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Kindle Fire HDX vs. iPad mini

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September 26, 2013

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the new Kindle Fire HDX and Apple's aging 1st-ge...

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the new Kindle Fire HDX and Apple's aging 1st-gen iPad mini

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Apple's iPad and iPad mini may still rule the tablet roost, but Amazon's Kindle Fire lineup also knows how to draw a crowd. Is Apple's iPad mini a better buy than the upcoming Kindle Fire HDX? Join Gizmag, as we put the two side by side, and see what happens.

Size

The iPad mini is the much bigger tablet (though the Fire is quite a bit thicker)

The 7" Kindle Fire HDX is a much smaller tablet than the iPad mini. How much smaller? Well, it's seven percent shorter, and five percent narrower. It is thicker, though, by 25 percent.

Weight

The Fire is a hair lighter, but it's also a much smaller tablet

The Fire HDX is lighter, but considering how much smaller Amazon's tablet is, not by a very wide margin. The iPad mini's combination of size and weight has always been its killer feature.

Build

It's plastic vs. aluminum

Amazon has always used plastic for its Kindle Fires, while Apple has always stuck with aluminum for its iPads. No exceptions here.

Colors

These are your color options for both tablets

No variety here for the Fire HDX. The iPad mini, meanwhile, is available in "black & slate" and "white & silver." Or, as anyone who doesn't work in Apple's marketing department calls them, black and white.

Display

The iPad mini also has a bigger display, but the Fire's is much sharper

This is both a big advantage and a big disadvantage for the iPad mini. The good news for Apple's tablet is that it gives you much more real estate. The Fire HDX only gives you 74 percent as much screen area. Notice that the iPad mini's screen also takes up a much higher portion of its front face.

Where the iPad mini doesn't fare so well is with its resolution. About five minutes after customers got the iPad mini in their hands, they started to ask when they'll be able to buy one with a Retina Display. Apple's competitors, including both Amazon and Google, are now launching high-resolution mini tablets. Will Apple give us the long-anticipated Retina iPad mini this year?

Processor

The Kindle Fire HDX's performance should blow the iPad mini's out of the water

Another big weakness for the iPad mini is its performance. It wasn't cutting edge when it launched, and it's looking even weaker now as it approaches end of life. And we aren't just talking on paper either: it packs the performance of 2011's iPad 2. If it weren't for its phenomenal size and build, this first iPad mini would have been branded as a mid-range tablet.

The Kindle Fire's performance, meanwhile, should take an enormous leap from last year's model. It runs one of the fastest processors on the market right now, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800. We can't wait to put this puppy through the paces, and see how it holds up in real world use.

RAM

The Fire also quadruples the iPad mini's 512 MB of RAM

The Fire HDX also gets a big boost by quadrupling the iPad mini's mere 512 MB of RAM. The iPad mini's dearth of RAM can lead to annoyances like web pages needing to refresh after only switching to another tab or app for a minute or two.

Storage

Storage options are equal

Well looky here, all storage options are even.

Wireless

Both tablets are sold in both Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi with LTE models

Both tablets are also available in (cheaper) Wi-Fi only and (pricier) Wi-Fi and LTE mobile data models.

Battery life

If you trust Amazon's estimate, then its battery life might be a little better than the iP...

These are both manufacturers' estimates. We can vouch that the iPad mini generally lives up to Apple's billing with moderate use, delivering terrific battery life. We've yet to put the Fire HDX's battery through the paces.

Cameras

The iPad mini is looking better in the camera department

The HDX lacks a rear-facing camera, but, on tablets, we find them to be more bonuses than necessities. Its front-facing camera will do the trick for Skype and maybe the occasional selfie.

Software

Amazon's forked version of Android delivers a solid user experience and app selection, but...

Amazon's Kindle Fire OS is still a forked version of Android, but the company is now branding it as its own operating system, even giving it a fancy name ("Mojito"). It offers a few new features, like one-tap archiving of your content into the cloud. It also now gives you the option of switching between the traditional carousel view and a more iPad-like grid view.

The biggest item of note here, though, is the two tablets' respective app marketplaces. The iOS App Store is far ahead of Amazon's Kindle Fire Appstore. The Amazon store delivers a solid enough selection of Android apps, but the App Store is still the undisputed king of tablet apps: in both quantity and quality.

On-device customer service

The Kindle Fire HDX's 'Mayday' button lets you get almost instant video chat support from ...

This is one of the most interesting features in Amazon's new Fire HDX tablets. One click will supposedly have you video chatting with an Amazon rep, who will walk you through any support questions on your new tablet. They can even draw on your screen to illustrate points.

If the "Mayday" button works as advertised (24/7, 365 day tech support, with a goal of a 15 seconds or less wait time), then Amazon might have a revolutionary feature on its hands. That would sure beat trekking to your local Genius Bar.

Voice control

The Fire HDX doesn't have any native voice control options

Siri may not be perfect, but it's more than what the Kindle Fire offers you in voice control: nada.

Release cycle

We can't emphasize this enough: the iPad mini will likely have a sequel soon, making this ...

This might actually be the most important item to note here. Apple's original iPad mini has been on store shelves for nearly a year. That means its first sequel is almost certainly waiting in the wings. Whether it delivers that Retina Display or not, it will almost certainly include some performance upgrades. Expect an event in October or November, where Apple will also introduce a 5th-generation 9.7-inch iPad.

Starting prices

The Fire HDX undercuts the iPad mini by $100

Amazon matched the Nexus 7's US$230 for the base model of the 7" Fire HDX. That has it sitting a solid $100 below the entry-level iPad mini.

That does, however, include Amazon's "Special Offers" (ads). For an extra $15 (either at checkout or anytime later) you can disable the lockscreen offers.

Wrap-up

If you must buy a mini tablet right now, then the Fire HDX is looking pretty promising next to the iPad mini. Well, at least it is if you can put up with the Fire's more limited app selection. And of course we won't be able to offer a definitive endorsement (or not) of the Kindle Fire HDX until we've put it through the paces. Stay tuned on that front.

But again, the big thing to know here is that this really isn't a good time to buy an iPad mini. This 1st-generation model has a mid-range resolution display, processor, and RAM. Wait a month or two, and you'll likely solve at least two of those problems for the same price. Solve all three, and you might have the best tablet ever made.

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About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
9 Comments

At the end of the day people who buy the non-Apple alternative tend to do so either on price sensitivity or based on Applephobia. We had a teenage Russian girl stay with us and despite our son having an iPad she bought an Xperia Z tablet. It was inferior in every way and it was obvious she felt she had made a mistake. She was armed with unlimited cash and her reason for not buying an iPad was that everyone has them. We told her, there is a very good reason for that.

Even after her coming into an Apple Store and seeing them change my iPhone sync cable free of charge with no fuss. Then she had the Sony Experience: empty Sony shop with leery and smelly staff who were condescending and leering at her and my wife, nudging each other, her childish obstinance had her forking out the same amount of cash.

In one day she had to charge her Xperia Z twice, whereas my son, who leaves everything he opens running in the background, playing FIFA 13 and watching YouTube, does it once a day if that. Then there's the limited app store, even for games and the cheapness of the build. The Sony is like a child's plastic toy. Whilst this is a review about Kindle, it's actually a cautionary tale because it's about real world usage and practicality. If you can afford an Apple product, it's easily the best overall proposition because even after several years your battery life will still be around 85% of its original, the Apple service is brilliant and the employees are professional and knowledgeable. However, if you want a cheap imitation, from unbranded, poor build quality and poor choice, then buy non-Apple.

I used to hate Apple for their dodgy marketing, and their greed, but after buying a 3GS I realised that the price you pay for peace of mind and quality is always worth it. Since then I have replaced everything (but the Xbox360) with it's Apple equivalent. Yes, their marketing stretches the limits of truth, but the real truth is that their products are the best on the market based on real world use.

To be taken as a serious, rival to Apple, it needs someone to come out and out-Apple Apple. It's not going to happen because it's more than just making products out of premium materials, it's the whole ethos of making technology invisible and of excellent customer care.

Kindles, Samsungs, Sonys, and the raft of imitators will only ever be that, imitators until they can offer an augmented product, as marketers say!

The Master
27th September, 2013 @ 01:12 am PDT

Seriously ?

If you had written this say 18 months ago, or even a year ago I would probably be agreeing with you. Things have moved on a LOT since those days. Have always been an Apple user until they stopped innovating and simply started milking the user base for all they where worth.

No experience with the Sony Xperia, but currently own a Nexus 7 which quite frankly beasts the Ipad mini in every single department at a fraction of the price.. Better screen, better performance and Android updates the moment they come out. What's not to like ?

Apple are truly at their best when they are leading the market with new and exciting products, something they have frankly failed to do for some time

Steve

Stephen Russell
27th September, 2013 @ 06:11 am PDT

The Master's wrong. I own both an Ipad and a Samsung Slate & the Slate works better.

Apple is behind the times and the review proves it. Sony, Dell, Samsung, Lenova, & Acer all have top of the line tablets that work as computers, laptops with touch screen, & desktops that are portable and have touch screens, where as Apple doesn't even have one of any of these and is priced higher for what they can do and have weaker processing power. Plus these other systems can be split to run both Google and windows systems.

In the end most users only use these items to get on the internet to watch movies, listen to music, Facebook or read (emails books etc) and any of these products can do that well but everyone else is delivering more while still beating Apple in price. If you want to pay the same or a little more than you would for an Apple than you will definitely get something better than Apple.

However, all that said, Apple hasn't released any breakthrough products in awhile and I would have to guess it's coming before Christmas this year. If they can't do that then they better start lowering their prices because they will clearly be behind the pack, much the way Blackberry slide to the back by not releasing anything new until it was to late.

Matt Fletcher
27th September, 2013 @ 06:47 am PDT

@The Master

Your argument is well thought out but wrong, Amazon has some of the best customer service around. And they make a good tablet. Disclosure I had a ipad 1st gen (now my wifes), I own a Ipad 2 and a Ipad mini, and Iphone 4s. I also own 4 kindle e ink readers (two are my wife's) I owned a kindle fire 1st gen but sold when I got my kindle fire HD. The Kindle fire 1st gen was a ok tablet, but the HD is a great tablet with a great ecosystem not as many apps as Apple but you can sideload apps, but they have a great movies and tv shows and more reading options then Apple. I Used my HD Fire everyday until I got my Ipad mini, I still use it but not as often it has became more of a game console for me now. But for someone on a budget it is a great choice over an Ipad. It will never replace my Ipad but I enjoyed it daily for almost a year. And I would rate Amazons customer service at the same level or better than Apples. Again the point if you don't like Apple or cant afford Apple and Kindle Fire is a great alternative, I would buy a new HDX but my wife would kill me.

Matt Farmer
27th September, 2013 @ 07:01 am PDT

@ Matt

I have to agree, Apple seem to be doing a lot of 'vapourware' products at the moment, the Apple watch, Apple TV even the Apple game console, but there is not a single game changing product that seems close to being ready for release.

This concerns me as Apple have always been at their strongest when they have been able to bring new products to the market that re-define the standard to which other companies aspire to. Apple have never actually invented anything new, tablets, MP3 players etc... were around a while before the Ipad and Ipod, but their strength has always been to clear the clutter and make a product that was easy to use for the non techy person in the street.

I was firmly in the Apple camp until 18 months ago when I realised I was actually paying through the nose for tiny upgrades to the hardware and software they were supplying. I jumped ship to Android and it was like moving out of a flat into a mansion. Sure, the flat was warm and cosy, everything was close to hand but it always felt small, you could only ever do things the way Apple wanted you to do them. Moving to Android was like 'OK' this is really big, some of the rooms are a bit musty but no big brother is there to stop you exploring.

Just upgraded my Nexus 7 from last years model to the latest model and the jump in capability is HUGE, something I never experienced with the Ipad even when they moved to the latest version.

As for me, I would love to see Apple get back to what it does best, but without Jobs, I just don't think it is going to happen

Steve

Stephen Russell
27th September, 2013 @ 09:53 am PDT

The Koreans having been protected by us for so long and having studied and the University of Cincinnati where there was intense research on displays have taken over the Monitor and Display industries.

And they have produced many fine other things such as Automobiles and Kitchen Appliances.

But Apple , having invented these many recent electronic things remains no slouch. Certainly the iOS 7 shows that they are perfecting things, it's bright, clear, tasteful, and clever what they are doing.

Many of the products that they are producing are the finest in class. Certainly they are now the leading Computer manufacturer. Windows runs best on Macs now.

And with Apple products they are a tightly integrated system of things.

You save monies because they are integrated.

So I'd be inclined to disagree that they are not producing fine products and they were the leaders in every great advanement...

What Jony has done also is make their operating system look the cleanest and classiest of them all.

The only thing that Jony doesn't get is that Calendars can be a two way street.

Bill

Lewis M. Dickens III
27th September, 2013 @ 10:39 am PDT

I have an iPhone5, MacBook Air (2012) and an ancient PowerBook G4. I also have a Kindle Fire HD 8.9", Kindle Fire 2nd Gen. 7", a Kindle Touch and a Paperwhite.

I'll take Apple computers and phones any day but eReaders and tablets gotta be Kindle. I'm a media junkie and Kindles do that as well or better than anyone.

Guido Muldoon
27th September, 2013 @ 11:12 am PDT

I have an additional qualification by which to grade all of these companies: the degree by which their products are produced with slave labour. It is simply unfair that Jobs, (or, now, his estate,,), is worth billions while customers line up for days to buy the latest widget that is actually being produced effectively by slave labour. Insisting upon fair wages, safe working conditions, a reasonable work pace, as well as clean environmental conditions will cost something. It should mean that Every One working for a company should do well, not just some execs, and a few large investors.

StWils
27th September, 2013 @ 11:25 am PDT

@ Bill

I totally agree, Apple still produce fine products and in terms of build quality are still second to none.

My concern is, where is the innovation now ?

i0S 7 is a good operating system upgrade, but they are on a 2-3 year upgrade cycle, Android are on a 9-10 month upgrade cycle and the gap really is starting to show now.

I want Apple to wow us again, put something out there that makes us want to buy their products because it puts clear blue water between themselves and everyone else out there. This is what they do best, this is what made us buy their products in the first place.

Steve

Stephen Russell
27th September, 2013 @ 01:36 pm PDT
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