Apple's iPad and iPad mini may still rule the tablet roost, but Amazon's Kindle Fire lineup also knows how to draw a crowd. Is Apple's iPad mini a better buy than the upcoming Kindle Fire HDX? Join Gizmag, as we put the two side by side, and see what happens.
The 7" Kindle Fire HDX is a much smaller tablet than the iPad mini. How much smaller? Well, it's seven percent shorter, and five percent narrower. It is thicker, though, by 25 percent.
The Fire HDX is lighter, but considering how much smaller Amazon's tablet is, not by a very wide margin. The iPad mini's combination of size and weight has always been its killer feature.
Amazon has always used plastic for its Kindle Fires, while Apple has always stuck with aluminum for its iPads. No exceptions here.
No variety here for the Fire HDX. The iPad mini, meanwhile, is available in "black & slate" and "white & silver." Or, as anyone who doesn't work in Apple's marketing department calls them, black and white.
This is both a big advantage and a big disadvantage for the iPad mini. The good news for Apple's tablet is that it gives you much more real estate. The Fire HDX only gives you 74 percent as much screen area. Notice that the iPad mini's screen also takes up a much higher portion of its front face.
Where the iPad mini doesn't fare so well is with its resolution. About five minutes after customers got the iPad mini in their hands, they started to ask when they'll be able to buy one with a Retina Display. Apple's competitors, including both Amazon and Google, are now launching high-resolution mini tablets. Will Apple give us the long-anticipated Retina iPad mini this year?
Another big weakness for the iPad mini is its performance. It wasn't cutting edge when it launched, and it's looking even weaker now as it approaches end of life. And we aren't just talking on paper either: it packs the performance of 2011's iPad 2. If it weren't for its phenomenal size and build, this first iPad mini would have been branded as a mid-range tablet.
The Kindle Fire's performance, meanwhile, should take an enormous leap from last year's model. It runs one of the fastest processors on the market right now, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800. We can't wait to put this puppy through the paces, and see how it holds up in real world use.
The Fire HDX also gets a big boost by quadrupling the iPad mini's mere 512 MB of RAM. The iPad mini's dearth of RAM can lead to annoyances like web pages needing to refresh after only switching to another tab or app for a minute or two.
Well looky here, all storage options are even.
Both tablets are also available in (cheaper) Wi-Fi only and (pricier) Wi-Fi and LTE mobile data models.
These are both manufacturers' estimates. We can vouch that the iPad mini generally lives up to Apple's billing with moderate use, delivering terrific battery life. We've yet to put the Fire HDX's battery through the paces.
The HDX lacks a rear-facing camera, but, on tablets, we find them to be more bonuses than necessities. Its front-facing camera will do the trick for Skype and maybe the occasional selfie.
Amazon's Kindle Fire OS is still a forked version of Android, but the company is now branding it as its own operating system, even giving it a fancy name ("Mojito"). It offers a few new features, like one-tap archiving of your content into the cloud. It also now gives you the option of switching between the traditional carousel view and a more iPad-like grid view.
The biggest item of note here, though, is the two tablets' respective app marketplaces. The iOS App Store is far ahead of Amazon's Kindle Fire Appstore. The Amazon store delivers a solid enough selection of Android apps, but the App Store is still the undisputed king of tablet apps: in both quantity and quality.
On-device customer service
This is one of the most interesting features in Amazon's new Fire HDX tablets. One click will supposedly have you video chatting with an Amazon rep, who will walk you through any support questions on your new tablet. They can even draw on your screen to illustrate points.
If the "Mayday" button works as advertised (24/7, 365 day tech support, with a goal of a 15 seconds or less wait time), then Amazon might have a revolutionary feature on its hands. That would sure beat trekking to your local Genius Bar.
Siri may not be perfect, but it's more than what the Kindle Fire offers you in voice control: nada.
This might actually be the most important item to note here. Apple's original iPad mini has been on store shelves for nearly a year. That means its first sequel is almost certainly waiting in the wings. Whether it delivers that Retina Display or not, it will almost certainly include some performance upgrades. Expect an event in October or November, where Apple will also introduce a 5th-generation 9.7-inch iPad.
Amazon matched the Nexus 7's US$230 for the base model of the 7" Fire HDX. That has it sitting a solid $100 below the entry-level iPad mini.
That does, however, include Amazon's "Special Offers" (ads). For an extra $15 (either at checkout or anytime later) you can disable the lockscreen offers.
Wrap-upIf you must buy a mini tablet right now, then the Fire HDX is looking pretty promising next to the iPad mini. Well, at least it is if you can put up with the Fire's more limited app selection. And of course we won't be able to offer a definitive endorsement (or not) of the Kindle Fire HDX until we've put it through the paces. Stay tuned on that front.
But again, the big thing to know here is that this really isn't a good time to buy an iPad mini. This 1st-generation model has a mid-range resolution display, processor, and RAM. Wait a month or two, and you'll likely solve at least two of those problems for the same price. Solve all three, and you might have the best tablet ever made.
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