Kindle Fire vs. iPad 2: Head-to-head

By Mitch Monsen
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So you've heard the buzz about the new Kindle Fire, and you may have taken a look at our Kindle comparison. You're also surrounded by Apple fan boys who just can't seem to tell you enough about the iPad 2. Every other day, another major newspaper or website calls the Kindle Fire the "iPad Killer." Still, iPad followers believe it will never be unseated from its throne of technological glory.

But how do these two devices really stack up?

We’ve looked at both the new Kindle Fire and the iPad 2, and we found some surprising results. If you are trying to decide which device to invest in, read on to see how they compare.

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Size –

  • Kindle Fire: 7.5 x 4.7 x 0.45, .91 lbs (413g)

  • iPad 2: 9.5 x 7.31 x .34, 1.33 lbs (601g)

The Kindle Fire is smaller than the iPad in almost every sense, but whether that's a pro or a con depends on what you're planning to use your tablet for. If your main aim is to enjoy a book or video on the go, the Kindle Fire will serve your needs for portability better with its smaller size.

If you like to use your tablet for more than casual web surfing or book reading, you'd be better off toting the heavy-duty iPad 2. While its screen may be larger, it's actually thinner than the Kindle Fire.

Winner: For Portability, the Kindle Fire. For depth and heavier tasks, the iPad 2. Section ends in a tie.

Speed – Browser, Processor and Operation

The iPad 2 wins handily in this category; it functions more quickly when loading apps, playing videos and browsing the web. This was surprising to us because the Amazon Cloud-Accelerated Browser is one of the main standout features of the Kindle Fire. In short, Amazon's cloud keeps an open connection to some of the largest websites so that browsing time is (theoretically) drastically reduced.

Even with this supposed benefit, the Kindle Fire is still noticeably slower than the iPad 2 in almost every sense. If you want speed, you want the iPad 2.

Winner: iPad 2.

Screen –

  • Kindle Fire – 7 inches, 1024 x 600 pixels

  • iPad 2 – 9.7 inches, 1024 x 786 pixels

The iPad 2's screen is slightly larger than the Kindle Fire, as is its resolution. Based solely on the screen, the iPad 2 wins again, though by a smaller margin; given the nearly 3-inch difference in screen size, the Kindle Fire keeps up surprisingly well from a resolution perspective.

The Kindle Fire has an opportunity to steal a point from the iPad 2 in this category, but it doesn't quite pull it off.

Winner: iPad 2.

Storage –

  • Kindle Fire - Total Storage: 8GB. User Available: 6GB.

  • iPad 2 - Total Storage: 16GB. User Available: 14GB.

Comparing the storage capacities straight across wouldn't quite be fair, since the Kindle is priced so much lower, but looking at the cost of actual available storage space per gigabyte, we get ~$33GB for the Kindle Fire and ~$35.5GB for the iPad 2. If the Fire offered greater-capacity models, you could potentially get more storage for your dollar.

Tablet computers are great for on-the-go applications, so they naturally trend toward less-intensive apps. For value and practical application, the Kindle Fire wins this round.

Winner: Kindle Fire.

Service – Cloud models, Help & Support, Battery Life, Warranty and 3G/Wi-Fi

The Cloud service models backing these devices (Amazon Cloud and iCloud) are relatively similar in that they both provide infinite cloud storage for purchases made on their proprietary stores. Both devices come with a one-year warranty against defects.

The iPad 2 has a battery life of approximately 10 hours, assuming constant use. The Kindle Fire maxes out at 8 hours of battery life, putting it just behind the iPad 2 in this category. While the Kindles have traditionally provided free 3G service, the Kindle Fire doesn't even have an option for 3G plans. The iPad 2 comes out ahead in this category because of its longer battery life and 3G plans.

Winner: iPad 2.

Overall Winner: iPad 2 (4/5) vs. Kindle Fire (2/5)

In the end, the Kindle Fire falls to the iPad 2, but it's largely due to common, first-version problems. Early adopters may end up frustrated with the Fire, but it's laid a good foundation for a highly competitive future device. While the iPad 2 may have won this round, the Kindle Fire is hot on its heels, and soon you may see a higher-end version of the Fire burning up sales at your local Best Buy.

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