New iPad vs. Kindle Fire: Which Tablet is Right for You?
Content, Value, and Conclusions
New iPad vs. Kindle Fire: Which Tablet is Right for You?
Let's get it out of the way up front: The new iPad and the Kindle Fire are two completely different beasts. It's almost pointless to do a general side-by-side spec comparison without considering the varying needs of different tablet users. For some, the budget-friendly, reading-centric Kindle Fire will be more than enough. For others, though, the genre-defining iPad will be the obvious choice. So let's take a look at the various factors to consider when you're looking for your next tablet:
Media Content and Reading Experience
Easy and convenient media consumption is a must when it comes to tablets. Both the new iPad and the Kindle Fire do this particularly well, offering up a solid collection of content.
Amazon offers more than 100,000 movies and TV shows to rent or buy, and Amazon Prime users can access unlimited free streaming for over 10,000 titles; Apple offers no such program. The iTunes store has more than 15,000 movies and 90,000 TV episodes. Both Amazon and Apple tout music collections nearing 20 million songs. Selection is always changing, so content-wise, the two are equally impressive.
When it comes to music, Apple has the benefit of iTunes, with special features like Genius and iTunes Match. And again, the iPad also features Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay for wireless streaming to compatible devices.
Price varies depending on the content, but, from a quick comparison of some top albums, Amazon appears to offer the same content for slightly lower prices than Apple. You should also consider flexibility of use. Amazon allows a little more breathing room for playback on other devices; from phones to other tablets to internet-enabled TVs. Apple is more restrictive, limiting media to its own devices.
Then there are books, newspapers, and magazines. Amazon's selection is superior, but with the Kindle App for the iPad, there really is no advantage there. For students, Apple's recently launched iBooks 2 with digital textbooks could be an important factor. Both devices, again, have pros and cons when it comes to reading experience. The Retina display, with its 264 pixels per inch, will make for far sharper text compared with the Kindle Fire's 169 ppi. But don't forget about comfort. The Kindle Fire is smaller (7.5 by 4.7 by .45 inches) and lighter (14.6 ounces) than the iPad (9.50 by 7.31 by .37 inches and 23.04 ounces), which is a big factor for longer reading sessions. Sure you could set the iPad on your lap, but that position is not ergonomically sound and you run the risk of developing "tablet neck."
Advantage: Push. Both Amazon and Apple have impressive collections of music, movies, TV shows, and books. The smaller Kindle Fire will be more comfortable to hold for long periods, while the high pixel density of the new iPad's Retina display will make a big difference for text.
Pricing and Value
The Kindle Fire costs $199, while the entry level 16GB iPad will cost $499. Ouch. If your intentions are purely casual, like light Web browsing, email, and Angry Birds, then the Kindle Fire will likely suffice. But if you want your tablet to replace your laptop, or at least come close, the iPad is more powerful, feature rich, and offers a superior, tablet-optimized app selection.
Advantage: Amazon. You can't deny the fact that the Kindle Fire is less than half the price of the least-expensive iPad, and less than one quarter the cost of the most-expensive model.
It's impossible to recommend a single tablet for all. Not everyone can spend $500 on a new tablet, but, at the same time, you don't want to plunk down $200 on a tablet that can't do everything you need it to. Depending on how you weigh each of the factors above, either of these tablets could come out on top.
So which, if either, will you choose? Is there another tablet on your wish list? Let us know in the comment section below.
Hardware isn't everything. That said, the new iPad absolutely creams the Kindle Fire in a strict spec comparison. Not everyone needs Apple's dual-core A5X processor with quad-core graphics. After all, the dual-core 1GHz TI OMAP4 processor in the Kindle Fire is no slouch. A tablet's screen is one of its most important features, and the iPad's ultra-sharp 9.7-inch 2,048-by-1536-pixel Retina Display can't be beat. But what if you want to slip your tablet into your jacket pocket? The Kindle's 7-inch (1,024-by-600-pixel) display makes it a lot easier to tote, but it also limits your screen real estate.
Both tablets offer unlimited cloud storage for their respective eco-system content, so internal storage may not be a huge factor, but it's worth considering if you want to load your own content. The Kindle Fire offers 8GB, while the iPad comes in 16, 32, and 64GB capacities. Neither, however, supports microSD or any other storage expansion options.
As far as connectivity, the new iPad offers 4G LTE compatibility, which gives it an edge over the Kindle Fire, but don't forget that there are plenty of solid and affordable mobile hotspot options that will bring the same capability to Amazon's Wi-Fi-only tablet. Both tablets are 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi compatible, but only the iPad supports AirPlay and Bluetooth—this is especially important if you want to stream music or videos wirelessly to your compatible speakers or HDTV.
If, for whatever reason, you want your new tablet to replace your digital camera, then the iPad's new 5-megapixel camera will be a big factor. The Kindle Fire lacks a camera for stills or video, but the general usefulness of tablet cameras is still up for debate. Battery life will likely be longer on the iPad too, but that's because it's a bigger tablet that can house a bigger battery.
Advantage: Apple. The new iPad packs a vastly superior screen, 4G LTE compatibility, more internal storage, and more wireless connectivity options. Amazon did not skimp on components in the Kindle Fire, but it still cannot compete with the new iPad on a strictly hardware level.
Software and Apps
This is not your standard iOS vs. Android showdown. The iPad runs Apple's iOS mobile operating system and has access to the Apple App Store. The Kindle Fire uses a heavily modified version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which makes for a smooth, simple, and intuitive interface that is drastically different than the stock Google software. With those changes, though, the Kindle Fire also loses the Android Market (now rebranded as Google Play). You can, however, install your own APK's onto your Kindle Fire with the right tools, opening up the possibility to get nearly any app available in Google Play. The Amazon Appstore is perfectly capable too, with thousands of choices, but it can't compare with the more than 170,000 native iPad apps in the Apple App Store.
It's hard to argue with the simplicity and elegance of Apple's iOS. Android has made significant strides, but still lacks some polish—especially in older flavors like Gingerbread and Honeycomb. Amazon's reimagined Android is undeniably smooth and easy to use, but it also loses some of that customizability that makes Android so attractive in the first place.
Advantage: Apple. Android is fine, and Amazon really did a lot to make it painfully clear what to do with the tablet. However, iOS is still the more polished, intuitive, and feature-packed of the two.