Amazon Kindle Fire vs. iPad 2

Which tablet is right for you?

The media have called the Amazon Kindle Fire a potential iPad killer, but that may not be fair to the latest in Amazon's line of Kindle products. Kindle Fire adds some tablet features to Amazon's line of e-readers, but Kindle Fire stacks up well against iPad in just one category: its price tag.

Is that enough to make it a worthy purchase?

Instead of looking at Kindle Fire vs. iPad in a direct matchup of features, which would be about like comparing a Ford Escort to a Mercedes, let's look at what Kindle Fire does well and what would-be buyers may miss about iPad 2.

Kindle Fire vs iPad 2

Overall Findings

Kindle Fire
  • Designed for media consumption.

  • Comes with a month of Amazon Prime at no extra cost.

  • Smaller display size than iPad 2.

  • Cannot link to your TV.

  • Can stream movies from Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Netflix.

  • Access to vetted apps from Amazon's Appstore.

  • Relatively low price tag.

iPad 2
  • In short, iPad 2 is a superior device in every way but one: price.

  • Unlike Kindle Fire, which can only access the Kindle bookstore, iPad can access books for Kindle, Barns and Noble, and Apple's own iBook.

  • Larger Retina Display with higher screen resolution.

  • Offers global positioning system (GPS), Bluetooth, and (optionally) a 3G network.

  • Connects directly to your TV to stream video, music, and photos.

  • Has the processing power and video capability to run high-end games.

  • Higher price tag.

Pros and Cons: Kindle Fire

Despite the differences in price, both a Ford Escort and a Mercedes can accomplish their primary task: They can get both you from point A to point B. Much the same can be said about Kindle Fire and iPad.

Kindle Fire is designed from the ground up to be a media-consumption device, and it does a great job of accomplishing this task while keeping its cost low. Without the E-Ink technology that other e-readers in the Kindle line can boast, Kindle Fire may not be quite as good a pure e-reader. You may not be able to read books on Kindle Fire in direct sunlight, but the tablet easily makes up for that with everything else it can do.

First, Kindle Fire comes with a free month of Amazon Prime, so you can test-drive watching movies on the tablet. In this respect, Kindle Fire compares favorably with iPad and other tablets. The display resolution of Amazon's tablet falls little short of iPad, but it's also a much smaller display, which means that you're unlikely to tell the difference in picture quality. The display isn't so small that you'll really miss anything in the experience, though.

In fact, the only bad part about watching movies on the Kindle Fire is that you can't connect the device directly to your TV like you can with iPad. The sound is pretty good for a tablet, the picture quality is good, and the Amazon Prime service has a good number of movies and TV shows. Kindle Fire also supports streaming movies from Netflix and Hulu Plus, and you always have the ability to rent or purchase a movie from Amazon.

One thing you'll really like about Kindle Fire is access to the Amazon Appstore. The Appstore may just be a subset of the apps available to other Android tablet owners, but it's a subset that Amazon staff have reviewed, so you can feel safe that you aren't downloading malware or an app that has no resemblance to its description. it also means access to games like Angry Birds and apps like Flixster.

Pros and Cons: iPad 2

The iPad 2 is better at everything. There's a reason Kindle Fire is priced much lower than the entry-level iPad 2. Those expecting Kindle Fire to perform as well as the top tablet on the market simply don't have the proper expectations. The iPad is faster, has more storage space, and has all of extras that make the iPad an iPad, including dual-facing cameras on the iPad 2. Kindle Fire aims to be a media-consumption device, but iPad takes aim at the netbook and laptop market. (And how many times have you heard about netbooks since Apple released iPad?)

Where the other devices in the Kindle line can hang their hat on being better e-readers than the iPad, Kindle Fire can't even lay claim to that. Both tablets use full-color back-lit displays, so both struggle in direct sunlight. In some ways, the iPad is actually a better e-reader because unlike Kindle Fire, which gives you access to the Kindle bookstore only, iPad gives you access to the Kindle bookstore, the Barnes and Noble bookstore, and Apple's iBookstore.

The iPad is also a superior device to watch movies on. It has a larger display than Kindle Fire, which makes it easier for more than a single person to gather around the device and watch some TV or a movie. Beyond this, you can actually stream movies from your computer to your iPad, which means that you can conserve storage space. You can also connect your iPad to your TV and watch videos on a much bigger display.

The iPad 2 has numerous extras that simply aren't included with Kindle Fire, including GPS, 3G, and Bluetooth. But what many Kindle Fire users will really miss out on is the entire app and accessory ecosystem that has been built up around iOS and now iPadOS devices. You may enjoy Angry Birds on Kindle Fire, but a bigger game like Infinity Blade won't perform quite as well, especially given how slowly Kindle Fire reads and writes to its storage space. You also won't be able to do all the amazing things you can do with the iPad, such as connect a Bluetooth keyboard or hook your guitar into your iPad and use the tablet as a multi-effects processor.

The Verdict: It Depends on How Deep Your Pockets Are

The iPad 2 is clearly the superior device, but it also comes with a major price tag. If you don't mind spending more for a tablet, it's the clear choice. In many ways, the iPad is a family device, capable of keeping the kids busy with games; enabling parents to do a little work, from word processing to spreadsheets; and giving teenagers an entertainment platform that ranges from streaming videos to reading e-books.

If you're unwilling to part with that much money for a tablet, however, Kindle Fire is a great bargain. If you're mainly interested in using the device for books, music, movies, casual gaming, and light web browsing, Kindle Fire can easily accomplish these tasks and save you money in the process.