Why I'm returning my new iPad and buying a Kindle Fire

Now that I've lived with both, I can safely say that I prefer a smaller, more affordable tablet.

The new iPad's screen is nice, but the greatest thing since sliced bread? Um, no.
The new iPad's screen is nice, but the greatest thing since sliced bread? Um, no. Apple

My new iPad is going back to the store.

I paid $600 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model, and although I like it well enough, I don't think it's worth the money.

Before the Apple faithful take my head off, allow me to explain -- and to note that I'm keeping my original iPad. Also, I have such mad love for my iPhone 4S, I want to cook it breakfast every morning. You get my meaning; this isn't just wayward iPad-bashing.

When Apple announced the new tablet, I was underwhelmed but intrigued. I'd skipped the iPad 2, so I figured I "owed" myself this upgrade. Plus, it would be a business expense; I do write for a blog called iPad Atlas, after all.

Mostly, though, I got caught up in the hype. After reading gushing praise for the new iPad's Retina Display and blazing processor, I had to see what the fuss was about.

The fuss, it turns out, was more overblown than a Kardashian wedding. The screen? Yep, it's nice. Does it make my eyes leap from my skull and dance a marimba cha-cha? No. Neither does it cure cancer or introduce me to supermodels, despite what some drooling bloggers intimated.

The new iPad is admirably peppy, though I never found my original iPad to be slow. My kids enjoy messing with the built-in cameras, but that's a luxury I certainly don't need. Using an iPad to snap photos or video is like driving a monster truck to the grocery store: uncomfortable and impractical (to say nothing of showy). The only thing that I'll actually miss is big-screen FaceTime -- but for those moments I can always Skype on my laptop.

The 4G LTE? Again, nice, but I have no need for it. And that leaves...what? The new iPad is a little slimmer, a little faster, and little easier on the eyes than the original. Not enough, Apple. I want my $600 back.

The Kindle Fire is far from perfect, but it satisfies most of my tablet needs -- for a fraction of the cost of an iPad.
The Kindle Fire is far from perfect, but it satisfies most of my tablet needs -- for a fraction of the cost of an iPad. Amazon

As fate would have it, a Kindle Fire arrived shortly after the new iPad. (It's a loaner, due back to Amazon in about a week.) As you're no doubt aware, it's a hair less expensive: $199.

Yes, it has a smaller screen, less storage, no cameras, no 3G/4G, no Bluetooth, and so on. But you know what? I love the little guy, because it better suits my needs.

For one thing, it's way more comfortable for reading. I consume a lot of e-books, but I find the iPad too big and cumbersome -- especially for reading in bed. The Fire is small enough and light enough that I can lie on my side and grip it one-handed. (Shut up.)

I also like magazines, most notably Entertainment Weekly, Time, and Wired. The app versions of all three work nicely on the iPad, but I like the Kindle Fire (Android) versions even better. Maybe it's because I was expecting a shrunken, ill-fitting stab at accommodating the smaller screen, but the formatting is just beautiful. Reading these mags on the Fire is a pleasure.

Music, movies, TV shows, games, apps -- the Kindle Fire excels at all this stuff, just like the iPad. I'm streaming "This Is Spinal Tap" (courtesy of Amazon Prime, an uneven but compelling service) as I type this, and it looks exquisite. Granted, the paltry 8GB of storage limits how much media I can take with me, but I'm mostly an around-the-house user anyway. (That's why I get by just fine with Wi-Fi.)

I also like the Kindle's modern, media-centric, dare-I-say-sexy interface, which actually makes Apple's UI seem rather dated.

So here's the upshot: for one-third of what I paid for the new iPad, I can accomplish 95 percent of what I want to do with a tablet, and with a smaller design I find more appealing. Different strokes for different folks, of course, but for me this is a no brainer: I'm returning the new iPad and jumping into the Fire.

Your thoughts?

 

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