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The Kindle Fire, while cute and cheap, is no iPad.

The Apple advantage


Pretty much every computer I've ever owned has been a Mac (not counting a Commodore 64, one Mac clone and a netbook I hacked to run the Mac OS). But when it comes to mobile devices, I've had many before I first purchased the iPhone 3G. I had a pair of Blackberries and a number of basic cell phones, too. When it comes to tablets, though, I've only owned two iPads: the original and the iPad that came out in April.

That is, until last week, when I picked up the dirt-cheap Kindle Fire for $129 via Amazon.com's Cyber Monday sale.

I figured, for that price, the tiny tablet would be a good iPad backup, and certainly more apt to withstand any drops by the clumsy fingers of a kindergartener. Plus, I was intrigued to see what this Android operating system was all about.

A week later I can report that the Kindle Fire, which costs one-third of an iPad Mini and one-quarter of a full-sized iPad, is no iPad.

It's not even close.

I'm not complaining, because I didn't have especially high expectations for this little tablet. It's thick, heavy and devoid of physical buttons like volume or "home." The screen resolution is poor by today's standards. The speakers are tinny. Web pages are slow and sluggish, and the Fire doesn't render HTML 5 fonts. The modified Android OS is clunky and unintuitive.

Yet, the tablet is useful – once you adjust your expectations.

Most of the apps I use on my iPad and iPhone are actually available for the Kindle, and if they're not, reasonable facsimiles are. So, in a sense, the Fire is a tremendous bargain for someone who wants an iPad but doesn't want to spend $500 (or $350).

But it's not an iPad.

I rarely take for granted the details Apple has baked into its hardware, how iOS has become an extension of the creative process. But after seeing, hands-on, the invention that infuriated the late Steve Jobs because it was such a blatant rip-off, I understand what he meant. The Kindle Fire and the Android language it runs, lack that certain something that makes using them feel ... seamless.

I understand how vague all of this sounds, and that's not an accident. The difference isn't just pixels and processors. It's something more sublime. It's not about being an Apple "fanboy," either. I bought this Kindle Fire expecting a bargain-basement tablet, and for its price, it's amazing. It's certainly more than half as good as the iPad Mini.

But for me, mobile computing is about the entire experience. The details matter when it comes to my productivity and my creativity.

And so I'll use the Kindle Fire. But only when the iPad is otherwise occupied or out of juice.

Try both and tell me you don't agree.

Talkbacks

crackerbat | Dec. 4, 2012 at 9:36 a.m. (report)

kindle owners know exactly what they are missing.. nobody expects a 150 dollar item to perform as well as a 600 dollar one. The need for this article is completely nonexistant. How about a review of the Ipad verses an equally powerful tablet like the Galaxy Tab 2?

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Photodavie | Dec. 4, 2012 at 7:41 a.m. (report)

I agree 100%. I only use my kindle fire places I'd be affraid to damage/lose my ipad (such as the beach). Kindle only owners don't know what their missing.

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crackerbat | Dec. 3, 2012 at 5:21 p.m. (report)

I'm shocked that the ebook, that doubles as a weak tablet, and costs 1/3rd the price isn't as good as your ipad mini... You know, come to think of it.. the Toyota Carolla I owned wasn't nearly as good as my BMW 535is, equally shocking, right?

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