Kindle Fire HD 7 vs Nexus 7

Amazon has released their new Kindle Fire HD tablets, and both the 7 and 8.9 inch versions are pretty well designed and feature a nice array of features. However, the Kindle Fire HD 7 faces some very stiff competition from Google’s own Nexus 7 tablet – in fact, it makes you wonder why one would choose the limited Kindle Fire (which does not have a full version of Android) over the more powerful and equally as well specced Nexus 7. Let’s take a closer look at the two and see how exactly far apart they are.

Design

Both the Kindle Fire HD 7 and the Nexus 7 (which is made by Asus) have a very similar exterior design – simplistic, with no frills, yet very well built and sturdy despite the plastic materials used throughout the devices. The Nexus 7 has a textured back cover that makes it slightly easier to hold without it slipping, while the Kindle Fire HD 7 replaces that with a soft-touch plastic that is just as good for the task. The Nexus 7 measures 198.5 x 120 x 10.5 mm and weighs 340 grams, while Amazon’s slate is 193 x 137 x 10.3 mm and weighs 395 grams – you certainly can’t choose between these two tablets based on the size and exterior design alone.

Hardware

Much of the hardware specs are identical on both tablets: both of them have the same 7 inch, 1280×800 IPS LCD display, a single front facing 1.2 camera, Wifi N and Bluetooth, and all the usual sensors required for normal operation.

Now for the differences: the only thing that the Kindle Fire HD 7 can boast about when compared to the Nexus 7 is the HDMI out capability. The rest of the specs are clearly better on the Nexus 7 – it has a quad core Tegra 3 SoC running at 1.3 GHz (compared to the dual core TI OMAP 4 on the Kindle), 1024 MB of RAM (768 on the Kindle), NFC and GPS radios, HD video recording and a large 4325 mAh battery. That may not seem like much, but it definitely makes a difference in everyday use, and it’s hard to choose Amazon’s offer especially when both devices having the same price.

Software

But the biggest difference between the Kindle Fire HD 7 and the Asus/Google Nexus 7 is in the software – while the latter has a full installation of the latest version of Android (4.1 Jelly Bean) and is open for modding and hacking, Amazon’s tablet has a limited, reader-oriented and heavily customized version of Android 4.0. That may not seem like much of a problem initially, but factor in all the apps on the Google Play store and you might start to understand why the Nexus seems like the better choice.

Android 4.1 is smoother, faster, and very much future-proof, especially when it can run all of the awesome apps you can find around for Android, plus there’s support for Android Beam, Face Unlock, encryption and more – it’s a full Android installation that you can customize to your liking.

Amazon’s custom OS, on the other hand, is pretty limited in what you can do – of course, you can read books, use Amazon’s services, watch video and more, but once you need to do something more specific like connecting to a remote server via SSH, you’ll hit a roadblock. That said, the custom UI is certainly very sleek and pleasing, and if you’re a frequent reader with a huge library, you’ll love it.

Conclusion

Amazon touts the Kindle Fire HD 7 as a tablet, but it’s really more of an advanced eReader. Since both devices are priced the same, Nexus 7 makes more sense to purchase if you want a more universal device – and since the display is the same, reading books and browsing the Web is equally as comfortable on both devices, plus you get all the benefits that only an unlocked boot loader and a full Android installation can give you.

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