Amazon launched the Kindle Fire last year for $199. To compete against the Kindle Fire, Google teamed up with ASUS to release the Nexus 7 earlier this year. Most, if not all, independent reviews agree the Nexus 7 bested the original Kindle Fire, not only in hardware but software too. However, now Amazon has unveiled the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, the older brother of the original Kindle Fire. So, then, that begs the question: what is the best 7 inch Android tablet, Google Nexus 7 or Amazon Kindle Fire HD? Let’s have a look.
Before we delve into a detailed Nexus 7 vs 7-inch Kindle Fire HD comparison, let’s remind of you what each is comprised of. The following are the major specifications of Google Nexus 7 and 7-inch Kindle Fire HD:
x,Nexus 7,Kindle Fire HD
Android, Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), Amazon’s highly customized version of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Display,7-inch IPS 1280×800 (216 ppi),7-inch IPS 1280×800 (216 ppi)
Processor,Quad-core 1.3GHz Tegra 3,Dual-core 1.2GHz TI OMAP 4460
GPU,416 MHz ULP GeForce,SGX544
WiFi,Single-band + single-antenna 802.11a/b/g/n,dual-band + dual-antenna 802.11a/b/g/n
NFC,Yes,Unknown — probably not
GPS & Gyroscope & Accelerometer & Magnetometer,Yes,Unknown
Battery life,Up to 8 hours of active use,11 hours continuous use
Dimensions,198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm,193.04 x 137.16 x 10.16mm
The above-listed specifications are useful, but what do they mean in layman terms? Which tablet is better? Let’s discuss.
Without a doubt the biggest difference between the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD is in the software department.
Nexus 7 comes with stock Android 4.1, otherwise known as Jelly Bean. It is critical to note I said “stock”; that means the software on Nexus 7 is Android in its purest form — no modifications by anyone except Google themselves. Google developed Nexus 7 software and is the sole entity that manages/updates it. Kindle Fire HD, on the other hand, comes with Amazon’s heavily customized version of Android 4.0.
The advantage of stock Android on the Nexus 7 is you will quick updates to new version of Android (when they are released) and there is no bloated custom skin or interface to slow your tablet down. As independent reviews attest, Nexus 7 runs smoother than butter. Indeed, on Android, software is often more important than hardware and you can’t get better software than vanilla Android.
The advantage of the Kindle Fire HD is it is immersed in Amazon’s digital ecosystem. It makes accessing your stuff from Amazon — eBooks, movies, TV shows, apps, games, etc. — very easy. Kindle Fire HD comes with Amazon Appstore which serves as the place to download, and/or purchase, apps and games for your device plus other Amazon apps like Kindle Reader, etc.
The winner in the software category between the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD is the Nexus 7, by a long shot. Why, you ask? A few reasons.
Firstly, stock Android is a lot less bloated — and generally performs better — than a customized version of Android, such as what the Kindle Fire HD runs. Plus, if last year’s Kindle Fire is any example, then the software on Kindle Fire HD will be semi-bloated whereas we know the software on Nexus 7 performs very well.
Secondly, Amazon completely cut Google out of the development of the Kindle Fire HD. This means the Kindle Fire HD comes with no Google apps such as Gtalk, Gmail, or Google Maps; however, more importantly, it doesn’t have Google Play Store. This means you are restricted to using Amazon Appstore for whatever apps or games you want to download. While Amazon Appstore is large and growing larger, it is no Play Store. On the flip side, you can install any and all Amazon apps on the Nexus 7 — you are not restricted to using just Google services. So, in essence, you can get all your Amazon stuff on the Nexus 7 by downloading and installing Amazon apps (Amazon Appstore, Kindle app, etc.) but can’t get Google stuff on Kindle Fire HD. Of course Amazon services on Nexus 7 won’t be as integrated as they are on the Kindle Fire HD but you will have them nonetheless. (Note: it should be mentioned that third-party modifications will likely come out that bring the Play Store to the Kindle Fire HD, but not everyone will want to or know how to modify their Kindle Fire HD to get Play Store.)
Lastly, Nexus 7 will receive near-instant updates when the next versions of Android are released. Kindle Fire HD? Eh, not so much — it will only get what Amazon pushes to it, which may or may not include new features found in later versions of Android.
Winner: Nexus 7
On paper both the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD have the same display: 7-inch, 1280×800 IPS display (216 ppi). However paper specifications rarely show the real picture (no pun intended) because actual usage reveals that two displays of the same specs may be of very different quality. So which display performs better, the one of the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD?
Based on independent reviews of the Nexus 7, it doesn’t have the best display out there but the display is extremely nice. The Kindle Fire HD is very new so there are no independent reviews judging its screen quality yet, so we don’t know how good or bad it is. However, it should be mentioned Amazon says the Kindle Fire HD uses “an advanced polarizing filter and custom anti-glare technology” to improve display quality.
Until we get independent reviews of the Kindle Fire HD, we will call this one a tie.
Winner: Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD
Nexus 7 is powered by quad-core 1.3GHz Tegra 3, ULP GeForce GPU, and 1GB RAM. The Kindle Fire HD is powered by dual-core 1.2GHz TI OMAP 4460, SGX544 GPU, and an unknown amount of RAM. (Amazon does not mention it but the Kindle Fire HD probably has at least 1GB RAM seeing as the original Kindle Fire has been bumped to 1GB RAM.)
Although on paper a quad-core may seem to possess more processing power than a dual-core (especially one that is clocked higher), independent reviews have come to the conclusion that Tegra 3 and TI OMAP 4460 provide comparable processing performance. On the graphics end, SGX544 clearly outshines the ULP GeForce GPU. Memory? We can’t say for sure but both tablets probably have the same amount of RAM. So, thanks to its GPU, it could be said the Kindle Fire has more processing power than the Nexus 7. However, I wouldn’t let that sway you one way or the other.
You see both the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 will perform similarly in everyday usage; both will play movies, TV shows, apps, games, etc. The hardware difference between the devices will only appear in benchmarks. So I’m calling this a tie, since there is no clear winner.
Winner: Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD
Nexus 7 comes with 8GB and 16GB options. Kindle Fire HD comes in 16GB and 32GB versions. Neither support microSD cards but both provide free cloud storage space, 1TB from Google on Google Drive for Nexus 7 and 20GB from Amazon on Amazon Cloud for Kindle Fire HD. So, if you are an avid fan of using cloud storage, then Nexus 7 is the clear winner. However, I’m guessing most people prefer more internal storage than more cloud storage so Kindle Fire HD wins here.
Winner: Kindle Fire HD
Google rates the battery life of the Nexus 7 at 8 hours of “active use”. Amazon rates the battery life of the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD at 11 hours of “continuous use”. Independent tests suggest the Nexus 7 gets 8-10 hours of juice; there are no independent tests on the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD battery life yet because of how new it is.
In reality, battery life will depend on how you use your tablets. Some people may get more battery life out of the Nexus 7 whereas others may get more battery life out of the Kindle Fire HD because of how differently each use their tabs. However, seeing as companies typically rate battery life as high as they possibly can without lying (meaning if Google says 8 hours for Nexus 7 and Amazon says 11 hours for Kindle Fire HD, the Kindle Fire HD probably has better battery life), I’m going to give this one to the Kindle Fire HD.
Winner: Kindle Fire HD
Here is where Amazon schools Google.
For $199 you can grab a 16GB Kindle Fire HD. For $199 you can also grab a Nexus 7 but an 8GB version — you need to fork up $249 if you want a 16GB Nexus 7. For that same $249, you can grab a 32GB Kindle Fire HD.
To tilt price further in favor of Amazon, Amazon doesn’t collect sales tax in many states. So for many people a Kindle Fire HD 7-inch will literally only cost $199 or $249. On the other hand, Google does collect sales tax on the Nexus 7, meaning you are paying 8-10% on top of the $199/$249 thanks to tax. (Technically you should be paying tax on your tax-free purchases when you file state taxes but… yeah… I wonder how many people declare stuff bought from Amazon on their tax returns…) Assuming a 10% sale tax, you would pay $218.9 for a 8GB Nexus 7 whereas you could grab a 16GB Kindle Fire HD for $199; or you would pay $273.9 for a 16GB Nexus 7 whereas you could grab a 32GB Kindle Fire HD for $249. Clearly Kindle Fire HD is the winner here.
Now it should be mentioned that Google currently provides a $25 Play Store gift card to everyone that purchases a Nexus 7 while Amazon provides only a $10 Amazon Appstore gift card to everyone that purchases a Kindle Fire HD. So the $15 different somewhat negates the extra sales tax expense when purchasing the Nexus 7, but it isn’t the same as not paying tax at all.
Winner: Kindle Fire HD
As with most high-end to high-end device comparisons, there is rarely a clear winner; the best device for you often depends on your needs and wants. In the case of Nexus 7 vs 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, I’d give the hardware crown to the Kindle Fire HD with extra kudos for cheaper cost but Nexus 7 still has better software. So your decision of Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD comes down to what is important to you.
Looking for the cheapest tablet? Grab Kindle Fire HD. Want the one with better hardware? Kindle Fire HD, again. Looking for the best software experience? Nexus 7 is the way to go. Rely heavily on Amazon but not so much on Google? Kindle Fire HD should be your choice. Etc.
Personally speaking, Nexus 7’s software advantage over the Kindle Fire HD is huge in my book. While I like how Amazon is stuffing as much top-of-the-line hardware as it can while keeping price down in the Kindle Fire HD, I don’t want to be trapped inside Amazon’s ecosystem with no way out aside from custom ROMs or modifications. So, if I were to pick between the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD, I’d definitely go with the Nexus 7. But, hey, that is just me and you may feel differently.
Hit up the links below to grab either a 7-inch Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7. And if you own a Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD, or will own one, feel free to let us know in the comments below how you feel about the tabs.