With the new Kindle Fire HD Amazon really goes all in when it comes to power and added features. While the version before was not gifted with the best resolution and the best response time, the HD takes the cake in almost all of the parameters.
The Amazon tablets are primarily content consumption devices, best suited for connecting to the Amazon ecosystem, including videos, music, books, apps, and so on. With the free Prime trial subscription, you can check out the Prime Instant Video options and watch movies and shows at no charge until the Free Trial expires automatically. For videos, music, and books, the Amazon selection is at or near the top of the list; for apps, much less so. Roughly 90% of the top 100 apps are available on Amazon.com, as well as 100,000 others, but that’s only a small fraction of what is available with Google or Apple.
It’s not quite as bad as it sounds because, while the competition has ten times as many apps, most of those apps are, um … how shall I put this … less than stellar (look up Sturgeon’s Law). If there are specific apps you need or want, you definitely should double-check before purchasing to make sure that they are available. The apps that will likely never become available on the Kindle Fire ecosystem are those apps that require Google services (i.e., anything that uses Google location services). One ameloriating factor is that it is possible to side-load most of the apps from the Google Play store onto an Amazon tablet and a web search on side-loading apps onto Kindle Fire will show dozens of websites with detailed instructions. If the app you are sideloading requires a Google service to work, though, it will not run on the Fire, even if you manage to successfully install it.
It has an updated OS and updated feature software (but does not include the free unlimited Mayday customer support feature; you’ll have to move up to the HDX to get that). The software updates include the ability to download some Prime Instant Videos to your device and watch them offline, enhanced accessibility, enhanced enterprise controls and features (so now it’s better suited for office work), enhanced email client, enhanced parental controls, improved X-Ray features (now including lyrics for music, as well as additional information for both books and movies), integration with GoodReads (coming soon), and the like.
Where I noticed the biggest difference was the home screen. The default view is still the carousel but if you swipe upward, you’ll see a more traditional icon view. The “Recommended for you” display on the home screen is now smaller and much less obtrusive (and it can be turned off in the settings). Amazon has also added multi-tasking of a sort, where swiping up from the bottom of the screen while you’re in an app shows you the 20 most-recently-used items from your home screen, so you can quickly switch from one app to another without returning to the home screen.
There is also a left panel available on most screens (but not the home screen) and in some of the apps, with navigation links and settings to make it easier to navigate and control your tablet or to navigate within the app. If you tap the center of your display and then swipe left while you’re reading a book, for example, you’ll see a panel that shows you the table of contents, the About the Author link, the Sync to Furthest Page Read link, and so on.
The Kindle FreeTime option and the parental controls are still among the best in the business. If you want a tablet for a child and want to control what they can access, how long they can use the tablet at any given time, and the like, Amazon has you covered.
You can now also schedule “Quiet Time” on the tablet, where notification sounds and pop-up notifications are disabled, either on a temporary basis by simply pushing a button or on a scheduled basis. Frankly, I doubt I’ll ever use this feature but if you’re the type who likes to read or watch video until you fall asleep, it’s kind of nice to be able to disable all sounds so that you don’t get rudely awakened when, e.g., someone plays a new word in your Words with Friends game.
As I noted, the Kindle Fire HD does not support the new “Mayday” feature that Amazon has been advertising. However, if you swipe down from the top of the screen, tap the Settings option on the top right, and then select Help, you’ll see various options, including Wifi information and troubleshooting tips, a comprehensive User Guide, information on providing feedback on select features, and information on contacting Customer Service via email or phone.
So what are the drawbacks? No camera or microphone, so no video conferencing, no Skype, no picture-taking. A little underpowered with a slightly reduced battery life and slightly higher weight when compared to the newest tablets (e.g., the Kindle Fire HDX has a quad-core processor, 11 hour battery life, and a 10.7 oz. weight compared to the Kindle Fire HD dual-core processor, 10 hour battery life, and 12.2 oz weight). On the other hand, you’re paying $90 less for the Kindle Fire HD so you’re getting a pretty good value.
Also, like the other Kindle Fire tablets, as well as the Apple iPad and the Google Nexus, the Kindle tablet line doesn’t have a micro-SD slot, so the assumption is that you’re consuming content from the cloud. This is fine when you’re using your tablet with wifi; not so good when you’re traveling and want to load up your tablet with content for the trip. If the latter is something you expect to do regularly, you might want to consider the 16GB version. Also, if all of your content is on iTunes or on Google Play, you would have to side-load everything onto the tablet. As is true of Apple and Google tablets, there’s no way to automatically connect to the cloud storage of the competition.
How does this Kindle Fire HD differ from the previous generation Kindle Fire HD? (Although the real comparison should be with the previous generation base Kindle Fire, for more on that, see below.)
– It’s a bit lighter (12.2 oz vs. 13.9 oz)
– It’s a bit smaller (7.5″ x 5.0″ x 0.42″ vs. 7.6″ x 5.4″ x 0.4″)
– It’s a bit faster (1.5GHz dual-core CPU compared to 1.2GHz)
– A redesigned shell with power and volume control buttons that are easy to find!
– The base version of the new Kindle Fire HD has 8 GB instead of 16 GB.
– No camera
– No HDMI out (but see the description above for details on how Amazon is providing a software solution for sharing your tablet screen on your television)
– No ambient light sensor, so the brightness is always set manually
– It contains a power adapter, something that was sold separately with last year’s model
– It has an updated OS and updated feature software.
Value for Money