Kindle vs. Fire Tablet: What's the Difference?

Two Amazon devices in one straightforward comparison

Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets are both Amazon devices solidly plugged into the Amazon ecosystem, but they have some pretty substantial differences. Kindles are e-readers designed for reading ebooks, while Fire tablets are more flexible devices that can browse the web, run apps, play videos, and, yes, also display ebooks. That’s only the first part of the story, though, so let’s take a look at what differentiates these two Amazon devices so you can decide which one fits your needs.  

Overall Findings: Is a Fire Tablet the Same as a Kindle?

Kindle
  • Designed for reading books.

  • Black and white e-ink displays.

  • Built-in screen lighting in current models.

  • Can’t run apps.

  • No cameras.

  • Limited web browsing capabilities.

  • Extremely long battery life.

  • Wi-Fi+Cellular models include limited free 3G internet access.

Fire Tablet
  • Designed for general media consumption.

  • Colorful LCD screens available in HD resolution.

  • Runs apps from the Amazon app store.

  • Includes front and rear cameras.

  • Stream movies from services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and more.

  • Read books with the Kindle app.

  • Much shorter battery life than Kindle.

Fire tablets aren’t the same as Kindles, which is a bit confusing, especially to anyone who remembers when the line of Fire tablets initially launched as Kindle Fire. Kindle and Fire share a tablet form factor, but Kindles are e-readers, and Fire tablets are general-use tablets. As a result, you can run the Kindle app on a Fire tablet to read books, but you can’t watch movies, play games, send an email, or video chat with a Kindle.

Design and Display: LCD Vs. E-Ink

Kindle
  • Uses e-ink displays.

  • Black and white.

  • Reduces eye strain and feels like reading a paper book.

  • Vastly increased battery life due to low power needs of e-ink.

  • Adjustable LED front-lighting for reading in the dark.

Fire Tablet
  • Uses IPS LCD displays.

  • Full color.

  • Feels like looking at a computer screen or phone.

  • Bright backlighting for use in any light conditions.

  • Shorter battery life than Kindle.

Kindles can’t do most of the things you can do with a tablet, but they are easier on the eyes due to the use of e-ink for the display. On the other hand, fire tablets typically include beautiful IPS LCDs with brilliant colors and sometimes even high definition resolutions.

The benefit of an e-ink display is it’s easier on your eyes when reading for long periods. Instead of a backlight shining light from the screen into your eyes, like a Fire tablet, phone or computer, an e-ink display relies on light hitting it and bouncing into your eyes, just like the pages of a book. Even the front light included on newer models uses LEDs directed at the page instead of outward.

Besides less eye fatigue, the e-ink display also consumes less power than the full-color IPS LCDs found in Fire tablets. That’s part of why a Kindle can go so much longer between charges than a Fire tablet.

On the Fire tablet side of things, they use full-color IPS LCDs with bright backlights. These screens look great in most lighting conditions and are well-suited to running apps and streaming video from sources like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, but they can be challenging to see in direct sunlight due to glare.

Features: Fire Tablets Are More Flexible

Kindle
  • Wi-Fi and optional Cellular connectivity.

  • Cellular-enabled models provide free limited internet access.

  • Micro USB (charging only).

  • Bluetooth (for speakers or headphones).

Fire Tablet
  • Front and rear cameras.

  • Bluetooth connectivity.

  • Wi-Fi and optional Cellular connectivity.

  • USB-C for fast charging and device connectivity.

  • Hands-free Alexa controls.

  • Speakers (stereo on some models).

  • Sensor suite (accelerometer, ambient light).

  • Micro SD card slot for extra storage.

  • 3.5mm audio jack.

The latter is more flexible when you look at the feature sets of Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets. Kindles are e-readers, and that’s pretty much it. While they do include a web browser, and you can get a version with a limited amount of free 3G internet access each month, they aren’t ideal for web browsing. Their micro USB ports are just for charging, not connecting peripherals. Some models offer Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to pair speakers or headphones to listen to audiobooks via Amazon-owned Audible.

While you can listen to Audible audiobooks on a Kindle, Kindles do not support immersion reading. That means you can't listen to an audiobook on your Kindle while reading along on the same Kindle. Fire tablets support immersion reading.

Fire tablets provide various features depending on the specific model you choose, but every Fire device functions as a tablet. That means you can run apps from the Amazon app store, browse the web, send and receive emails, stream music and video, take pictures, record video, and everything else you’d typically expect to do with a tablet.

Most Fire tablets include both front and rear cameras, although some older models don’t offer both. They typically also provide Bluetooth connectivity for connecting wireless earbuds, keyboards, and other peripherals and a USB-C port to connect additional peripherals. Some also include hands-free controls via the Alexa virtual assistant.

Software: Can You Read Kindle Books on Amazon Fire Tablets?

Kindle
  • Access to the Kindle store.

  • Compatible with Kindle e-books, TXT, PDF, MOBI, and PRC.

  • Free conversion for HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG and PMP.

  • Play audio books from Audible (requires Bluetooth headphones or speakers).

Fire Tablet
  • Access to the Amazon app store.

  • Read Kindle books and other e-books with the free Kindle app.

  • Option to sideload other Android apps.

  • Watch videos, play games, listen to audio books, and more with apps.

Kindle devices are severely limited in terms of software. What you see is, essentially, what you get. You can access the Kindle store via a Kindle, you can read books in the Kindle format and a handful of other formats, and you can browse the web with the built-in web browser. Amazon also offers a free conversion service allowing you to view non-ebook files on your Kindle.

Fire tablets run on Amazon’s Android version, so they have similar software capabilities to other Android tablets. Each Fire tablet comes with apps for things like web browsing, email, and streaming media, but you also get access to the Amazon app store. With the Amazon app store, you can download a wide variety of games and other apps. You can even run the Kindle app, which allows you to read Kindle books on your Fire tablet.

Since Fire tablets run on Amazon’s Android version, advanced users can sideload Android apps and even access the Google Play Store. If there’s an app you want, but it isn’t available in Amazon’s app store, there’s a good chance you can get it on your Fire tablet with enough research and work.

Final Verdict: Do You Want To Read Books, or Run Apps and Watch Videos?

Kindle e-readers and Amazon Fire tablets are both Amazon products with some overlap in function, but they’re very different devices with different purposes. You need to ask yourself is do you want to read books, or do you want to run apps, browse the web, make video calls, watch videos, and everything else you can do with a tablet.

If you need a multi-purpose gadget that can do it all, then an Amazon Fire tablet is the device for you. If you want an experience laser-focused on reading e-books with a paper-like display, then a Kindle can do the job.

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