CNET's Eric Franklin recently reviewed Google's new Nexus 7 tablet and had some pretty nice things to say about it.
"Pound for pound, the Nexus 7 is the best small tablet you can buy," he said in his intro while reiterating that point in his bottom line: "Thanks to its stellar performance and affordable price, the Nexus 7 is the Android tablet to get." Oh, and by the way, since it's is a Google-branded tablet, it will always see the latest version of Android before any other tablet.
Game, set, and match for the Nexus 7, right?
Well, perhaps for the moment. But Amazon is expected to unveil a new Kindle Fire HD model in the next month or two in advance of the holiday season -- the 2012 model was launched almost a full year ago -- and I suspect it will look very similar to the Nexus 7 and offer very similar performance and the same screen resolution.
The Boy Genius Report (BGR) claims to know the specs for the new Fire HD, and if they're accurate, Amazon's next-gen tablet will stack up well against the Nexus 7. According to a "source," the tablet will have 1,920x1,200-pixel display, be powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 (MSM8974) system on a chip (that includes four Krait 400 CPUs and Adreno 330 graphics), with 2GB of RAM and a front-facing camera, and will come in configurations of 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. A newly redesigned and faster Kindle Fire HD 8.9 will also hit the market this fall.
For those who don't follow this stuff that closely, the Fire HD and Fire HD 8.9 run heavily customized versions of Android and substitute Amazon's Android App Store for the Google Play store (Amazon's app store is pretty decent, but it doesn't offer the breadth of apps that the Google Play store does).
It's been obvious since the day Amazon released its current Kindle Fire HD that the device could be trimmed down, losing some of its bezel. According to BGR's source, the frame around the screen on the new Fire HD is about half an inch all around. So while the Nexus 7 may have a standout design now, in a few months it may not seem quite so special.
Will that make it a worse product? No. As I said, we could be looking at two products with similar designs. But if Amazon does indeed come out with a tablet that from a design and specs standpoint measures up to the new Nexus 7, here are few other reasons you might want to wait for the next Kindle Fire -- especially if you're an Amazon Prime member.
1. The price: The 16GB version of the Nexus sells for $229. The current 16GB version of the Kindle Fire HD sells for $199, and presumably Amazon would undercut the Nexus 7 with the same $199 price tag on its next-generation Fire HD (or, Amazon could really go for broke and offer a 32GB version of the Fire HD for the same $229 price as the 16GB Nexus 7, the same price as its current 32GB Fire HD model). So chances are, you will save some money by waiting for the new Fire, though it's worth noting that the prices mentioned for Amazon's tablets above are for the versions with ads or "Special Offers" on them, which some people find irritating. The ad-free versions cost $15 more.
2. Small design or performance advantages: Amazon always claims that its device does something better than the competition. For instance, at launch, Amazon said the Kindle Fire HD had "the most advanced 7-inch display." It also had better sound output thanks to some digital processing from Dolby. Expect Amazon to tout some new advantages over the Nexus 7 (how real they will be is another question).
3. Amazon Instant Video: While you can get the Kindle reading app and the Amazon Cloud Player music app on any Android device, you cannot currently get the Amazon Video app on open Android devices. In other words, Amazon's Netflix competitor is only available to you on Kindle Fire tablets (as well as iOS devices such as the iPad). Amazon Prime members have access to a decent number of "free" videos, as the service is included for anyone who pays for free Prime shipping -- $79 per year. They can't get that on the Nexus 7.
4. Kindle Owners' Lending Library: Owners of Amazon's tablets and e-ink e-readers can check out certain Kindle e-book titles -- including all of the "Harry Potter" books -- for free (one a month). The Kindle Owners' Lending Library isn't available on non-Amazon hardware.
5. Kindle FreeTime Unlimited: Geared toward parents, Kindle FreeTime Unlimited is a subscription service that gives you access to a wide range of "free" kids' content: apps, game, e-books, TV shows, and movies. I've always thought the service was poorly named (what does "FreeTime" mean exactly?), but it's $2.99 a month for Prime members and $4.99 for non-Prime members, it's a good deal. Not on Nexus or other tablets.
6. Less Google-centric: When you get a Google Nexus tablet, you're entering a Google world; you basically can't do anything on the device until you create a Google account or sign in with an existing one. With a Kindle tablet, you're entering an Amazon world, and the interface is all about having easy access to your Amazon content (the Kindle Fire HD is often described as a "media" tablet). The Google world is more open, but you are still getting a very heavy dose of Google. (A cynic may look at this as choosing between which corporate giant you want to track and exploit you, but we know that Google freaks some people out, so it's worth mentioning.)
I'm sure Amazon might offer up a few more reasons you might want to hold out for the next Fire HD, but those are the main ones as I see it. Of course, I can't predict exactly what the new Kindle Fire HD will look like and how it'll stack up against the Nexus 7, but outside the next-generation iPad Mini, it stands to be the Nexus 7's biggest competitor. And for some people, anyway, it will be worth waiting for.