The Amazon Kindle Fire & Apple iPad 2: A Brief Comparison
So Amazon has officially announced its new Kindle Fire tablet, based on the Android OS with a very attractive $199 pricetag, and is currently taking pre-orders for a release on November the 14th. People everywhere are talking about how the Fire will "give the iPad 2 a run for its money". Whether that will actually transpire or not, it remains to be seen, but I've whipped up a fairly brief comparison article between the two tablets, here, for those that are confused about which device they should buy. Let's get started.
Hardware of the Kindle Fire vs. The Apple iPad 2
Both tablets are fairly similar as specs and inner workings go. The iPad features Apple's custom-designed A5 system-on-chip, which contains a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore CPU (apparently running at 1Ghz), a dual-core PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU, and 512MB of 533Mhz LPDDR2 on-chip memory. Meanwhile, the Amazon Fire contains an OMAP4430 SOC built by Texas instruments, containing pretty much the same dual-core CPU as the Apple A5, alongside a simpler PowerVR SGX540 GPU, and 512MB of memory outside the main chip. Unless you're planning on playing games on your Kindle Fire, the faster GPU in that iPad won't really matter all that much over the Fire's slower chip.
Moving on, the Fire only has one option for on-tablet storage - 8GB (closer to 6GB actually, according to Amazon.) The iPad 2 offers 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities. The iPad also offers 3G cellular broadband (depending on what model you purchase), Bluetooth support, WiFi, and dual cameras. Out of all those, you only get the WiFi support with your Kindle Fire. Worse yet, the iPad's battery, according to Apple, will last 10 hours while browsing the web, watching videos, or listening to music, while the Kindle Fire, despite its smaller physical size, will do only 8 hours while reading eBooks with the wireless turned off.
Fortunately, the Amazon Fire sports built-in stereo speakers, while the iPad 2 only has a measly mono speaker (both have headphone jacks, though), and the Fire, by virtue of its smaller size, weighs only 413 grams, while the no-3G version of the iPad 2 weighs in at 601 grams.
Which is the winner here? The iPad 2 overall, but the Fire isn't that far behind. You'll soon find out in the next category that the Fire's smallish 8GB storage capacity doesn't really matter that much, and, anyway, do you really need Bluetooth or even 3G support with your tablet? The Fire will also appeal to those that want a lighter, smaller tablet. To top it off, Amazon may release some software updates in the future, bent on improving the efficiency of the OS and related services, and thus increasing battery life. You never know until it happens, right?
Software of the Kindle Fire vs. The Apple iPad 2
Amazon has created some interesting software for its Kindle Fire tablet. It runs a forked version of the Android 2.3 operating system with a custom UI, and access to the Amazon Appstore for software. There's support for the Kindle eBooks (of course), and Amazon Prime for unlimited movie and TV show streaming. Amazon's custom web browser, dubbed Silk, also lives on the device, with Opera-style "cloud computation" for faster page loads. Speaking of cloud, you also get an unspecified (unlimited?) amount of cloud storage for all the content you download from Amazon.
Meanwhile, the iPad, expectantly, has a huge advantage over the Kindle Fire in this category, due partly because it shares pretty much the same software platform as the ubiquitous iPhone. In addition, the new iOS 5 came out a few days ago, bringing with it "200 new software features" and the iCloud service. There's also FaceTime, the iBookstore, the iTunes, Find My iPad, and a couple dozen other varied features. Last but not least, the Apple App Store boasts over 500,000 apps (as of October the 4th of this year), while the Amazon Appstore, well, we don't know how many apps are available on there, but it's safe to say it probably has a lot less than that number.
So the iPad is the obvious winner in software features, here. But does anyone actually need all of these extras? Sure, they may sound cool, but for most of us, the Amazon Fire's simpler software package will be more than enough. Just something to think about.
Screen of the Kindle Fire vs. The Apple iPad 2
This category is a little bit unfair, as these are two differently sized tablets. The Amazon Fire sports a 7" display, while the iPad 2 uses a 9.7" model. Both support Multi-Touch, both are LED-backlit and both are fashioned with IPS technology. However, the Amazon Fire's screen resolution weighs in at a netbook-style 1024x600 pixels, while the iPad 2 sports some extra vertical real estate with its 1024x768 resolution.
If this were an all-out specs are everything sort of comparison, like many that no doubt exist out there on the web, the iPad would win without a second thought. But this isn't one of those comparisons. You really aren't losing much screen resolution with the Fire's physically smaller screen. Go with one or the other here; the tablets tie in this category.
Price of the Kindle Fire vs. The Apple iPad 2
We're coming back to the introduction of this article. The 8GB Amazon Fire is priced at only $199, compared to the basic 16GB iPad 2, which is priced at a whopping $300 more. The Fire wins here, of course. Does double the storage capacity, an established software platform, extra hardware features, and the obvious styling that comes with the Apple brand name make the increased price tag of the iPad 2 justifiable over the bargain-priced Kindle Fire? That's up to you to decide.