There comes a time in most parents’ lives when they’ll realise the inevitable has happened – either they want their child to use a tablet, or their child comes to them asking for one.
Tablets are a great way to introduce children to technology – and all the various safety lessons that come with it. There are countless educational apps for all ages, and both our children – a 10-year-old and a toddler – have gained an awful lot from their respective devices. Plus, when you just want to enjoy a hot cup of tea, or you really need to get dinner on, they can prove invaluable.
While, in theory, you can buy your kids any tablet, you need to look for one that is robust enough to handle the odd knock or two, compact enough for small hands, portable for car journeys or meals out, and which comes with enough content, and parental controls.
Two of the most popular, most searched-for tablets that tick all of these boxes are Apple’s iPad Mini and Amazon’s Fire HD 8 Kids Edition. Neither are flagship models within their respective ranges – the iPad Mini is now two years old (but still going strong), while the 2020 Fire HD 8 Kids Edition was very recently succeeded by a Fire HD Kids Pro range designed with older children in mind.
Both can be used as child-friendly or adult tablets, and their prices range from £140 for Amazon’s model up to a starting price of £399 for Apple’s tablet.
So which one is worth the investment? We compare their key differences, specs, features, battery life and parental controls to help you decide.
- Key differences at a glance
- Specs and features
- Price and storage
- Battery life
- Parental controls
- Verdict and where to buy
- Apple’s iPad Mini runs iPad OS and forms part of the wider Apple ecosystem; if you’re already an Apple customer, you can sync all of your apps, purchases and downloads via iCloud
- Amazon’s Fire HD 8 Kids tablet is based on an Android skin and forms part of the wider Amazon ecosystem; if you’re already an Amazon customer, you can sync all of your apps, purchases and downloads with your existing account
- The iPad Mini has access to the full catalogue of Apple apps
- Fire OS offers a limited selection of Android apps and doesn’t support any Google apps, so you can’t download YouTube, as an example
- Apple has put more focus on the design, and cameras on the iPad Mini
- Amazon has focused more on making sure the software is child-friendly by default
- The iPad Mini is more than twice the price of the Amazon tablet but offers better battery life, performance and app choices
- Amazon’s tablet comes with a case, available in purple, blue and pink, and the tablet itself is black
- Apple’s iPad Mini is available in silver, grey and rose gold, but you’ll need to buy a case separately to protect it
- Amazon’s tablet is more robust both in and out of a case
Apple iPad Mini vs Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition in detail
For all intents and purposes, both the iPad Mini and the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids are simply smaller, slightly less powerful, slightly more portable versions of their respective brands’ expensive designs.
The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is a repackaged Amazon Fire HD 8. It comes with exactly the same features, and design elements as the “adult” version yet is sold in a chunky case available in purple, blue or pink. With the Kids Edition, parental controls and child-friendly screens are enabled by default. To access the regular software features, you need to set up and switch to an adult profile.
The iPad Mini is, as the name suggests, a miniature version of the iPad. Albeit one based on 2019 specs rather than being a smaller, like-for-like comparison with the current iPad range. It doesn’t come with a case, and the onus is on you to set up a child-friendly profile.
Hardware-wise, the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition has an 8-inch HD screen. It’s powered by a dual-core processor and runs on 2GB of RAM. The iPad Mini’s Retina Display comes in at 7.9-inches. The tablet runs on the six-core A12 Bionic processor and has 3GB RAM.
In terms of software, Amazon’s Kids Edition runs on a child-friendly version of Fire OS, which itself is a skin placed over the top of stock Android. Apple’s iPad Mini runs on iPadOS, a tablet version of its regular mobile operating system, iOS.
In the iPad Mini’s favour is support for Apple’s first-generation Pencil stylus. This elevates it above being a pure entertainment device and adds some real productivity and creativity chops. Our toddler absolutely loves the colouring apps using the pencil. Or it’s the novelty of being let loose with a “pen.” As an unintended consequence, he’s also mastered the tripod pencil grip much earlier than we would have expected him to.
You can also buy the iPad Mini with Wi-Fi or with Wi-Fi and cellular. Amazon’s tablet only comes with Wi-Fi. You do pay extra for the privilege, plus you’ll need a separate mobile contract, but it’s great for on-the-go viewing.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids tablet has two standout features. The first is that it comes with a year’s free access to Amazon Kids+. This service comes with hundreds of TV shows and content, including the likes of Peppa Pig, Mister Maker, The Gruffalo, and PJ Masks.
The second is the addition of Show Mode. Rather than paying extra for an Echo Show 8, you can ask Alexa to enable Show Mode on your Fire HD 8 Kids Edition (with an adult profile selected), and you have a fully-fledged alternative.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition costs £109.99, is available with Wi-Fi only, and comes with 32GB storage. You can expand this up to 1TB via a microSD card. This price includes a year’s Amazon Kids+ subscription worth £79 (£49 for Amazon Prime members).
The iPad Mini comes in two storage sizes – 64GB and 256GB. Neither can be expanded, but Apple sells iCloud storage for a monthly fee that starts at 79p for 50GB up to £6.99 a month for 2TB.
The iPad Mini is available with Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and cellular. The prices for the different combinations are as follows:
- iPad Mini 64GB storage with Wi-Fi:
- iPad Mini 64GB storage with Wi-Fi + cellular:
- iPad Mini 256GB storage with Wi-Fi:
- iPad Mini 256GB storage with Wi-Fi + cellular:
In the battle of the batteries, the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition takes the title. Both tablets fell short of their promised battery life in our looping video tests, but both exceeded them in everyday use.
Apple claims the Mini will last up to 10 hours on Wi‑Fi and nine hours when using mobile data. In our looping video test, in which we play an HD video on repeat at 70% brightness and with aeroplane mode enabled, the iPad Mini died in 7 hours 50 minutes.
Amazon promises a battery life of 12 hours and, in our looping video test, went from full charge to flat in 10 hours 2 minutes.
By comparison, when the tablets were used for everyday tasks – streaming episodes of PJ Masks, playing games and reading books – the iPad Mini lasted into the second day. The Amazon Kids shocked us by running until the third day.
The main reason for this difference is that the iPad is much more powerful, and its display is much better quality. Both will use more battery, no matter how efficient the processor works with the software.
Speaking of displays, Apple’s Retina screen is head and shoulders above the HD technology in Amazon’s version. They’re worlds apart.
Apple uses what’s called a Retina display, a proprietary Apple technology that crams a greater number of pixels per inch into the LED panel. The iPad Mini’s display has a resolution of 2048 x 1536 resolution at 326 pixels per inch (PPI). By comparison, Amazon’s display is 1280 x 800 with 189 PPI. In fact, Amazon’s Fire HD 8 Kids Edition only just qualifies as high-definition, and falls short, by about a million pixels, to reach Full HD standard.
In reality, the result is that the colours on the iPad Mini are much brighter, and the text is sharper. For most tasks, the screen on the Amazon Fire will do – and our kids didn’t register the difference or pay much attention to it. It’s only when streaming high-quality content or looking at the edges of notifications and small icons on the Amazon tablet where things look blurry and pixelated.
The screen on the iPad Mini 5 additionally uses something called True Tone. True Tone technology uses sensors that measure the ambient light colour and brightness to automatically adjust its display. This means whites and colours are shown more accurately, and visibility is marginally better in bright sunlight.
All controls on the Amazon Fire are on screen, whereas the iPad Mini has on-screen controls as well as a physical Home button. Our eldest had no issues getting used to both, but our toddler preferred to use the Home button on the iPad to switch between apps and games. A minor point, but our little one got frustrated more often by not being able to figure out what to do on the Amazon Fire.
Amazon has put much more focus on making the Fire HD Kids Edition child-friendly – and thus parent-friendly – out of the box. The Kids version of Fire OS replaces the regular small homepage icons with brightly coloured pages and large thumbnails. This means your child can easily swipe through to select Games and Apps, Shows, Educational Apps, and more. On a child profile, your little ones can only get access to age-appropriate content. Even the built-in browser has parental controls enabled as standard.
By contrast, the iPad Mini 5 runs on the regular version of iPad OS and offers the full catalogue of Apple App Store apps. While this offers much more variety for your kids, it also means adult apps – and websites via the pre-installed Safari browser – are potentially within reach. The onus is very much on you, the parent, to lock the tablet and its content down. The majority of the parental control features on the iPad Mini are found in Settings > Screen Time. From here, you can block and unblock apps and content, set screen time limits and monitor usage.
We should point out that Apple hasn’t designed its iPad Mini specifically for children in the way Amazon has with its Fire Kids Edition. It just happens to be a popular choice of child’s tablet due to its size and features.
Both Amazon and Apple let you remotely monitor what your children are getting up to via a separate Parent Dashboard, in the case of Amazon, or via iCloud and Apple’s Family Sharing.
In the same way that your children likely won’t care or realise the display quality differs so much between the two tablets, they’re unlikely to bat an eyelid at the stark design differences.
The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition, out of the case, looks basic and feels cheap. It has a large bezel, chunky shape and size, rounded corners, and plastic casing. The iPad Mini also has a large bezel, but its size and shape is much more elegant and streamlined. And the aluminium back feels more luxurious.
In reality, you’re likely to keep both devices in a case, so this is largely moot. The case on the Amazon Fire is bulky and slightly rough to the touch, and this is deliberate. It’s designed to absorb shocks when dropped. Because the case is so thick, the volume controls aren’t easy to access, but again we imagine that’s deliberate.
We bought a child-friendly, silicone case for the iPad Mini, and it does the job, albeit slightly more elegantly than Amazon’s case – if a child-friendly case can ever truly be described as “elegant.”
Moving onto the ports on the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition, there’s a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, a USB-C charging port and a microphone.
The iPad Mini also has a headphone jack alongside a Lightning cable charging point and microphone.
Both the iPad Mini and the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition offer their own benefits when it comes to choosing the best tablet for your child. If you’re on a budget, not particularly tech-savvy, prefer Android, or want to give your children the independence of their own tablet with minimal hassle, buy the Amazon Fire. If this is your first time buying a tablet for your child, and you’re not sure how well they’ll take to it, the cheaper of the two models may be a safer bet.
If, however, you can afford the iPad Mini and don’t mind putting in a bit more effort to child-proof it, it’s a vastly superior tablet in almost every category. The iPad Mini would particularly suit an older child, although our toddler consistently chooses it over the Amazon model and is a worthwhile investment as a family tablet. Apple fan or no, the iPad Mini would be our choice every time.
Where to buy the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition
Where to buy the iPad Mini
Want to compare other Amazon Fire HD models? Check out our Fire HD 8 review and our Fire HD 8 Plus review to help you decide. Looking for Apple deals? Try our guide to the eBay certified refurbished hub for how to find the best offers.