Head-to-Head: iPad Mini With Retina Vs. Kindle Fire HDX 8.9

War In The Air

Apple's news this week of the iPad Air grabbed most of the headlines. And its 64-bit processor, MIMO Wi-Fi and expanded LTE coverage in a smaller, thinner and lighter frame are technical marvels to be sure. But more impressive and impactful to us is the new iPad mini, which mirrors the feature set of iPad Air -- including its pixel count -- but puts them under a 7.9-inch pane of glass. One impact iPad mini will undoubtedly have will be on sales of Amazon's latest pixel panel, the Kindle Fire HDX. While few tablets in this class come close to the HDX's impressive specs, the mighty mini comes mighty close, and Apple's power to persuade purchases by now seems legendary. So here's a head-to-head of the latest small tablets from these two big companies: Amazon's (8.9-inch) Kindle Fire HDX and Apple's iPad mini.



The new iPad mini (like iPad Air) is built around an Apple A7, the industry-first 64-bit SoC introduced with the iPhone 5S last month. The A7 packs onto a 102mm die, two 64-bit ARMv8 application cores -- more than a billion transistors -- plus a modern instruction set. The A7 reportedly runs at 1.3GHz. The iPad mini also contains an M7 dedicated motion processor that continually measures data coming from the accelerometer, gyro and compass and is accessed using Apple's new CoreMotion API. A7 also reportedly includes a dual-core PowerVR G6430 four-cluster GPU, which maker Imagination Technologies describes as "an advanced scalable compute cluster architecture."

While Amazon might not include a cluster in its SoC, the Kindle Fire HDX does pack the impressive Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, a quad-core processor running at 2.2GHz. It houses four Krait 400 cores similar to the ARM Cortex-A15, and its Adreno 330 GPU is reported to be 50 percent faster than its Adreno 320 predecessor.

Memory And Storage

Apple doesn't publish the amount of RAM in its devices and reports are mostly silent too. But we'd expect at least the same 1 GB that's on iPhone 5S considering it, too, will be running 64-bit apps. Amazon proudly declares the 2 GB of RAM Fire HDX has to run apps atop Fire OS 3.0 (which itself runs atop Android 4.2.2). For storage, Apple adds a 128-GB model to the 16-GB, 32-GB and 64-GB varieties from before. Kindle Fire HDX comes with 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB.


Apple's latest little iPad packs the same number of pixels as its biggest. The 7.9-inch Retina display is an IPS panel with a resolution of 2,048-x-1,536. That's a density of 326 pixels per inch. The 8.9-inch diagonal LCD of the Kindle Fire HDX (pictured) puts out 2,560-x-1,600, or 339 ppi. At resolutions this high, the human eye is incapable of discerning the pixels on either panel. Let's call them both amazingly accurate and lifelike.


The new iPad Mini (pictured) measures 7.9 inches long, 5.3 inches wide and is 0.29 of an inch thick. Only slightly larger is the Kindle Fire HDX, which measures 9.1 inches long and 6.2 inches wide. In other words, Amazon's unit is an inch longer and an inch wider than Apple's. Thickness is a wash. At 0.31 of an inch, Kindle Fire HDX is just 0.02 of an inch fatter. The iPad mini with Wi-Fi and LTE radios tips the scales at an even 12 ounces. Similarly equipped, Kindle Fire HDX weighs just 1.5 ounces more at 13.5 ounces.

Cams And Comms

Apple kept the same cameras as before. The face camera is a fixed-focus 1.2MP sensor, about the same as Kindle's (pictured). Apple provides a 5MP camera with 2.4f aperture, and a five-element autofocus lens is in the rear. Amazon offers an 8MP sensor with a 2.2f aperture lens, LED flash and image stabilization. Rear cameras of both can capture 1080p video, and front cameras both capture 720p video. Apple offers geotagging for photos and videos.

Both devices offer dual-band, dual-antenna MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and optional LTE with AT&T or Verizon. Apple adds Sprint and T-Mobile. Kindle supports the Miracast spec for wireless video streaming over Wi-Fi; Apple offers its own protocol. Neither offers NFC.

Pricing And Availability

Pricing for iPad mini starts at $399 with 16GB and Wi-Fi only, or $529 with Wi-Fi and LTE. Availability is set for late November. Kindle Fire HDX pricing starts at $379 with 16 GB and Wi-Fi only, or $479 with Wi-Fi and LTE (add $15 to remove lock-screen ads). Amazon is currently accepting preorders for Nov. 7 shipments of Wi-Fi models, and Dec. 10 availability of cellular units.