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Kindle vs iPad - Which One Should You Buy?
With both of these devices being red-hot with consumers, it can be tough to sort through all of the hype and decide which device to buy. For years, we've been told by so-called experts that the Internet would replace books, magazines, and newspapers and that they would all soon become obsolete.
It is clear from the enormous popularity of eReaders and other electronic reading devices that technology will not be replacing any of these formats in the near future and instead will enhance them. In fact, the movement towards digital media has made it even more popular than ever before by making content more portable and more accessible.
The reason I bring that up before diving deeper into a more detailed review is that many of you probably saw the articles online and segments on the news that referred to the iPad as the "Kindle Killer". While the device certainly does offer a different set of features, they won't always be appropriate for everyone or every situation. In addition to the iPad, the Google Honeycomb driven 10 inch android tablet is also likely to become a popular electronic reading device. This review will focus on comparing the two most popular devices but the Android tablets will clearly be entering the discussion sooner rather than later.
A Side by Side Comparison
For those of you who are looking for functionality that extends far beyond that of an eBook Reader, you can pretty much stop reading at the end of this section and go purchase your iPad. To be fair and allow everyone to understand exactly what the iPad is capable of, this device has the ability to download applications that will allow you to do everything from playing games to watching movies and even unlock and remotely start your vehicle (Yes, you really can do that!).
The problem with most comparisons between the Kindles and iPads that I ran across online was that they were all very one-sided and were quite obviously written by Kindle Fans who had never even picked up an iPad or by die-hard Apple junkies who would trade a first born child for an opportunity to be first in line to get into a Macworld conference. My goal for this article is to compare the two purely for the purpose of reading books and digital media.
We all know that when it comes to technology, size matters. You want something that is small and portable, yet rugged enough to hold up to daily use and large enough to deliver a high quality reading experience. Looking first at the Kindle, it is currently available in two different screen sizes. The traditional version has a six inch (diagonal) screen while the larger Kindle DX has a considerably larger screen that measure 9.7 inches.
The iPad has a 9.7 inch screen and matches up well with the larger version of the Kindle. When it comes to screen size, the two devices are pretty much neck and neck with a slight advantage going to the Kindle for offering a smaller and more portable option with the 6 inch screen which may be appealing to some.
Display Quality and Battery Life
The difference in the actual display itself is where the two brands have the greatest amount of separation. The Kindle uses an electronic ink technology to mimic the appearance of actual printed paper. One thing that makes the device really stand out for avid readers is that the screen does not use any back-lighting so it can be used outside in direct sunlight without the glare that you would expect with an LCD style screen common to laptop computers and cell phones.
The iPad has the ability to display full color and carries a vividly sharp display that produces a stunningly realistic picture. The back lit screen on the popular tablet will offer a somewhat faster screen refresh and will also allow you to read in the dark if that is important to you. The advantage goes to the iPad when it comes to overall display quality but the electronic ink screen is better for reading allowing the Kindle to quickly regain the lost point. While at first glance, anyone in their right mind would choose the iPad; you have to ask yourself if you really need that much display power just to read a book. All of that technology will eat through a battery charge fairly quickly.
How much of a difference does it make?
A Kindle can go anywhere from a week to two weeks on a single charge depending on whether or not you have the wireless connection turned on. iPads on the other hand will only provide you with approximately 10 hours of battery life depending on how many other applications are in use. As far and battery life is concerned, the Kindle easily comes out on top.
Capacity, Book Selection, and Availability
The regular Kindle has the ability to store 1,500 books and the DX carries more than double the storage space with the ability to hold a whopping 3,500 books! If anyone ever maxes that out with material they have actually read in full, I'd love to hear about it and use them as a topic for a future article. In all seriousness, that is a lot of storage capacity and should be sufficient for the needs of almost anyone. The iPad offers a minimum of 64GB of storage space with the average digital book taking up just over two megabytes so running out of storage space for your books should not be an issue here either.
What about availability of content?
The Kindle store currently has close to a half million titles available while the iBook store has grown to over 60,000. While this would look like somewhat of a problem at first, a Kindle for iPad application negates any major content advantage between the two brands and puts them on close to a level playing field when it comes to being able to get the books you want most.
If price plays a major role in your decision, you will find that the Kindle in considerably less expensive than the Apple iPads. If you are purchasing the device as a pure play e-reader, the Kindle is probably going to be the right choice for you. You have several options here starting with the smaller new 6" device for $109. This version has Wi-Fi but does not come with the free 3G wireless the other models offer.
The standard Kindle Fire is attractively priced at $199 with the DX coming in at $379. The iPad currently starts at $499 and goes as high as $829 with extra storage capacity and 3G capability. It should be noted that the Kindle comes with free 3G wireless service to download books while the iPad requires a data plan to access the Internet (unless you are connected to a home network using Wi-Fi).
Keep in mind that the higher pricing on the Apple device also gives you the ability to do much more than just read books. Functionality includes access to email, browsing through photo albums, watch video, playing interactive games, and much more so you do get real value for the extra money if you plan on using it.
Final Thoughts and Recommendations
If your goal is to purchase a device that is best optimized for serious reading, the Kindle is the clear winner. I also recommend it for students and others who have the need to read without distractions.
For those of you who are looking primarily for an entertainment device that also has the ability to act as an e-book reader, the iPad is going to be better product for you.
If price is a major deciding factor, the Kindle Fire is a good middle ground option giving you all of the benefits of an electronic reading device with the ability to run a limited number of games and apps as well.