The price alone is enough to tempt many users, but $50 is a significant gap when budgets are tight. Is the Galaxy Tab 2 worth the $50 premium?
For many consumers the answer is yes, but price isn’t the only aspect you should consider. There’s also ease of use, access to content, available apps, and how you want to use the device. Comparing the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 and the Kindle Fire round by round reveals key differences that will help you decide which is better for your needs.
Software and Interface
Both the Galaxy Tab 2 and the Kindle Fire run on Android, though with the latter you wouldn’t know it by looking. Each represents a different experience that can be a big factor in your decision of which to buy.
The Tab 2 runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with a interface/skin over it called TouchWiz. TouchWiz changes the look of Android a little and makes it a bit easier to use by tweaking features and functions. However, the experience you get is pretty much the same as with most Android devices.
You’ll also get the benefits of the newest Android operating system — one that’s made specifically to work on large displays. Samsung doesn’t place any extra limitations on the apps you can download or sideload.
The Kindle Fire runs Android 2.3 with a heavily modified, simpler user interface. This makes it much friendlier to consumers who aren’t tech-savvy and aren’t familiar with Android.
It also means the tablet is restricted in many ways. Amazon’s own apps and media are privileged, of course, and the only official source of apps is the Amazon App Store. Users can’t easily access all of the settings available in Android and sideloading your content isn’t always easy.
There are ways to get around some of these restrictions, some of which don’t involve rooting the device, but the bottom line is that these are hacks and Amazon can cut them off at any time if they wanted with a software update. Plus, it’s a lot of hassle to do something that’s inherent on the Galaxy Tab 2.
Hardware and Design
Going along with the concept of the Kindle Fire as a simpler tablet experience, Amazon left off some hardware components found on other tablets. There are no cameras, no Bluetooth connectivity, no microSD slot. This is part of the reason why the bookseller is able to price the Fire at $199.
The camera isn’t a necessary spec. Even tablets that include them seem to assume that users are’t all that interested. However, a microSD slot for expansion and the ability to stream audio to Bluetooth accessories makes sense for a media-focused tablet. Plus, the Fire’s single USB port doesn’t support USB Host, which is a technical way of saying that you can’t connect external peripherals like a keyboard.
The Galaxy Tab 2 doesn’t have top-of-the-line specs, though it does have all of the components consumers expect out of tablets. You get front and rear-facing cameras, a microSD slot for expansion, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 wireless connectivity, plus the ability to connect to Samsung accessories via the port on the bottom.
On the inside both tablets have similar components. They each have 8GB of internal storage and dual-core processors, which indicates speedy performance. However, the Tab 2 has 1GB of RAM — twice as much as the Kindle Fire. That means better multitasking.
I’ve never been much impressed by the Kindle Fire’s display. Like the Galaxy Tab 2 the resolution is 1024 x 600, but Samsung’s tablet offers better colors and quality plus wider viewing angles.
Overall, the Tab 2 is just a better piece of hardware, even if you don’t need the extra stuff.
Multimedia and Content
This is where things get interesting. Because for all the Kindle Fire’s limitations, customers flocked to it because it pulls together all the different bits of the Amazon ecosystem into one device. People don’t just want the ability to watch video or play music, they want good selection at their fingertips that’s easy to purchase and begin watching. The Fire offers that.
The Galaxy Tab 2 offers that as well, though Samsung doesn’t yet have the brand recognition that Amazon does on the content side. Owners can purchase or rent movies and TV shows via the Samsung Media Hub and the latest album releases via the Music Hub. Google also has video and music stores via the Play Store. And there are dozens of media streaming apps available from Netflix to HBO Go to Pandora to Spotify.
One big omission: Amazon Instant Video. Currently, the Fire is the only tablet with access to that video content via an app. Since the Tab 2 supports Flash you can watch via the browser, but that experience isn’t optimal.
Amazon MP3 and Kindle eBooks are available on the Tab 2, though.
Due to the superior display and better speakers, the Tab 2 is also better for playing media as well. The tablet’s ability to act as a remote and integrate with Samsung TVs is another bonus.
For customers deeply tied to Amazon’s ecosystem, the Kindle Fire makes sense. Especially if you’re a Prime member with access to streaming movies and TV episodes. But that’s really the only advantage the Fire has over the Galaxy Tab 2. In every other respect Samsung’s tablet is a better choice, even when it comes to content.
Just going by the numbers, it’s easy to see which tablet wins this round. The Amazon App Store has almost 17,000 apps available for the Kindle Fire. The Google Play Store has over 40,000 apps. Granted, not all of these apps are made for tablet screens or work correctly. Amazon at least tests each app to ensure it runs correctly and looks good on the Fire. But in terms of choice, the Tab 2 offers more.
Of the top 10 free and paid (non-Google) apps available in the Play Store, only four are available in the Amazon App Store. Of the top 10 games, Amazon only has half.
Since the Tab 2 runs on Android 4.0, apps made for this operating system are designed to scale up and down since ICS is for both small and large devices. Down the line the app compatibility issue will hopefully shrink down to non-existent.
Still, this issue highlights the core advantage of the Kindle Fire: simplicity. With Amazon’s tablet you don’t have to worry about incompatibility or question whether an app will work. They will. And you’re less likely to encounter apps will ill-intentions as is possible on the Tab 2.
However, with this simplicity comes limitation. Not a problem on the Galaxy Tab. If an app exists for Android, you can probably load it on this tablet.
The Bottom Line
Consumers looking for a full-fledged Android tablet with all the features and specs one expects plus full access to Google Play apps and experience will be happy with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. It more than justifies its $50 premium over the Fire both on the hardware and software fronts.
Consumers deeply tied into Amazon’s ecosystem or who need a simplified tablet experience will be happy with the Kindle Fire. It’s a capable device and a better choice for less tech-savvy users.