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iPad Air vs. Kindle Fire: Which Tablet Is Right for You?

Aug. 25, 2016
Product Comparisons, Shopping
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Some tablets are as complex as laptops, while others are simple e-readers — and many come with a set of features that fall somewhere in between. With so many options available, it’s important to consider which tablet will best suit your needs before you buy.

The first-generation iPad Air and the fifth-generation Kindle Fire are great for users looking for versatility. They each offer a breadth of features, such as internet-browsing and video-streaming capabilities, but not enough to replace your laptop. To help you choose between the two, we’ve done some research. Let’s take a look.

The tablets: At a glance

 iPad AirKindle Fire
Price$299.99 - $547 on Amazon$49.99 - $69.99
Memory16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB8GB or 16GB; can also support external microSD card up to 128 GB
ColorSpace gray, silverBlack, blue, magenta, tangerine
Display9.7 inches7 inches
Resolution2048 x 15361024 x 600
ConnectivityWi-Fi or cell dataWi-Fi
AppsApple StoreAmazon Underground
CameraFront- and rear-facingFront- and rear-facing
Battery life10 hoursSeven hours
Buy iPad Air
Buy Kindle Fire

Up close and personal

iPad Air iPad Air vs. Kindle Fire

NerdWallet takes you shopping: The iPad Air weighs about a pound but has a slightly larger screen than the iPad Mini. The Air is easy to hold, thanks to its sleek design that falls in line with Apple’s signature aesthetic. If you already own a Mac laptop or iPhone, Apple’s iOS software makes it easy to integrate the iPad with your Apple devices.

Users have access to Apple’s App Store for streaming, playing games, reading e-books and more. For creative types, apps such as iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand come with the iPad Air, and users can download additional creative suites to take projects from laptop to tablet.

If you’re looking for a low-cost tablet, the iPad Air might not be the best option. The brand name and features come with a hefty price tag: Apple sells the Air 2 with 16 gigabytes and Wi-Fi connectivity starting at $399. Though you can find the first-edition iPad Air for lower prices on Amazon, it will still cost much more than the Kindle Fire.

Good fit for: If you already own Apple products, the iPad is a no-brainer. The Air in particular is a good option if you’re looking for a lightweight tablet for work and play.

» MORE: Kindle comparison: Which Kindle e-reader is right for you?

Kindle Fire Kindle Fire

NerdWallet takes you shopping: Amazon’s fifth-generation Kindle Fire offers all the basics you need: e-books, apps, games, email and calendars. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can access all your account’s benefits, including movie and TV streaming and music. Plus, Amazon’s Android-compatible shopping app, Underground, gives you access to a variety of free apps. The entry-level Kindle is also compatible with Amazon’s voice-assistant Alexa. Users can command Alexa to deliver news and weather updates, play music and order dinner among other tasks.

Though it covers the tablet essentials, the Kindle Fire lacks features that some users are accustomed to. The resolution isn’t the sharpest, and performance tends to slow down when multiple apps are open. The Kindle can connect through Wi-Fi, but no cellular-compatible version is available.

Good fit for: Those looking for a simple, low-cost e-reader will want to consider the Kindle Fire. Amazon Prime users will have access to plenty of content, and Amazon Underground is a good source for free apps, but the no-frills tablet might leave much to be desired for tech-savvy users.

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Nina Tabios is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected].