Google and Apple have both been releasing many new devices in India, and the gap between local availability and international launches is now smaller than ever before. Last weekend, the iPad Air launched in India, while the Nexus 5 was launched just a little earlier. We spent some time with both devices to see if they lived up to the hype.

iPad Air

The iPad Air is the fifth iPad so far, not counting the Minis. In that time, the device hasn’t really changed much—the screen size, general look and feel and usability have stayed constant. While some people have seen this as a bad thing, we think it has helped to define a tablet experience, and to deliver consistency in a market where everything else seems to change completely every six months or so, and rarely for the better. It’s important to remember that the first iPad came out just three years ago; there were already a few companies making tablets at that point but it’s the iPad which defined what a consumer tablet should be like.

As the name suggests, the Air is thinner and lighter than its predecessor—it weighs just 470g, around 30% lighter than earlier models. Looking at it, you might be reminded of the fourth-generation iPod Touch, a device whose thinness seemed unnatural at the time.

The new design isn’t a big change—it echoes the look of the iPad Mini, something users are already familiar with.

At the same time, there’s a lot of change under the hood, making the iPad Air possibly the most powerful tablet in the market. In most benchmark tests right now, there’s simply nothing which can compete with the Air in terms of graphics rendering, loading Web pages, general tests for processing power, and real-world use.

The daily apps, social networking and general user interface, which you’ll use to get around different apps, all run beautifully—that is only to be expected, of course. Even the fourth-generation iPad (which some people are selling for around 25,000, while stocks last) will do all that without the slightest problem. Over time though, you’re going to see more apps that are designed to take full advantage of the new hardware, at which point the iPad Air will really shine.

At this point, without any specific optimization, you can already see a small difference in some high-end games—the gap is only going to widen.

At 35,900 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi- only variant, the iPad Air is one of the more expensive tablets, but it delivers the most value for money. Apple’s iOS is still easier to use and navigate than other options, and the Air is so thin and light that it’s more convenient to use than ever.

What really makes the case for Apple though is the app ecosystem that has sprung up around the iPad—the gap between the iPhone and Android smartphones doesn’t seem as big as it used to any more, but the fact is that most Android tablet apps are still just enlarged versions of the phone apps. In many cases the apps don’t even have separate versions for tablets and phones. On the iPad, on the other hand, there’s a vast library of apps available, and more keep coming. This is particularly true for games, where Apple’s platform is the top choice of developers, by a huge margin.

So Apple can afford to focus on design and performance, knowing it can charge a premium price for its device; and on those fronts, the company has delivered.

Google’s Nexus line serves two roles—first, as a prototype, to show off the abilities of the latest version of the operating system to the many hardware partners the company works with. And second, as a showcase Android on killer hardware at highly competitive prices. The Nexus 5 is the latest handset from this program, made for Google by LG, and it’s also easily one of the best Android phones available.

Like the excellent LG G2, the Nexus 5 also has a Snapdragon 800 quad-core CPU running at 2.3 GHz, and 2 GB of RAM. The 5-inch full HD screen looks amazing and the loudspeaker is pretty good.

The camera isn’t record breaking, but the results are good, and after a software update, it’s quick to focus as well. The design, however, is boring, though inoffensive. On the plus side, it fits beautifully in your hand, with a slight taper to the sides, though using the top row with one hand is a little difficult at the 5-inch size.

In terms of software, the phone comes with the latest version of Android 4.4, also known as KitKat. There’s a lot of polish to the phone; it brings a series of small changes to the operating system which come together to deliver a surprising amount of polish.

It’s true that the iOS still has a little more style, and is a little easier to use, but the gap is getting smaller, and the same is true for the apps available. While Android still lags in terms of tablet apps, there’s no denying that in phones, the gap between the two systems has never been smaller.

Couple that with the fact that the Nexus 5 is priced at 28,990, and the value on offer is too good to be ignored. The Nexus 5 is a huge step up over the Nexus 4, and if you’re interested in a phone that will get the latest Android updates before anyone else, this is the obvious choice.

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