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Tablet throwdown: Amazon's Kindle Fire HD vs Google's Nexus 7

Can Google put out the Fire?
Product: Amazon Kindle Fire HD | Publisher: Amazon | Format: Android, Kindle
Amazon Kindle Fire HD Multiformat, thumbnail 1
When it hit stores in the summer, Google's Nexus 7 managed to defy the expectations of even the late Steve Jobs, who famously declared that "7-inch tablets are going to be DOA".

The Nexus 7's elegant, sleek black design runs counter to its budget price tag, while the inclusion of Nvidia's power-packed quad-core Tegra 3 processor means it packs plenty of grunt for gaming and media playback.

It was fully deserving of its Pocket Gamer Gold Award, and to no one's great surprise became an instant bestseller.

From October 25th, however, the Nexus 7 will be going head-to-head with Amazon's newly announced Kindle Fire HD.

Like Google's touchscreen slate, Amazon's tablet has a 7-inch display. Unlike Google's touchscreen slate, the Kindle Run HD runs a heavily modified version of Android 4.0. And for those interested in prices, the 16GB base model Kindle Fire HD is £30 cheaper than Google's 16GB tablet.

On paper, Google could be facing some devastating competition here, but let's not rule the Nexus 7 out of this race quite yet...


In the vanity stakes, it looks like Amazon's second-generation Kindle Fire tablet might have the edge over Google's smart but rather functional-looking device.

There's no denying that the Asus-built Nexus 7 has a rather plastic quality to it, yet it does fit rather snugly in your hands thanks to a rubbery rear cover, which should also reduce the number of accidental drops.

Taking its cues from the massively successful Kindle e-Reader, the Fire HD might be a few grams heavier than its competitor (395g compared to 340g), but it is reportedly designed to fit more naturally in one hand.

It also boasts a soft touch, metallic paint finish that looks and feels more expensive than its Jelly Bean-powered opponent.

Power and OS

If you want to play the latest cutting-edge Android games like Dead Trigger and Horn, the Nexus 7 is really the only way to go. This is primarily due to the Tegra 3 processor under its hood, which keeps things zipping along at a fair old lick.

Many Android titles - particularly those available on iPad, too - are exclusive to tablets and phones based on Nvidia's architecture. This does mean that the Nexus 7 can get a little warm when it's getting a real workout, yet the near-console-quality visuals and effects are a worthy trade-off.

The Kindle Fire HD, meanwhile, is fuelled by a rather unremarkable 1.2GHz dual-core processor, which incorporates Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics. Sadly, we don't know which version of the PowerVR Amazon is employing in its tablet, although it's unlikely to be a top-of-the-line version (like that powering the new iPad for instance) given the product's budget price.

The Kindle Fire HD definitely lags behind in the horsepower stakes, then, and it doesn't help that Amazon's custom operating system is built on Android 4.0, while the Nexus 7 runs on pure Android 4.1 (a.k.a. Jelly Bean).

This means owners of the Nexus 7 benefit from Google's "Project Butter", which enables the latest OS to run at a silky 60 frames per second. The Kindle Fire HD can't hope to match that kind of performance.

Display and sound

Screen-wise, there's little between the two. Both offer a sharp 1280x800 display made of IPS LCD so that you can view them from multiple angles.

We'll have to wait until we have a final model of the Kindle Fire HD to review before we can really compare them, but Amazon has promised "anti-glare technology" to make the device more usable in daylight than the Nexus 7.

In the audio department, the Kindle Fire HD leaps ahead of its sonically drab opponent. Amazon's slate boasts some exclusive Dolby Digital Plus technology, which optimises the sound depending on whether you're watching a movie or chatting on Skype. It also features an inviting virtual surround mode that will enhance film playback and gaming (especially on headphones).

App stores and software

Google Play might be something of a hodgepodge of content, skewed heavily towards the search giant's rather unreliable video service and Kindle-lite eBookstore, but it's undoubtedly the best place to get the latest Android apps and games.

By contrast, the proprietary Amazon Appstore - which only launched last month in Europe - feels like a backwards step, especially considering its focus on casual games rather than heavy hitters.

Of course, the Kindle Fire HD experience is more about reading books, perusing magazines, watching movies, and downloading TV shows (under the LOVEFiLM banner) - apps are a secondary feature.

Crucially, you can't gain access to, or download apps from, Google Play on a Kindle Fire device, making it a markedly more closed system than its rival.

Battery life and connectivity

As with the displays, there's not a huge amount of difference between the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7 in terms of battery life.

The Nexus manages about nine hours on a single charge, while Amazon promises that the Kindle Fire HD will run for 11.

There's no way to add external memory to either tablet, so you're stuck with the 16GB you're given. Unless, of course, you shell out £30 more for the 32GB Kindle Fire HD (£199).

Both devices offer cloud storage solutions, though Amazon nudges ahead of its competitor in this department on account of the unlimited virtual space for products bought in its store that the retail behemoth offers.

And because of its dual-antenna, dual-band wi-fi, which should result in 40 per cent faster download and streaming speeds than rival products, the Kindle Fire HD earns another big tick.

HDMI connectivity is included on Amazon's device, too. This is invaluable for watching movies on a bigger screen, although the input lag inherent in screen mirroring when gaming will be off-putting for serious players.


Ultimately, choosing between this pair of rather lovely devices depends on what you demand and want from a 7-inch tablet.

If you want a media centre with powerful Dolby sound, then the Kindle Fire HD will do you proud and save you a fair few quid in the process.

Yet, if playing bleeding-edge mobile games is your thing, then the Nexus 7's Tegra 3 chipset makes it the obvious choice.

So, that's our opinion. Why not let your fellow pocket gamers know whether you're backing Google or Amazon in this 7-inch hardware battle in the comments below, though.

Reviewer photo
Paul Devlin 15 September 2012
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