With all the hoopla surrounding Apple’s new iPhone 5s and 5c, their full-metal and “unapologetic” plastic builds, 64-bit new processor that’s sooo much zippier than 32-bit chips inside Androids and so on and so forth, the tech world pretty much ignored what I think should have been treated as an equally as important product unveiling: that of Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HDX slates.
And though we here at The Droid Guy rarely wear capes or masks while out in public (at home is a different thing), we’d like to try to do the HDX some justice today.
After all, Amazon has been for all intents and purposes the pioneering OEM of the now booming small than 10-inch tablet market, taking a huge gamble with the first-gen Kindle Fire back in 2011 and subsequently getting copied by Google and Apple.
Okay, maybe “copy” is a bit of an overstatement. Yet think of it this way. Were it not for Amazon to roll out the Fire two years ago, do you really think Big G and Asus would have been so serious about the Nexus 7 project? How about Apple and their iPad Mini, which Steve Jobs never approved of?
So you see, we owe Amazon and their Fires a great deal of gratitude and trust, which is why it’s time for another one of our legendary specs comparisons. This time, we’re pitting the new Kindle Fire HDX 7 against the 2013 Google Nexus 7 and Apple’s first-gen iPad Mini. Why also the iPad Mini? Just for kicks, not that we’d ever consider going for it. Ready, set, fight:
Design and build quality
Even if no hardcore, devoted Android fan would even give the iPad Mini a second thought, we have to be fair, unbiased and admit it – those Cupertino folks sure know how to design a pretty and sturdy slab of silicon.
And while I don’t want to open that plastic vs. metal Pandora’s Box again, things are I’m afraid pretty clear here even for “unapologetic” fans of plastic. The iPad Mini breezes through the design and build quality battle, courtesy of a 7.2 mm thin profile, incredibly light 312 grams chassis and most of all smooth, silky and tough as nails aluminum unibody.
As for the fight for second place, it’s not easy to choose between the Fire HDX and N7-2 solely based on aesthetics, as the two share very many common points. They’re plasticky yet not flimsy, sleek, elegant and even rock similarly massive bezels. Ultimately, I’d personally choose the Nexus, as it’s thinner and lighter, but I totally understand if anyone thinks otherwise.
Extra screen real estate or superior pixel density? That, my friends, is the million-dollar question, but as far as I’m concerned the answer is pretty clear-cut: ppi any day. Besides, iPad Mini’s panel is only 0.9 inches larger, whereas the N7 and Fire HDX sport oodles of extra pixels. 1,920 x 1,200 each, to be more exact, which come to stunning 323 ppis, so almost double iPad Mini’s 162. For shame, Apple, for shame!
Meanwhile, at least for the time being, the two Androids are tied in first place, as their displays look pretty much identical… on paper.
Processing speed, RAM and cameras
Dual-core 1 GHz vs quad-core 1.5 GHz vs quad-core 2.2 GHz? Puh-lease, that’s not even a real contest. And yes, I know the iPad Mini doesn’t exactly need two extra cores, but even with Apple’s wicked optimization skills and their tight ecosystem, there’s no way in hell the measly dual-core CPU, coupled with 512 MB of RAM (2006 called…), can even compete in the same league as the Fire HDX.
A Fire HDX that, again on paper, should smoke the new N7. Sorry, Google, and too bad for your 2 gigs of RAM, but there’s a reason Qualcomm updated from the Snapdragon S4 Pro to the S600 and then the S800 that Amazon now uses.
As far as cameras go, the ranks pretty much turn upside down, with iPad Mini’s 5 MP/1.2 MP shooters dominating the fight, followed by the N7, whose cams pack identical sensors, but less features, and the HDX, which lacks a main, rear-facing snapper. Then again, when’s the last time you used a slate to take a photo? Crickets, am I right?
Software and battery life
There’s so much to discuss in the software department and so many differences between the three that I’d rather not even start. What’s obvious is the choice here is a matter of taste. Sure, Apple’s iOS 7 and App Store appear to have the edge in smoothness and app support, but Android has come a long way and the vanilla 4.3 pre-loaded on the 2013 Nexus 7 is just all-around spectacular.
At the same time, Amazon has been making great strides with their Android fork, although you still need to be head over heels with the company’s store and products and willing to make a few sacrifices to dig Fire HDX’s on-board OS.
In terms of battery life, the battle is very much open, as there’s no way to know… yet how HDX’s ticker behaves in real life. Amazon is currently promising an 11-hour autonomy in “mixed use”, which would be very close to iPad Mini’s “up to 10 hours” life and considerably north of N7’s 9 hours of continuous use. But again, let’s wait and see.
Pricing, connectivity and others
For an aging slate, the iPad Mini has held its own rather decently in the comparison so far, but what completely disqualifies the 7.9-incher is its preposterous pricing. $350 with 16 GB of storage and Wi-Fi? Forget about it, especially with both the HDX and N7 starting at $230.
And then there were two. Both packing 16 GB of on-board memory in their low-end configs, optional 4G LTE, but no microSD slots. So it all comes down to whether you want Kindle’s extra oomph or N7’s better cameras, slightly cooler design and smoother software. Well, which one will it be? We’re all ears.