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Amazon Kindle Fire HDX review

 Review: November 2013  
 

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX is a very impressive low-cost tablet with a stunning display, superfast quadcore processor and the benefits of easy access to Amazon content. Just be aware that it doesn't allow access to Google Play.



 

A compact tablet

The Kindle Fire HDX is a supercharged version of the Kindle Fire HD. The styling is simple - you could regard it as "default" tablet styling, with a fairly thick black bezel surrounding the 7 inch screen and nothing to detract from the minimalist look. But we wouldn't want to give the impression of lazy or sloppy design, for the HDX is solidly built and should be able to withstand a certain amount of abuse from the typical family. It's also slimline, measuring just 9mm in thickness, and weighs in at a featherweight 303g, which is less than the iPad Mini Retina and just a few grams more than the Google Nexus 7.

A 7 inch screen feels pretty compact these days, as smartphone screens edge ever larger, but it's still big enough to do everything you want provided that there are enough pixels. Bingo - this is where the HDX scores, because it has a very fine 1920 x 1200 pixel count - enough to display 1080p full high definition videos with room to spare. With a pixel density of 323 ppi it puts many rival tablets to shame (especially anything with a Samsung label on it!) Not only is it sharp, but it's bright and boasts very accurate colours thank to its use of quantum dot display tech. Dynamic backlighting gives it almost OLED levels of contrast. It's a seriously impressive screen and probably the best on any 7 inch tablet.

So from where we're standing, compact is good; featherweight is better; and super-high screen quality is best of all!

Fast, faster, fastest!

If you had the vague impression that the Kindle HDX is a budget tablet, start rethinking. Not only does it have a very impressive screen, but beneath the screen lurks the first Snapdragon 800 CPU we've encountered in a tablet. This monster first appeared on flagship Android smartphones in the latter part of 2013 and it provides incredible performance. It's a quadcore processor clocked at 2.2GHz and it comes with an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. It'll outperform even the Google Nexus 7 and give the iPad Mini a run for its money.

Also there's been no skimping on the built-in memory. Although the basic model comes with 16GB of storage, you can buy the 32GB or even 64GB versions for not much extra money (in stark contrast to the iPad Mini where you have to pay through the nose to upgrade the memory).

Sound from the stereo speakers is pretty impressive, as long as you don't crank the volume up too high.

Content

So far, so good, but now we come to the controversial part. Although the Kindle HDX runs Google's Android operating system, Amazon has customised it quite intensively to run with Amazon's own content. This is a double-edged sword. For although it's extremely easy to access content like apps, books, music and videos directly from Amazon, there's no access to Google Play. Some will love it; others will hate it. To be fair, most of the popular apps are available from Amazon, and most users should be able to live with the restrictions. Unless you have some specific requirement for apps that aren't available through Amazon, you'll probably appreciate the benefits of being able to access Amazon content so easily.

If you're new to tablets you might also appreciate the dedicated Mayday button, which lets you contact tech support for instant help via video chat.

HD video camera

At S21, we're not big fans of people taking photos on their tablets, so hooray, the Kindle HDX doesn't have a rear-facing camera at all. Instead it has a much more useful front-facing camera that can be used for selfies and HD video chat. How sensible.

Connectivity

The Kindle HDX uses dual-band, dual antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO+HT40) for faster downloads and greater range. This gives it one of the fastest and most reliable connections we've experienced in a tablet.

Also included is Bluetooth and USB connectivity, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack and screen mirroring on a compatible TV via Miracast. There's no NFC support however.

The HDX is also available in a 4G version with support for LTE, HSPA+ and HSDPA networks. This makes it a truly portable go-anywhere device. The cost of the 4G version isn't so much higher than the Wi-Fi-only version and it weighs just a few grams extra, making this a realistic option.

Battery life

The HDX's 4550 mAh battery is typical for a 7 inch tab and can power the device for a full 11 hours.

Conclusion

Far from being a cheap tablet of interest to those who can't afford anything better, the Amazon Kindle HDX is a benchmark tablet that others will try to beat. With its understated looks, compact size and low cost, it's a real wolf in sheep's clothing.

Most impressive are the ultra-sharp screen and record-breaking processing power. But perhaps equally appealing is the affordability of the high storage versions, right up to 64GB. We also like the fact that the 4G version doesn't cost too much extra. The Amazon ecosystem is another attractive feature, although it comes with the price of not being able to access the full range of apps on Google Play. Be sure to check if there are any "must-have apps" on your wishlist that aren't available from Amazon.

Are there any other downsides to the tablet? We mentioned that there's no rear-facing camera, but in our opinion that's not something that any sane person should regret. It's very, very nearly the perfect tablet.


Amazon Kindle Fire HDX features include:

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