The market for tablet computers has become a lot more crowded these days. Apple, the tech world's de facto poster boy for ultra-mobile gadgets (think about iPods, iPhones and MacBooks for the smartphone, mp3 player and laptop markets) is also its reigning king when it comes to tablets. The Apple iPad enjoyed unprecedented popularity when it was first released on 2010; consequent generations of the gadget (iPad 2 and the "new iPad" - aka iPad 3, along with their Wi-Fi + 3G and Wi-Fi + cellular versions) were also met with more or less the same amount of fervor.
Recently, two more contenders have popped up that are both threatening to shake up the iPad's dominance over the tablet market. First off is the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, an upgraded version of the Kindle Fire (which is in itself a revamp of the original Kindle e-book reader, with added functionalities and features). Next up is Nexus 7, Google's first attempt to gain a foothold in the now competitive tablet market.
With all these choices, how can people choose which tablet is the right one for them? Let's take a look at some of the most important factors that can help them decide:
Form Factor, Build and Design
Obviously, the iPad is the giant in the group. Measuring in at a hefty 9.7" diagonally, it dwarfs the other two smaller tablets with their 7" screens (the Kindle fire has a 8.9" model though). The weight is proportional to the size - the new iPad weighs about 650g; Kindle Fire HD is at 395g for the 7" model and 567g for the 8.9" model; and the Nexus 7 is relatively the lightest at 340g. The two smaller tablets can be comfortably gripped with just one hand like a phone, but for the iPad, a two-handed grip is a must.
Apple's patented Retina display looks stunning on the 3rd generation iPad's 2048 x 1536 screen. Colors are rendered nice and clear, perfectly saturated and sharp. The screen is great for reading e-books and watching movies.
While both the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD have screen resolutions of 1280x800 pixels, there are some notable differences in the quality of their displays. The Fire HD's screen is better equipped to handle direct sunlight, which would let people comfortably read stuff on it when outdoors. The Nexus 7, on the other hand, displays crisp images and color but suffers from slight banding and can be difficult to view under sunlight. Its viewing angles are also not that great compared to the iPad's or Fire HD's.
Both the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD run on Google's insanely popular Android mobile operating system. The Kindle Fire HD has a very modified Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich that is optimized for use with most of Amazon's online services. Nexus 7, on the other hand, being Google's first "flagship" tablet, runs on the newest version of Android, the 4.1 Jelly Bean. The OS is free from any modification of any sort like skins and other manufacturer changes, and also has features that are not found on the Ice Cream Sandwich (like incorporating Google Chrome as its main browser). It is reportedly a lot faster and has less lag than its predecessor.
Like other mobile devices in Apple's line-up, the new iPad runs on the iOS 5.1. As the iOS 6 was recently released, 3rd generation iPad users can upgrade to this new OS to avail of new features such as the Siri, Apple's famous voice recognition software.
Apple products are not known for their affordability. They can usually be found on the pricier end of the spectrum, and the new iPad is no exception. Debuting at $499 (for the 16GB and Wi-Fi only model), the price tag can go up to a high of $820 (64GB and Wi-Fi + cellular). Among the three choices, the iPad is the most expensive.
The Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD are obviously a whole lot cheaper. Both have released models that are priced at $199 (16GB for the Kindle Fire, only 8GB for the Nexus 7) and $249 (32GB and 16GB respectively).
Though both devices run on the Android operating system, the Kindle Fire HD can only download apps from Amazon's own apps store. There are a limited number of apps that can run on the device (even famous apps like Instagram, Dropbox and Google Maps are not available) so app compatibility is the main problem here. With Google being its manufacturer, the Nexus 7 enjoys full access to Google Play.
The Apple iOS App Store is still an amazing marketplace for apps. Some are even already optimized for the Retina display.
It's a matter of balancing price and functionality. The new iPad is, undoubtedly, the most popular among the three tablet choices. It also performs best in most aspects; the drawback here is that it can be quite pricey. The two "lower end" tablets (the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD) are great devices by themselves with a few differences in between. These two are perfect for those who want to try the tablet experience without having to shell out a lot of money.
Jamie Cody is a writer for centernetworks and often writes about technology and reviews on various products and services like hosting. Checkout bluehost reviews from center networks.com where they have great reviews and informational articles.