A tablet is near the top of many people's shopping list. According to a Consumer Electronics Association poll, 76 percent of consumers surveyed said they planned to buy a tablet.
But which tablet? Last week, I thought consumers might be thinking about either the iPad mini versus the iPad maxi.
Apparently the choice is the Kindle Fire HD, at least according to CouponCodes4u.com last month. In a recent month, there have been 12,000 on-site searches for the term "Kindle Fire HD" compared to just over 5,800 searches made for the term "iPad mini."
Of course, this search disparity could be because folks checking out a coupon site would naturally lean toward the less-expensive Kindle, which is $130 cheaper than the iPad mini.
But is the Kindle Fire HD actually the better buy or the better value? Let's compare the iPad mini to the Kindle Fire HD.
If you or your intended gift recipient is an Apple iTunes shopper for music, movies or books, your tablet buying choice has been made. iContent purchased on iTunes will not play on a Kindle Fire HD without employing special software.
Therefore, obviously, if you're NOT an iTunes shopper, you have a far more wide open tablet choice.
However, a Kindle places you in a similar shopping trap as an iPad. While music bought through Amazon on a Kindle should be able to be transferred to an Apple product, movies purchased through a Kindle likely cannot be transferred and books definitely cannot.
But more importantly, a Kindle limits your digital content shopping choices. You can only buy from Amazon. On an iPad, you can consume content from a variety of stores – including the Kindle book store.
The photo at the top left presents a bit of an optical illusion. It looks as if the iPad mini is a larger device than the Kindle Fire HD
Yes, iPad mini has a much larger screen – 7.9 inches measured diagonally vs. Kindle Fire HD's 7-inch display.
But there are two buts.
First "but": Even with its larger screen, iPad mini is actually smaller and lighter physically. Its larger screen is what makes the iPad mini look larger than the Kindle.
In reality, iPad mini measures 7.87 inches tall, 5.3 inches wide, .28 inches thin and weighs 11.4 ounces.
Kindle Fire HD, however, is a slightly shorter 7.6 inches tall, a hair wider at 5.4 inches, much thicker at 0.4 of an inch, and a much heavier 13.9 ounces.
Practically, this means iPad is lighter to carry and easier to hold in one hand for reading for longer periods of time (although iPad mini's thinner bezel gives you less gripping space than the Kindle's more generous bezel).
Second "but": iPad mini's screen has a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels vs. Kindle Fire HD's 1280 x 800 pixels.
What this means is that smaller type on an iPad mini is a bit fuzzier compared to Kindle Fire HD's overall excellent screen. But we're talking really tiny type, such as headlines on a full-sized Web page such as CNN. I found no problem reading book text on iPad mini.
iPad mini compared to Kindle Fire is really a – and forgive the cliché pun – apples to oranges evaluation.
Kindle Fire HD is designed as a content consuming tablet, while iPad mini is a more a full-function tablet. In other words, you can do a lot more on an iPad mini than on a Kindle Fire HD.
For instance, Apple offers more than seven times as many apps. While Kindle Fire HD runs Android, you need special Kindle/Amazon apps, of which there are around 30,000, compared to more than 225,000 iPad-specific apps.
Kindle does offer most popular free and best-selling apps, just not a lot of specialty apps.
But iPad mini offers two important hardware features lacking in Kindle: a rear camera (5 MP) – Kindle offers only a front lens for video chatting – and GPS. Apple's Maps app may have gotten a bad rap, but it's certainly better than no mapping at all.
Both tablets, however, limit you to the memory capacity you buy (Kindle Fire HD is available in 16 GB and 32 GB versions; iPad mini in 16, 23 and 64 GB models); all other tablets such as Barnes & Noble's Nook HD, the Samsung Tab 2.0 and Nexus 7 include an microSD memory card slot to expand memory capacity.
With its bigger screen, smaller and lighter dimensions, rear 5 MP camera and GPS, you can see why a 16 GB Wi-Fi iPad mini is $329 compared to just $199 for the more technologically limited and smaller 16 GB Kindle Fire HD.
For budget-conscious non-iTunes shoppers, Kindle Fire HD is nice value and offers a lot of unique content-plus features such as X-Ray for Movies, which lets you tap on a scene in a movie you're watching to check which actors are involved, what other movies they've appeared in, etc.
Amazon also offers Kindle FreeTime, which enables parents to create a separate identity for their kids to create a separate and protected tablet-use experience.
And Kindle's interface, limited primarily to content consumption, is a bit easier to navigate for the novice tablet user than Apple's more sophisticated operating system.
For more advanced users who want to do more than read books, listen to music, or watch movies, iPad mini is the far superior tablet choice.