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Kindle Fire HD versus iPad Mini: Which is Right for You?

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Up until now, it was really hard to call Amazon and Apple direct competitors. Sure, they both had tablets and sold services that were highly integrated into the overall experience. Yes, they both also had books and videos. What set them worlds apart was pricing and specs. This has changed with the introduction of the iPad Mini.

While Apple still demands a much higher premium price of $329, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Apple iPad Mini aren’t at all that different when it comes to hardware and even services. So which is better? That’s a hard question to ask. Better is often subject to a matter of opinion.

You might like iOS better than Fire OS (aka Android in a skin). You might feel like Amazon’s services aren’t quite as good as Apple’s, or vice versa.

Still, we will try to do our best to give you a fair comparison. We’ll start by looking at the hardware:

iPad Mini versus Kindle Fire HD: Hardware

  • The processor: Both devices are dual-core tablets in a quad-core world. Sure, they handle games and other apps while enough, but they won’t blow anyone away. Overall performance here is a pretty close tie.
  • RAM: We can’t say for sure, but it seems likely that the iPad Mini will feature 512MB of RAM like its bigger brother the iPad 2. If true, the Kindle Fire HD will outperform here with its 1GB of RAM.
  • Storage: The iPad Mini comes in 16GB/32GB/64GB configurations. The Fire HD has 16 and 32GB. Unless you require the 64GB model, these areas are very similar.
  • 3G/WiFi: Both are going to perform about the same for Wi-Fi. The only huge difference in wireless performance is that the Fire HD 7-inch versions don’t have a 3G/4G option and the iPad Mini does.
  • Battery: While we can’t actually know for sure until we get our hands on the hardware, both should last around 10 hours or so. Again, a pretty strong tie.
  • Camera: If you want to take pictures with your tablet, the iPad Mini wins. The Fire HD only has a 1.3MP front cam. The iPad Mini has a slightly weaker 1.2MP front cam but has a 5MP back camera as well.
  • Weight: The Mini is less clunky and weighs less overall, even if not by much. The iPad Mini does have a bigger screen though, at 7.9-inches versus just 7-inches.
  • Display: Resolution wise, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD wins by a little bit. The iPad Mini has a 7.9-inch display with a resolution of 1024 x 768 and 164 pixels per inch. The Fire HD has a 7-inch display with a resolution of 1200 x 800 and 216 ppi.

As you can tell, these two tablets are REALLY quite close in almost every hardware related aspect. The iPad Mini is a little bit better in storage, connectivity (3G/4G) and camera. The Fire HD has a slightly better display and will likely perform faster thanks to more RAM.

Hardware alone doesn’t sell tablets, though. Let’s look at the ecosystem differences.

iPad Mini versus Kindle Fire HD: iTunes/iOS versus Amazon Services/Fire UI
Let’s start by looking at the UI. The Fire UI is powered by Android 4.0 but has an entirely customized look. What the Fire HD presents is easy to use and very attractive. Those who aren’t used to tablets and want a very intuitive experience will probably find this suites them fine.

Looking at the iPad Mini, iOS is a robust enough OS that is easy to use and learn. It can become even more useful by jailbreaking (once a supported jailbreak method arrives). If you are looking for a “full” OS, iOS 6 will provide that. The Fire UI is a bit more limited and feels more like a storefront not a traditional OS. (*update*) As mentioned by one of our readers, it is also worth noting that there are alternative launchers and other possible mods for the Fire HD that can also expand the functionality of the Fire UI as well.

Honestly– it is hard to declare a real winner here and it will depend on your individual tastes.

Next, let’s look at the biggest part of the ecosystem, the apps and services.

  • AppStore: Both have an AppStore, but with the iPad Mini you get 500,000+ apps. The Amazon AppStore, on the other hand, has a little over 50,000. Clearly the iPad Mini wins here.
  • Music/movies: Amazon Prime offers tons of streaming movies, music and more. Some are free with a yearly paid Prime subscription, others cost extra. As for Apple, they also have a HUGE selection of movies for rental or purchase, and a massive amount of music, too. The biggest advantage Amazon has here is that iTunes (currently) doesn’t do streaming.
  • Books: Pretty close. With iOS you will also have several other programs to meet for your reading needs. Still, the Kindle brand is certainly well-known for its great library of books.

The bottom-line is that Apple iPad Mini IS better if you need a wide range of apps. Still, for the price difference you might not care. Before jumping in to either platform, check out their apps stores and see what you actually want/need. Even though the Amazon AppStore has a limited selection, you might find it has enough apps to get you by.

As we said before, there is no clear “Winner” here. Some things the iPad Mini does better, some things the Fire HD wins out at. Ultimately, decide what you need and what you’ll pay and go from there. For those that are leaning towards the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, you can snag yourself a 16GB model for just $199.

About Andrew Grush

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  • Hibby

    If you have Amazon Prime, there is an app for that on the iPad. The vast majority of Amazon’s content (books and movies) is available on the iPad. The same can not be said going from Ipad to Kindle.

  • hari

    CAN you jailbreak kindle fire

  • Anonymous

    Odd that you would promote jailbreaking the iPad mini as a way to make it more useful, but not mention how easy it is to change the Kindle Fire HD launcher to something less like a “storefront”.

    • Anonymous

      Excellent point. That is very true. Thanks!

  • Brian Hartman

    One small correction: The Kindle Fire HD *does* have a 3G/4G version. That starts @ $300.