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Tablet deathmatch: iPad Mini vs. Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire HD

Galen Gruman | Nov. 6, 2012
A new generation of small tablets has reinvented entertainment on the go, but which is best? Find out now and gear up for holiday gift-buying

Performance is good. Although not as zippy as an iPad Mini, the Nexus 7 doesn't have the periodic lags of the Kindle Fire HD. The 16GB model costs a modest $199, whereas the 32GB model costs $249. A 32GB model with 3G cellular radio will cost $299 when it ships later this month.

Its 12-ounce weight mirrors that of the iPad Mini. That's 2 ounces less than the Kindle Fire HD. In other words, it's close to its competitors. All in all, the Nexus 7 has decent but limited hardware; it feels slightly dated, though it's a six-month-old product.

Kindle Fire HD. The visual quality for the Amazon media tablet's screen is adequate, though crisper and clearer than the Nexus 7's even with the muddiness created by the Kindle's yellowish color balance. But the screen is not as good as the iPad Mini's screen, despite the fact that is has a higher pixel density (216 ppi versus the iPad Mini's 163 ppi).

Although it claims fast, dual-radio Wi-Fi, I found the Kindle Fire HD was the slowest of the three media tablets for Wi-Fi access, with occasional stuttering for streamed videos that I didn't experience on the iPad Mini or Nexus 7. It was also pokey when opening media files and suffered from stutter occasionally during video playback of stored movies.

You do get a MiniHDMI connector for video-out, as well as well as a MicroUSB connector for charging and syncing. There's also a front-facing camera for video chats, but no rear camera for taking pictures. There's also no SD card or other expansion capability, and it uses the older, power-hungry Bluetooth 3.0 technology. It's clear that the Kindle Fire HD's low price comes from hardware compromises.

Beware the prices you see on the Amazon website for the Kindle. Once you pay to remove the obnoxious ads and pay for the power charger block that isn't included as it should be (though a USB cable is, so you can charge it from an existing 10W power block), the 16GB model costs $224 and the 32GB model costs $274.

The hardware winner. Apple has the best hardware -- no question. But you'll pay for it: For the Wi-Fi model, my recommended configuration of 32GB costs $439, versus $274 for the 32GB Kindle Fire HD. The 32GB cellular model will cost $569, versus $299 for the 32GB cellular Nexus 7. If you don't want the iPad's better, larger screen or need a fully capable tablet that can do anything a full-size tablet can, then the Kindle Fire HD should be your top choice. But it's a performance-compromised device.

The Nexus 7 has some nice attributes, especially its ability to run almost anything a full-size Android tablet can and its decent Web browser. But the device has too many compromises. It doesn't play audio as well as the others, its parental controls are minimal, its video playback is just OK, and it has no video-out. Like the Kindle Fire HD, the Nexus 7's hardware feels underpowered at times, though it doesn't suffer from video stutter as the Kindle Fire HD does. The Nexus 7 needs a serious refresh to regain the high praise it earned when it was released in June, but it still beats the newer Kindle Fire HD in some hardware areas.

 

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