Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review: Updated: Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Review: Updated: Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Review: Updated: Amazon Kindle Fire HD


You wait a year for an Amazon Kindle Fire (see our Kindle Fire review) to make its way to the UK, then two come along at once, with the greatly enhanced Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 arriving at the same time as its predecessor.

Now, with the late arrival on these shores of the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9, Amazon has three tablets to tempt us into its sprawling online ecosystem.

We'll say this from the off though: now that these two Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablets are here, the original Kindle Fire seems somewhat surplus to requirement.

Far more interesting, though, is the intense external rivalry presented by the Google Nexus 7 and the iPad mini, not to mention (in the case of the 8.9-inch model) the Google Nexus 10.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

Starting from just £159 for a 7-inch HD display and a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 appears to offer great value for money. With a larger and sharper 8.9-inch display and a slightly faster 1.5GHz dual-core CPU, meanwhile, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 presents a decent value full tablet experience which starts at £229.

But the two Kindle HDs also need to offer stand-alone tablet experiences that are capable of matchi ng - or even surpassing - their illustrious rivals.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 certainly matches the Nexus 7 in terms of price and raw hardware, and it comfortably trumps the iPad mini on price and screen resolution.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9, meanwhile, trails the latest iPad in performance and screen resolution, but not in any meaningful way. And more importantly, it's considerably cheaper.

But, as we've come to realise, Apple's dominance in the tablet market has been built on strong design, coupled with a peerless content ecosystem and a super-slick UI.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

The two Amazon Kindle Fire HDs may be cheap, but ultimately they will still need to embrace all three of these key elements if they're to succeed.

If you still think of Amazon Kindles as those little monochrome holiday companions, then you should know that the two Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablets are completely different beasts.

Rather than focusing on the very specific job of downloading and reading electronic books, these are all-purpose tablets that act as windows onto Amazon's wider multimedia world - films, music, apps and games are all included in the Kindle Fire HDs' remit.

With that in mind, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD range is a much simpler, purer design than the original Kindle.

The emphasis here is on the screen first and foremost, with the only hardware controls coming in the shape of some weedy and difficult-to-locate volume and power buttons on top of the devices, right alongside the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

The lack of a fixed home key adds to that minimalistic vibe (we'll discuss the effect that has on usability later). The only detail on the front of the device is a 1.3-megapixel camera for video calls - there's no rear-mounted camera here.

Despite those impossibly cheap price points, neither Amazon Kindle Fire HD feels like a cheap device. They're both solid in the hand, with none of the creak you find in many budget Android tablets. The 8.9-inch model looks and feels exactly like a the 7-inch model - only bigger and heavier, obviously.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

There's a nice contrast between each Amazon Kindle Fire HD's smooth, glass front and its grippy matte back. It's quietly pleasing from a tactile perspective, even t hough it lacks the sheer machined precision and premium feel of Apple's tablets.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

While Apple has opted for a super-slim bezel for its iPad mini - partly to facilitate that wider 7.9-inch display (which falls right in the middle of the two Kindle Fire HDs) - Amazon has been more generous with its own offerings.

Indeed, the thick border around even the smaller 7-inch screen brings it closer to the full-sized iPad in design than its miniature brother.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

We like this approach from a purely practical perspective (it actually makes it look a little chubby, if we're honest).

It's still comfier to hold the 7-inch model betw een your thumb and fingers than it is to rest it in the span of your hand, even when held in portrait view. Of course, that's partly because it's slightly chunky for its size - at 395g the 7-inch model is almost 90g heavier than the iPad mini.

The 567g 8.9-inch model, meanwhile, is obviously less wieldy, though at 80g lighter and a fair bit narrower than the iPad 4, it's relatively comfortable to hold in portrait view for a tablet of this size.

One area in which Amazon would hope to gain a big advantage with the Amazon Kindle Fire HD range over its rivals is with their displays. As we've mentioned, we're talking about a 7-incher and an 8.9-incher here, but it's the quality of these screens that's causing Amazon to boast.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

The company claims that the displays feature a polarising filt er and anti-glare technology, which apparently boosts colour and contrast, as well as improving viewing angles.

Despite such claims - not to mention early positive reports from the US - we have to admit to being slightly underwhelmed by our initial experience with the Amazon Kindle Fire HD displays.

They seem distinctly yellow to our eyes, although the 8.9-inch model doesn't seem to suffer quite so much as the 7-inch model in this regard.

Of course, it could just be that we've been conditioned by Apple's slightly cooler, bluer high-definition displays.

Indeed, once your eyes have grown accustomed to its warmer hue, you'll no doubt begin to appreciate the Amazon Kindle Fire HD displays' more naturalistic colour contrast - particularly when viewing video content. It's certainly richer than the somewhat washed-out and dim Nexus 7 screen.

That's only half the story with the Kindle Fire HD display, too. The clue is in the name. The 7-inch display is sharp, and with a resolution of 1280x800 and a pixel density of 216ppi, it's considerably sharper than the iPad mini.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

The 8.9-inch model is even better to look at. With a resolution of 1920x800, its pixels are even more densely packed in to the tune of 254ppi. This makes the picture pop even more, and is quite comfortably the pick of the two.

Both tablets are pleasantly sharp, then. This isn't particularly apparent within the main Kindle Fire interface, but it certainly bears fruit when reading a book or browsing the internet, where small text remains clear and eminently readable.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

These displays are powered by a capable 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460 CPU in the case of the 7-inch model, and a slightly superior 1.5GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4470 CPU for the 8.9-inch model. While these are far from the most powerful processors on the market, they are very well balanced, and they certainly don't come up short when faced with demanding tasks like high-definition video and 3D games.

One final piece of hardware-related info we really must cover is the Amazon Kindle Fire HD duo's impressive speakers. Positioned on either side of each device (if you're holding it in landscape), they're surprisingly punchy, given their size.

They really do crank out some respectable stereo sound - both in terms of volume and clarity, and it reminds us a lot of the power of BoomSound on the HTC One.

Naturally, we'd recommend using earphones whenever possible, but for those times where you're just following a quick email link to a YouTube video, they're more than adequate.

Interface and performance

Amazon is taking a completely different approach to interface design with its Kindle Fire HD range. While its competitors, the iPad 3, the iPad mini, the Google Nexus 10 and the Nexus 7, present the equivalent of a computer desktop filled with app icons and widgets, the Kindle Fire HD OS is all about the content.

Both tablets push the consumption of media content first and foremost, so when you boot each device up you'll be confronted by a large, horizontal scrolling list of your most-recently accessed apps, books and music.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

For the first-time user, it's arguably the most accessible tablet OS yet - just swipe left and right to get to the book or the album you started listening to on the previous evening. Simple.

Each device feels a little like 'my first tablet,' in a way, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. If you're a slightly more advanced user who wants to use your Amazon Kindle Fire HD for more general tasks, this is a distinctly sub-standard experience.

Tasks that would be considered core on any other tablet - not just the iPad mini and Nexus 7 - such as email, contacts and calendar, are all relegated to the tiny apps menu located on top of the main content interface.

It's only an extra tap away, but the way these fundamental utilities have been bundled together, almost as an afterthought, seems like a bit of a miscalculation on Amazon's part .

Of course, if you've used any of these major apps recently they'll appear in the main content list, but its constantly shifting nature means that you'll rarely be able to lay your finger on, say, email instinctively.

Below the main content bar you get a smaller carousel of context-sensitive icons running parallel to it. As you scroll through the main items, this will shift accordingly.

So, for example, when you highlight a film you'll be presented with films that other Amazon customers who viewed it also bought or watched through the video hub.

Apps work the same way, providing related recommendations.

If you've been using the web, meanwhile, the lower carousel will give you a list of trending websites - usually news sources like the BBC and The Mail Online.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

If you highlight the email app, you'll be presented with shortcuts to creating a new message, examining your schedule or bringing up your favourite contacts.

As with the rest of the Amazon Kindle Fire HD interface, this works great for those who want to skim the surface, dipping in and out of content and taking the odd natural diversion.

It's a very focused approach, but it doesn't really facilitate deeper discovery. At least this simplified UI is relatively slick and responsive.

It stands in stark contrast to the various store screens through which you purchase your apps, your books and your music, as well as the Lovefilm-associated video streaming.

All of these are painfully slow, loading in updated content icons like they're coming over a 56k modem.

We exaggerate, of course, but the contrast between th e offline and online elements is a bit jarring given Amazon's attempts at a seamless experience.

Of course, going into iTunes on your iPad mini can be similarly sluggish, but that's just a single app standing separately from an extremely responsive UI.

Going into these separate sections of the Kindle Fire HD interface away from the main hub reveals a persistent navigation bar along the bottom of the screen in portrait, or along the right-hand side in landscape.

This features a rather counter-intuitively-placed virtual home key to the left/bottom, with the back button placed centrally and a favourites button to the right/top respectively.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

The favourites command remains present even on the home screen, and grants fast access to selected apps, which can be added individually by pressing and holding on their icon from the main carousel or within the apps menu.

This helps with the above navigation issues somewhat, and represents an all-too-rare means of personalisation on the Kindle Fire HD interface.

More commands flesh out the navigation bar according to the section you're in.

It's common to find a search command for pinpoint navigation of music, apps and so on, while these also offer a central menu command that provides access to settings, help and the like.

One fairly major aspect of the Amazon Kindle Fire HD interface that's missing is multitasking.

You might argue that this is a minor aspect of any modern tablet, but the minute you find yourself wanting to copy the name of an item from the custom Amazon store app (which works in much the same way as copying and pasting on an iPa d) and paste into a web field, you'll realise what an irritating omission it is.

Internet and email


Amazon has made quite a song and a dance about the Amazon Kindle Fire HD's Silk web browser.

The big deal here, apparently, is that it uses Amazon's servers to perform much of the grunt work, speeding up the web browsing experience considerably.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

That's the theory. In practice, we can't say we really noticed. That's not to say it's slow - it's just not noticeably snappier in general browsing conditions than its competition.

Still, as a stand-alone web browsing experience, both Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablets are pretty pleasurable to use.

They adopt the by-now-standard ability to add and flip between multiple tabs along the top of the screen, and there's a familiar universal search/address bar below that.

We especially like the implementation of the 'glasses' button for each tab, which acts like Apple's Reading List feature in Safari in the way it quickly renders web pages in a simplified, easy-to-read and full-screen format.

If anything, we prefer Amazon's more cohesive implementation.

There's a bookmark facility here, as you'd expect, but as with many of the Amazon Kindle Fire HD's UI elements it feels a little buried and unclear compared to its established rivals.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

Rather than a clear menu button for bookmarked web pages, or a clear lists of bookmarks as soon as you open a new tab, here you have to open a new tab and then select the Bookmarks option to see your favo urite websites.

The default Starter category here shows a scrolling list of your most visited web pages, as well as trending and featured web pages, but none really gets you to your favoured web content as well as a good bookmarks page - and that's always a further touch away.

Still, overall we have to say that web browsing on the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is up there with their rivals in terms of speed and tidiness.


Email on both the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is similarly intuitive and more or less on a par with their compact tablet rivals.

The set-up process offers you the usual choice of Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and Exchange accounts, as well as AOL and an option for other providers.

Setting up a Gmail account, we were pleased to see our contacts' profile pictures appearing alongside their name when adding them to the 'To' field.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

The email interface itself should be familiar to anyone who's used an iPad or an Android tablet before.

Along the left you have a list of emails, while the larger right-hand side of the screen (in landscape) offers an instant preview of the highlighted email.

In portrait view only one of these split functions is shown at a time, but it's better for reading lengthy emails.

Typing out new emails, meanwhile, is made easy by a decent keyboard that feels very similar to the iPad range's. As that's still the most intuitive and reliable virtual keyboard on the market, it's a good example to follow.

Sure enough, typing here is fluid and relatively error-free. There's also an unobtrusive word prediction feature that offers a constantly updating list of three word suggestions - something Nexus 7 users will be well familiar with, but that iPad mini users have to go without.

Movies, music and books

Having read this far, you're probably expecting the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 to be pretty hot (pun intended) when it comes to accessing and experiencing media. And you'd be right.

Movies, music and books are the Amazon Kindle Fire HD duo's raison d'être - or rather, Amazon movies, music and books are. We'll go into precisely what we mean by that in a moment.

Everything here is geared around purchasing media content from Amazon's vast library, and you won't hear any complaints of restrictiveness from us.

No one can match the big 'A' for sheer range - not even that other big 'A,' Apple.

From the main menu, books, music and videos get their own c ategories along the top, and tapping on one takes you through to the relevant part of the Amazon store.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

If you're a Lovefilm customer, you get access to a bunch of films and TV shows which can be streamed to your tablet at no extra cost.

If you're not a Lovefilm customer, you get a month's free trial to see if you like the offering.

It's a good way to find out if you're willing to pay for the service because, while there's a good spread of films and they all stream nicely (especially those with an HD option), it's far from comprehensive.

We in the UK don't have access to Amazon Instant Video yet, which allows you to pay for more current movie rentals or even full ownership, and download them as you would a music track or book.

That's a bit of a weakness with the wider Amazon UK service, rather than the Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablets themselves.

We do like the integration with IMDb for the Lovefilm streams, though, which provides an overlay called X-Ray detailing the actors while the film plays.

At this point we should note that if movie-watching on the go (or in bed) is a major reason for your buying an Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet, the 8.9-inch model is by far the better choice of the two. Not only do HD movies fill out that extra space better - and it's amazing just how far an extra two-inches goes - but you also get a sharper, clearer picture.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

The music tab acts slightly differently to the video one, in that it doesn't take you straight to the Amazon store.

Rather, it take s you first to your own music library, incorporating both your music stored in the Amazon Cloud and the music that's stored locally on your Amazon Kindle Fire HD.

The Store can be accessed from this library page, and this most certainly is comprehensive - or at least as comprehensive as any one MP3 market can be.

Purchasing tracks is extremely easy, with Amazon's One-Click service encouraged early on. Sound quality, too, is decent, provided you have a decent pair of headphones to hand.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

Books, as you'd expect, are extremely well supported on the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9. You essentially have the whole Kindle ecosystem at your fingertips.

Books are presented in the same way as music, in that you access the store through yo ur own collection page.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

While the reading experience itself isn't as good as on a pure Kindle device - those bright screens make for some sore eyes after a while - it is very accomplished in short spells thanks to that crisp HD screen.

It's also much nicer browsing in full colour, where you can see each book's cover art in all its glory.

We also like the facility to 'borrow' one book each month when signed up to Amazon Prime.

The Kindle Fire HD's all-colour HD screen also has obvious benefits when it comes to accessing Amazon's growing comic book library.

At the time of writing, there are almost 1,000 comic books with the customised Kindle Panel View - a nifty facility that displays comic books full-screen and with the ability to hone in o n individual panels with a double-tap.

Of the two, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7's Kindle-like proportions make it the better ebook reader. It's just more comfortable to hold in one hand and easier to lug around with you and whip out for a quick page in between stops.

While the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9's bigger, sharper screen technically displays text a little better, it's relative awkwardness in portrait view makes it less practical in such situations.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

So, the two Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablets are wizards when it comes to funneling the company's own online media content to your eyes and ears.

But how about when it comes to installing your own content from outside the Amazon ecosystem?

While we've offered some criticism on the relative la ck of customisation with the Amazon Kindle Fire HD range, it surprisingly doesn't get in your way when it comes to installing your own video and music content.

The Amazon Kindle Fire OS is actually built on Android 4.0.

It's been heavily modified, yes, but its slightly more open, nerdy nature shines through when you plug an Amazon Kindle Fire HD device into your computer.

Once you do so (and download the Android File Transfer program if you're a Mac user), adding media is a simple case of dragging and dropping onto the Amazon Kindle Fire HD file - it's effectively treated as an external hard drive.

It's a little odd when stacked up against the heavily curated experience elsewhere, but it gives you a quick and easy way to get your non-Amazon media onto your Kindle Fire HD.

Watch out for those file sizes, though, if you op ted for a 16GB model. It'll fill up in no time once you're away from the capacious qualities of the cloud.

Apps and games

There's one glaring weakness in Amazon's vast media ecosystem. One area in which this digital giant bows down to both Apple and Google.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9 reviewWhen it comes to apps, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 are sorely lacking. Amazon tried to head this issue off more than 18 months ago when it introduced the Amazon Appstore to our US cousins, but even with all of its work it still finds itself well short for the UK launch.

While many of the major players are present, such as Facebook, Flipboard and Evernote, there are also some major omissions.

We thought Dropbox was available pretty much everywhere - it's one of the main reasons the cloud-storage tool is so popular - but you have to download it directly from Dropbox if you want it on your Amazon Kindle Fire HD.

What is this, a Blackberry Playbook?

In fairness, though, the very fact that you can side-load non-official apps on to the Amazon Kindle Fire HD in this way is another sign of the device's hidden Android legacy, and adds another welcome dash of flexibility to the otherwise-rigid Amazon interface.

The games offering, too, is distinctly sub-standard.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

Amazon has worked hard to get certain timed exclusives over the much larger Google Play store, and, as with the apps, there are a number of big hitters here.

Angry Birds Star Wars, Temple Run 2, Plants vs Zombi es, Jetpack Joyride, Real Racing 3 - all present and accounted for.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

For every game that's here, though, there are several that aren't. Obviously Apple reigns supreme when it comes to mobile gaming, but even compared to the frequently-derided (though vastly improved) Google Play store, this is a little barren on the gaming front.

We have Need For Speed Most Wanted here, but where's Draw Race 2? The Amazon Appstore has Temple Run 2, but where are Agent Dash and Whale Trail? Where's mega-gaming-experiment Curiosity?

In terms of how those games that are present perform, the Amazon Kindle Fire's 1.2GHz dual-core CPU is more than adequate for casual time wasters like Cut The Rope and Angry Birds.

However, we were also impressed with how they handled meatier 3D fare like Dead Space and Real Racing 3. The latter lacks the mirror reflection effects that can be found on the iPad version, which is disappointing, but otherwise the game runs smoothly on both devices.

Both Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablets are more than capable gaming devices, then - it's just a shame there aren't more games to enjoy on them.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

In all of this we have to wonder why Amazon didn't just allow access to the Google Play store. Especially when you realise what a sluggish, difficult-to-navigate mess the Amazon Appstore is.

It's bizarre when you c onsider that the custom stores for music, videos and books are quite pleasant to use, if still a little slow.

When it comes to pre-installed apps, it's equally slim pickings.

Aside from the mentioned email, calendar and contacts apps, Amazon has included IMDb (which, as we've said, integrates nicely with video).

There's also a version of Skype to take advantage of that front-facing camera, as well as OfficeSuite for viewing MS Office files.

Arguably, the biggest omission here is a complete lack of mapping. Again, why Amazon didn't compromise a little and adopt Google's ready-made Maps app we're not sure. It's a mapping misstep of Apple proportions - although at least Apple tried to offer an alternative.

Battery and connectivity

Amazon claims that the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 is good for 11 hours of use in between charges, and everything we've experienced in our hands-on time suggests that they're about right.

With the screen cranke d up to full brightness and in heavy usage (video watching, gaming and web browsing) we came in a little short of double figures on the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7, but it's still very respectable and in line with its big rival, the iPad mini.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

After playing our standard self-installed test movie, which is 720p and one hour and thirty minutes long, with the screen brightness cranked up to full and Wi-Fi and notifications on, we were left with more than 80 per cent battery life in the tank. Not bad at all.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is good for around an hour less than its little brother - its larger 6,000mAh battery offset by the demands of a larger, sharper screen and a faster processor . Suffice to say this is competitive with other nine to ten-inch tablets.

Arguably of more interest when it comes to battery life is Amazon's decision to omit a mains charger from both packages. You get a USB lead, which will charge the tablet through your computer or a generic USB mains adapter, but it's an odd omission nonetheless.

Instead, Amazon is pushing its PowerFast adapter, which at least has had something of a price drop to £12.99 (though this has crept back up from £8.99 back when we covered the 7-inch model late last year), showing that consumers may have been more than a little angry that they have to charge such a high drain object through a computer... and neithe r the Nexus 7 nor the Nexus 10 charges for the privilege of being able to plug into the wall.

That's a bit steep, but it does promise to fully charge your Amazon Kindle Fire HD in less than four hours for the 7-inch model - although this is no quicker than the iPad mini, despite both having a capacity of 4,400 mAh. The 8.9-inch model will charge in less than five hours.


Both Amazon Kindle Fire HD devices are Wi-Fi-only, so you won't be able to carry them around and take advantage of 3G connectivity. Still, with tablets that's far less of an issue for most users.

Besides which, Amazon claims that the Amazon Kindle Fire HD range's Wi-Fi is superior to its rivals, utilising a dual-antenna system and MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) technology to boost Wi-Fi speeds.

This approach effectively increases the amount of bandwidth in the link between your tablet and your Wi-Fi hotspot, as well as improving stability.

Both are good thi ngs to have in a device that's so reliant on internet connectivity, and we can confirm that our connection didn't drop in the slightest, regardless of where we were in the house.

In practice, though, that supposed extra Wi-Fi speed really isn't noticeable.

We tried downloading a number of large email files on both Amazon Kindle Fire HDs and then did the same on our third-generation iPad, but couldn't see any difference.

In fact, the iPad seemed to process the files (if not download them) faster overall.

Amazon can pack its tablets with super-fast Wi-Fi if it wishes, but it's no substitute for a slick OS working well with its processor.

Outside of this, both Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablets come with a microUSB and a microHDMI port for outputting your video content directly to your HDTV.

They also comes with Bluetooth for use with speakers, keyboard and other wireless peripherals. There's no microSD card slot in either.

Hands on gallery

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

Amazon Kindle Fire HD review


Both the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 are excellent value tablets for the solid, capable hardware you're getting.

But you need to think carefully about what you want from a tablet and what the alternatives are before deciding upon a purchase.

If you're he avily invested in the Amazon ecosystem, with hundreds of books and MP3 tracks stored in your digital Amazon locker and a Lovefilm account waiting to stream movies to you - and if your day isn't complete without a bout of virtual window shopping on the vast Amazon website and you want an instant mainline to all those bargains - one of these could be for you.

If your main wish is for a device that pulls all these elements together in a highly-funneled interface, and other common tablet tasks such as email, web browsing gaming and mapping are distant secondary concerns, then the Amazon Kindle Fire HD range provides everything you want and most of the things you need.

Unfortunately, those are some pretty big ifs. The Google Nexus 7 is a far more balanced tablet, offering the same kind of 7-inch hardware for the same kind of price - but with the infinitely more flexible stock Android OS and a far superior app store, as well as apps to give you all the Amazon goodness you could want.

Meanwhile at the larger end of the scale we have the Google Nexus 10 which offers a bigger and sharper screen than the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 and a faster processor, as well as all the benefits of the stock Android experience and Google Play Store. However, it's worth noting that it's also a fair bit pricier at £319.

Meanwhile, we have Apple's iPad mini splitting the two devices, which might not have the high-definition display or impulse-buy-territory price tag of either, but cruises into a commanding position on the back of Apple's typical design and app ecosystem mastery.

We liked

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD range's user interface is very beginner-friendly and offers something genuinely new over its rivals.

In terms of hardware, both displays (while a little on the yellow side in some cases) are sharp and ideally suited to movie watching (especially the 8.9-inch model), the stereo speakers are suitably punchy, and those dual-core CPUs drive apps, games and HD video along very well. All for a bargain price.

Access to the formidable Amazon ecosystem is the Amazon Kindle Fire HD duo's main strength, however, and there's no arguing with the sheer range of, or easy access to, movie, music and book content.

We disliked

The interface, while intuitive, is restrictive, making standard tablet activities like email needlessly tough to access. Other major tablet tools like multitasking and mapping are just plain missing.

This interface also feels sluggish when accessing any of the online Amazon store sections, making one question the wi sdom of pushing quite so much to the cloud at this point.

While Amazon is great for most media content, it's comes in a distant third place for apps and games.


Unusually, given their populist design philosophy, both the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 can be considered as niche products, aimed at those who feel intimidated by typical tablet interfaces or who just want to be left alone to their media consumption.

They represent great value for money, offering highly capable and solidly built tablets for well under £200 and £300 respectively. It's just that the Google Nexus 7 and (to a slightly lesser extent) Google Nexus 10 give you more for your money, including a superior level of hardware, a far more sophisticated operating system and a far superior app store.

Meanwhile, sandwiched between the two in terms of screen size, there's the Apple iPad mini with its unmatched app ecosystem and super-sleek design. Between them, Apple and Google have arguably squeezed out the capable-but-limited Amazon Kindle Fire HD range in all but price.

Amazon's complete UK offering can be classed as a success, then, but, ultimately, only Amazon nuts and total tablet novices need apply.


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