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eReader vs Tablet — Kindle Fire HD vs iPad mini — Which to Buy?

Kindle Fire HD vs iPad MiniA few years ago, almost no one had a tablet. These days, tablets are nearly as common as air. As they’ve risen in popularity, so has the number of options you have when buying one.

One of the more recent trends in the world of tablets has been the smaller form factor. No longer are we required to lug around a full 9.7” iPad or a 10.1” Motorola Xoom. Instead, we have a wide variety of 7” tablets that tuck nicely into your jacket pocket or purse.

The two most popular on the market are the Kindle Fire HD and the iPad Mini. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. If you’re looking to just own one, which should you go with?

iPad Mini

iPad Mini: The Good

The iPad Mini is everything you’ve come to know and love from the full-sized iPad, shrunk down to a 7” form factor. The first version of the iPad Mini is essentially a shrunk-down iPad 2 – the last model before Retina display took its grasp on the iDevice world. The screen isn’t as sharp as it is on newer iPads, but the iPad Mini 2nd Gen (which will be out sometime in 2013) will have Retina. (Rumor Mill Guaranteed).

The iPad Mini’s biggest strength is its app catalog. It’s able to run every app in the App Store, which is far and away the number one reason to buy an Apple tablet over any other brand. Whether you’re talking productivity, games or anything in between, the best apps almost always go to Apple first, and then make their way to Android.

Kindle Fire HD

Kindle Fire HD: The Good

On a tighter budget? The Kindle Fire HD 7” is $199 – two thirds the price of the iPad Mini’s $329 entry point. With more hardware power (and with a much better screen!), the Kindle Fire HD packs far more punch than Apple’s 7” tablet. If you’re looking for bang for your buck, you absolutely get it here.

The Kindle Fire is, essentially, an Amazon digital content portal. Whether you’re talking about Kindle eBooks, Amazon mp3, Amazon Instant Video or Amazon’s own app store, everything Amazon is known for in the digital content realm is at home on the Kindle Fire. (Amazon actually takes a slight financial hit for each Kindle Fire it sells, with the ultimate goal to make that up in content sales.)

Where One Succeeds, The Other Fails

The iPad Mini has more content available for you to browse. It has more games, it has more productivity apps and it has more eBooks (you can download a Kindle app to it, as well as a Nook app, Kobo app, etc.). The higher price point brings with it serious advantages.

The iPad Mini’s OS is also more flexible. The Kindle Fire runs a modified version of Android, which doesn’t run every Android app that’s out there. This is not a huge problem, but it is something you must consider. When the first-gen Kindle Fire came out, it could really only be thought of as an eReader, but Amazon is dedicated to making the Kindle Fire platform iPad competitive, so more and more apps are becoming available each and every day.

Amazon has most (though not all) of the apps you’d want, all available for download through your device or on Amazon.com. Plus, Amazon has a daily “free Kindle Fire app” on its website, which provides a paid app every day for free. One click and it’s yours.

What’s the Bottom Line?

The iPad Mini is a fashion accessory with complete iPad 2 capability in a 7″ size. If you want an iPad, nothing else will do. However, if this is a secondary device (if you already had an iPad, for example, and this is for the kids), the $199 Kindle Fire is a lot of hardware for the money and, head-to-head, it has more horsepower than the iPad Mini.

Just keep in mind, later this year, when the iPad Mini 2 comes out, it will blow the Kindle Fire HD out of the water. Fashion or Function? It’s your choice.

FINAL TALLY SHEET:

Best Hardware: Kindle Fire HD (The specs do not lie!)

Best Software: iPad Mini (No argument)

Best Overall Value: Kindle Fire HD (Nerd/Geek bragging rights)

Best Overall Fashion Accessory: iPad Mini (Fanboy bragging rights)

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More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of NBC Universal’s Live Digital with Shelly Palmer, a weekly half-hour television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.