The Bottom Line
Sept 24 2012 - The Kindle Fire HD is either going to be a love it or hate it kind of relationship. Much of this comes down to the experience with the software that is customized such that it really is a device for consuming media from Amazon. Amazon Prime members will find this great for watching movies, reading books or listening to music which can all be stored in their cloud service. With its low price tag of just $199 and a mode that is especially designed for kids, it is a very compelling choice with a nice range of updated features over the first generation. The problem is that the forced ads will annoy many and the UI still lags behind the newer Android tablets but for some, these will be very minor issues.
- Excellent Media Platform
- FreeTime Mode Makes It More Kid Friendly
- Sluggish UI Compared to Android 4.1 Based Tablets
- Removing Ads From Tablet Requires Additional Fee
- 1.2 GHz TI OMAP 4460 (Cortex-A9) Dual Core Processor
- 1GB Memory
- 16GB Storage
- 7" WXGA (1280x800) IPS Multitouch Display
- 1.0 Megapixel Front Camera
- PowerVR SGX540 Graphics
- 802.11a/b/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- micro-USB, micro-HDMI, 3.5mm Audio
- 7.6" x 5.4" x .4" @ .87 lbs.
- Android 4.0
Review - Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7-inch
Sep 24 2012 - Amazon made some significant changes to their second generation tablet, the Kindle Fire HD. First off, the new design is even thinner and lighter than the first generation. At just .40-inches thick it comes in at a fraction thinner than the Google Nexus 7 or the Samsung Galaxy 2 7.0. While the weight has dropped, it is still heavier than both of these models weighing in at .87 pounds. Amazon also did a great job of rounding out the design to give it a smoother overall look and feel. It still features a soft touch backing. Another major change is the addition of a micro-HDMI port in addition to the micro-USB port that allows it to connect into an external HDTV. This is something its competitors lack but it does still lack a port for a micro-SD card for extra storage.
The most notable change to the tablet though is the screen. The previous Kindle offered a nice 7-inch IPS based display that offered good color and wide viewing angles but it used a lower resolution than most tablets. For the Kindle Fire HD, the screen has been updated to feature the 1280x800 resolution typical of the 10-inch displays and the ability to display 720p HD video content. Most importantly, this now puts t on the same playing field as the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. The one advantage it has over these two are the brightness which is very useful when the tablet is used outdoors.
The original Kindle Fire lacked any form of camera on the front or back of the tablet. With many other tablets offering one and Google specifically providing a front camera for video conferencing, Amazon pretty much had to put a camera on it so it placed a one megapixel camera on the front specifically for video conferencing through Skype which is preloaded onto the tablet.
Performance of the tablet has improved a bit but not dramatically as the new TI OMAP processor has a 200MHz advantage over the past model. Most of the gains actually come from the redefined software that it essentially an complete reworking of the Android 4.0 operating system. Things are definitely smoother than the first generation of the tablet but it does lag behind the Nexus 7 with its quad core Tegra 3 and newer Android 4.1 operating system. It should be noted that most people using the tablet would almost never realize that it uses Android as the interface is quite different,
The software though is the key to the Kindle Fire HD. Consumers will either love it for its ease of use for reading books, watching Amazon Prime streaming video and browsing the web. For those that are primarily getting a tablet for these features, the Kindle Fire does an excellent job. This is especially true when watching video as the location of the speakers do an excellent job compared to the competition. The downside is that using the tablet beyond these functions can be more difficult such that the generic Android interface offers a better overall experience if you don't necessarily want to do everything through Amazon. On the other side, the tablet features a FreeTime mode that is designed to allow it be very kid friendly but at the cost of features such as the web browser which may be contentious with many children.
One feature that might go unnoticed by many users but is a very nice touch is the Wi-Fi. Most tablets support 802.11n wireless but only on the 2.4GHz spectrum which is very crowded. Amazon decided that the Kindle Fire HD would be equipped with a dual antennae which means that it can support both the 2.4 and 5GHz spectrum. This is great because it gives it more flexibility on Wi-Fi networks particularly in corporate environments where the 5GHz is commonly deployed.
Another controversy regarding the Kindle Fire HD has been Amazon's using of advertising on the tablet. Ads are displayed on the lock screen as a means to subsidize the $199 price for the 16GB version of the tablet and $249 32GB model. For the most part, the ads are not too intrusive but some may want to remove them which is possible but only by paying Amazon of $15 fee to disable the feature.
While Amazon does not list the battery capacity, teardowns of the Kindle Fire HD have discovered that it uses a 4400mAh battery pack. Instead, the company states that the tablet can achieve eleven hours of mixed use. In my digital video playback test, it was able to run for nine and three quarter hours before it shut down and required recharging. This is less than Amazon's estimate but a good deal better than the first generation Kindle Fire and just a slight bit longer than the Google Nexus 7 that ran nine and a half. Overall, this is quite good but still not as long as the larger 10-inch tablets are able to achieve with their larger batteries.