Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire HD 7 inch Wi-Fi: You'll Like One Better

By Rob Enderle September 21, 2012

The interesting thing about seven inch tablets is they really don’t try to be productivity tools like the 10 inch class struggles with. These truly live where the iPad was initially targeted at content consumption. They do what a smartphone does without the phone part and if you run the battery down playing games or browsing the Web, your phone still works. Seven inch tablets are ideal for medium sized purses and will fit in many men’s jacket pockets so they are more portable. They are also far cheaper than their 10 inch counterparts typically costing about 40 percent to 50 percent of what their larger brothers cost.

Strangely enough, up until the original Kindle Fire shipped, this size was thought to be a product graveyard but Kindle Fire sales spiked last year this time and took sales from Apple’s (News - Alert) iPad (folks likely didn’t buy two tablets very often). Since the Nexus 7 launched, it has been the sales king in the class, lighter, more powerful, more capable and similarly priced. But that just ended with the launch of the Kindle Fire HD 7’ Wi-Fi.


I’ve used the Nexus 7 for several months and found it to be better than the original Kindle Fire. My new Kindle Fire arrived last Friday and I’ve had several days to play with it. The two products are actually very different.

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As noted above, these are consumption devices and the new Kindle Fire HD, which is consistent with the older Kindle, is tightly focused on its purpose. It is organized around consumption and, given it is an Amazon device, around shopping on Amazon. It even opens with an ad when you first power it on or take it out of suspend (this actually isn’t annoying and the ads do appear targeted so they are things that I tend to be interested in). On interesting change to the Fire are the movement of the USB port to the side from the bottom (in Portrait mode) and the addition of a mini-HDMI socket. This is because you are more likely to use the tablet docked as either a set-top box, for movies, or as a high end alarm clock/radio all better in portrait mode. Even browsing the Web is better in landscape configuration. However, this means the new Kindle Fire doesn’t work with some of the existing speaker docks for the old own (these docks often used both the USB slot for charging and the headphone jack for sound).

Future docks will likely pull sound and/or video from the HDMI slot and the headphone jack has been moved to the top where it is far more convenient for listening to music or movie sound.

Nexus 7 vs. Kindle (News - Alert) Fire HD

This really depends on what you do most. If you mostly read eBooks from Amazon and watch movies from Amazon or Netflix the new Android Fire is your clear choice. It has a bigger screen which makes a difference and its port out is better should you want to share movies on a TV. As you would expect, the Fire is far better for reading (which is what I do most of the time anyway) . However, if you have a Google (News - Alert) smartphone and are invested in Google Apps (you can still install Kindle software) then the Nexus 7 will likely be your favorite. The Nexus has more depth in applications, and is better for games (for now) and has more breadth of uses.


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For instance the Nexus 7 has far more features (digital compass, GPS, NFC) some that are useful (GPS) and some you may never use in the device (NFC). The one exception is that the Fire appears to have a better Wi-Fi antenna system (dual antennas). But you may prefer using your phone which likely has these as well anyway.

On vectors the Amazon Kindle is using a strategy more similar to the original iPod and Palm Pilot, it is focused on doing a few things you want to do with a small tablet very well. Google is more on the Microsoft (News - Alert) vector of creating a broad platform that does a lot of things but can get caught up in the resulting complexity. A young Steve Jobs might have helped create the Kindle, a young Bill Gates (News - Alert) and Steve Ballmer (with roles reversed so they actually built hardware) might have created the Nexus 7.

Wrapping Up: Kindle Fire HD

Even Apple is becoming much less like Apple and much more like more traditional PC platforms with regard to their consumer products which increasingly look more like Swiss Army Knives than focused products like the iPods were. I still think people prefer a product that does a few core things well over one that does a lot of things, some adequately some not, but over time people change they may have changed here. Both Amazon and Google have fielded credible products and both are, for once, marketing them well. Which one wins may say more about us then it does them in the end.

I’d personally be happy with both products, but for my use, the new Kindle Fire edges out the Nexus 7. You may conclude differently. I do think it is fascinating that Amazon’s effort, which is largely staffed by ex-Microsoft folks, is more Apple like and Google’s effort (Google hates Microsoft and has been accused of copying Apple) is more Microsoft like. We live in very strange times.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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