Spec showdown: Apple iPad Air vs Samsung Galaxy Note, Sony Tablet Z

How does the iPad Air stack up against competing tablets from Samsung and Sony?

Apple CEO Tim Cook spent a bit of time dissing the competition while he was on stage at Apple's iPad Air launch event on Tuesday, but how does Apple's newest tablet stack up against the competition?

Here's a quick look at some of the main features of the iPad Air, Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 and Sony's Tablet Z.

The Display

The display is the feature users spend the most time with. Apple has a 9.7-inch "Retina" display in its iPad Air that shows 2,048 pixels by 1,536 pixels. That works out to 264 pixels per inch, which is good because the higher the resolution and closer together the pixels are packed, the sharper and crisper the display appears.

Both competing tablets have a slightly larger, 10.1-inch display, and there's a big difference in resolution. While Sony's screen is capable of 1,920 pixels by 1,080 pixels -- a respectable resolution that matches high-definition video -- Samsung's screen beats both competitors. It has a 2,560 pixel by 1,600 pixel resolution.

The Camera

It's probably true that few people buy a tablet for the camera. It's a clunky way to take photos, but sometimes it's also the most convenient thing on hand. The iPad Air's 5-megapixel camera lags the 8-megapixel sensors on both the Samsung and Sony, but this is a tricky area to compare with just megapixels. Apple has put a lot of work into developing the features of its iSight camera so things are probably much more closely matched.

Physical Dimensions

Apple made a big deal of shrinking the size and weight of the iPad and that is a big deal for users. It also places the iPad Air competitively against its two big rivals. At 469 grams (1.03 pounds), the iPad Air beats both the 495 gram Sony Tablet Z and the 540 gram Samsung Galaxy Note, but it's not quite as thin as the Sony tablet.

The Tablet Z is just 6.9 millimeters (0.27 inches) thick versus 7.5mm on the iPad Air and 7.9mm on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014. But the Galaxy Note is about the same length and width as the iPad Air, while the Sony tablet is a little longer and just slightly wider.

The Battery

Each tablet maker is going to base its battery life claim on a different set of core tasks, so a direct comparison is difficult but they're all claiming fairly comparable battery life.

The iPad Air will ship with a battery that Apple says provides "up to 10 hours" of Web surfing on Wi-Fi, watching video and listening to music. Sony's "Stamina mode" is said to shut down apps running in the background when the screen goes off, to extend the life of its battery. The capacity isn't listed, but it is said to be capable of 10 hours of video and 8 hours of Web browsing over Wi-Fi. Samsung's Galaxy Note comes right in between with 9 hours of Wi-Fi use and up to 10 hours of video.

Price

The base models of all three tablets have 16GB of memory, so a simple comparison is easy. The Apple and Sony tablets cost US$499, with the Samsung device coming in $50 more expensive at $549. Interestingly, things are equally matched at the 32GB memory level with all three priced at $599.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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