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Amazon Kindle Fire HD review

 Review: September 2012  

Last updated September 2013

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The Kindle Fire HD is a turbocharged version of the Kindle Fire. Absurdly cheap, it offers a HD display, HD video calling, dual Wi-Fi, good battery life and plenty of memory. Best of all is the easy access to Amazon's huge library of content.


An upgraded Kindle Fire

Like its little brother the Kindle Fire, the Kindle Fire HD is set to launch in the UK on 25 October 2012. As its name suggests, this is a more advanced version of the basic Kindle Fire, with a HD display, a front-facing camera, more memory, virtual surround sound and dual-band Wi-Fi. In short, it's a Kindle Fire on fire. The Fire has been Amazon's best-selling product, and we expect the HD to take over this position.

7 inch HD display

Slightly larger, yet thinner and a few grams lighter than the Kindle Fire, the Fire HD manages to remain a compact tablet. The 7 inch display uses IPS technology for wide viewing angles and extra brightness. Like its name suggests, this is a HD display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels - so that's more than HD in fact. The display incorporates a polarising filter, and reduces reflectivity by merging the LCD display and the touchscreen into a single layer of glass. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla glass.

There's always hot debate in the tablet world about whether 7 inches or 10 inches is the best size. Both sizes have merits. A 7 incher like the Kindle Fire is more portable and the screen is big enough for most applications. A 10 incher like the iPad is better for more demanding users, but carrying it around can be a bit of an effort. It's really down to personal choice.

Amazon - the killer app

The reason the iPad has continued to dominate the tablet world is simple: content. Other tablets may be cheaper or better in other ways, but the iPad's rich world of easily-available content has kept it ahead. The Kindle Fire HD can rival this because it brings the equally mighty Amazon content library with it. And also because Amazon has succeeded in making this content so easily available.

Although it's an Android-powered tablet, Amazon has customised the user interface significantly so that it's all based around Amazon's own content. Movies, TV shows, music, books and apps are all a click away, and with one-click ordering enabled and your Kindle Fire HD already pre-registered to your Amazon account on arrival, purchasing and downloading content is just too easy. If you're not sure what you want, Amazon's recommendation system is only too happy to make suggestions, based on your purchasing history and that of other customers.

In addition to paid-for content, you'll find plenty of free books, 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.

Dual-antenna Wi-Fi

The device connects to the internet by Wi-Fi. Interestingly it uses a dual-antenna arrangement for faster data and fewer dropped connections than standard Wi-Fi. This works 40% faster than the original Kindle Fire and is designed to enable HD video streaming. We would have liked to have a 3G option too, but for the price we can't have everything. At least that means you won't have to pay for a 3G data connection. In any case, Amazon would probably argue that a 3G data connection isn't really fast enough for streaming HD content.

More memory and cloud storage

The memory on the Fire HD is more than twice as much as the basic model, with 16GB and 32GB versions available. There's no memory card option, but you do get unlimited cloud storage. With a HD movie typically requiring 2GB of storage, you'll certainly be needing this.

The cloud storage feature is very user-friendly. It's integrated with your Amazon account, so everything you purchase from Amazon is stored in the cloud. You can access this from any internet-enabled device like a smartphone or laptop, so you can make use of your content wherever you happen to be - as long as there's a Wi-Fi connection. Downloaded content is available when you're not on Wi-Fi. It seems like a good solution.

Amazon's Whispersync feature automatically stores data like last page read, bookmarks, game progress, etc, so you can continue reading or playing wherever you left off on any device.

Silky smooth web browsing

The Fire HD uses Amazon's own web browser, Silk. Silk accelerates web browsing by using Amazon's cloud-based server network to pre-load popular content, perform computing-intensive tasks and reduce network latency. The result: significantly faster web browsing, especially of popular, complex websites.

Dolby Digital Plus

The audio experience is enhanced by Dolby Digital Plus. This offers virtual surround sound, and optimises dialogue in movies, etc. 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.

HD video calling

Also new is the addition of a front-facing HD camera for making video calls with Skype.

Processor & battery power

The Kindle HD is powered by a fast 1.2GHz processor with a full 1GB of RAM. A dedicated GPU helps to push along those HD videos and games.

Battery life is superior to the Kindle Fire model, with up to 11 hours of continuous use possible, putting it on a par with the iPad 2.

Conclusion - the best entry-level tablet?

We think the Kindle Fire HD will prove to be a big hit in the UK. The low price and the fact that it has the internet giant Amazon behind it should ensure its success. In many ways it's similar to the Google Nexus 7 tablet. But the Fire HD is cheaper and has more content more easily available, and these make it much more accessible to the general user.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD features include:

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Reviewed by Steve Richards from England on 15th Feb 2013

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