The budget tablet market is getting crowded. Ruled last year by Amazon, it now hosts products from Apple, Asus, Barnes & Noble, and Samsung. Amazon alone released three Kindle tablets this year, and they all start at under US$300. How does the best of those – the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" – compare to the Nexus 7? Read on.
We're comparing two different classes of tablet. The Nexus 7 is a classic small tablet, while the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" is a mid-sized tablet. If you long for something bigger than the Nexus 7 but smaller than the iPad, the Fire 8.9" isn't a bad choice.
The Fire gives you a bigger screen, but you pay for it in weight. At 227 g heavier, it begs for two hands. The Nexus 7 is easily held in one.
The Fire 8.9" doesn't just have a larger display, it also has a sharper one. Along with the Nexus 10, iPad, and Nook HD, it has one of the higher pixel densities among the current crop of tablets. Text and images should be a bit crisper than they are on the Nexus 7's display.
Both tablets should have zippy performance. The Nexus 7's processor has more cores, but the Texas Instruments chip in the Fire 8.9 is a screamer.
Both tablets have 1 GB of random-access memory (RAM).
Storage is also equal, with each product sold in both 16 GB and 32 GB models. If you're shopping for the LTE version of the Fire 8.9, though, it's sold in 32 GB and 64 GB models.
This is the first mobile data-enabled Amazon tablet. It doesn't, however, come cheap. The LTE version of the Kindle Fire 8.9" costs US$200 more than its Wi-Fi only counterpart.
There is an upside. Fire 8.9 owners can get 250 MB/month of mobile data for an entire year by paying US$50.
Take these numbers with grains of salt, but estimated battery life should be comparable.
Neither tablet has a rear camera, but they both have front-facing cameras to allow video chat.
The Nexus 7 undercuts the 8.9" Fire by $100. If you want extra storage or mobile data, though, both tablets get more expensive.
Hardware is only half of the equation, and the Nexus 7 easily wins the software battle. The Kindle Fire gives you an Amazon storefront layered over an old version of Android. There are plenty of apps to install, but the operating system is centered around selling Amazon content.
The Nexus 7, meanwhile, gives you the latest version of "pure" Android. It will also receive future Android updates quickly. Neither device has a great tablet app library, but the Nexus 7 has a smoother and more robust operating system.
The Fire adds a few more asterisks. It doesn't include a charger, so you might have to spend a few more bucks on that. It also ships with "Special Offers" advertisements. You can pay $15 (at checkout or anytime after) to get rid of them.
For more options, check out our 2012 Tablet Comparison Guide.
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