When something is a success, it tends to breed. The original Kindle Fire was a phenomenon, and now it has a family. At the risk of over-complicating things, Amazon released three different Kindle Fires this year. The latest and greatest is the Kindle Fire HD 8.9". How does it compare to the market-leading iPad? Read on.
This is the first Kindle Fire that approaches the iPad's size. The Fire HD 8.9" is roughly the same height as the iPad, but narrower and a bit thinner.
The Fire 8.9" is notably lighter than the iPad. But it's still much heavier than smaller 7-inch tablets.
This is the best display we've seen on a Kindle Fire. Its pixel density is almost on par with the iPad's terrific display. Text and images should be razor-sharp.
Both tablets should be speed demons. There aren't many existing apps that will push either device to its limits.
The Fire 8.9 and the iPad each carry 1 GB of random-access memory (RAM).
Storage is similar. The numbers listed for the Fire 8.9 are for the Wi-Fi model. The LTE version comes in 32 GB and 64 GB models.
The 8.9-inch Fire is the first of its kind with mobile data. You can pay extra for a version that supports the fastest cellular network, LTE. US customers can pay US$50 to get 250 MB per month for a full year.
The Kindle Fire HD 8.9" has a front-facing camera, so you can video chat. Only the iPad, though, has a rear camera as well.
These are manufacturers' estimates, so take them with grains of salt. The iPad has been tested, and should last roughly what Apple promises. The Fire's battery, though, hasn't been put through the paces.
If you want to save some money, Amazon can help. The Fire HD 8.9" is almost a full-sized tablet, but its price is closer to smaller tablets. If you don't mind some software compromises (see below), it's a good deal.
Speaking of deals, the Fire ships by default with "Special Offers" advertisements. You can pay an extra US$15 (at check-out or anytime later) to get rid of them.
If you want the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire, you'll have to wait. Customers who pre-ordered early are receiving theirs, but new buyers are out of luck. The back-ordered tablets are shipping around December 3. For the LTE version, you'll have to wait until Dec. 10.
All Kindle tablets are partially subsidized. So, instead of pure Android, you get an Amazon storefront. If you buy lots of physical and digital goods from them, it's no problem. Otherwise, you might long for something less commercial.
Intangibles are Apple's domain, but the iPad's most important is the App Store. With over 275,000 tablet-specific apps, no other platform comes close. If you want the best software, it and iOS 6 make for an unbeatable combination.
The Kindle Fire 8.9" HD is Amazon's best tablet. Its display is among the best, it has plenty of horsepower, and it's only $100 more expensive than its little brother. It requires some compromises, and its app selection is dwarfed by the iPad's. But if you're on a budget of $300, you can do much worse than the biggest Kindle Fire.
For more options, check out our 2012 Tablet Comparison Guide.