Those looking for a full-size tablet for around $400 are likely to find themselves debating between the original iPad Air and Amazon’s Fire HDX 8.9. This fall, Amazon updated the HDX 8.9 with a faster processor, and at roughly the same time Apple introduced the iPad Air 2, lowering the cost of the original. Now that they have similar prices, screen sizes, and designs, choosing between them can be challenging. To simplify this process, we compared the two side by side.
Build & Design
The designers behind both tablets put a premium on creating slim, lightweight devices, but the Fire HDX 8.9 comes out slightly ahead in this area. It weighs in at 0.8 pounds and measures 0.3 inches thick, while the iPad Air is 1 pound and has the same thickness.
Really, the entire HDX 8.9 is a bit smaller than its rival: it’s 9.1 x 6.2 inches, versus the iPad that’s 9.4 x 6.6 inches. However, this doesn’t make the Fire noticeably more portable, as both are full-size tablets that need to be carried in a case.
As far as esthetics go, that’s generally in the eye of the beholder. Both tablets look very similar from the front, but Apple went for a cleaner, simpler design for the back, while Amazon’s offering has beveled edges on its back plate. The iPad Air comes in black or white casings, while the Fire is available only in black.
The primary reason the Fire has a smaller form factor is clear: It has a smaller screen. It’s just under 9 inches, while the iPad Air has one that’s 9.7 inches. Amazon’s display is 36.8 square inches, while Apple’s is 44.6 sq. in. In short, Amazon’s is 83% of the size of Apple’s. A nearly 20% difference is quite noticeable, giving the iPad Air a real advantage.
On the other hand, the HDX 8.9’s screen looks slightly better. It is 2560 x 1600, with a pixel density of 339 ppi. The iPad’s screen is 2048 x 1536, so its pixel density is 264 ppi. Also, the Fire comes out just a bit ahead in measurements of vividness of color and performance in bright ambient light. That said, this is a case of comparing a very, very good display to one that’s really outstanding; there’s a difference, but it’s subtle.
Buttons and Ports
The iPad includes the usual collection of power and volume buttons along its edges, while Amazon put these on the back bezels, a marginally superior system.
Neither tablet has a removable memory card slot, but the Fire can access the contents of micro-USB drives. Still, for both devices, users will mostly have to rely on internal and cloud storage.
There is a vast array of accessories available for the iPad Air, especiallywhen it comes to different styles of cases and external keyboards. The same can’t be said of the Fire, as there’s only a handful of similar accessories designed for it.
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