It’s Tablet Cage Fight Time. Now that this Apple girl has branched out into the world of Android and Amazon tablets, how am I finding things? Is the Amazon tablet the best reading choice given its pedigree? Or do I prefer to read on Apple’s hardware? Which tablet do I take with me if I want to write, game, or play?
Ahead, I’ll look at my three main tablets and compare them across a variety of specs.
Over here, in this corner, representing Amazon, we have the Fire Tablet seven-inch tablet with a 1.3 ghz processor and 8 gb internal storage (expandable via an SD slot).
Battling for “pure” Android is the Acer Iconia 8 Tab, an eight-inch tablet with a 1.3 ghz processor and 16 mb internal storage (likewise SD expandable).
And for Apple, we have the Apple iPad Air. This is a 9.7-inch tablet with a 1.4 ghz processor and 16 gb internal storage (unexpandable).
Now let’s see how they stack up:
1) The App Store
Each tablet has its own app store, with the Acer running Google Play and the other two running proprietary systems.
The Apple Store has more apps, and is better curated. But you cannot side-load your own apps without rooting your iPhone or iPad’’; and both the Fire and Acer tablets allow side-loading. I don’t play a ton of games anymore because my wrists can’t handle it anymore, so I wasn’t bothered by the poorer choice on Amazon’s store. Luckily I figured out how to side-load the Fire from other sources, and now my head is spinning with the possibilities.
Acer and Fire came out about even.
If this will be a tablet for kids, however, and you are American, then the Fire tablet has a clear advantage. Amazon’s Freetime Unlimited service has books, apps, and other goodies for kids, on an all-you-can-eat monthly subscription. If the Fire were available in Canada, I would definitely recommend this tablet for kids.
There is a lot of junk in the Google Play store, and many apps have really obnoxious ads and aggressive in-app purchases. If you want to use this with kids and you can’t or won’t buy Amazon, the more expensive—but better curated—iPad is my recommendation.
2) Form Factor
If you plan to use the tablet as a laptop replacement, go with the iPad. It is very usable with a Bluetooth keyboard, and I even find I can type fairly quickly and accurately with the on-screen one if I am in landscape mode and use the smart cover to prop it up. For gaming, the performance was similar on all three, but I slightly preferred the form factor of the Fire. You actually can hold it in one hand, and I played around with e MAME emulator in landscape mode, and found it quite comfortable. The on-screen d-pad and the control buttons were perfectly placed to use this one-handed.
For reading, go with the Acer. I have never found the bigger iPads good for reading, from a form factor standpoint, though some might enjoy e-reading on them on the dual-column mode. And Amazon’s decision to ghettoize personal content on the Fire was a fail for me. With the Acer, I have a proper Kindle app, my choice of other reading apps, a better screen for web browsing and other text-heavy non-book tasks, and the form factor of an iPad Mini at half the cost.
3) Reading Choices
Acer, by a landslide. As I said above, it’s iPad Mini-sized, but cheaper. It can run standard apps instead of Amazon’s weird ones, and you can get some third-party stuff from the less locked-down app store which may be useful, such as a Calibre server app.
One exception: If you are on a budget and you are very attached to Amazon’s ecosystem, the Fire is a good-enough choice.
If you won’t be side-loading content, the separation of personal documents won’t be an issue and this tablet is so well-priced that you can’t go wrong.
4) Battery Life
Not the Acer! I took a ten-hour train ride recently, and wouldn’t trust it to serve me for the duration. The iPad is superior here, but it comes with a hefty price premium. If you can’t afford it, go for the Amazon. It is not as good, but it’s better than the Acer.
The Acer came with the most bloat-ware, by far. Much of it was pure junk, such as a kid’s book program which ran in the background and could not be stopped. I had to go deep into the settings and disable a dozen apps before I could really use the tablet.
The iPad’s built-in software is mostly useful, but there are a few clunkers like the Stocks app which had to be hidden away since you could not remove them. If bloat-ware is an issue for you, the Fire came with the least of it.
6) Other Points of Interest
It’s hard to make a clear-cut recommendation since it depends on your uses. I’d buy a Fire in a heartbeat, even though it’s hobbled somewhat in Canada. I like to keep at least one iPad at home, though, because it’s better for actual productivity and because we use the FaceTime app a lot.
So, where does that leave the Acer?
Well, the Acer’s the Beloved’s tablet of choice for travel because the Fire is too little and the iPad must be shared. If we were starting from scratch, I suppose it’s the most expendable of my three tablets. But we don’t regret having it, and it’s a good little machine.
As you’ve seen, there is no clear winner. If you are looking for a laptop replacement, the Fire Tablet is a poor choice. But if you want a child-friendly tablet, Amazon has the most refined parental control system. For good battery life and an above-above interface, there’s the iPad.
Image credit: Here.