Amazon’s Kindle Fire was heralded as revolutionary when it was announced late last year at a $199 price point. At 7-inches, it was smaller than most of the competition, but it was backed by Amazon’s massive retail and digital media ecosystem. While anticipation was high, the eventual product was mostly average. Still, a $200 tablet was hard to beat.Now that Google has announced its own $200 tablet, the Nexus 7, things are heating up once more. The Nexus is also 7-inches, but it’s pure Google all the way through. Let’s see how these two devices compare.HardwareThe devices are very close in dimensions. The Nexus 7 is 0.41-inches thick, whereas the Fire is 0.45-inches. The most notable physical difference will be in the weight. The Kindle Fire weighs in at 0.91lbs, but the Nexus will be a comparatively light 0.75lbs. Also of note, the Nexus 7 has volume controls on the outside of the device, but the Kindle Fire does not.These are both ARM-based devices, as are most tablets. The Kindle Fire uses an OMAP4 dual-core chip clocked to 1GHz per core. That’s not bad, but the Nexus 7 has a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 clocked to 1.2GHz per core. The Nexus also packs 1GB of RAM to the Fire’s 512MB.From a pure specs standpoint, the Nexus 7 is way out ahead. However, the user experience will also be improved with the Tegra 3. Nvidia uses a fifth low-voltage ARM core to handle background operations, which keeps the higher power cores from waking up. That means better battery life for the Nexus 7, even though it has a slightly smaller battery. Tegra 3 is also the choice for high-end game designers on Android. Many of the best games are Tegra-only.The screens are both IPS LCDs. IPS, or in-plane switching, is a technology that improves viewing angles substantially. The Kindle Fire does have solid viewing angles, but the Nexus 7 is reportedly just as good in that department. Despite being the same physical size, the two screens have different resolutions. The Kindle Fire is 1024 x 600, and the Nexus 7 is 1280 x 800. The increased resolution on the Nexus tablet will mean a higher pixel density of 216ppi versus the Fire’s 170ppi. A higher pixel density means more crisp images.SoftwareThe software builds on these devices are very different even though both are running Android. Amazon forked Android from the 2.3.3 build and created its own custom platform. It runs Amazon content frameworks and lacks all the Google apps. In fact, there is almost no Google presence on the Fire. Your searches go through Google, but that’s about it.The home screen of the Fire makes it apparent what the device is for media. Your books, movies, TV shows, magazines, and more are all accessible in a carousel that takes up most of the screen. If you’re familiar with Android, the Fire is going to be a completely foreign experience on the surface.The UI on the Kindle Fire is uneven when it comes to speed. The carousel is very responsive, but some stock apps are sluggish, and the settings drop down is terrible. Unfortunately, this is the only place you can adjust volume and screen brightness. In my experience, the Silk browser is also rather slow. We were promised a revolution, but the cloud acceleration can’t really make up for the middling quality of the app itself.The Nexus 7 is going to be running stock Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which is going to be great for anyone that wants a real tablet experience. It will be less straightforward than the Fire, which successfully presents itself as a media consumption device. Google has made a number of improvements to Jelly Bean including predictive text input, a faster UI, rich notifications, and Google Now with predictive voice search.Having not had time to get acquainted with the Nexus 7, it’s impossible to say if it’s substantially faster than the Fire, but I’m assuming it will be plenty snappy. Google has created a middle-ground UI for its 7-inch tablet. It’s not quite a phone interface, but it doesn’t use the traditional Android tablet UI either. This is a smart move — I always found the Android tablet UI a little cramped on a 7-inch screen.Because this is stock Android, the Nexus 7 will have great apps like Gmail, Maps, Chrome, and Google+ built-in. The Fire is missing all that because it is not a Google-certified tablet. If you want a full tablet experience, I feel like Amazon’s replacement apps aren’t nearly as capable.EcosystemAmazon designed the Kindle Fire last year, so it’s not surprising that its hardware is a little lacking compared to the Nexus. It’s Amazon’s media content that really brings the fight to Google, though. Amazon has longstanding deals with all the major copyright holders in TV, movies, books, magazines, and music. As a result, you can get almost anything on the Kindle Fire.Google’s Play Store has some movies, a reasonable selection of music, a medium-size book and magazine collection, and an handful of TV shows. It’s nice that Google is expanding its media offerings, but it can’t match what you get from Amazon. It’s worth noting that the Kindle and Amazon Music Android apps give you access to some of this content on the Nexus 7, but video is out.When it comes to apps, the pure Google experience is winning. There are hundreds of thousands of apps in Google Play, and newer versions of the Android SDK make it easy to build tablet UIs. I’ve never had much trouble finding apps that run properly on Android tablets. By contrast, the Kindle Fire doesn’t use more modern versions of Android that support tablet features, so all the “tablet” apps it runs had to be coded specially for that one device. This has not proved to be a winning strategy.The Play Store is more vibrant and has a better interface than the Amazon Appstore does. The Play Store isn’t the most well-designed app, so that speaks volumes about the problems Amazon faces here. Mountain View has spent a lot of time tuning the web interface to integrate perfectly with the operating system, though. You can push intents to your Nexus 7 to install, update, or uninstall an app. This is a really handy feature that is not replicated on the Fire.The Kindle Fire is outclassed in most respects when compared to the Nexus 7. The Nexus has better hardware by far, and the software is also superior in most respects. Amazon still has an edge in digital content, though. If a new Kindle Fire comes out next month, as is currently rumored, the advantages enjoyed by the Nexus 7 could evaporate overnight.