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Kindle Fire, iPad 2, Nook Tablet:
Which is Best For You?
KINDLE FIRE iPAD 2 B & N Nook Tablet
7" and 14.6 oz 9.7" and 1.3 lbs 7" and 14.1 oz
1024 x 600 resolution 1024 x 768 resolution 1024 x 600 resolution
512MB RAM 512MB RAM 1GB RAM
TI OMAP Dual Core/1GHz Processor A5 Dual Core/1GHz Processor TI OMAP Dual Core/1GHz Processor
Custom Version of Android 2.3 iOS 5 Custom Version 2.3
No Camera
No Microphone
Front Camera/Rear Camera/Microphone No Camera
Microphone
8GB of on-board Storage; free cloud storage of all items bought through Amazon including music, games, books, videos. No SD Card slot. 16/32/64GB Storage 16GB Storage with an expandable SD Card slot.
Amazon Cloud Storage/Amazon Prime/MP3 Store/Amazon App Store (Unspecified Number of apps but considerably less than iPad) iCloud/iTunes (90,000 Apps for iPad) No Cloud Storage/No access to the Android Market/Nook App Store (Unspecified number of apps, but less than Amazon)
Magazines/Newspapers/Kindle eBooks/Kindle Owner’s Lending Library Magazines/Newspapers/iBooks
Kindle eBooks
Magazines/Newspapers/B&N eBooks
Wi-Fi/No 3G Option/No Bluetooth Wi-Fi or 3G/Bluetooth Wi-Fi/No 3G Option/No Bluetooth
No Accelerometer or Gyroscope Accelerometer and Gyroscope No Accelerometer or Gyroscope
8 Hour Battery Life (with Wi-Fi off) 10 Hour Battery Life 9 Hour Battery Life (with Wi-Fi off)
Supports Flash Does not support Flash Supports Flash
USB No USB USB
No Stores In-Store Support In-Store Support
Price: $199 Price Wi-Fi: $499 (16GB) / $599 (32GB) / $699 (64GB)

Price 3G: $629 (16GB) / $729 (32GB) / $829 (32GB)

Price: $249
The primary purpose of the Kindle Fire is as a consumption device, specifically of Amazon’s media. Presumably, the reason they can sell the tablets for so little is because they are counting on making money on their content. The Fire has access to all of Amazon’s many media offerings – MP3 Store, App Store, Video Streaming, Amazon Prime (when you buy the Fire, the first month of service is free). You will note that the resolution of both the iPad 2 and the Fire is essentially the same, yet the Fire is three inches smaller. The same amount of pixels crammed into a smaller screen, one with a widescreen aspect ratio, making it the better device for watching television and movies.

The iPad 2 is the Fire on steroids. It has more hardware, more apps and more screen. With two cameras and a microphone, none of which the Fire has, you can video chat using Skype or Facetime. The iPad 2 also boasts an accelerometer and gyroscope, both of which greatly enhance the gaming and application experience.

The recently announced Nook Tablet from Barnes & Noble is looking to take on the Fire rather than the iPad. In a strictly hardware sense the Nook actually improves on the Fire - more memory, much more storage space, slightly better battery, all running on Android. But beyond books and magazines, it lacks either Amazon's or Apple's large ecosystem for other kinds of content.

Apps Are King
The inescapable fact remains that these days any mobile device is only as good as the apps it offers. In many ways they define the limits of what it can do and how useful it can be in your life. With 90,000 apps optimized for tablet usage alone Apple is miles ahead of Amazon and B&N. We’re not sure how many apps are available for the Fire in the Amazon App store, we can’t find a reliable number to report; one of the reasons for this may be that since the Fire is running a forked version of Android, not all of the tablet apps will run on it. The Nook appears to offer even fewer apps than Amazon does (Barnes & Noble doesn't provide a number.) The Nook doesn’t have access to the Android Marketplace and so must develop their own apps independently, of which there are very, very few at the moment. Instead, Barnes & Noble offers third party choices, including video apps like Netflix and music apps like Pandora. However, these same apps also appear on the Fire and the iPad.

The other advantage Apple has is the security of their App Store. Because they approve every app that is submitted they can be assured that there is no malware which may harm your devices. The Android Marketplace doesn’t do this, and it doesn’t look like Amazon will be stepping in to do it either.

iPad 2 Has the More Current OS
We know the Kindle Fire is running a forked version of Android 2.3. This means that Amazon took an old version of Android (the latest release is 3.0) and customized it heavily to suit their own purposes; it looks a little different than what we’ve come to recognize as Android but it’s still Android at the core. It does raise questions about future upgrade. Google has released Ice Cream Sandwich, the newest version of its tablet OS; Amazon has yet to say whether the Fire will be able to update.

The Nook is also running a customized version of Android. One plus for the Nook Tablet is that it is more hacker-friendly than the Fire (and a lot more than the iPad 2). The Nook Color was able to boot from an SD card and if the Tablet can do the same then it will be able to run custom ROMs without being rooted. This is where the extra space will come in handy as well.

Prime is a Hot Selling Point
Many people still think of Amazon Prime as just a discounted shipping service, but those people are mistaken and it’s worth pausing a moment to seriously consider this offering. Yes, $79 a year gets you unlimited 2-day shipping and discounts on 1-day shipping. It also gets you access to Amazon’s video library of over 10,000 movies and TV shows that you can stream. Recently the company also announced that they were adding a Kindle Owner’s Lending Library; any Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Touch 3G, Kindle Keyboard and Kindle Fire owners have access to this library, but Prime owners get to borrow one book per calendar month for free. The library currently offers over 5,000 titles, with more to come.

If you’re a student you can get the first six months of Prime service for free, and after the initial six month period your Prime membership will cost only $39 a year for up to four years.

The iPad 2 and the Nook really have nothing comparable to Prime. On the iPad you can only rent and buy on a per-movie basis. As we’ve already noted, the Nook doesn’t offer streaming video or music or movies. They have made up for this by signing deals with Netflix, Hulu, Rhapsody, Pandora, Marvel Comics, Spotify, and apparently a movie rental service will be available soon.

Silk Was Supposed to Be Faster Than Safari
Amazon has also been touting their new browser, called Silk, and it seems to be something quite interesting. Like Opera, rather than relying solely on the hardware to render web-pages, Silk unloads some of the workload (heavier things like Javascript and HTML) to the cloud. It will also remember your favorite sites and pre-load them in the cloud. All of this should make the internet experience incredibly fast (you can watch a video on this here) however, early reviews have been somewhat disappointing as far as Silk performance goes.
iPad 2 is One of Many Interconnected iDevices
There is also the Apple “ecosystem” to take into consideration. With iOS 5 and the introduction of iCloud Apple is tying their products together even more tightly. It allows users to store music, apps, documents, and media in the cloud, so buying the tablet is one thing, but if you already have an iPhone, Mac, iPod, etc switching between devices becomes effortless. Furthermore, Apple’s Airplay that allows you to display media on your iPad (or other idevice) on your HDTV (through an Apple TV) does not have an equivalent on the Kindle Fire.
At the end of the day
If what you want is to watch movies, listen to music, read some books and browse the internet then the Fire or Nook Tablet would be the better choice – an iPad in that case would be like using rocket launchers as 4th of July fireworks. The iPad 2 on the other hand, is more flexible and dynamic, offering more hardware and more applications; best for users who may want to use for more than just casual media, or who have already invested in other Apple products.


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