Even since the Google Nexus 7 was in its rumor phase, many insider reports have claimed that the first Google Nexus tablet will be designed to be similar to the commercially successful Amazon Kindle Fire, but better. Fast forward a few months and, as we all now know, everything about the Google Nexus 7 was designed to compete against Amazon’s hit tablet, and – also as we now know – the Google Nexus 7 has unmistakably overthrown the Kindle Fire as the belt owner in the “best budget 7-inch tablet” category.
At the time when the Nexus 7 started shipping (that’s back in mid-July), the Kindle Fire was already an eight-month old product, so it was a rather logical overthrowing. Immediately after though, the reality that Amazon was bound to make a move in a timely manner started being a bit too obvious, as the Nexus 7 was simply outright trashing the most successful tablet that isn’t running iOS. It took Amazon a couple of months to unveil their Nexus 7 competitor, and they have named it the 7 inch Kindle Fire HD.
While there’s no way of knowing if Amazon rushed the introduction of the Kindle Fire 2 HD due to the reported commercial success of the Google Nexus 7, I’m sure Amazon had no reason to let the Nexus 7 gaining too much inertia in a market that the Seattle-based retailer was dominating until just a few months ago.
Note: The two other tablets that Amazon has unveiled at its recent event tend to other segments of the tablet market: the new Kindle Fire (2012) is priced at $159 and offers little improvements over the 2011 Kindle Fire, while the 8.9 inch Kindle Fire HD is priced starting $299 and can reach $499 in the AT&T LTE-enabled version, aiming to be a top-end tablet.
So how well does the 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire HD fare against the Google Nexus 7? Was Amazon able to regain the crown they’ve lost? Let’s find out!
Round 1: Design & Display
If we’re to consider the fact that the Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD are both tablets designed and intended for consuming multimedia content, one of the fresh standards that the Google Nexus 7 imposed in the budget tablet market was a decent screen. The Nexus tablet launched with a 7-inch LCD display running at a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution that offers decent angles and good contrast levels. It’s a display that does not suck in any way, which isn’t something you’ll encounter often in the budget tablet niche.
In this context, it is pleasant to see that Amazon has respected this new display quality standard, as hands-on reports claim that the 7-inch HD LCD display on the Kindle Fire HD (one that uses the same “almost-720p” resolution as the Nexus 7) is on par with the display on the Nexus 7. As both the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7 have 7-inch displays working at the same 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, the PPI density is the same with both displays, as is the 16:10 aspect ratio.
One thing that Amazon has mentioned, but couldn’t have been tested in these hands-on reports is the reduced glare of the display (Amazon claims to have used a polarizing filter). We’ll have to wait until the media will be able to look at the Amazon Kindle Fire HD in direct sunlight before we judge on this one small detail, but it’s safe to say that it’s a draw when it comes to the displays on the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD (7 inches).
On to the design of these tabs, there are few to any style differences between these two tabs. Nothing fancy, but no crap build material either. This goes for both the Google Nexus 7 as well as the Kindle Fire HD.
One small detail that some might want to take into consideration is the fact that the 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire HD, a tab that measures 193 x 137 x 10.3 mm, is a bit thinner than the Google Nexus 7, one that measures 198.5 x 120 x 10.5 mm. However, the Nexus 7 has a significantly smaller footprint.
Verdict: Draw -There’s nothing you can really hang on to when it comes to the design of both these tabs, while the displays share the exact same specs.
Round 2: Internal Hardware
While the display was a most welcomed and needed improvement when it comes to selling off the content that both Amazon and Google are currently heavily promoting, another aspect of the Nexus 7 is what propelled it into popularity among Android fans worldwide: at just $199, Google is handing out tablet with a slightly underclocked Tegra 3 SoC.
The only difference between the internals of the Nexus 7 and that of the HTC One X is the fact that the quad-core processor, which is normally clocked at 1.4GHz per core – as is the case with the HTC One X for example – is clocked at 1.2GHz on Google’s Nexus 7.
While Amazon mentioned that the Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 chip inside the 8.9 inch Kindle Fire HD is faster than the Tegra 3 SoC (a statement that not all experts seem to agree with), the 7-inch variant of the Kindle Fire HD is actually using a TI OMAP 4460 chip. The OMAP 4460 – consisting out of a 1.2GHz dual-core A9 processor and a PowerVR SGX540 GPU overclocked to 384 MHz – is the exact same chip that can be found in the Google / Samsung Galaxy Nexus, a device that was released in Q4 2011.
While Amazon did not reveal the amount of RAM memory featured by the Kindle Fire HD, I’m willing to bet that there’s 1 GB of RAM inside, exactly the same as with the Google Nexus 7.
Benchmark results are currently unavailable, although for all intents and purposes, the actual difference between the processing power of the Nexus 7 and that of the Kindle Fire HD (7 inch) won’t be by much smaller than it is when we compare the Nexus 7 against the Galaxy Nexus in benchmark scores, and that’s saying a lot. Here are some average scores obtained by the Nexus 7 and the Galaxy Nexus on some of the most respectable benchmarks out there:
It goes without saying that the Nexus 7 also wins a few points thanks to its GPS and NFC capabilities, but on the other hand, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD comes with double the amount of storage. At $199, the Nexus 7 comes with just 8 GB of internal storage, while the Amazon Kindle Fire HDcomes with 16GB of internal storage. The $249 versions come with 16 GB and 32 GB respectively, but neither have a microSD card slot.
Verdict: The Google Nexus 7 sports hardware specs that have remained equally impressive after Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD announcement
Round 3: Operating System
What if I told you that despite the advantage in processing power that the Nexus tablet has, when it comes to viewing HD videos and other entertainment-oriented tasks, the Kindle Fire HD isn’t much slower than the Nexus 7? And that’s all because while the Google Nexus 7 is using a vanilla flavored Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS (and will most likely by the first tablet to receive future OS updates), the Kindle Fire HD is running on a forked, ad-supported and heavily skinned variation of Android 4.0 ICS.
Basically all you can do with the Kindle Fire HD is access the content that Amazon provides via the Amazon Appstore and nothing else. The result is that these simple tasks don’t require as much processing power as they would on a fully fledged mobile OS like Jelly Bean. The downside is that you are locked into the Amazon ecosystem. That might be enough for some, as the method has proven to work quite well for Amazon in the U.S., but I’m sure that buying a tablet that comes with big, nasty chains that are to be attached is one thing plenty of people are going to avoid.
Verdict: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean vs Amazon Appstore, your choice!
While Amazon is to be appreciated for the improvements it has made to the Kindle Fire (it’s surprising that the actual successor of the original Kindle Fire is called the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, wouldn’t you agree?), the reality is that Tegra 3, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and a decent display make for a killer combination.
The Google Nexus 7 is still on top of the budget 7-inch tab hill.
As always, feel free to disagree with everything I’ve said in the comment section below!