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Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

 Review: April 2013  
 

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is a full-size version of Amazon's popular 7 inch tab. Offering excellent value and with easy access to Amazon's content library, it's hard to beat for all but the most demanding users.



 

The largest Kindle yet

The two key selling points of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 are that it's a Kindle (so it has very easy access to the Amazon content universe) and that it's the biggest Kindle ever. Much cheaper than an iPad Mini or a Google Nexus 10, the Fire HD 8.9 feels like a winner.

It's a solidly constructed tablet, quite heavy for its size, but very slim at just 9mm, making it easy enough to handle. It feels like it's tough enough to withstand some family rough and tumble. The killer feature is the large 8.9 inch screen, which is a real beauty. With a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels, it's bigger than full HD 1080p and has a high 254 ppi pixel density (about the same as the iPad 4). It's a high quality IPS display with the display and the touch sensor laminated into a single layer. This produces excellent contrast ratios, brightness and viewing angles, making images crisp, bright and easy to view.

Amazon and ease of use

Be in no doubt - the Kindle Fire HD is firmly tethered to the world of Amazon. Despite running Android, it is not an open-source device with access to the content on Google Play. This is a two-edge sword. On one hand it's very easy to set up and get started. You can easily import your existing Amazon content and start downloading books, music, videos and games from the Amazon store. In addition to paid-for content, you'll find plenty of free books, around 20,000 apps and other material available too. Amazon is also offering a one month free trial of LOVEFiLM Instant video streaming for unlimited access to thousands of movies and TV series.

As well as content, the Kindle Fire HD offers a decent choice of apps, including essentials like email, Facebook, Spotify, Netflix, BBC iPlayer and a fast web browser.

But at the same time, you won't have access to the full range of Android apps that you would get from a Samsung or Google tablet. Google Maps is missing, for example. Be sure to understand what you're getting and what you're not getting here.

Dolby Audio

Sound reproduction is hard to fault, for a tablet. Stereo speakers are built into the device, and you can also listen via the 3.5mm headphone jack or a compatible Bluetooth stereo headset. The Bluetooth option can also be used to connect to keyboards and other wireless devices.

The audio experience is enhanced by Dolby Digital Plus. This offers virtual surround sound, and optimises dialogue in movies, etc. Remember that it's just a tablet, not a home cinema system, and don't expect too much from it. If you plan to watch a lot of TV or video, invest in some decent headphones.

HD video calling

Like the 7 inch Fire HD, the tablet is fitted with a front-facing HD camera for making video calls with Skype. There's no rear-facing camera, but this isn't a great loss since tablets are not the ideal device for taking pictures of your mates.

Upgraded processor & battery power

The processor that powers the Fire 8.9 is a 1.5GHz dual-core processor from Texas Instruments. It's not as fast as the quad-core processors we are increasingly seeing in high-end tablets like the Google Nexus 10, but it's fast enough to play 1080p video without stuttering, and you won't notice any lags in the user interface either. A GPU provides additional 3D graphics support. If you're planning to play the most demanding games, then you'd be better off with a Nexus 10, which will also give you a greater choice of apps from Google Play.

The battery has also been upgraded compared with the 7 inch Fire HD, and is sufficient for up to 10 hours of continuous use.

Memory

The tablet comes in a choice of 16GB or 32GB forms. There's no memory card slot sadly, but you can make use of Amazon's free cloud storage to hold all of your Amazon content.

Connectivity

The Kindle Fire HD has no 3G option, so you'll be relying solely on Wi-Fi to deliver content. Fortunately, this is no sweat as the Fire HD uses dual Wi-Fi antennas for a more reliable connection and faster streaming. The tablet can also switch between the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands to reduce interference with other Wi-Fi devices.

Although Wi-Fi is likely to be the primary means of talking to the world, the tablet also has a USB 2.0 port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, HDMI for connecting to a HD TV, and Bluetooth.

Conclusion

Understand that the Kindle Fire HD doesn't give you the full freedom to download apps from Google Play. But know too that the flipside is that you have extremely easy access to the content that Amazon can supply. If ebooks, movies, music and common apps like facebook and email are what you want, then the Fire HD will do it. If you want to install a wider range of apps, then you'd be better off choosing the Google Nexus 7 or Nexus 10.

The Fire HD 8.9 gives a lot of value for your money. Not only does it have one of the best screens we've seen, but it has a fast processor, fast Wi-Fi, strong battery life and is priced to sell. For £229 you certainly get a lot of tablet here.


Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 features include:

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