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Kindle vs Fire: How to choose the right Amazon e-reader

Michael Brown | Nov. 24, 2015
So you’ve narrowed the e-reader field to Amazon’s lineup. We’ll help you pick the right model for your needs.

As it did with the smaller Fire, Amazon builds the Fire HD 8 with an IPS touchscreen. Again, that’s much better than a cheaper TN panel, but it lacks the anti-glare properties that make an e-ink display so easy to read. And here again, you’ll need to pay extra to rid yourself of Amazon’s “special offers” (ads that appear when the Fire HD 8’s screen is locked). As with the cheaper Fire, there’s no way to add 3G connectivity to this tablet.

When you read a book on a Fire HD 8, the tablet’s weight might bother you more than its low-resolution display. This is also true of the cheaper Fire tablet, since they both weigh the same 11 ounces. Compare that to the Kindle Paperwhite (7.2 ounces) and the Kindle Voyage (an almost wispy 6.6 ounces). An Apple iPhone 6, for the sake of comparison, weighs 6.07 ounces. 

If you want the versatility that a color LCD tablet provides, the Fire HD 8 is much faster and more versatile than the cheaper Fire. It’s the best choice if you want to play games and use other graphics- and computational-intensive apps, and it has superior audio capabilities. But its marginally higher resolution won’t make much of a difference for reading.

Decisions, decisions

If reading books is your primary reason for buying a tablet, we heartily recommend you choose one of the Kindle models. They’re thin, lightweight, and very easy on the eyes. Of the two covered here, the Voyage is the luxury choice, but the Paperwhite is the model we recommend based on its excellent price-to-performance ratio.

We’d argue that the additional $20 to rid a Kindle of Amazon’s special offers ($15 for either of the Fire tablets) is worth the money: Who wants to see an ad for anything before diving into a book? The Kindle’s $70 upcharge for 3G connectivity is a little harder to justify, but once you’ve enjoyed the flexibility of syncing and buying new books no matter where you are, it’s hard to give up. (Just know that Amazon might charge a small fee if you use 3G service while you’re traveling overseas.)

If you want a more versatile tablet—one that you can use to watch videos, browse the web, play games, and so on—go for one of the Fire tablets. They’re also the better choice for reading color graphic novels. Of the two covered here, it’s hard to beat the 7-inch Kindle’s $50 price tag. Its lower resolution (compared to the Fire HD 8, that is) won’t be much of a detriment to reading or watching videos, but its slower processor, single-band Wi-Fi adapter, and mono speaker will impinge on your enjoyment if you want to do other things.


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