Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition vs Apple iPad: which tablet is best for your family?

The Fire HD 8 is a bargain but the iPad is brilliant. Which one should you buy?

Amazon Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition vs Apple iPad best tablets for kids 2021
(Image credit: Amazon)

The best tablets for kids are dominated today by two of the biggest names in tech: Apple and Amazon. Apple’s iPad is the tablet you’ll find not just in homes but in schools too, while Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is a fraction of the cost and includes a drop-proof case and a year’s subscription to kid-friendly content. 

These are very different devices with very different price tags too. Apple’s iPad is a premium device with a high specification and high performance; Amazon’s is cheap and cheerful and designed for parents on a budget. While both are strong buys there are some important things we think you should consider before deciding which is the best tablet for you.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition vs Apple iPad: design and display

Kindle Fire HD8 Kids Edition

Amazon's included cover isn't exactly pretty but it's child-friendly and very tough.

(Image credit: Amazon)

This isn’t the smallest Fire HD – there’s a seven-inch model too – but the slightly bigger screen in the HD 8 is much less cramped. Its resolution is 1,280 x 800 pixels and it’s noticeably duller than the one in the iPad.

The iPad has a 10.2-inch Retina display with 2,160 x 1,620 pixels. It’s very bright – painfully so in the hands of our seven-year-old – and delivers superb colours and contrast. It supports the first generation Apple Pencil for handwriting and drawing.

The Fire HD is 233 x 184mm and 26mm thick. It weighs 550g. The iPad is 250.6mm x 174mm and 7.5mm thick. It weighs 490g.

Both devices have front and rear cameras but their specifications are very different. On the Fire HD the cameras are both 2MP. On the iPad the rear camera is 8MP with HDR for photos, image stabilisation and 1080p HD video recording. The front facing camera isn’t brilliant – it’s 1.2MP – but it’s fine for the odd selfie or video chat. The iPad can also use its cameras for augmented reality apps and games.

Apple iPad 10.2 (2020) review

It's a shame to hide the iPad's looks but we'd strongly recommend a rugged, drop-proof case.

(Image credit: Apple)

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition vs Apple iPad: processor, battery life and storage

Apple iPad 10.2 best tablets for kids 2021

Both devices deliver all-day battery life.

(Image credit: Apple)

In terms of power, Amazon is taking a plastic sword to a gun fight: the Fire HD’s specifications are modest and comparable to a budget Android smartphone. It has a 2GHz quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. It also has a microSDXC card slot for additional storage.

The iPad has a six-core Apple 2.49GHz A12 Bionic processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB or 128GB of storage. There’s no card slot. In terms of performance the Apple processor is so far ahead of the Amazon one that they might as well be from different planets: the A12 Bionic is as fast as a powerful laptop.

Both devices promise all-day battery life of around 10 hours.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition vs Apple iPad: operating system and apps

Amazon Kindle Fire HD8 Kids Edition apps

Amazon offers a year of free content but Apple's App Store is better.

(Image credit: Amazon)

All of Amazon’s Fire tablets run Android, but it’s Amazon’s own version and looks quite different. The Fire HD 8 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. However, it’s not the best organised App Store: where Apple’s version has lots of editorial content to help you find useful apps, the Amazon one feels rather like being thrown into the middle of a street market. Apple’s one feels more like a department store.

Apple’s iPads all run iPadOS, which is essentially identical to the iOS you’ll find on the iPhone. Its App Store contains nearly 3 million apps and they are all vetted by Apple to ensure that they’re free from malicious software or inappropriate content. However, be very wary with ad-based apps where the app is free. We’ve found that many apps designed for young children include advertising for violent video games.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition vs Apple iPad: parental controls

Apple’s parental controls are superb and work on a per-user basis so you can have different settings for different family members. You can share your own purchases while applying age restrictions, set time limits for individual apps or for the entire iPad and set different age ratings for different kinds of content – so for older children you might restrict adult TV programmes but not music with the odd bit of swearing in it. 

Amazon’s parental controls are good too. The Parent Dashboard enables you to set age-appropriate content ratings, shut down at bedtime and set time limits on particular kinds of activity. It also has a fun feature that enables you to set goals, so for example you might say that the kids need to spend a certain amount of time reading before they’re allowed to play any games. 

Amazon's Kindle Fire parental controls

Amazon's parental controls offer carrots as well as sticks.

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition vs Apple iPad: price and verdict

Apple iPad 10.2 (2020) best tablets for kids 2021

Apple's iPad is the best tablet for older children.

(Image credit: Apple)

The price difference here is huge: the Fire HD 8 Kids’ Edition has an RRP of £139.99 and has been heavily discounted in all of Amazon’s recent sales events. That price includes a kid-proof case that we know is tough: Amazon’s case has saved multiple Fire tablets from multiple accidents in our family. Amazon also has a 2-year guarantee that includes accidental breakage: if it gets smashed to bits they’ll replace it for free. The price includes a free year of Fire For Kids Unlimited’s apps, games, videos and books.

The new iPad starts at £329 and is rarely discounted by very much, so deals are definitely worth pouncing on when you see them. It doesn’t include a case but there are thousands out there for every budget. 

The Fire HD is good and very affordable, but the iPad is a much more powerful and flexible device and its App Store is in a completely different league. Its educational apps are better and its selection of games is too. 

Our children have grown up with multiple generations of Fire Kids Edition tablets and various iPads, and in our experience the Fires are brilliant for young kids and much tougher too: our various Fire HDs have endured the kinds of trials that no tablet should have to endure and they’re still going strong. But with older children there’s a pronounced gap between the ability and appeal of the Amazon tablet and the Apple one. The Amazon is better value for money but the iPad is the better device and it’s the one we’d buy for older children.

Carrie Marshall
Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).