The best tablets for kids were always going to include Amazon and Apple tablets towards the top. Both firms have invested heavily in their tablet businesses, and while their devices are designed in very different ways they’re both very good family-friendly options for children of all ages.
The truth is that today, in 2022, if you go buy an iPad or Amazon tablet for your kid then chances are you've going to have made a good choice. But there's obviously devil in the detail, and not every case is the same, making research smart.
We’ve already considered the latest iPad versus the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition, but perhaps the Apple iPad mini would be a fairer comparison: it’s closer in size to the Fire, although it definitely isn’t close in terms of its price tag.
The iPad mini costs considerably more than Amazon's child-friendly tablet even on those rare days when Amazon isn’t discounting its various devices. Does its specification justify the extra cost, or would the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition be the better buy for your little ones? Let’s find out.
Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition vs Apple iPad mini: design and display
The HD 8 is not Amazon’s second smallest tablet – there’s a seven-inch Fire too – but we think this is closest in size to the mini; Amazon also does a 10-inch version but it feels significantly bigger. The screen here resolution is 1,280 x 800 and while it’s hardly iPad quality it’s perfectly decent and bright enough to be used outdoors unless it’s a really bright day. The Kids Edition includes a tough, rubberised case and we can attest that the case is a real life-saver when you’re travelling with very young children or stuck at home with very bored ones.
The 5th generation iPad mini has a 7.9” True Tone Retina display with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536. It’s exceptionally bright, delivering 500 nits of brightness, and its fully laminated display has an anti-reflective coating. It’s much easier to see outdoors than the Fire.
The iPad mini design is a little dated – more expensive iPads are moving away from the big-bezel Touch ID design the mini still has – but it’s no more dated-looking than the Amazon tablet. It doesn’t include a rugged child-proof case and we’d strongly advise buying one.
Both devices have front and rear cameras but the ones in the mini are in a different league to the Amazon ones. The Kindle Fire has 2MP cameras front and back, but the iPad mini has a very good 8MP main camera with auto HDR and 1080p HD video recording. The front FaceTime camera is 7MP.
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Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition vs Apple iPad mini: processor, battery life and storage
The Fire HD’s specifications are similar to a budget Android smartphone. It has a quad-core 2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The Fire also has a microSDXC card slot for additional capacity. Claimed battery life is 10 hours between charges, although more intensive apps such as games will use power more quickly.
The iPad mini has Apple’s A12 Bionic, the same chip as the full-size iPad, and a choice of 64GB or 256GB of storage. It’s very fast and considerably faster than the Fire. It will happily deliver 10 hours of battery life.
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Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition vs Apple iPad mini: operating system and apps
Amazon’s tablet runs an Amazon-specific Android based on Android 9 Pie. For the Kids Edition it adds a child-friendly interface that you can disable for older kids or adults. It connects to Amazon’s own App Store, which currently has over 60,000 apps, and the selection includes all the big hitters such as Minecraft, Roblox and lots of games. You also get a year of free apps and books from the likes of Disney.
The iPad mini runs iPadOS, currently iPadOS 14, which is the big-screen version of iOS. That means the same App Store as the iPhone with around 2 million apps and good curation policies to ensure that malware and fake apps don’t get in. As with the full-sized iPad we’d urge caution with ad-funded games, which often contain advertising for games that are much higher age ratings.
Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition vs Apple iPad mini: parental controls
Amazon’s parental controls are great. The Parent Dashboard enables you to set age-appropriate content ratings, shut down at bedtime and set time limits on particular kinds of activity. You can also set goals, such as requiring a certain amount of time spent reading before any games can be played.
Apple’s parental controls are also great, with Screen Time to track and control time spent on a per-account and per-app basis, the ability to set different kinds of age ratings for different kinds of content (so for example you might let teens listen to sweary music but not watch gory horror movies) and lots of fine-grained control over what your family members can and can’t do.
Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition vs Apple iPad mini: price and verdict
The iPad mini may be Apple’s smallest iPad but it isn’t the cheapest: it’s £399 for 64GB or £549 for 256GB. Even at full price the Kindle Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is a fraction of that cost, and we’ve seen the £139 asking price reduced to below £90 in Amazon sales events.
Is the iPad mini four times better than the Kindle Fire HD 8 kids’ edition? We don’t think so: the current mini is more expensive than the full-sized iPad 10.2-inch despite its almost identical specification, so you’re paying a lot of money to get a slightly smaller iPad.
We said at the outset that these are designed in different ways. Amazon has set out to deliver a good all-round on a budget; Apple is making a premium product with performance and a price tag to match. The iPad is the better device in terms of hardware, software and available apps, but for many families – especially families with very young children – the Fire will be good enough.
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