The Amazon Kindle Fire vs. the Apple iPad 2

Which is the better tablet and which is right for you

The Amazon Kindle Fire

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The Amazon Kindle Fire has been called a potential iPad-killer by the media, but that might not be fair to the latest in Amazon's line of Kindle product. While the Kindle Fire adds some tablet features to their line of eReaders, the Kindle Fire only stacks up well against the iPad in one category: its price tag.

But is that enough to make it a worthy purchase?

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

What the Amazon Kindle Fire Does Well

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

The 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 the costs low. Without the E-Ink, it might not be quite as good of a pure eReader as the other devices in the Kindle line, but for many, the sacrifice of being able to easily read books on the Kindle Fire in direct sunlight is easily made up for by everything else the device can do.

The Kindle Fire comes with a free month of Amazon Prime, which allows you to test drive watching movies on the tablet. And in this respect, it compares favorably with the iPad and other devices. While the display's resolution falls a little short of the iPad, it's also a much smaller display, which means you won't tell the difference in picture quality. But the Kindle Fire's screen isn't so small that you'll really miss anything in the experience.

In fact, the only bad part about watching movies on the Kindle Fire is that you cannot hook the device up directly to your TV as you can do with the iPad. The sound is pretty good for a tablet, the picture quality is good, and the Amazon Prime service has a surprisingly good number of movies and TV shows. The 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.

But one thing Kindle Fire owners will really like is access to Amazon's Appstore. This might just be a subset of the apps available to other Android tablet owners, but it is a subset that has been reviewed by Amazon staff, so you can feel safe that you aren't downloading a piece of malware or an app that has no resemblance to its description. This means access to app games like Angry Birds and apps like Flixster and Friendcaster.

What the iPad 2 Does Better

The iPad 2 is better at everything. There's a reason why the Kindle Fire is priced at much less than the entry-level iPad 2. Those expecting the 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 the extras that make the iPad an iPad, including dual-facing cameras on the iPad 2. While the Kindle Fire is aimed at being a media consumption device, the iPad took aim at the netbook and the laptop. (And how many times do we hear about netbooks since the iPad was released?)

Where the other Kindle devices can hang their hat on being better eReaders than the iPad, the Kindle Fire cannot even lay claim to this. Both use full-color back-lit displays, so both will have problems in direct sunlight. And in some ways, the iPad is actually a better eReader. While the Kindle Fire gives you access to the Kindle bookstore, the iPad gives you access to the Kindle bookstore, the Barnes and Noble bookstore, and Apple's iBookstore.

The iPad is also a superior device for watching movies. Obviously, it has a bigger display, 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 PC to your iPad, which means you can conserve storage space. You can also connect your iPad to your TV and watch movies on a much bigger screen.

The iPad 2 has numerous extras that simply aren't included with the Kindle, 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 devices. While you might enjoy Angry Birds on the Kindle Fire, a bigger game like Infinity Blade won't perform quite as well, especially considering how slow the Kindle Fire reads and writes to its storage space. You also won't be able to do the myriad of cool things that you can do with the iPad, such as hook up a wireless keyboard through Bluetooth or hook your guitar into your iPad and use it as a multi-effects processor.

Which One Is Right for You?

The iPad 2 is clearly the superior device, but it also comes with a price tag. If you don't mind spending more for a tablet, it is the clear choice. In many ways, the iPad is a family device, capable of keeping the kids busy with casual games, allowing parents to do a little work from word processing to spreadsheets, and letting teenagers entertain themselves with streaming video and eBooks.

But for those unwilling to part with that much money for a tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire is a great bargain. If what you are mainly interested in doing is using the device for books, music, movies, casual gaming, and light web browsing, the Kindle Fire can easily accomplish these tasks and save you money doing so.