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iPad Air 2 vs. Kindle Fire HDX: Which is the best tablet?

Both Amazon and Apple have tablets at the ready for the holiday spending extravaganza. But that means consumers are faced with a choice. So, let's put Apple's iPad Air 2 up against Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX and see which comes out the winner.
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Topic: Apple
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Decisions, decisions…

An updated version of this post can be foundhere.

Given their popularity, I expect that tablets will be found underneath a lot of Christmas trees this year, and what a good time for it, since consumers are going to be spoilt for choice. With Amazon and Apple both having tablets at the ready for the holiday spending extravaganza, consumers are faced with a choice, and judging by my mailbox, people are having a hard time making up their minds as to which is the best.

So, let's put Apple's iPad Air 2 up against Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX and see which comes out the winner.

Note: Amazon has rebranded the Kindle Fire HDX the Fire HDX, but since most people still refer to it as the "Kindle Fire HDX," I have chosen to do so here too.

The Kindle Fire HDX comes in two flavors – 7-inch and 8.9-inch – but for the purposes of this piece I'll be focusing primarily on the second-generation 8.9-inch version as opposed to the older 7-inch version.

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Display

An updated version of this post can be found here.

Both the iPad Air 2 and the Kindle Fire HDX comes with what is universally known as 'retina' displays, that is, a display where the pixels are so small that at normal viewing distances they cannot be made out.

- The iPad Air 2 is equipped with a 9.7-inch 2048-by-1536 resolution LED backlit IPS display with a pixel density of 264 pixels per inch. It features a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating and an antireflective coating.

- The Kindle Fire HDX comes with a 8.9-inch 2560-by-1600 resolution display with a pixel density of 339 pixels per inch. The panel is also described as offering perfect color accuracy (100% sRGB). It also features max brightness over 400 nits, Dynamic Image Contrast, reduced glare and advanced polarizing filter.

Verdict

Technically, both displays fall into the 'retina' category, which means that at normal viewing distances the pixels will be too small for the human eye to make out. However, the higher pixel density of the Kindle Fire HDX means that you can hold the tablet closer to your face and still get a 'retina' experience.

So, if it's size you want, the iPad Air 2 is for you, but if quality is what you are after, then you should opt for the Kindle Fire HDX.

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Processor

An updated version of this post can be found here.

At the heart of all tablets is a processor, and while the screen is what we look at, the processor can make or break a device.

- The iPad Air 2 makes use of Apple's triple-core ARMv8-A 64-bit A8X processor running at 1.5GHz and an 8-core PowerVR 6XT GXA6850 GPU.

- The Kindle Fire HDX features 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 8084 processor, which also features an Adreno 420 GPU.

Verdict

This is a tough call. Apple's A8X is undoubtedly a fast processor, but the Snapdragon 805 has more cores to throw at heavy tasks when the going gets hard.

Since I'm convinced that in both cases the processing power is adequate, I'm calling this one a tie.

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Storage

An updated version of this post can be found here.

Apps, photos, and videos all take up storage space on tablets, so you want enough to hold all of your digital life.

- Apple offers the iPad Air 2 in 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB versions, with each storage bump adding $100 to the price. There is no option for expanding storage by using microSD cards.

- Amazon offers the Kindle Fire HDX is 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions, with each storage bump adding $50 to the price. There is no option for expanding storage by using microSD cards.

Verdict

Unless you want 128GB of storage space – and most people don't – then the Kindle Fire HDX is the winner here because Amazon has priced the storage far more reasonably than Apple has.

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Form factor

An updated version of this post can be found here.

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

- The iPad Air 2 weighs in at 0.98 pound, and measures 9.4 inches by 6.6 inches by 0.24 inch (240 mm x 169.5 mm x 6.1 mm).

- The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX measures 9.1 inches by 6.2 inches by 0.3 inches (231 mm x 158 mm x 7.8 mm) and is actually lighter than the iPad Air 2, weighing in at only 0.86 lbs.

Verdict

The Kindle Fire HDX is smaller and lighter than the iPad Air 2, 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.

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Operating system and ecosystem

An updated version of this post can be found here.

Two totally different platforms.

- The iPad Air 2 runs Apple's latest iOS 8 operating system, and apps are restricted to those available from the App Store.

- The Kindle Fire HDX runs a heavily modified version of Android 4.4.4, which Amazon calls Fire OS 4.0. Apps are restricted to Amazon's App Store and users cannot use Google's Play store.

Verdict

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 the biggest and best curated, but there's nothing wrong with Amazon's offering either. I use both, and while on the whole I find that Apple has a better selection of apps, Amazon's is 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 platform you happen to choose.

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Durability

An updated version of this post can be found here.

An important consideration if you are a butterfingers or little ones are going to be using the tablet.

- The iPad Air 2 features a glass and aluminum construction.

- The Kindle Fire HDX features a glass and plastic construction.

Being a user of both tablets, I can tell you that the Kindle Fire HDX is far more durable than the iPad Air 2. I wouldn't call the iPad fragile, but the thin aluminum and tight tolerances mean that even a small drop puts the display at risk.

Verdict

When it comes to durability, the Kindle Fire HDX wins.

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Battery life

An updated version of this post can be found here.

An important consideration for any tablet is battery life.

- Apple reports that the iPad Air 2 delivers "10 hours of surfing on the web on Wi-Fi, watching videos, or listening to music."

- Amazon reports that the Kindle Fire HDX delivers "up to 12 hours of reading, surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, and listening to music."

Verdict

Amazon wins by a clear two hours, and this is quite noticeable during real-world usage.

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Accessories

An updated version of this post can be found here.

Want to glam up your tablet?

- Apple has the broadest accessory ecosystem, with no end of accessories that you can connect or wrap of use with your iPad Air 2, from cases to model aircraft.

- You can get a decent selection of cases for the Kindle Fire HDX (Amazon's Origami case is excellent, albeit expensive), but apart from that, that's about it.

Verdict

If you're looking for a mature ecosystem of accessories to go with your tablet then the iPad Air 2 is the one to go for here.

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Price

An updated version of this post can be found here.

Down to the dollars and cents.

- The iPad Air 2 starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model, while the 16GB Wi-Fi plus cellular version costs $629.

- The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX starts at $379 for a 16GB Wi-Fi-only model, while the 16GB Wi-Fi plus cellular costs $479.

Verdict

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 2.

Another hands-down win for Amazon.

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Bottom line

An updated version of this post can be found here.

So, which is the best tablet of the two?

Personally, I think the Kindle Fire HDX is the better of the two. It's cheaper, lighter, has a better screen, and storage costs are more reasonable, especially if you want something beyond the base 16GB.

The iPad Air 2 is a great tablet, but the Kindle Fire HDX is better.

However, if you want to be with the cool kids then you may still want to go with the iPad Air 2. It's without a doubt the flagship tablet, instantly recognizable and gives owners access to a huge ecosystem of apps and accessories. If you already own an iPhone or an older iPad, and have made an investment in apps, this may sway you.

Bottom line, both are awesome tablets and you won't be disappointed with either of them.

(Image source: Amazon)

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