There are any number of Android tablets, from any number of manufacturers on store shelves these days, however over the last year or so two clear front-runners have emerged as the best bet of competing with Apple’s ubiquitous iPad: The Kindle Fire and the much more recently released Google Nexus 7.
But which one is the best one for you? Here we’ll take an in-depth look at what both tablets have to offer and why if you want Android on your tablet, you should pick one over the other.
Google Nexus 7 vs Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7″
As early tablet manufacturers learned extremely quickly, a tablet’s display is a make or break feature and although the technology in these displays has come on leaps and bounds since the conception of the iPad, there are still subtle differences which set each competitor apart. Both the Nexus 7, manufactured by ASUS, and the Kindle Fire HD boast 7-inch displays that tout an impressive 1280×800 resolution.
Both offer great image quality and vibrant colours, but the Kindle Fire HD is brighter and slightly more contrast, pushing it just slightly into the lead above the Nexus 7 on this front. However, the differences are barely noticeable in the day to day use, and the display on the Nexus 7 is nothing less than impressive.
Winner: Kindle Fire HD (by a thin margin)
For mobile devices, an enduring battery is paramount, and both of these tablets stack up well against the rest of the competition. The Kindle Fire under many tests has proven to be capable of just under 10 hours, which ranks it higher than most other competitive tablets such as the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
It also trumps the Nexus 7, which is capable of just over 9 hours, about half an hour shy of the iPad and nearly an hour short of the Kindle Fire. However, with that brighter display on the Kindle Fire, you’ll have to watch out that you don’t over cook it or it’ll vaporise your charge in much less than the touted maximum.
Winner: Kindle Fire HD
As Samsung has recently found out to their enormous financial cost, designing devices that are dominated by a rectangular screen is very difficult if you want to differentiate yourself from your competitors. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that visually from the front at least, these devices look fairly similar. Having said that, you wouldn’t get the pair confused. The Kindle Fire HD sports a much larger, and much uglier, bezel, striking more of a resemblance to the years old first generation iPad than anything produced since. ASUS and Google have done a better job of styling their sleek tablet, which just looks lightweight as a 7-inch device should. The Kindle is not ugly, but compared to the competition it’s by no means a stunner.
From the back, both are pretty plain. Amazon have slabbed a stripe across the back of theirs sporting the Kindle insignia, while ASUS decided on engraving the word ‘Nexus’ into the back of the Nexus 7, which has a spotted effect across the back panel which is something which just goes to slightly set it apart from its rivals. Not to mention the effect also gives a better grip when the tablet is used without any covers. A nice touch. This round definitely goes to the Nexus 7.
Winner: Nexus 7
Google’s Nexus 7 obviously runs the very latest version of the Android software, Jelly Bean. As always with the Nexus range, Google has gone vanilla. It’s version of Android is the Android on this tablet, no skins, no frills, just the features laid bare and the options available to do with as you wish.
By an enormous contrast, Amazon has laid an entire platform on top of Android for the Kindle Fire, which had to make do with Ice Cream Sandwich, the last version of Android before Jelly Bean. From the moment you switch it on, the Kindle Fire HD is pushing content to the forefront of the device. In fact, unless you pay a one-time fee to deactivate them, Amazon feeds you adverts in general usage of your tablet, including ‘what other customers are buying…’ and other such promotions for their online store. This is intrusive, and I don’t like it. The software on the Kindle Fire gives you an unequivocal sense that this product is designed to embrace Amazon’s ever-growing arsenal of digital content. It feels like a portal into Amazon’s world, rather than for general usage as the Nexus 7 seems.
It’s hard to decide on the winner of this category. I guess it depends on your own needs for the tablet. Amazon obviously sees this form factor as a media consumption device. Games, books, movies, TV shows and music are readily available from Amazon’s various stores, and if you’ve had a Kindle reader before or you use the MP3 store, it might well be for you. However, all of that material is available on the Nexus 7 too, and while it’s a little more discrete about delivering it to you, it’s not difficult to find. If you like Android because of its customisation options, huge selection of apps such as alternative browsers and mail clients, the Nexus 7 is probably the one for you, but if you want simplicity and easy access to a ton of content for your travels, for example, then the Kindle Fire HD may well be perfect for you. Couple that with the slightly better display, too, and you have a near perfect mobile media device.
Winner: Personal Preference
Media and Apps
This has been touched on a lot in the previous section under ‘software’, however I think it needs a little elaboration and thus its own section in the comparison. In terms of app-availability, the Nexus 7’s Play Store wins hands down. Without question. The choice of apps would be formidable if Apple’s app store wasn’t in existence, to which it pales in comparison. But compared to Amazon’s fledgling app store. Imagine the app stores were US cities, and we’d be looking at Amazon’s Oak Park, Illinois, versus Google’s Boston, Massachusetts in terms of population. Having said that, Amazon’s is growing rapidly, and monetizes its apps better than Google, which might be an attraction for developers.
In the meantime, it is possible to sideload apps to the Kindle Fire, but considering the ease of use and the sort of user it is likely to attract because of its simplicity, this doesn’t seem like it will be a massively used feature, and besides, you can do the same with the Nexus 7. The same goes for games as well, the Nexus 7 wins outright on all things application.
However, books is Amazon’s domain, and the Kindle store trumps anything else for e-books in my opinion. I have a major problem with using a tablet as a reader in any case, personally, but it’s obvious that the Kindle store will prove an enormous selling point for potential buyers of a 7-inch Android tablet. It has millions of books, many of the classics freely available, and the branding sells itself, despite the Kindle app being freely available on the Nexus 7 and most other platforms.
Winner: Nexus 7
Nexus 7 Kindle Fire HD Display Screen Size 7 inches 7 inches Resolution 1280x800 1280x800 Pixel Density 216ppi 216ppi Type IPS LCD (Scratch-Resistent Corning Glass) IPS LCD Processor Clock Speed 1.3GHz 1.2GHz No. of Cores 4 2 Type NVidia Tegra 3 TI OMAP 4460 Storage & Memory Capacity 8/16GB 16/32GB Expandable N/A N/A RAM 1GB 1GB Battery Life Claimed Battery Life 10 Hours 11 Hours Tested Battery Life 9 Hours 50 Minutes 9 Hours Connectivity WiFi 802.11b/g/n Dual Antenna 802.11b/g/n 3G/4G N/A N/A Dimensions Size 199 x 120 x 10.45mm 193 x 127 x 10.3mm Weight 340g 395g Software OS Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" App Store Google Play Store Amazon App Store Sideloading Yes Yes Book Store Google Play Store Amazon Kindle Store Music Store Google Play Store Amazon MP3 Store Video Store Google Play Store Amazon Instant Video Price $199/£159 (8GB) $199/£159 (16GB) $249/£199 (16GB) $249/£199 (32GB)
Overall, I feel the Nexus 7 just slightly sneaks ahead of the Kindle Fire HD in terms of quality, however if we’re talking about which I feel will sell more then it’ll be the Kindle Fire HD. You get more storage, which is a factor considering how much content they’re pushing to you and I think the branding is stronger and more accessible for the less tech-savvy customer. The UI is perfect for the entry-level user and Amazon are onto a winner with there fenced-in ecosystem in the mould of Apple.
Both are great devices and are by far and away the best 7″ tablets on the market, and the best Android ones to boot. The average user probably won’t care that Jelly Bean is on the Nexus 7 over Ice Cream Sandwich on the Kindle Fire HD, it’ll only be those that really take an interest in tech who might be put off by that.
Google’s Play Store is far superior though, which will work in Google’s favour and access to so many apps, games, books etc. will be an attraction for many, many customers. It’ll be interesting to see how the sales pan out, and how these tablets stack up to the iPad Mini, if and when it ever materializes.