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iPad mini vs. Kindle Fire HD

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October 24, 2012

How does the iPad mini compare to the Kindle Fire HD?

How does the iPad mini compare to the Kindle Fire HD?

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During 2011's holiday season, Amazon ruled the low end of the tablet market. Its first Kindle Fire struck just the right chords with pricing, simplicity, and brand familiarity. In 2012, though, the low-end of the tablet market is set to be a brawl. Amazon has two new Kindle Fires, Google has the terrific Nexus 7, and Barnes & Noble is trying to hang in there with the Nook HD.

The elephant in the room, however, is Apple's new iPad mini. Though it rings up at US$130 more than most of its competitors, it may lead to some restless nights for Amazon's execs.

Only time will tell how the market will play out, but we don't have to wait to see how the budget tablets stack up. In tonight's main event, we have iPad mini vs. Kindle Fire HD …

Dimensions

The biggest difference is the iPad mini's thickness (or lack thereof)

The biggest difference here is the iPad mini's thinness. It's much more svelte than the 7-inch Fire HD. Apart from that, the dimensions don't look remarkably different.

Design quality can be subjective, but the iPad mini will, for most people, be the winner in that department. Its aluminum unibody design comes in both black/slate and white/silver (like the iPhone 5). The Kindle Fire HD's backing, meanwhile, is made of plastic and rubber: comfortable to grip, but lacking that premium aesthetic.

Weight

The iPad mini is lighter, but not by a ridiculous margin

The iPad mini is lighter than the Fire HD, but not by a monumental margin.

Display

The iPad mini has more real estate, but lower resolution

At least on paper, resolution is a big advantage for the Fire: it packs more pixels into a smaller display. Apple, wanting to avoid software fragmentation, used the 1024x768 resolution from the first two iPads. It will look sharp enough on the 7.9-inch screen, but Amazon's tablet should come out ahead.

Apple's tablet does, however, offer nearly an extra inch of (diagonal) real estate. If you want a maximum viewing area in a mini form factor, you may want to check out the iPad mini.

Processor

Both chips are good enough for most uses, but hardly state-of-the-art

Both tablets sport dual core chips that are growing a bit long in the tooth. For most people's needs, they will deliver good performance, but neither sports the most advanced processor on the market today.

RAM

The iPad mini's 512MB is unconfirmed

The iPad mini's RAM is unconfirmed, but – as the small tablet borrows much from the iPad 2 – we're betting on its having 512MB. We'll find out for sure after benchmarks and teardowns hit the web, but the Kindle Fire HD's 1GB is a sure thing.

Storage

The only difference here is the mini's 64GB option

If you're holding out for 64GB of flash memory, then the iPad mini is the only option. Otherwise, both devices are even.

Wireless

Only the iPad mini is available with cellular data

The Kindle Fire HD is Wi-Fi only, while the iPad mini is also available in a (more expensive) 3G/LTE model. If you want a Kindle Fire with cellular data, you can wait for the upcoming 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD 4G (due on November 20).

Battery

Estimated uptimes are similar

As we're referencing manufacturers' estimates, you'll want to take these with grains of salt. Both Amazon and Apple are serious about delivering solid battery life, though, so you'll probably be fine with either device.

Cameras

The iPad mini comes out ahead in the camera department

This is a clear advantage for the iPad mini. The Kindle Fire HD only has a front-facing camera, while Apple's tablet also has a 5MP rear-facing shooter. It's debatable whether budget tablets need rear-facing cameras, but, for iPad mini owners, the option is there.

Intangibles

App Store and iOS 6, or an Amazon storefront with 'Special Offers?' (Billy Mays: Sharese A...

Apple is gambling that customers will pay an extra $130 for the iPad mini's attractive design and loaded App Store. The Amazon Appstore has a good selection, but it still trails the number (and quality?) of native tablet apps in Apple's marketplace. Any app that runs on a full-sized iPad will run on the iPad mini; for many customers, this is all that matters.

Though you won't see old Billy Mays ads, the base version of the Kindle Fire HD ships with "Special Offers." It costs an extra $15 to get rid of the ads, but that still makes it $115 cheaper than the entry-level iPad mini.

The Fire HD's heavily-skinned version of Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, is more of an Amazon storefront than a traditional operating system. It's easy to read Kindle books, watch Amazon Instant Videos, and surf the web, but don't expect anything resembling the iPad mini's polished iOS 6.

Summing up

What are you looking for, and how much are you willing to pay for it? Those questions are crucial with any purchase, but they're especially relevant here. If you want better software and a premium design, you may find the iPad mini to be worth an extra $130. If you like purchasing Amazon content and want a sharper display, then you might be happy to save some money on the Kindle Fire HD.

Either way, expect to be hearing a lot more about these two tablets – as well as the Nexus 7 – during the next few months. This holiday is a budget tablet steel cage match, and these two devices will be right in the thick of it.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin covers consumer technology for Gizmag. He's previously written for Android Central, Geek, GottaBeMobile, Android Police, and The Huffington Post.
He lives in New Mexico, U.S., with his lovely wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
6 Comments

I'm not an Amazon fan so the Mini wins this one...for now. Hell, Amazon is more controlling than Apple!

Fahrenheit 451
24th October, 2012 @ 01:05 pm PDT

The iPad mini is a smaller better version of my iPad 2. Comparing the iPad experience to a KF is like saying my Lexus Hybrid is like your Chevy Volt.

The quality of the product is the biggest part of using it along with a matching iOS that just goes without issues or problems. My grandmother has an email address for the 1 time. There was no explaining to her how to use it. Apple makes the hardware and software and that's what we want.

The price has nothing to do with buying a product that just performs.

Facebook User
24th October, 2012 @ 01:31 pm PDT

I rather enjoy any comparisons made to an Apple product. Mainly because the apple loyalists come out of the woodwork to defend precioussss. Good on Apple for developing an iconic product. Good on the others who keep trying to knock them off their perch. It means the consumer gets good choices.

kar
24th October, 2012 @ 02:05 pm PDT

I don't get it when manufacturers put those rubbery feeling textures on their products (like the Kindle mentioned above) and then boast about it. It looks and feels nice for ~6 months until the texture starts peeling off of the plastic and it looks like it has "skin" cancer. I've had multiple devices in the past with this rubbery texture treatment and they're all the same after a couple months of use. Just when an Apple competitor gets close to beating Apple in the aesthetics department, it seems like they intentionally find a way to screw up their product in the aesthetics department.

Sambath Pech
24th October, 2012 @ 05:01 pm PDT

It's an awkward thing to compare...Apples to Androids...what they need to do is compare them according to what you want to do with these similar devices...

For general computing perhaps the android or apple would be best, but i'm a big reader and use Amazon as my primary source of books and shopping so for me the 'amazon-centric OS on the Fire HD is not an issue.

If your a serious iTunes buyer than of course Apples own would be better suited...We all have differing needs and there seems to be a lot of tablets now each with it's own slant towards filling differing needs.

At a certain point price and components are less informative than what your needs are.

John Hemingway Parkes
25th October, 2012 @ 11:09 am PDT

If you want to use the Amazon device outside the US, it will loose many features.

Amazon Prime movies for instance can't be streamed because of some stupid licensing regulations.

Also the whole Amazon is mainly focused on US market only, so the cheap price is not so big advantage if you can't use many of the services in other countries... lot of items can't be shipped outside of US.

With iPad Mini you have probably less limited functionality.

Imhof Iván
25th October, 2012 @ 11:33 am PDT
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