iPad Air vs. Kindle Fire HDX: Which is the best tablet?

iPad Air vs. Kindle Fire HDX: Which is the best tablet?

Summary: With Amazon and Apple both having unveiled their offerings ready for the holiday spending extravaganza, consumers are faced with a choice. So, let's put Apple's iPad Air up against Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX and see which comes out the winner.


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  • Form factor

    Size and weight are a concern when you expect to hold a device for extended periods.

    • The iPad Air is svelte product, weighing in at just one pound, and measuring 9.4 inches by 6.6 inches by 0.29 inch (240 mm x 169.5 mm x 7.5 mm).
    • The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX measures 9.09 inches by 6.22 inches by 0.31 inches (231 mm x 158 mm x 7.8 mm) and is actually lighter than the iPad Air, weighing in at only 0.84 lbs.


    The Kindle Fire HDX is smaller and lighter than the iPad Air, which is to be expected given that it has a smaller screen, but if size and/or weight are a concern, then this is another win for Amazon. 

    (Image source: Apple and Amazon)

  • Price

    Down to the dollars and cents.

    • The iPad Air starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model, while the 16GB Wi-Fi plus cellular version costs $629.
    • The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX starts at $229 for a 16GB Wi-Fi-only model, with the 16GB Wi-Fi plus cellular costs $329. The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX starts at $379 for a 16GB Wi-Fi-only model, with the 16GB Wi-Fi plus cellular costs $479.


    If the choice is down to price, the Kindle Fire HDX is the clear winner. You can pick up an 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX with 64GB of storage and Wi-Fi plus LTE for less than the cost of a 16GB Wi-Fi plus cellular iPad Air. 

    Another hands-down win for Amazon.

    (Image source: Apple and Amazon)

  • Operating system and ecosystem

    Two totally different platforms.

    • The iPad Air runs Apple's latest iOS 7 operating system, and apps are restricted to those available from the App Store.
    • The Kindle Fire HDX runs a heavily modified version of Android 4.2.2, which Amazon calls Fire OS 3.0. Apps are restricted to Amazon's App Store and users cannot use Google's Play store.

    See also: The very best tablets of 2013 


    To be honest, when it comes down to which app store is best, it is pretty much a matter of personal preference. Apple's App Store is probably the biggest and best curated, but there's nothing wrong with Amazon's offering either. I use both, and while on the whole I fnd that Apple has a better selection of apps, Amazon's it not bad either.

    If you're already locked to one ecosystem or another then this might sway you, but otherwise it's not really much of an issue which you happen to choose.

    (Image source: Apple and Amazon)

Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Apple, iPad, Tablets, The Year's Best Tech for Work and Play

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  • Nooooooo

    • Amazon includes Unlimited FREE cloud storage with Kindle HDX

      Amazon includes Unlimited FREE cloud storage with Kindle HDX for all Amazon content and you can move content to/from the cloud with one click. It's not just the HDX either.

      However, for me I'm currently drawing the line at 9.7 inches on the screen. I have a Kindle Fire HD 8.9 and with my eyeglass prescription I find the size to be just a smidge too small. Sure I could go back and get my prescription adjusted but there will be a problem in my visible range somewhere. I already got custom made glasses so I could do 3 things simultaneously: 1. Read a document lying flat on the table in front of me. 2. Easily see my full laptop screen behind the document 3. See the person across the conference table lengthwise to determine if they were smiling or smirking. Adjusting for a smaller tablet screen will likely upset that balance. Still the HDX is awesome and my mom or niece is getting my HD, they may have to fight over it.
      • Similar

        "Amazon includes Unlimited FREE cloud storage with Kindle HDX for all Amazon content"

        Apple does the same for iTunes content.
        • Just not very well

          Just nowhere near as well integrated into the system or as easy to use as on a Kindle. With the kindle it is one click access and you barely notice that you are going between local and cloud content. That is not the case with my iphone, although I do not own an ipad so maybe that is somewhat better integrated, but that is not what I have heard.
          • Very well.. IMO

            If you go to the music app on ios, and are signed into iTunes account, all your purchased music is all there. Same with videos. Contacts integrated. Pictures integrated (with photo stream). No hassle for me at all. Feels like no cloud storage transfers. That's for me anyway.
            Murphy Mulvane
          • Shame that...

            there are nowhere near as many apps for the fire...
          • Nobody cares

            when most of the apps are "zombie apps" (crappy apps that nobody downloads, that exist for the sole purpose of boosting the number of apps in the store) or incomplete, outdated versions of websites where you can't zoom.
            Jacob VanWagoner
    • Yep

      It's true, the tablet is more stable than the iPad with iOS 7 and certainly more stable than the Nexus 7 FHD!
      • One note though...

        Streaming prime instant video leaves you with a dead tablet after 5 hours! Nowhere near what Amazon claims.
        • There are considerations to those 5 hours

          Slickjim: Screen brightness, network adapter, battery percentage when you started. As well as content viewed. That is asking a lot, I mean come on. If you are watching movies back to back via network, no it will not last. But if you are watching movies back to back from a 32gb microSD then it would be longer.

          The network adapter is drawing power as well as the gpu. I think it's more than enough for a coast to coast flight. There are microUSB battery packs if you need more.

          And who know under what conditions the battery tests were made. Often companies cannot even fathom what the user will be doing. Or how many background apps will be running.
          • Meh...

            How many native apps does the Kindle have?
  • Ok, I was surprised

    I figured it would be the same old, same old. I was surprised with the final verdict. And pleased actually about the terrific competition that is building in the tablet market.
    • Competition Yeah- but the consumer is losing

      The consumers are being hit left and right with what is allowed into the market. There shelves full of junk tablets that barely run Android and cannot run many apps. Off brands where there is no support, non-standard charge ports, proprietary interfaces, and loaded with crapware that you cannot even interact with other Android users.

      Some of the strong considerations I tell users are "Will it run Skype?", "Will it connect to Google Play?" and System Memory and microSD Cards that it supports? Can you find a replacement charge cable in stores?

      Don't get tricked and have your kids disappointed or fill up the junk drawer. You know what I mean- those electronics items you purchased but rarely or cannot use because it takes a needle pin charger that Radio Shack don't have or the Shin-Wah BirdKing adapter is not on eBay.
  • @Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I decided some time back that I will not read multi page articles from zdnet. I am here to just go on the record that I right away skipped to the last page instead of reading the article.

    In future, I will close the page if it shows a multi page article if zdnet is not getting modern regarding articles.
    • You got THAT right

      But—but—if the article is on a single page, can ZDNet thrust as many ads in front of our eyeballs?
      • Wait, you see ads?

        ADP ftw!
        • What is this...ads?

          Is that what the wasted space on the page is supposed to be?
    • spicycheeks

      So you would rather purchase a product without reading reviews on it? Is that laziness or total irresponsibility? That is what is wrong with the world we live in now...
      • Surely

        You don't rely on ZDNet for a product review????
      • This is not a review

        To say this is a review when the reviewer doesn't even have a 8.9" Kindle HDX is a joke.