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Apple iPad mini vs. Amazon Kindle Fire HD: spec comparison

TabletsGuides
, 15 Jan 2013Guides
Apple iPad mini vs. Amazon Kindle Fire HD: spec comparison

CES 2013 has been and gone, and computing enthusiasts will no doubt have noticed that for all the hype surrounding new gadgets like Panasonic's lip smacking 4K tablet and the Razer Edge gaming slate, developments in the ultra-hot 7in tablet market were thin on the ground this year. With Google and Apple both opting to eschew industry showcases in favour of independent events, and Samsung focusing its attention on other product segments this January, the likes of the iPad mini and Kindle Fire HD are still prime combatants in the mini-tablet wars. So how do they match up?

Size and weight

Both the Apple iPad mini and Amazon Kindle Fire HD fall into the 7in tablet category. Apple's reduced form factor offering has nearly an inch more screen real estate, measuring 7.9in, while the the Fire HD falls more stiffly in line with its segment, sizing up at exactly 7in. The iPad mini's classic minimalist design is typical of its iconic manufacturer: measuring just 7.2mm in depth and weighing just 308g, it's the kind of super-svelte product we expect from Jony Ive and his team. The more utilitarian Fire HD is a fair bit chunkier, with a girth of 10.3mm and a weight of 395g - extra heft that could prove a bit taxing if you're planning long reading sessions.

Display

Apple's iPad mini has been roundly hailed as an instant classic since its October 2012 launch, though its display has attracted some muted criticism. Fanboys clearly hoped the device would feature the Cupertino-based firm's famed Retina standard - an iPad mini with Retina is rumoured for later this year - but it falls short of this expectation with a resolution of 'only' 1,024 x 768 pixels at 163ppi. The Kindle Fire HD's smaller screen packs superior specifications: its 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution features a density of 216ppi. Both displays are built on IPS LCD technology.

Storage and memory

Apple's iPad mini features a full range of options for content hoarders: 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models are available. The Kindle Fire HD comes in 16GB and 32GB iterations. Neither device features a memory card slot, so media-first consumers are advised to consider their on-board storage needs wisely and purchase accordingly, though price obviously becomes an issue with the more capacious Apple products. With regards to memory, teardowns of the iPad mini have put its RAM at just 512MB. Although that's not not much memory compared to most Android tablets, our iPad mini review notes that it "never feels slow or underpowered." The Kindle Fire HD packs a more standard 1GB of RAM that should confidently handle most tasks.

 

Processor and battery

Apple's A5 chipset, as used in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, features a dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU with an estimated clock speed of 1.5GHz, complemented by a PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU. The Kindle Fire HD sports a TI OMAP 4460 SoC under the hood, also based around a dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU, though with a lower clock speed of 1.2GHz. The Power VR SGX540 GPU used in the Fire HD is outdated to say the least - it's found on ancient smartphones like 2010's Samsung Galaxy S and 2011's Galaxy Nexus. Actual performance obviously can't be measured by specifacation alone, but on paper this is a clear win for the iPad mini - even though its processor is nearly two years old itself. With regards to battery life, there's little to choose between the two: both devices are thought to pack 4,440 mAh batteries, with run time of up to 10 hours and 11 hours for the iPad and Kindle respectively.

Software

Apple's latest mobile platform, iOS 6, seems to have found its feet after a disasterous debut headlined by the Apple Maps debacle. The new OS is every bit the slick, user friendly experience people have come to expect, and one of the benefits of Apple's fiercely proprietary ecosystem is that updates come instantly. The Kindle Fire HD is a very different proposition, running a heavily modified version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. It's unrecognisable from stock ICS and features a bevy of potential annoyances: unless you buy your way out of it, advertising is fed to you at a number of turns, including the lock screen. You're tied to the Amazon ecosystem, too, so there's no Play store access, and the hugely customised nature of the Fire HD's OS means that updates are going to be scarce, if they exist at all. Android fans are certainly going to find plenty to take issue with on the Kindle Fire HD and should probably stick with the Nexus 7, but even non-nerds are likely to find iOS 6 a more pleasant overall experience.

Camera

The Kindle Fire HD provides a 1.3-megapixel front facing camera capable of 720p video. Apple's iPad mini ups the ante considerably, packing in a 5-megapixel rear camera in addition its 1.2-megapixel front snapper. The rear camera can shoot Full HD (1080p) video, and while a device nigh on 8in isn't the most appropriate photography device in our opinion, users who see the additional capabilities as important will probably lean towards the Cupertino firm's offering.

Connectivity and wireless

If it's cellular connectivity you're after, the iPad mini is the only way to go: not only will Apple's mini-tablet link you up with 3G networks, but you'll also be able to enjoy high-speed 4G LTE if you sign up with EE - £15.99 a month on a rolling contract with 5GB data allowance. The Kindle Fire HD is tied to Wi-Fi for the time being, but comes up trumps with regards to input/output offerings, sporting a micro-USB port and an HDMI socket. Apple favours its proprietary Lightning port over the former and lacks the latter entirely. Extras like NFC, which are increasingly common on smartphones, aren't really as relevant on tablets and both devices lack the technology.

Price and opinion

There's little question that the iPad mini is a superior product compared to the Kindle Fire HD, featuring a nippier processor, two cameras, better software, and 4G LTE compatibility. Given it's an Apple product, it shouldn't come as any surprise that these features - especially 4G - come at a premium. For £269, you'll get a basic Wi-Fi-only iPad mini with 16GB of onboard storage, with a £100 jump to £369 if you want cellular connectivity as well. A fuller package featuring 32GB of onboard storage and the option of 3G and 4G clocks in at the considerably dearer sum of £449, while the full monty - 64GB and cellular -  will run you £529. It's definitely tagged well ahead of the competition and only Apple could get away with this kind of borderline charlatan approach to pricing. Ethics aside, it's still probably worth it.

The Kindle Fire HD, on the other hand, falls in line with the Android competition at a budget-friendly £159 and £199 for the 16GB and 32GB models, respectively. It's not without its merits – its sharp display is a particular strength, and an HDMI port is hugely desirable – but for us it's difficult to look past the deficiencies in the software department. Frankly, we just wouldn't pay be tied to ICS forever, have no Play Store access, and be held to ransom by advertisements. Critics who claim the Kindle Fire HD is little more than an Amazon store you can physically hold are being unkind - but they're not far wrong, either. As far as Android tablets go, the Google Nexus 7 is still top dog.

 

Apple iPad mini

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Display

   

Screen size

7.9in

7in

Resolution

1,024 x 768 pixels

1,280 x 800 pixels

Pixel density

163ppi

216ppi

Type

IPS LCD

IPS LCD

Processor and battery

   

Family

Apple A5

TI OMAP 4460

CPU

ARM Cortex-A9

ARM Cortex-A9

Cores

Dual-core

Dual-core

Clock speed

1.5GHz 

1.2GHz

GPU

PowerVR SGX543MP2

PowerVR SGX540

Battery

4,400 mAh

4,400 mAh

Claimed life

Up to 10h

Up to 11h

Storage and memory

   

RAM

512MB

1GB

Internal storage

16GB / 32GB / 64GB

16GB / 32GB

Card slot

No

No

Camera

   

Rear

5-megapixel

No

Front

1.2-megapixel

1.3-megapixel

Video

1080p

720p

Wireless

   

Cellular 

4G LTE

No

Wi-Fi

802.11 a / b / g / n

802.11 a / b / g / n

NFC

No

No

Bluetooth

v4.0

v3.0

Connectivity

   

Charging

Lightning port

MicroUSB

HDMI

No

Yes

Dimensions

   

Size

200 x 134.7 x 7.2mm

193 x 137 x 10.3mm

Weight

308g / 312g

395g

Operating System

iOS 6

Android 4.0

Price

Wi-Fi / Wi-Fi + Cellular

16GB: £269 / £369

32GB: £349 / £449

64GB: £429 / £529

16GB: £159

32GB: £199

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