Spec Comparison: New iPad vs. Galaxy Tab 10.1 vs. Kindle Fire

The release of Apple’s new iPad mode, which was announced on Wednesday, means that it’s time once again to compare specs for the most popular tablets on the market. In today’s comparison, we’re looking at the new iPad, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, and Amazon’s popular Kindle Fire.

In many ways, comparing either the new iPad or Galaxy Tab 10.1 to Amazon’s Kindle Fire is an apples and oranges kind of thing. Both of the larger devices pack considerably more horsepower, a better screen, and all kinds of other specs, than the 7” Kindle Fire, while neither can touch the price of Amazon’s sell-it-at-a-loss-and-make-it-up-on-volume Android tablet.

Our point, however, is to allow our readers to be able to choose which device offers the combination of features and price that works for them. Check below the table for our analysis of the specs.

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

  Apple new iPad Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 Amazon Kindle Fire
Product The New iPad Galaxy Tab 10.1

Amazon Kindle Fire

OS (current) iOS 5.1 Android 3.2 Android 2.3 (Customized)
Dimensions (in.) 9.5 x 7.31 x 0.37 10.1 x 6.9 x 0.34 7.5 x 4.7 x 0.45
Weight (lbs) 1.4 (Wi-Fi) 1.46 (4G) 1.24 0.91
Display size (in., diag) 9.7 10.1 7
Display Resolution 2048 x 1536 (IPS, LED bklight) 1280 x 800 1024 x 600
Pixels per inch 264 145 169
RAM (MB) 1024 (1GB) 1024 (1GB) 512
Processor A5X (dual core) 1 GHz;
quad core GPU
Nvidia Tegra 2
dual core/ 1 GHz
TI OMAP
dual core/ 1 GHz
User Storage (GB) 16/32/64 16/32 8
Front Camera “VGA” 2 MP x
Rear Camera 5 MP (1080p) stabilization 3 MP x
Camera Flash x x
Microphone Bluetooth x
Audio/speaker mono spkr, stereo headphone stereo jack, surround sound spkrs stereo jack & spkrs
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 b/g/n
Radio (GSM) UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA/4G-LTE 2G GSM, 3G HSPDA/UMTS, 4G x
Radio (CDMA) CDMA, EV-DO/UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA/GSM x x
Bluetooth 4.0 2.1 + EDR x
GPS w/4G x
Battery Life, hours 10 (9 w/ 4G) (42.5 watt-hr) 9 8
Accelerometer x
Magnetometer/Compass x
Gyroscope x
Video out HDMI (w/ accessory) + AirPlay HDMI w/ accessory x
USB x
Sensors Ambient Light Ambient Light, proximity x
Colors Black or White Grey/White Black
Price US$ (Wi-Fi) 499/599/699 499/599 199
Price US$ (3G/4G) 629/729/829 499/599 x

Display

That said, Apple has really pulled ahead in the race for offering bang-for-the-buck with the new iPad. Offering more than 3X the number of pixels (2048 x 1535 compared to 1280 x 800) than the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and more than 5X the pixels of the Kindle Fire (1024 x 600), the Retina Display on the new iPad has the best display on the market. Hands down. In fact, it’s not even a contest.

There’s a big “but” with that, however. Samsung has likely been waiting to see what Apple did with the new iPad before bringing out a new Galaxy Tab device. While several analysts have said that Apple’s competition will have a hard time matching Apple’s specs and price, we expect Samsung to do something to counter the new iPad in the next few months.

The Amazon Kindle Fire, on the other hand, isn’t trying to compete on the high end. With the lower resolution comes a far lower price. At the same time, the new iPad so dramatically raises the bar in terms of resolution, even some cost-conscious consumers will have a harder decision on their hands.

OS

Samsung needs to move its Galaxy Tab product line to Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) as soon as it can. Apple is shipping iOS 5.1 with the new iPad, and users can update to future versions of iOS very easily thanks to Apple’s whole widget model. As of this time, Galaxy Tab users are stuck with Android 3.2, and our opinion is that it takes an affinity for Google’s Android approach to prefer it over iOS 5.x.

The Kindle Fire runs a customized version of Android 2.3 that is centered around accessing Amazon content and Amazon shopping. In our opinion that leaves both the new iPad and the Galaxy Tab head and shoulders above the Kindle Fire, but there are plenty of folks who like the simplicity of choices offered by Amazon.

Horsepower

Apple claims that its A5X processor offers much higher graphics performance than competing devices, but the jury’s out until it ships and the nerds get a chance to play with it, measure it, and argue about it.

Right now, there is a fierce debate over Apple’s claims, but the reality is that whether or not Apple was cherry-picking results when it claimed up to 4X graphics performance, the new iPad will likely offer the better performance until the next generation devices come out from Samsung or other competitors. Amazon’s Kindle Fire is never going to be competitive on this front.

As far as the CPU goes, we don’t know the clock speed of the A5X processor yet, but it is likely to be at least as fast as the Nvidia processor in the Samsung device, and the Kindle Fire has been called sluggish from the get-go.

Other Stuff

Apple’s new iPad weighs more than the other two. We can most likely blame that on the battery. On the other hand, the new iPad has a better battery life than either of the other two devices, even though it’s pushing that Retina Display. Accordingly, choose your trade-off. The new iPad weighs 1.4 pounds, while the Galaxy Tab 10.1 weighs 1.24 pounds. The smaller Kindle Fire, at 0.91 pounds, weighs the least by a lot.

The camera on the new iPad is the highest resolution, at 5 Megapixels, but we still think that taking photos with a tablet is a niche demand in the first place. This is, however, one area where competitors can try and outspec Apple by offering a higher resolution camera in future devices.

Apple’s support for Bluetooth 4.0 puts the new iPad ahead of the competing devices, but this is yet another thing we expect to change in a future device from Samsung.

Conclusion

If you want cheap and small, go with Kindle Fire. Some people like the small form factor, especially for reading. If you want the best overall device, go with the new iPad. Resolution, battery life, iOS 5.1, and the new A5X processor make it the best device device on the market.

Indeed, we think there is no compelling reason to buy Samsung’s current Galaxy Tab devices unless you simply prefer Android or hate Apple’s iOS ecosystem. At the same price as Apple’s new iPad, you get a worse display, poorer battery performance, and only a few thousand tablet-specific apps compared to more than 200,000 iPad-specific apps.

It’s no contest, and it won’t be a contest until Samsung releases a new tablet.

When that happens, we’ll be sure and compare the specs!

Comments

MOSiX Man

You listed RAM twice. Also, for Video out, you should clarify that, ‘w/accessory’ allows the iPad to do HDMI out without actually being tethered to the HDMI cable. (I.e., with an AppleTV)

A

Why are you comparing the new technology of the iPad to the outdated technology of old Samsung and Amazon. I know you’re not so out of touch that you are completely unawares of the Galaxy Tab 2 and Note 10.1, or the impending Fire 2. Stroking Apple chode? How about comparing the new models that are soon to be released vs. the old technology? Seriously. Worthless article.

JMP

To me the important factor is the number and quality of apps running on my tablet.

MOSiX Man

When the Galaxy Tab 2 or Note 10.1 are available, then lets compare their specs. Though, while other devices may beat the iPad on specs, the iPad will continue to have a better user experience due to factors that aren’t directly related to specs.

As far as the Amazon Kindle, I don’t think it should be included in any comparison of real tablets. It’s a glorified e-reader with half the functionality of tablets is wishes it could compete with, and isn’t even a good e-reader, since it doesn’t have an e-ink display. “I have a great idea! Let’s make a device that is a crappy tablet, that has a watered down version of Android, and doesn’t even use the Android app market. Oh, and lets make it a half-assed e-reader, since e-readers are what people think of when they hear ‘Amazon Kindle’.

Bryan Chaffin

Why are you comparing the new technology of the iPad to the outdated technology of old Samsung and Amazon. I know you?re not so out of touch that you are completely unawares of the Galaxy Tab 2 and Note 10.1, or the impending Fire 2. Stroking Apple chode? How about comparing the new models that are soon to be released vs. the old technology? Seriously. Worthless article.

We will be comparing the Note 10.1 to the new iPad when it’s available. Right now, the Tab 10.1 is available. Hence the comparison.

You may want to read the text, because we noted that the Tab 10.1 is an older device and that the company will be releasing new products soon.

Bryan Chaffin

As far as the Amazon Kindle, I don?t think it should be included in any comparison of real tablets.

The reality is that many people buying tablets are choosing from among these three devices?to many consumers, the Kindle Fire is a tablet.

Our comparison’s intent isn’t to shame the Fire or glorify the new iPad. It is mainly intended for people trying to make shopping decisions so they can decide which device is right for them.

MOSiX Man

Bryan, I totally understand why you included the Kindle Fire in the comparison - a lot of people are buying the Fire and therefore including it in a fair comparison of popular ‘tablets’ is reasonable and unbiased. I am simply expressing my own opinion here, and nobody should confuse that with the opinions of the writers or editors of TMO.

That said, I believe it’s a fair assumption that the only reason the Kindle Fire is selling as well as it is, is that many people see ‘$199’ and ‘tablet’ associated with one device, and they buy one because they think that they are getting a good bargain on a tablet with a reasonable facsimile of the functionality in an iPad or Galaxy Tab.

What I really don’t get is that the key advantage (besides price) that most Kindles have over iPads and the like, is the e-Ink screen, which provides a significantly better reading experience. But, in their new flagship ‘Kindle’, Amazon decides to toss out e-Ink, in the interest of making the Fire capable of doing things other than being an e-reader.

Bryan Chaffin

Oh, I definitely understood your point, MOSiX.  I am also of the opinion that the Kindle Fire makes a poor tablet, even while I think there are consumers who will be happy as can be with one.

That said, I also believe that many Kindle Fires sold before Christmas are already gathering dust. We’ll see sales of the device decline until Amazon releases a more capable device.  I will particularly be interested in seeing market share data for March, April, and May.

About E-Ink: This technology is great for e-readers, but simply isn’t suitable for tablets. Amazon had no choice but to use something else for its tablet. I think we’ll see E-Ink devices on the market for a while. As you noted, it makes for a great reading experience.

joe

Wow this is a extremely out of date comparison. Even by the standard of Mac observer.  Why not compair to the transformer prime or at least something that runs android ice cream sandwich.  The 10.1is a year out of date. This review is worthless.

MOSiX Man

Wow. What an original idea. *rolls eyes*

JoeR

If you are going to include the Kindle in the comparison, then to be fair, the Barnes&Noble; Nook Tablet should also be included.

wab95

Bryan, John:

Many thanks for this comparison. It’s also great target practice for drive-by readers.

There is no question that Samsung having been holding back to see what Apple would deliver, and will now be taking aim the iPad’s new specs, trumping every one they can, while staying within competitive price range, in their seemingly unrelenting spec-race whose only prize thus far has been bragging rights. Actually, the Galaxy Tab has been selling quite well in Asia/Asia-Pac. 

Also, in fairness, the beefier specs enable Samsung execs to say, with straight faces, that the Galaxy Tab is not just a bold-faced, unimaginative knock-off bordering on corporate theft; it’s a bold-faced, unimaginative knock-off bordering on corporate theft with better specs.

If Tim Bajaran’s thesis is correct, and the first Fire was Amazon’s beta tablet, it will be interesting to see what they deliver next. If the prevailing wisdom about Amazon’s business plan is correct, then the Fire 2 should be a refined version of the first, and not a true iPad competitor either; but then again, they would not be the first corporation to misdirect.

Peter

Galaxy Tab 10.1?  Why don’t you compare the latest Chevy to a Model-T?

<A >Asus Transformer Prime</A> is the new hotness.  $499 versus $599 for 32GB, 11 hours of battery life, Quad Core CPU, etc.

Dude, you gotta keep up with things.  Comparing the iPad to a Galaxy Tab?  Puhleeze…

Bryan Chaffin

Tell it to Samsung, Peter. It’s what they sell.

Also, and this may be hard for people obsessed with finding some kind of perceived victory in a war that matters almost exclusively to geeks, this isn’t the first spec comparison we’ve done and it won’t be the last. We’ll compare the new iPad to the Note when Samsung offers it for sale, and we’ll compare it to the Transformer Prime sometime next week.

In the meanwhile, we started out by comparing it to the two leading tablets, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Kindle Fire. This is the same way the Galaxy Tab 10.1 was compared to the 6-month old iPad 2 when it was announced. Until Samsung changes what it is selling, it’s not only a valid comparison, it’s the comparison that makes sense.

For users looking to make a purchase decision, these specs will be useful.

If you’re looking for something else, it’s frankly not our problem.

Xyz

I see someone talking about new galaxy tab. Do they mean the one that Samsung will copy within few months of iPad’s release?

Face it people Samsung sucks and android sucks 40 times that. iOS rules em all.

webjprgm

I second the motion to include B&N Nook tablet if you include Amazon Kindle.  Kindle tablet is the new hotness, but B&N has the physical stores.  I walked into one and right be the door a sales person had a desk of “tablets” and tried to sell me one.  5 sec later he was selling one to a lady who said she just wanted a device that could browse the web and read email.  Well, I couldn’t speak up and tell her that out won’t do that, because it will.  But that’s about all it will do.  It just so happens that there are many people who think that’s all they need.

My Mom got an Android phone at an AT&T store even though I keep telling her to get an iPhone.  It makes no sense. Everyone else in the house has iPods and Macs, so now no one knows how to help her with her phone and we can’t share apps or even songs because she’s out of the ecosystem.  It all came down to the salesman at the store telling her she should buy an Android phone, contrary to the advice of her son AND her husband (my dad).  Also the salesman feed her some lies about it being cheaper, though the iPhone 3GS which he did not even mention was the same price, plus lies about Android apps being free while iOS apps are not, which is only partly true in that customers on the Android Marketplace seem to not pay for apps so there are more ad-supported versions and fewer overall apps.

So I’m curious about how the sales numbers of Kindle tablet compare to B&N Nook tablet, since B&N has the physical presence with which to push their device on unsuspecting customers.

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