For years now, each new entrant into the mobile arena has had to go through a sort of a rite of passage ritual, regardless of whether its creators believe it deserves recognition solely by virtue of the brand it represents. Today, it's truth time for Amazon's brand new Kindle Fire HDX 7 for we're putting the new slate to the test. In the two opposite corners we have two already established pieces of hardware that need no introduction – Google's ASUS-built Nexus 7 2013 and Apple's iPad mini.
Let's take a look.
If anything, it's undeniable that Amazon has been hard at work – our first impression of the new design of the trio of Kindle tablets that the company introduced earlier today is quite positive: it's sleek and industrial-looking, asserting a sense of quality. A level of quality of the reassuring kind, however, is nothing more than the sanitary minimum, considering Amazon wants to join the big league – the level of quality you'll find with the Nexus 7, and especially the iPad mini is outstanding. What's more, while we're at the topic of design, it's probably worth nothing that the iPad mini is the clear winner in our eyes, with the two Android slates wrenching for the second spot – that one is too close to call.
But looks aren't the only defining quality of design. Amazon is showcasing just that, having put the HDX 7 through some much needed dieting, which has resulted in slimmer bezels, though there's still a long way to go. Despite all of this, the HDX 7 is still the thickest tablet of the trio, though it has dropped some weight and is now down to 311 grams, pretty close to the iPad mini's 312 grams and even the Nexus 7's 299 grams.
Another noteworthy consideration that you should keep in mind if you're in the market for a compact tablet is that Amazon has gone the path of LG and put the power/volume buttons on the back of the device. This may not sound optimal to people who are used to the way things are, but do keep in mind that despite its relatively smallish dimensions, you'll be mostly holding the HDX 7 with two hands, which should make working the rear buttons easier.
Whereas usually we have things such as pocketability to consider when examining the ease of use of smartphones, this doesn't really hold as much relevance to the tablet category, even with our relatively compact tabs. With that in mind, it's usually pixel density and display tech that decide the winner, if one can be cast at all. In this regard, there's a clear divide within our contestants – both the HDX 7 and the Nexus 7 have an amazingly detailed and vivid screens, thanks to the 1920x1200 resolution (323 ppi) they feature. It's been almost a full year since the iPad mini was launched, and it's starting to show its age – its screen is larger, at 7.9-inches, but considerably less detailed with a resolution of 1024x768, or 162 ppi.
What's more, the display on the 7-inch HDX 7 has been a point of pride for Amazon, because it incorporates some pretty interesting tech that allows for a dynamic adjustment of contrast settings when in bright environments. This means that whenever there's too much light, threatening to overpower even dark spots, the display will react by making blacks ever more pronounced, at least on paper.
Taking the above in consideration, we think it's a split between the HDX 7 and the Nexus 7, with the larger iPad mini grabbing the bronze – a nevertheless very acceptable display, perfect for those looking for more real state.
As is the way of Android, the HDX 7 and the Nexus 7 are both packing some great hardware, while the iPad mini is making ends meet with a much more conservative specs sheet that just works, in a typical iOS fashion. Having said that, there's no contest in who takes the gold in the hardware department, as the Kindle Fire HDX 7 comes sporting Qualcomm's latest and greatest quad-core Snapdragon 800, whereas the Nexus 7 is using the now slightly aged Snapdragon S4 and the iPad mini the Apple A5 SoC which is now getting really old in high-tech years.
In terms of memory, both the HDX 7 and the Nexus 7 come with 2GB of RAM, whilst the iPad mini has to make do with just 512MB. Several versions of the tablets ensure that you can pick the amount of storage that suits you – 16GB, 32GB or 64GB, with the exception of the Nexus, which only comes in a 16GB/32GB flavor. None of the tablets has an option to expand that via a microSD card.
And the winner is...
Pitting these tablets is only meaningful up to a certain point. Once we exhaust facts, it becomes near impossible to navigate through the jungle of subjective and less clearly-cut aspects of the total package that makes an experience bad, good or great. Each of these tablets has some pretty compelling reasons to deserve your hard-earned cash, of course, but also a relatively major trade-off.
Starting at $229, with the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 you have a very affordable powerhouse of a tablet with a refined design that many of you will enjoy, including value-added services specific to its forked version of Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean called Fire OS 3.0. The trade-off, as many of you will be quick to point out, is that you're not getting the coveted pure Android experience, and this may be a deal breaker for some.
With the Nexus 7, we have a story pretty similar to that of Amazon's trooper. It's compact, affordable, and despite it's less-potent chipset, it's still very well suited to tend to your every need. It's priced identically to the HDX 7, starting at $229 for the 16GB version, and it comes with a snappy stock Android, meaning quick updates and no mambo-jumbo. This, apart from design considerations, pretty much narrows down your choice down to more power versus an arguably better Android experience. Your call.
The iPad mini is identical to the above in the sense that there are trade-offs, though arguably more of those, in comparison to the Android boys. The tablet is now showing its age, and some of you may say that you're not getting the best bang for your buck. That's valid for many, though if you insist on the iOS experience, then the iPad mini won't disappoint even a year later. Do keep in mind that it's by far the priciest of the bunch, with a price tag starting at $329 for the 16GB, not to mention that we're expecting a new version of the mini fairly soon.
|OS||Android (4.2.2) Fire OS 3.0 UI||Android (4.3)||iOS (6.1, 6)|
|Dimensions||7.32 x 5.04 x 0.35 inches (186 x 128 x 9.0 mm)||7.87 x 4.49 x 0.34 inches (200 x 114 x 8.65 mm)||7.87 x 5.30 x 0.28 inches (200 x 134.7 x 7.2 mm)|
|Weight||10.97 oz (311 g)|
the is 17.4 oz (496 g)
|10.55 oz (299 g)|
the is 17.4 oz (496 g)
|11.01 oz (312 g)|
the is 17.4 oz (496 g)
|Physical size||7.0 inches||7.0 inches||7.9 inches|
|Resolution||1920 x 1200 pixels||1920 x 1200 pixels||1024 x 768 pixels|
|323 ppi||323 ppi||162 ppi|
|LCD||IPS LCD||IPS LCD|
|Peak brightness||400 cd/m2 (nit)||300 cd/m2 (nit)|
|Features||Light sensor||Light sensor, Scratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass)||Light sensor|
|QualComm Snapdragon 800||Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064||Apple A5|
|Quad core, 2200 MHz||Quad core, 1500 MHz, Krait||Dual core, 1000 MHz, ARM Cortex-A9|
|Graphics processor||Adreno 330||Adreno 320||PowerVR SGX543MP2|
|2048 MB RAM||2048 MB RAM (Dual-channel, 533 MHz)||512 MB RAM|
|Built-in storage||16 GB||32 GB||16 GB|
|Maximum User Storage||8.8 GB|
|Camera||5 megapixels||5 megapixels|
|Features||Auto focus||Back-illuminated sensor (BSI), Auto focus, Touch to focus, Digital image stabilization, Geo tagging|
|Camcorder||1920x1080 (1080p HD)||1920x1080 (1080p HD) (30 fps)|
|Features||Digital image stabilization, Video calling|
|Front-facing camera||Yes||1.2 megapixels||1.2 megapixels|
|Video capture||1280x720 (720p HD)||1280x720 (720p HD)|
|Wi-Fi||802.11 a, b, g, n||802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz||802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz|
|USB||USB 2.0||USB 2.0||Yes|
|Features||Mass storage device, USB charging||Mass storage device, USB charging||USB charging|
|Other||Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync||NFC, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync||Computer sync, OTA sync|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, Gyroscope||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass|
|Officially announced||25 Sep 2013||24 Jul 2013||23 Oct 2012|
|18 Oct 2013 (Official)|