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 iPadSamsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1Amazon Kindle Fire
ProductThe New iPadGalaxy Tab 10.1

Amazon Kindle Fire

OS (current)iOS 5.1Android 3.2Android 2.3 (Customized)
Dimensions (in.)9.5 x 7.31 x 0.3710.1 x 6.9 x 0.347.5 x 4.7 x 0.45
Weight (lbs)1.4 (Wi-Fi) 1.46 (4G)1.240.91
Display size (in., diag)9.710.17
Display Resolution2048 x 1536 (IPS, LED bklight)1280 x 8001024 x 600
Pixels per inch 264145169
RAM (MB)1024 (1GB)1024 (1GB)512
ProcessorA5X (dual core) 1 GHz;
quad core GPU
Nvidia Tegra 2
dual core/ 1 GHz
TI OMAP
dual core/ 1 GHz
User Storage (GB)16/32/6416/328
Front Camera“VGA”2 MPx
Rear Camera5 MP (1080p) stabilization3 MPx
Camera Flashxx
MicrophoneBluetoothx
Audio/speakermono spkr, stereo headphonestereo jack, surround sound spkrsstereo jack & spkrs
Wi-Fi802.11a/b/g/n802.11 a/b/g/n802.11 b/g/n
Radio (GSM)UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA/4G-LTE2G GSM, 3G HSPDA/UMTS, 4Gx
Radio (CDMA)CDMA, EV-DO/UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA/GSMxx
Bluetooth4.02.1 + EDRx
GPSw/4Gx
Battery Life, hours10 (9 w/ 4G) (42.5 watt-hr)98
Accelerometerx
Magnetometer/Compassx
Gyroscopex
Video outHDMI (w/ accessory) + AirPlayHDMI w/ accessoryx
USBx
SensorsAmbient LightAmbient Light, proximityx
ColorsBlack or WhiteGrey/WhiteBlack
Price US$ (Wi-Fi)499/599/699499/599199
Price US$ (3G/4G)629/729/829499/599x

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!