Spec Comparison: New iPad v. Nexus 7 v. Kindle Fire HD 7” & 8.9”

| Analysis

Amazon announced on Thursday its new Kindle Fire HD line to replace 2011's Kindle Fire. While Apple is expected to announce a 7.x-inch iPad mini this fall, we see the heavy hitters in the tablet market today as being Apple's new iPad (iPad 3), Google's Nexus 7, and the two new devices from Amazon.

Tablet Spec Comparison

The following spec shootout between those devices is not intended to "prove" which device is definitely better, because all four have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Our spec comparison is intended to help consumers decide which device best needs their needs and wants.

Better, But Good Enough?

We like to start these things off with our conclusions right up front: Amazon's new 7-inch device is a distant also-ran to Google's Nexus 7 in the 7-inch market. For the same $199, you get a better processor, a better app ecosystem, and a better OS in a smaller, tighter package. The one advantage of Amazon's 7-inch device is better claimed battery life.

 

On the other hand, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD 8.9" is far more compelling. It still lacks many of the hardware specs of Apple's new iPad, but it offers nearly the same screen quality as Apple's genre-defining Retina Display. It's definitely nowhere near an "iPad-killer," but starting at $299, Amazon's larger offering will definitely give more people pause before shelling out the bucks for an iPad.

Note that the Kindle Fire 7" won't ship until September 14th, while the Kindle Fire 8.9" won't ship until November 20th. The following comparison is based entirely on what Amazon has told us, not on hands-on observations. We have, however, handled the Google Nexus 7 and have extensive time with Apple's new iPad.

Below the fold, we have some specific analysis on these devices and their specific specs.

The Specs
(Product images are intended to be close to scale, but they may be off by a pixel or two)

  Apple's new iPad Google Nexus 7 Kindle Fire HD 8.9
Product The New iPad Google Nexus 7 Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7" Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9" (& 4G)
OS (current) iOS 5.1 Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Android (forked version, Possibly 4.0) Android (forked version, Possibly 4.0)
Dimensions (in.) 9.5 x 7.31 x 0.37 7.81 x 4.72 x 0.41

7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4
0.87

9.45 x 6.5 x 0.35
Weight (lbs) 1.4 (Wi-Fi) 1.46 (4G) 0.75 (340 grams) 0.87 1.25
Display size (in., diag) 9.7 7 7 8.9
Display Resolution 2048 x 1536 (IPS, LED bklight) 1280 x 800 1280 x 800 1900 x 1200
Pixels per inch 264 220

Unspecified, (219ish Likely)

254
RAM (MB) 1024 (1GB) 1024

Unknown

Unknown
Processor A5X (dual core) 1 GHz;
quad core GPU
Nvidia 1.3 GHz Tegra 3 Quad-core CPU Dual-core,
1.2GHz OMAP4460
Dual-core,
1.5GHz OMAP4470
User Storage (GB) 16/32/64 8/16 16/32 16/32 (32/64 for 4G)
Expanded Storage x √ (through microUSB) x x
Cloud Storage iCloud Google Cloud Free Cloud Storage for Amazon Content Free Cloud Storage for Amazon Content
Front Camera “VGA” 1.2 MP “HD” (Resolution Unknown) “HD” (Resolution Unknown)
Rear Camera 5 MP (1080p) stabilization x x x
Camera Flash x x x x
Microphone
Audio/speaker mono spkr, stereo headphone stereo spkrs & headphone Dolby Audio
dual stereo spkrs/headphone
Dolby Audio
dual stereo spkrs/headphone
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 b/g/n Dual-band,dual-antenna Wi-Fi Dual-band,dual-antenna Wi-Fi
Radio (GSM) UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA/4G-LTE x x x
Radio (CDMA) CDMA, EV-DO/UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA/GSM x x 4G LTE on “4G” Model
Bluetooth 4.0 √ (unspecified) √ (unspecified) √ (unspecified)
GPS w/4G x x
Battery Life, hours 10 (9 w/ 4G) (11666 mAh) 8 (4325 mAh) 11 (Specs Unknown) Unknown
Accelerometer x x
Magnetometer/Compass x x
Gyroscope x x
Video out HDMI (w/ accessory) + AirPlay x Micro-HDMI Micro-HDMI
USB x USB 2.0 USB 2.0 micro-B USB 2.0 micro-B
Sensors Ambient Light Ambient Light, Proximity x x
Colors Black or White Black Black Black
Price US$ (Wi-Fi) 499/599/699 199/249 199/249 299/369
Price US$ (3G/4G) 629/729/829 N/A N/A 499/599

Displays

The display on the original Kindle Fire was a joke. In fact, the whole device was a joke, which is why sales dropped off a cliff after Christmas 2011. Both Kindle Fire HD models change that, though, and we expect the display on the 8.9-inch version to look particularly good. For many users, it could look almost as good as the new iPad, at least for the things it does.

The new iPad is still the overall resolution king, and even though Amazon is claiming that its device has richer colors and brighter images, we frankly doubt it will be better than Apple's tablet. Testing that, however, will require some hands-on time with the device.

OS

It's important to remember that Amazon's Kindle Fire HD is running a forked version of Android that Amazon has skinned to be a direct conduit to Amazon.

For many users that will be just fine, but we believe that Google's Nexus 7 offers a better Android experience. The Kindle Fire HD doesn't directly support any Google services, and Google services are one of the great things about the Android platform. It is possible that sideloading non-Amazon Appstore Android apps will be possible, but that's immaterial for the non-geeky consumers likely to be attracted to Amazon's offering.

The Google Nexus 7, however, runs Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, which we believe significantly narrows the gap between Android and iOS in terms of features and usability, and in some regards, like notifications, Jelly Bean beats iOS.

For that reason, we think the Google Nexus 7 is the better choice than either Kindle Fire HD model for those people looking for a full tablet experience, and that's in addition to the sensors and other features the Nexus 7 supports.

That said, we still believe iOS is superior to Android. Apple's ecosystem is stronger, and Apple's app dominance in tablets is beyond question. If you're going to pick your tablet based solely on the operating system, get the new iPad. If you are keen on Android, get the Nexus 7. If all you want is a way to watch videos, play a couple of games, read some books, and shop on Amazon, the Kindle Fire HD (either model) will do you just fine.

Apps

[Correction: This section originally criticized the Kindle Fire HD for not having a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, or compass, but in reality it has a gyroscope and an accelerometer. The table above and this section have been corrected to focus solely on apps. - Bryan]

The app ecosystem is a big part of the tablet experience. As noted above, Apple still has a wide lead on dedicated tablet apps, but it's possible that the Nexus 7 could result in Google finally being able to narrow that gap.

Amazon's Appstore home page lists a total of 849 apps, a paltry amount, but as of this writing it specifies that 641 of them are compatible with the Kindle Fire (it's safe to assume that almost all of them will work on the new Kindle Fire HD or will be updated once the Kindle Fire HD is released).

641 apps is not an ecosystem.

Playing devil's advocate, those 641 apps include some of the heavy hitters and big names such as Netflix, Fruit Ninja, and the ever-present Angry Birds. Do you really need any more than that? The reality is that many people don't need more than that, and for many of those people, the Kindle Fire HD's limited app selection will never be noticed.

Other than that, Google Play and Amazon Appstore both offer a similar experience. Amazon has done a fairly good job of developing its online app store, while Google has done a very good job of doing the same thing with Google Play. Neither matches Apple's App Store in usability and integration.

Accordingly, if you're shopping based purely on the app ecosystem, you'll want Apple's iPad. If you prefer Android, go for Google's Nexus 7. If you don't care about the apps or having access to a lot of games and just want to shop on Amazon, the Kindle Fire HD (either model) will do you fine.

Quality

We haven't yet seen the new Kindle Fire HD models, but we saw the original, and as noted above, it was a joke. Cheap and useless come to mind. Our expectation of the new devices is that they will represent an improvement over their predecessor but Apple's iPad, Google's device, and the Kindle Fire HD devices, Amazon's are likely to be at the bottom of the heap in terms of build quality.

We would love to be surprised on this front, but it's not what we're expecting.

The Nexus 7 seems well built, but it still pales in comparison to the new iPad. On the other hand, it's not problematic by any means. The Google Nexus 7 feels pretty good in your hand.

If quality is your top priority, go with the iPad, then the Nexus 7, and then the Kindle Fire HD.

Miscellaneous

Amazon Prime is a great service. For $79 per year, you get streaming videos, some book services, and cheap or free shipping on just about everything you can buy from Amazon. Count this as a solid advantage for Amazon, and if you're already a Prime member, you'll likely appreciate being able to stream all those movies and TV shows.

All three of these companies are also significant players in cloud services and cloud storage. Google gets the nod in terms of flexibility for its cloud storage, and of course the company's Web-based services are fantastic.

Apple's iCloud is best for those Apple-related data, software, and content services like Address Book syncing and the ability to have documents synced between your devices. Apple has also done a great job of making all of your iTunes and App Store purchases available to all of your devices, including the ability to have books, apps, music, and video purchases directly pushed out to all appropriate devices.

From a cloud perspective, all three companies are doing a pretty good job in this, the beginning of the cloud era, but we prefer Apple's tighter integration of its cloud services. Apple's whole widget model excels at this sort of thing.

Whose Buying?

In the end, we think that each of these three platforms will appeal to different market segments. Apple's iPad offers by far the better tablet experience, but it's big. For some, that big will be better than the smaller competing devices. Others, however, want something that's smaller.

If you really want a 7-inch tablet, get the Google Nexus 7. It's just plain better than the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7".

On the other hand, if you just want to shop and watch your Amazon Prime videos, the Kindle Fire HD might be perfect for you. Of the two, we'd recommend the 8.9" device. Its display is far better and we think it will be more useful than its smaller sibling.

Indeed, reading books on the device might even be better than the new iPad. With its 254 PPI, text should render crisp and clear like it does on the iPad, while the narrower form factor and lighter weight will make it easier to hold than Apple's iPad.

Final Thoughts

When Google released the Nexus 7 in June, we called it a home run that made the tablet market a two-horse race. Amazon has kicked open the door again with these new devices, and if they manage to sell them this holiday season, many of them might even continue to be used after they are opened.

Other Spec Shootouts

iPad vs. Kindle Fire Spec Comparison Chart (October 2011)

Spec Comparison: New iPad v. Nexus 7 v. Kindle Fire v. Surface (June 2012)

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Comments

iJack

Byran ~ Are your expectations that the iPad Mini will have similar specs to the current iPad in all respects other than screen size?  Won’t that be something of a chore at the price-point we all anticipate?

Bryan Chaffin

I should think it will have less memory (8/16 or 16/32), and it won’t need the same graphics power. But otherwise, I think it will be similar.

Apple should be able to meet or beat the Nexus 7 in terms of components, features, and quality because of its supply chain and economy-of-scale benefits.

But the Nexus 7 is a dynamite device that really set the bar for a 7” device. It will be a challenge to beat it, but I imagine Apple can. We’ll see. smile

Julia

iOs is not superior to Android 4.1 at all. Apples vs oranges and thank God for that. I own an IPad and gonna get rid of this sh&&$t pretty soon. Stil hate the notification system, I have all my apps on my home screen with no way to hide them, constantly run out of storage since retina uses so much hard drive space with no way to upgrade memory. I know flash is slow and crappy, but while sites still use that technology, it’s still a must. I Hate hate hate having to open my laptop just to watch a video.
I give you that the UI is simple and easy to use… But it comes with a trade-up (a fisher price-like stupid prove interface). I personally like Android 4.1 by far, it gives me power to customize it at my like And makes me the boss and queen over my device… Apple just wants to make me its b!tsh.

Oh and the thing about the thousands and thousands of apps in iOs it’s nothing but pure bs. The good apps are in the hundreds at best. The rest are just iCrap on top of iCrap, no way to drive test them and no return policy. i end up not using over half of the apps I buy because they are half cooked or not good at all, yet i had to waste my money figuring it out. Google play gives you 30 minutes to make up your mind and return it if you wish.

Desktop widgets, notoriously missing in iOs are a blessing, no need to do anything to have live updates on any of my interests or control my device. Whether, news, social updates, calendar, music playing, tasks in the background, people to follow, trends, finance, games, you name me, all at a glance in a form of a widget.

That being said, to each its own.

J. Minks

Lancashire-Witch

Interesting how Julia compares iOS (no version number) to Android (with version number).  Why is that, I wonder?

But, She has a point. The iPad continues to both delight and annoy.  I don’t like Mail but i do like iPhoto. I like the display but I don’t like the weight. I have a mixture of apps - some are brilliant; some are awful.—- (I’m heavily reliant on TMO for app reviews. Thanks guys)...  Maybe we are suffering from the early days of tablet development (esp s/w). Perhaps in 5 years time ......

Even so, I can’t shake the thought that I should have bought an 11-inch MBA

John Molloy

“Interesting how Julia compares iOS (no version number) to Android (with version number).  Why is that, I wonder?”

Well I hear that 4.1 has just reached 1.2% of the Android market. So not much to compare with. Also I’ve seen way too many anti-Apple “Google is winning” posts to all related blogs. Are these people being paid?

Julia

Just to be clear, I did not say that google is winning. What I said is that to each its own. It’s not a personal attack, I am just venting out my frustrations with my iPad and how I disagree with the notion that either is better than the other, conversation that seams fruitless when talking to fanboys/girls. I would say that iOs or Android tablets could be better or worse depending on the target market. My nephew loves my iPad, my mother can’t live without the kindle fire And me being the geek I am, the Asus Google Nexus 7 is my toy of preferece wink

Also, I was compering it to iOs 5.0.1, I think it’s not the latest, but since I jailbroke it, not looking to do that over again for minimilistic changes that do not adress my issues.

Xoxo

j. Minks

Bryan Chaffin

Julia, as noted in the article, I also think Jelly Bean is the bee’s knees. Google has the lead in a couple of areas with Jelly Bean. Notifications were mentioned in the article, but the live desktop widgets are another nice feature.

But overall I think Apple’s ecosystem is superior, including the overall experience with iOS (also as noted in the article).

This is definitely subjective, and I try like the dickens to approach these spec comparisons with that in mind. In the original Kindle Fire spec comparison we ran in 2011, I laid out a number of reasons why the Kindle Fire would be just fine for some folks. I wish I hadn’t been so open minded about it as it turned out to be a piece of junk.

This new generation of devices from Amazon should turn out to be a lot better, probably the kind of quality I had in mind a year ago.

Julia

No need to talk more about it… This “superior” ecosystem needs to realized that It is so 2010 at best. That being said, it’s time for the cool kids to move to Samsung’s line of products, same way we are leaving FB for being just for old people.

I just did a “genious” app suggestion search just to test this “superior” ecosystem, and I got more iCrap results + angry birds seasons and I hate angry birds in the first place. I know at least that the poor apps in android are free or If I end up paying for some can get my money back. Most importantly, the premium apps are also available for android and in most cases ad supported.

To each its own, and time for me to skip this site’s articles. If a product sucks, it sucks, and so did Amazon original fire, regardless of its target market. The same goes for my iPad, it was great at first but annoying. Now, I can’t believed I end up using and enjoying more a 7 inch tablet (google nexus) for half the price than my expensive “superiored ecosystem” iPad! I gues my nephew is getting it as a present.

Xoxo

Julia

Lancashire-Witch

We have a Samsung fridge and a TV - if that helps to even things up a little. I hope I didn’t sound like a fan-boy. Great Scot! I’ve been messing about with computers in one form or another since 1964.  Over the years for very bit of joy and success there was a equal measure of sadness and failure.  I grew tired of seemingly to be always fixing things. That’s why I’m here today.  Because, on balance, it’s a better overall experience with Apple products.Yep, there are things about the iPad I don’t like; but I don’t need to keep doing the “re-‘s”. Re-installing, re-setting, re-loading, re-entering…. ....

All the other companies had their chance and, one by one,  they blew it. Today, some of it may be very good, even the bees knees; but I ain’t going back.  Bye Julia.

James Peartree

GUESSING GAME: WHAT’S MY TABLET BRAND?:Let’s broaden what we call consumption and so form a more balanced opinion on the diverse tablets. In the last 24 hours, I ..... jogged 6.42 km on the beach at low tide while the tablet coached me, storing path and numbers on a satellite map of our area. During that jog I listened to an audiobook by Sam Kean along with a chosen background of piano music. Halfway through I saw many new cranes in the estuary and filmed them to post on a blog I do for our retirement community. ...Stopped later at a coffeeshop with wi-fi, read the news and my emails, posted cranes on YouTube and embedded with music into Blogger page… Discovered online a small mirror that clips on to my tablet and allows it to shoot forward instead of front. My tablet does not have a rear camera so I bought it. All this took 25 minutes and I went home to my PC, loaded all of Duke Ellington collection to the tablet plus a movie for later. Then I went to the living-room with tablet and videoSkyped my sister in Canada and then bought plane tickets for a family reunion. The fellow on TV was saying something outrageously false about my candidate. So I started the dictation widget on the tablet. When dictation fully typed him out, I put quotes around what he was saying and appended my own comments, dictated also after shutting down the TV sound . I posted this in another blog I do, along with a photo of the fellow I took without interrupting the dictation process. The tablet had a funny distorting app and I used it on part of the photo. Then I played a game with amazing 3D animation, holding the tablet as you would a steering wheel, and finally went to work outside while entertained with Quebec radio station about their recent election results. The tablet was in my shirt pocket. I live on the Baja coast. While driving to the grocery store, three times over the tablet read out loud a complicated recipe. My hands never left the steering wheel and I shopped for all the right ingredients. That night I watched the movie in bed after which I noticed a bright star near a super-bright moon. I immediately aimed the tablet at the window and an app showed me that exact part of the sky with a name attached to each celestial object (it was no star, but planet Jupiter). I noticed a Messier galaxy to be visible so I got up and joined a gang of amateurs on a video hangout site, each with a telescope pointing somewhere. I asked one to show me Messier 111 and he obliged, unshaved and tethered to a coffee cup. Woke up early and read bout the new Kindle Fire HD and dictated this comment, put the first sentence in all-caps and voila! WHAT’S HER NAME? (the tablet) Hint: It cost me the price of two and a half tanks of gas on my crappy SUV)

Raj

The capabilities of kindle is being consistently underestimated by this article saying that all you can do with it is to shop and watch movies. You can also browse internet, check emails, use a modest amount of apps, use HDMI to watch HD shows on TV, all at an excellent price point.

mhikl

You shall never satisfy the Apple Hater, Bryan. The dead will never speak and water will always be wet. These are just a few of the simple things in life you can count on.

A few more. You can’t load EPUBs on Amazon thingies so much of one’s past libraries become blank sheets. You have to really mess round to do the same on the Nexus from what I have read on the crying forums. And you can’t count on updates to the Android system, history screams.

And has anyone had an Amazon critter in hand to actually review? Would that any new Apple product be given such silk gloved reviews. Not in this universe.

BurmaYank

@James Peartree:
Sorry, I really don’t have a clue which tablet you are referring to, but since the only 7” tablet I would have any interest in owning is one which interfaces naturally into the whole iOS habitat, I don’t expect I’ll be investing the time necessary to sufficiently investigate & familiarize myself with non-iPads to be able to make a good guess as to which one you seem to have gotten so fond of.

But thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences with your great tablet - I’m glad to know how great the iPad’s competitors can be.

And I do hope you are going to answer your question for us, if none of us can

Lancashire-Witch

For years I laboured under the impression that people bought PCs in preference to Macs because they were cheaper; or because their employer bought thousands of PCs (that was me!); or because they thought the Apple software was not compatible; or because Macs were not sold in PC World; or because they thought Apple was going out of business and they’d be left “stranded” without any system updates or support.

I carried that mistaken impression through to tablets and phones so it’s very good to know people buy non-Apple computers and gadgets because they like them.

Carry on with your unbranded tablet, James;  it obviously suits your lifestyle.

Meanwhile, I must find a US Automobile website to post a comment about how good BMWs are; because I’ve got one and I really like it….  OTOH why should I bother? It seems strange to me why anyone would bother.

I like TMO. It’s a source of good information about Apple and its products and we, the readers, can exchange ideas and opinions, critical or otherwise about Apple and its products. If we want to do the same for Microsoft or a PC maker or Samsung or Google we can do that on a website geared towards them, can’t we?

Lee Dronick

What about adverts? http://www.geekculture.com/joyoftech/joyarchives/1740.html

Anthony

What about the Kindle Fire is junk? Is it the build quality? The Amazon Appstore? The heavily customized and butchered version of Android?

After hearing about the problems with the Nexus 7 (screen popping out, bad backlight, buzzing speakers), I’m reconsidering my eventual purchase. I thought Asus had higher standards, but they clearly cut corners with the hardware quality just to meet a deadline and/or save money.

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