For just $199, you’ve now got two really good tablet choices: the Nexus 7 and the 7″ Kindle Fire HD, two very different tablets. It was Amazon that was first to the market with a low-cost tablet. The original Kindle Fire debuted at $199, which was unheard of in a time of $499 iPad prices. It was a fantastic value and became the best-selling product on Amazon. Then Google came around with the quad-core Jelly Bean-packing wonder that is the Nexus 7. It was better in every way compared to the Kindle Fire, and that, too, became a hot seller. Not resting on its laurels, Amazon has announced the Kindle Fire HD, which comes in 8.9″ and 7″ screen sizes. It’s no coincidence that the 7″ Kindle Fire HD carries the same pricetag as the Nexus 7. So which is better? Let’s take a closer look!
Both devices have the same resolution display: 1280×800, which makes for a PPI of 215. Such a screen density is neither super-sharp nor difficult on the eyes. It’s a reasonable amount of pixels to pack into a smallish tablet panel. In terms of screen quality, we were very much underwhelmed by the color saturation of the Nexus 7, so much so that if it weren’t for the price and great performance, we’d be reticent to recommend the tablet. The display on the 7″ Kindle Fire HD is an IPS panel that is laminated directly to the glass, which ought to provide reduced glare and great viewing angles. We’ll give Amazon the benefit of the doubt and assume that they got the color saturation right.
Being a part of the Nexus brand of devices, Google’s 7″ tablet is going to be first to receive software updates. What’s more, it ships with an unskinned version of Android, which is flexible enough to look however you want it to look. You want content on your homescreen? Done! You want an email-centric experience! Done!
Amazon, on the other hand, provides the user with less choice and, while based on Android, the Kindle Fire HD’s operating system is locked down and is content-focused. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it limits the consumer’s ability to make the device his own. Amazon has added some neat new features like X-Ray for movies and textbooks, as well as extensions of their Whispersync cloud-based syncing technology, which again serve to make the Kindle Fire HD a content-centric device. That said, should you want to have a greater level of control over your experience, within short order we expect the development community to root the Kindle Fire HD, making it capable of running third party ROMs, including stock Jelly Bean. But for out of the box flexibility, the Nexus 7 wins.
Let’s start with audio. We’ve come to expect poor audio from tablets. The Nexus 7 provides just adequate audio reproduction from its single speaker, and you often get distortion if you turn the volume all the way up. The 7″ Kindle Fire HD has stereo speakers with Dolby audio. Perhaps this will be the first tablet where listening to audio isn’t a comprised experience. The Kindle Fire HD wins here.
Then there’s the size and weight. The Nexus 7 is 10.45mm thick and 340grams. The 7″ Kindle Fire HD is 10.30mm thick and 395grams. Lighter is always better with a tablet. This one goes to the Nexus 7.
The original Kindle Fire was slow. Opening a handful of web tabs would slow down the device significantly, and touch responsiveness was far behind where it should have been. The Kindle Fire HD has a dual-core 1.2GHz TI OMAP 4460 CPU with 1GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of storage.
On the other hand, the Nexus 7 has a quad-core 1.3GHz Tegra 3 CPU with 1GB of RAM and either 8GB or 16GB of storage. In our experience, the Nexus 7 is a highly capable tablet with near-instant responsiveness. Our only point of contention is with web browsing where the Chrome browser doesn’t seem to exhibit performance that we’d expect from such a mighty configuration.
Until we get a Kindle Fire HD in our hands, we cannot compare its performance to that of the Nexus 7.
Amazon claims that the Kindle Fire HD can brows the web/play music/play video for up to 11 hours. If that is true, that’s an hour greater than what the Nexus 7 can provide. Here, the Kindle Fire HD wins.
This one is easy. For the same price, you get double the storage space if you buy Amazon’s 7″ tablet. Double. That’s a big jump.
Adding up all of our points, the 7″ Kindle Fire HD has four points, and the Nexus 7 has two points. Of course, this score might change depending on your needs: maybe you love the idea of living within Amazon’s silo of content. Or, maybe you require the flexibility that only a full Android experience can provide.
One thing is for sure: Amazon is playing their cards right.