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Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 vs. Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9

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April 23, 2013

Gizmag compares the specs (and other features) of Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.0 and Amazon's K...

Gizmag compares the specs (and other features) of Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.0 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD 8.9'

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The iPad still rules the tablet roost, with both versions handily outselling all of its rivals. But Apple’s two biggest competitors, Amazon and Samsung, aren’t going anywhere. Their latest tablets – the Galaxy Note 8.0 and Kindle Fire HD 8.9” – are both compelling alternatives to the iPad and iPad mini. Let’s compare the specs (and other features) of the Note 8 and Fire 8.9.

Size

The Fire 8.9 is a much bigger tablet

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9” is obviously the bigger tablet. But you should still be able to easily hold it with one paw.

Weight

The Note 8 is quite a bit lighter – but the Fire 8.9 still feels light in hand

The Galaxy Note 8.0 is much lighter – 40 percent lighter, to be exact. As a much smaller tablet, though, the difference in relative weight isn’t as big as you might expect.

Build

These tablets are plastic and proud

We’re looking at plastic exteriors on both slates. We don’t have a problem with plastic tablets. But if you prefer aluminum or a metallic alloy, then you might want to check out an iPad or Surface.

Display

The Fire 8.9 has a bigger – and much sharper – screen

This is a big win for the Kindle Fire. Not only does it give you almost an extra inch of real estate, it’s also much sharper. Its pixel density is 34 percent higher than the Note’s.

Processor

The Note's processor delivers much better performance

This, on the other hand, is a big win for the Note. Not only does its quad core Exynos CPU look better on paper, it also wins in benchmark battles. It’s faster. Period.

RAM

The Note 8 doubles the Fire's 1 GB of RAM

Another nod to superior performance on the Note 8, as it doubles the Fire 8.9’s 1 GB of RAM.

Storage

These are your storage options

A couple caveats here. Only the Wi-Fi version of the Fire 8.9 ships with 16 GB. And only the LTE version of the Fire 8.9 ships with 64 GB. Amazon sells both versions in 32 GB models.

Only the Note has a microSD slot, so you could more easily get away with less internal storage there.

Wireless

Both Samsung and Amazon will sell you an LTE capable version

You can buy both tablets in either Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + LTE models.

If you live in the U.S., Amazon struck a deal with AT&T that gives you 250 MB of LTE data per month for a one-time fee of US$50 (good for a year). That’s not a lot of data, but it’s also not a lot of money: just over $4 per month.

Battery

The Fire's battery holds much more juice

On paper, this looks like a huge advantage for the Fire. And its actual battery life is pretty great. But since the Note’s battery isn’t powering nearly as many display pixels, it should hold its own.

Cameras

Only the Note 8 sports a rear-facing camera

If you like to snap pics with your tablet (surely someone out there does), then you’re better off with the Note – as the Fire doesn’t have a rear camera. Its front-facing shooter does just fine, though, for video chat and self-portraits.

Software

Both tablets run Android, but only the Note's version includes all the Google goodies

The Galaxy Note 8.0 has the more versatile software. It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, with a thick layer of Samsung’s TouchWiz on top. It ships with the suite of Google apps (Gmail, YouTube, Google Now, etc.) and the Google Play app store.

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9”, meanwhile, is strictly an Amazon affair. Though it technically runs Android, it’s stripped of all traces of Google, focusing instead on Amazon services. It isn’t for everyone, and the Amazon Appstore’s library isn’t quite on par with Google Play's.

But what the Kindle Fire user experience lacks in versatility, it makes up for in user-friendliness. If you use Amazon services – and mostly want a tablet for casual activities – it can be a great choice and offers outstanding value.

Starting price

As is often the case, Amazon gives you the lower price

Advantage, Kindle Fire. All of that Amazon-focused software lets Jeff Bezos and company sell the Fire for basically no profit at all. Since Samsung relies on its hardware to turn a profit, you can snag the Fire 8.9 for US$130 less than the Note 8.0.

Intangibles

S Pen, or an Amazon shopper's paradise?

You can’t talk about a Galaxy Note and not mention its stylus ... erm, S Pen. Just when it looked like styluses had gone the way of the dodo, Samsung reintroduced them in ways that are truly innovative. All of the cool S Pen software features from other Galaxy Notes make their way to the Note 8.

It’s worth reiterating just how much the Fire 8.9’s user experience is dominated by Amazon. In our review, we found a lot to like about it. But you do need to know what you’re getting into with the Kindle Fire: basically a handheld Amazon shopping mall.

Wrap-up

These tablets don’t really have a lot in common. Both are worthy alternatives to the iPad or iPad mini. But that’s about where the similarities end.

The Note is smaller and lighter, comes with a stylus, and gives you the full-on Google Play version of Android. The Fire has a bigger – and much sharper – display, an Amazon-centric take on Android, and a rock-bottom price tag.

Which is better? We won’t pretend like there’s a universal answer for everyone, so that’s your call. Hopefully these distinctions help guide you on the path of figuring that out for yourself.

Still undecided? Maybe you'll want to see how the Nexus 7 compares to both the Note 8.0 and Fire 8.9.

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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
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