9, which is the architecture used in the vast majority of smartphones and tablets today. It is, in many ways, the powerhouse behind every handheld device on the market, and the Nexus 10 is the first one getting the next generation of it. Not even the iPad or iPhone 5 are getting it. The numbers that have been shown from the A15 are just staggering.

Then again, Apple looks like it may be heading in another direction with their A6 chip, which is slowly deviating from ARM’s architecture altogether. It’s hard to say whether that’s because Google secured first rights to the A15 or whether Apple chose to do things differently, but what is clear is that while the A6 doubled the speed of the A5 (iPhone 4S chip), the ARM A15 should more than quadruple the performance of the ARM A9. So I’m not concerned that the Nexus 10 won’t outperform the iPad.

When it comes to graphics, there’s a different story entirely. The iPad’s new PowerVR chip inside the A6X is still a mystery. I have no doubt that it’ll be similar to the chip inside the A5X with a quad-core GPU, but other than that we just don’t know, and won’t know until the iPad comes out. And the Nexus 10? It has the Mali T604, a newer iteration of the same GPU inside the Galaxy S II (not S III; some international versions used a newer version of the Mali, the Mali-400, but in the US, Canada, and Japan the Galaxy S III used the Qualcomm Adreno 225 which provided better benchmark figures and better battery life). It’s a quad-core GPU developed by ARM that doesn’t power the display whatsoever, which in turn makes the A15 work harder but, if it’s as powerful as ARM makes it out to be, then the combination of the two should prove to be very efficient. But it’s too early to tell which will provide better gaming performance just yet.

Winner: Nexus 10, which uses the all-new ARM A15 processor which has shown better figures than the iPad, though we don’t know if the GPU will prove to be as powerful.

Storage

The iPad is available in 16/32/64GB models, compared to the Nexus 10′s 16/32GB models.

Winner: iPad, which offers a more total memory options.

Carriers

Here’s the thing: the iPad is available with LTE and cellular services, but the Nexus 10 isn’t. That doesn’t mean it won’t be forever, as we’ve seen with the Nexus 7 (which now ships with LTE), but if you want or need data, the Nexus 10 doesn’t offer the option

Winner: iPad, which offers data support.

Camera

The iPad and Nexus 10 both have front and rear cameras, both 5MP rear cameras, but the Nexus 10 has a 1.9MP front-facing camera compared the the iPad’s 1.2MP. The only real difference there will be for fitting the display; a 1.2MP camera on the Nexus 10 would be too low-res for the display. We already know to expect the same camera from the iPad (3rd generation) and iPhone 4 in the iPad, but we don’t know about the Nexus 10. The only specifics are the megapixel count, which doesn’t mean very much. Without more information there’s little we can say on the subject except that cameras on tablets of this size aren’t a requirement, they’re a luxury.

Or, if you’re standing behind someone using the tablet as a camera, a curse.

Winner: Tie, until we get more information about the Nexus 10′s camera.

Battery Life

Again, Google has graced the media with limited information about battery life. The Nexus 10 has a whopping 9000mAh battery, but the iPad has an even more impressive 11,560mAh battery. The problem with the iPad has been that it needed an incredibly large battery (larger than the 11″ MacBook Air) to keep it going for 10 hours of continuous use.

As for the Nexus 10, we just don’t know. Because Android has always been less power-efficient than the iPad, we really don’t know how battery life will be. There are too many unknowns. The ARM A15 should be much more power efficient, as should the Mali GPU, but with a smaller battery, less efficient OS, and a larger screen, it’s too difficult to even guess what will have better battery life. I would bet that the iPad will, but there’s no evidence or proof to suggest that it will.

Winner: Tie, because there are too many unknowns regarding the Nexus 10′s battery life.

Price

For so many people, this is going to be the defining factor of which device you get this holiday season. At a starting price of $400, the Nexus 10 hits the sweet spot for a 10″ tablet. It’s cheaper than all Windows 8 RT tablets, cheaper than the iPad by a cool $100, and actually the same price as the iPad 2. Or for the 32GB model it’s $500, the same price as the 16GB iPad. “Eat that, Apple” – unofficial quote from Google.

Winner: Nexus 10, which starts at $100 less than the base iPad.

Overall Winner

Based on the 1:1 comparison, the two are dead-even. And that’s a fairly reasonable assessment based on the specs and my experience with both Android tablets as a whole and the iPad. But that’s not the entire story, because not all of these features are as important as the rest. Size, for instance, is fairly similar but the Nexus 10 doesn’t necessarily deserve a whole point over the iPad. The same with appearance…in fact, none of the categories except for price are so significantly better that it warrants a full point. Take a look at the actual point sheet below:

The difference still isn’t very big. The Nexus 10 wins out by 0.6 points. Size is important, but the iPad is already an excellent form factor. Appearance is very important both consciously and subconsciously to users, who both want their devices to look good and feel better about them when they do. The display is obviously very important, but we’ll have to wait and see just how much of an improvement it is over the iPad, which has a beautiful screen already.

The other major factors are the OS, which Apple succeeds in highly because the iPad has both better apps (made for the tablet) and better games, and plenty more apps in general (the iPad has 275,000 iPad-specific apps, compared to 500,000 Android non-specific apps). Storage is not too crucial because most people don’t buy 64GB tablets because they don’t require that much space. The same applies to carriers: most people don’t want or need cellular data. Price is the most crucial factor, but again because of the Apple vs. the world outlook there are some people who will buy the iPad no matter what.

Our deduction on the two tablets is that the Nexus 10 is the better buy option for most users, though there are two major hindrances that we know of thus far: tablet specific apps and improvements to the operating system. It beats the iPad in a few key areas: display (specifically regarding screen resolution for video playback) and price, and potentially with processor power as well. The unknowns are surrounding camera quality, which is a fairly moot point for tablets of this size, and battery life. It’s a safe bet that the Nexus 10 will have somewhere between 7-10 hours of continuous battery life, but until we have a better idea of that range it can’t be a defining factor.

My suggestion for potential buyers of either tablet? Wait until we get closer to launch for both. Apple has regularly shipped products with some problems early on, so it’s better to wait until it’s out for a week or so to see if any of hardware or software bugs pop up. As for the Nexus 10, media will get to test units out before release, so we’ll be able to give a better idea of the few mysteries like performance, battery life, camera quality, etc.

Since we’re a few weeks out until release and because these are high-end products, you won’t have to worry about low stock. The iPad is due to release this week on November 2, and the Nexus 10 will release on November 13. Preorders are available for the iPad now, and will be available for the Nexus 10 shortly.










James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.