iPad Air 6 (11-inch) vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S9: Which tablet is best?

Apple has just revealed the new 11-inch iPad Air 6, but how does it compare to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9? The Samsung tablet is one of the best Android tablets around, after all.

While you might assume that both are fairly evenly matched, the iPad Air 6 pulls away from the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 not only in terms of sheer power but accessories, and importantly, it’s cheaper than the competing tablet too.

However, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 has a lot going for it, not only with unique IP68 dust and water resistance but also GenAI-powered tools in the form of Galaxy AI.

Here’s how the two tablets compare to help you decide which is best for your needs. 

The iPad Air 6 is more powerful

Both the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 and iPad Air 6 are impressively powerful tablets at the top of their respective games, but the iPad Air 6 manages to peel away with the inclusion of Apple’s desktop-level M2 chipset.

Previously the chipset of choice of the 2022 iPad Pro range, Apple claims that the new chipset is 50% faster than that of the M1-enabled iPad Air from 2022, and that was already one of the most powerful tablets around. It means that the new iPad can take advantage of console-level games like Assassin’s Creed Mirage when it becomes available on the App Store in the coming months.

Editing on the iPad Air 2024

That doesn’t mean that the Tab S9 is a slouch, sporting a custom chipset dubbed the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, but it’s no longer the fastest chipset around with the launch of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 just a few months after the Tab S9 was revealed. It’s still more than enough to power the premium Android tablet experience, but it can’t compete with the Apple M2.  

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 is dust and water-resistant

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 separates itself not only from the iPad Air 6 but practically every other tablet on the market with an impressive IP68 dust and water resistance rating. 

While many tablets could survive a splash of water, the Tab S9 can take a trip to the beach and remain totally unscathed – an impressive feat of engineering from Samsung, that’s for sure.

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The iPad Air, on the other hand, has no official dust or water resistance, so we’d keep it far away from swimming pools and the like to be safe. 

The Galaxy Tab S9 has better AI features

AI is the big buzzword of 2024 with GenAI capabilities now appearing in various flagship smartphones. Galaxy AI was the star of the Galaxy S24 launch earlier this year, but don’t assume that it’s only on the S24 range; following a wider rollout of Samsung’s OneUI 6.1 update, the Tab S9 now has GenAI capabilities. 

It’s not just one or two of the key Galaxy AI features either, with the Tab S9 boasting practically every feature available on the Galaxy S24 including the ability to rewrite texts and emails, on-device translation, transcription capabilities, website summarisation and even the GenAI-powered photo editing tools. 

Both tablets have great accessory support

The core tablet experience is one thing, but if you want a truly versatile bit of tech that can double up as a sketch pad or even a laptop, accessories are key. The good news is that both the iPad Air 6 and Galaxy Tab S9 offer support for high-end accessories including styluses and keyboard covers.

Let’s start with the iPad Air; as with the 2022 variant, the iPad Air 2024 offers support for the second-gen Apple Pencil and the first-gen Magic Keyboard. While it doesn’t quite extend to the newer variants of the accessories, currently exclusive to the iPad Pro range, the experience from the Apple Pencil 2 and Magic Keyboard is certainly a high-end one that we appreciated during the review process.

Doodling on the iPad Air 6

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 also boasts support for Samsung’s S Pen stylus and a keyboard case that works in a similar way to the iPad Air’s accessory, essentially turning the tablet into a laptop. If anything, Samsung’s implementation is a little better with DeX support turning the tablet UI into something akin to Windows 11 for a true multitasking experience. 

The iPad Air is much cheaper

Despite the various similarities between the two top-end tablets, Apple’s iPad Air is actually cheaper than the competing Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 – and by quite a bit too. 

While the iPad Air comes in at £599/$599 with 128GB of storage, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 starts at £799/$799 with the same 128GB of storage, making it £200/$200 more. The catch? The Tab S9 comes with a stylus in the box, while the Apple Pencil 2 is an optional accessory.  

If you’re interested in either, you can buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 now following its launch in August 2023, while the iPad Air – both 11- and 13-inch models – are available to pre-order now ahead of release on 15 May 2024. 

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