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Google Nexus 7 2 vs Kindle Fire HDX 7 vs HDX 8.9

Andrew Williams

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Nexus 7 vs Kindle Fire hDX
Nexus 7 vs Kindle Fire hDX

The next wave of high-quality, low-cost Android tablets are here. The top contenders are the Google Nexus 7 2 and the two new Kindle Fire HDX tablets from Amazon.

There’s the 7-inch version and the larger Kindle Fire HDX 8.9. All three offer great specs at a low price. But which is the right one to go for?

Nexus 7 2 vs Kindle Fire HDX 7 vs HDX 8.9 - Design

Dividers 5

Nexus 7 2 – Matt plastic back, 8.7mm thick, 290g

Kindle Fire HDX 7 – Matt and gloss angular plastic back, 9mm thick, 186mm wide, 303g

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 – Matt and gloss angular plastic back, 7.8mm thick, 231mm wide. 374g

The Nexus 7 2 keeps its looks as simple as possible. It’s black, it’s covered in plastic and it bears little in the way of eye-catching bits beyond the Nexus logo on the back.

It’s no style icon, but it’s a very practical design that looks decent, will offend precisely no-one, and means the tablet doesn't weigh much. It’s just 290g – which is feather-light for a tablet.

The Kindle Fire twins are altogether more striking. Their rears are again made of plastic, but use an angular design that’s out to give them a more recognisable look than most Android tablets.

It’s still a pretty inoffensive look, though.

The design issue we had with the first generation UK Kindle Fire tablets was that they were very heavy. Amazon has solved this with the HDX range. The smaller 7-inch tablet is just 303g – only 13g heavier than the Nexus 7 2, while the 8.9-inch edition is 374g. It’s significantly heavier, but this remains light for a tablet of its size, for example the iPad Air is 1.2-inches larger but weighs 469g. It's slightly large for breezy one-handed use - but no more so than an iPad mini 2, really.

Last time around, the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire weighed 567g – some 10.1-inch tablet weigh less. The HDX are altogether much more practical tablets.

We’re giving this win to the Nexus 7, though, because it has a much narrower screen surround to the left and right (/top and bottom, depending on aspect), which is much more in keeping with current design trends.

Nexus 7 2

Excuse the fingerprints - here's the Nexus 7 2

Nexus 7 2 vs Kindle Fire HDX 7 vs HDX 8.9 - ScreenDividers

Nexus 7 2 – 7-inch IPS screen, 1,920 x 1,200 pixel resolution, 323ppi

Kindle Fire HDX 7 – 7-inch IPS screen, 1,920 x 1,200 pixel resolution, 323ppi

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 – 8.9-inch IPS screen, 2,560 x 1,600 pixel resolution, 339ppi

The screen quality competition between the Amazon and Google tablets is very difficult to judge. They all have top-quality screens, with similarly high resolutions that make images and text about as sharp as they can possibly be.

All three use the IPS screen type, which is great for angled viewing.

However, there have been some reports that the HDX tablets have imperfect colour reproduction, with a tint to the display that can come from less than perfect screen optimisation/quality assurance. We didn’t see anything like that in the Nexus 7 2.

For movie-watching, though, the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX is easily the best of the three. Bigger is better when you're watching a blockbuster, and the tablet also has better speakers than the other two.

HDX Kindle FIre

Nexus 7 2 vs Kindle Fire HDX 7 vs HDX 8.9 - PowerDividers 1

Nexus 7 2 – Quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro with 2GB RAM

Kindle Fire HDX 7 – Quad-core 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 with 2GB RAM

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 – Quad-core 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 with 2GB RAM

The Amazon tablets are much more powerful than the Nexus 7 2. They all use Qualcomm processors, but the Kindle Fire HDX twins use the Snapdragon 800 chipset, which is newer and faster than the Snapdragon S4 Pro of the Nexus 7 2.

All three are quad-core CPUs, but the Nexus 7 is clocked at 1.5GHz, the Kindle Fires 2.2GHz – they also use more advanced processor cores, giving them an extra lead. Each tablet has 2GB of RAM.

Raw power is quite different from actual performance, but the Kindle Fire HDX tablets do have much more power on tap than the Google tablet.

Nexus 7 2 vs Kindle Fire HDX 7 vs HDX 8.9 – SoftwareDividers 2

Nexus 7 2 – Android 4.3

Kindle Fire HDX 7 – Custom Amazon UI Fire 3.0, Android Jelly Bean

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 - Custom Amazon UI Fire 3.0, Android Jelly Bean

Real-world performance is dictated not just by specs, but by software too. The Nexus 7 2’s performance is superb, despite having a slightly behind-the-curve processor. It uses a vanilla version of the latest edition of Android, version 4.3, and as a result there’s little-to-no lag here.

The Kindle Fire HDX tablets use Android too, but with a thick custom interface dumped on top. Amazon calls it the Fire UI, and it looks nothing like Android.

It’s designed to get you consuming Amazon-owned content, from its music store, book store, the Amazon shop itself and LoveFilm (also owned by Amazon). You do not get access to Google Play, but Amazon’s own app store – yep it’s another way for Apple to make a few pennies off Kindle Fire owners.

In the past we’ve found the Fire UI to be slow and laggy, and to not have quite the apps selection we expect from an Android tablet. The Kindle Fire HDX and HDX 8.9 are not tablets for app fiends, but the Amazon App Store does offer a pretty reasonable selection these days. For the 'full' Android experience, though, the Nexus is the only choice here.

We’ll be back with more impressions on the Kindles’ performance once we’ve spent more time with them but – at best – they’ll be on-par with the Nexus 7 2.

Nexus 7 2 vs Kindle Fire HDX 7 vs HDX 8.9 - Storage

Dividers 3

Nexus 7 2 – 16/32GB, non-expandable

Kindle Fire HDX 7 – 16/32/64GB, non-expandable

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 – 16/32/64GB, non-expandable

None of these tablets offer expandable storage. You have what’s built into the thing, and that’s it.

The Nexus 7 2 comes in two capacities, 16GB and 32GB. Both Kindle Fire HDX tablets offer these, and a 64GB version.

But which offers the best value when ramping-up storage? You pay an extra £40 to go from 16GB to 32GB with a Nexus 7 2. It’s just £30 to do so with a Kindle Fire HDX 7 – but this is bumped up to £40 in the 8.9-inch version. There’s no real justification for this, but it’s hardly the most extortionate charge.

To go from 32GB to 64GB costs – once more – is an extra £30 with the HDX 7 and £40 with the HDX 8.9.

Nexus 7 2 vs Kindle Fire HDX 7 vs HDX 8.9 – Battery LifeDividers 4

Nexus 7 2 – 9 hours (3,950mAh)

Kindle Fire HDX 7 – 11 hours (4,550mAh)

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 – 12 hours (mAh TBC)

Amazon tablets significantly outlast the Nexus 7 2 because – simply enough – they have larger batteries. The Nexus has a 3,950mAh battery, the Kindle Fire HDX 7 a 4,550mAh one. The exact size of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 battery hasn’t been released, but it must be comfortably the largest of the three as Amazon says you’ll get a full extra hour of charge compared to the smaller HDX 7. You get 11 hours out of an HDX 17, and 12 from a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9

Video tests, and Google’s own claims, show that the Nexus 7 2 lasts for a solid – if unremarkable – nine hours. Using a slightly smaller battery is likely one of the reasons why the Nexus is lighter than the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX.

Amazon has clearly made battery stamina a focus, and that’s a good thing.

Nexus 7 2 vs Kindle Fire HDX 7 vs HDX 8.9 - Camera

Dividers 5

Nexus 7 2 – 5-megapixel main camera, 1.2MP front

Kindle Fire HDX 7 – Front-facing 720p camera only

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 – 8-megapixel main camera, 720p front camera

Tablet cameras are a tricky thing. They are ridiculed, but some people do use them. The Kindle Fire HDX 7 has just the one camera – a 720p video chat camera that sits above the screen.

Both the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and Nexus 7 2 have the full complement of cameras – one on the front, one on the back. The Kindle’s is higher-end – it has an 8-megapixel sensor where the Nexus 7 2’s is a 5-megapixel sensor. Neither camera has a flash, making them fairly useless in low-light conditions.

Verdict

Dividers

All three of these tablets are well-made and offer lots of spec power for not much money. However, the custom interfaces used by the Kindle Fire HDX duo mean that tech enthusiasts should really go for the Nexus 7 2, even if the Amazon tablets are a bit more powerful. With great screens and light bodies, the battle is much more closely fought than it with the last generation of Nexus and Kindle Fire tablets, though.

Next, read our iPad mini 2 vs Nexus 7 2 comparison

JCS

October 25, 2013, 7:01 pm

I get that the Kindle heavily promotes Amazon content through it's own app store, but how is that different from Nexus promoting Google content through it's own app store (Google Play), or iPad promoting Apple content through iTunes? The primary distribution source for apps, for each of these products, is from the corporation that builds the product. Quantity of choice I understand (more apps available), but it's odd to only point it out with one manufacturer.

hlo

October 26, 2013, 10:24 pm

With the nexus,you can use both the Google Playstore AND the Amazon App Store.

DrCMS

October 28, 2013, 9:09 pm

Having used a 1st Gen Nexus 7 and a Kindle Fire HD I would NEVER recommend a Kindle tablet to anyone as they are just spoiled by the Amazon OS overlay. My daughter uses he Nexus all the time but my wife hardly uses her Kindle any more because she dislikes the way the software works since she's seen how a tablet can work for you. I'm going try to root her Kindle and load a custom ROM but it's not as easy as it should be on these Amazon tablets.

RichardWrite

October 30, 2013, 1:45 am

Having also used the 1st Gen Nexus 7 and an 8.9" Kindle Fire HD, I'm just the opposite: Happily ditching Google's tablets for Amazon's. Just too many nice extras that Amazon offers that Google doesn't for me to be happy with boring ol' Nexus any more.

RichardWrite

October 30, 2013, 1:46 am

And with the Kindle I have access to, what, a dozen app stores? Other than the Playstore itself, I've never found an app that I want that I can't EASILY install on a Kindle Fire.

somesome11

November 4, 2013, 6:59 pm

My wife and I both have Kindle Fires, and we love the overlay "carousel". We also haven't had an issue with apps, but really more than anything it depends on what you use it for. I use the kindle for watching Hulu, Netflix, and occasionally browsing the web to lookup a wiki on a video game or something of that sort. My wife listens to the music or watches videos on it. All of those things are better done on the device with better processing power and better battery. The carousel is also plenty big and makes navigation a breeze so you can prop it up with it's case and easily navigate. A Kindle is much more user-friendly for someone who's intimidated by technology for sure, I would feel confident giving one to my technophobe mother for example.

Not saying the Nexus doesn't have it's place. I'm sure for someone who uses a tablet for work, or who for some absurd reason thinks a tablet should replace a PC, the Nexus may be more inline with what they're looking for. But the Kindle Fire tablets are great, nice and simple with a clean and accessable interface. We've gone over app selection with Android a few years back, if that's the sole qualifier it's a moot point at best. The Fire will have 95% of the actually useful apps that a normal android system will have, just like Android will have 95% of what are actually useful from the Apple/iTunes store. I think both devices have their place, and to be quite honest I hate the direction Android's gone in the past few versions (the ugly non-functional cube-spin instead of the slide, for example), but that's personal preference, and that's all it really amounts to with these two devices. I'd give the Kindle Fire to elderly folks, young children, and people who aren't big on technology but like media. I'd give the Nexus to anyone not in those categories.

davidintel

November 8, 2013, 10:35 pm

The rear camera of the Kindle Fire hdx 8.9 does indeed have a flash, an led one.

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