What’s unique about this Kindle Fire HD Review?
- We talk about hardware AND software/content ecosystem - In our humble opinion, those that leave out either one of above are flawed. Some reviews only talk about hardware specs, and that doesn’t help anybody
- We make the distinction between MORE important specs vs LESS important specs - your decision on whether to go with a Kindle Fire or not should be based on the MORE important specs. These are potential Deal Sealers.
- Examples for more important specs: screen resolution, ultra-fast Wi-Fi, quality content to consume
- Examples of not so important specs: compared to the first group, that is! These are important features to have, but certainly not Deal Sealers. e.g. the HDMI out, how thin it is (some people make a big deal that tablet A is thinner than tablet B when the difference in thickness is only 0.33mm )
- We talk about the benefits as well as the shortcomings of the Kindle Fire HD - depending on your specific needs (from a tablet), these ‘weaknesses’ may be Deal Breakers for some. However, most of them are NOT really really important. We show you how to think outside the box and workaround some of them. Nevertheless some of them will be Deal Breakers for some of you.
- Top 10 Negative specs
- What’s the Bottom line? 10 Critical Features – There are all these positives, negatives, more important features, less important features etc. etc.. But what does all that mean to a potential buyer? We talk about that in the 10 Critical Features with
- Deal Sealers and
- Deal Breakers
Some (actually most) Kindle Fire Reviews are flawed because their
Don’t take us wrong, hardware is important. But…
“The most advanced tablet computer (or any other gadget) is useless without the right content i.e. music, movies, apps, books etc.“
A balanced review should look at
Leaving out either one of the above makes any review FLAWED
PLEASE VOTE after reading this review and help us improve this for the benefit of future readers
- High definition (HD) display
- 720p HD resolution (1280X800) on this model (This model is NOT HD. Avoid it if you need HD)
- 1080p HD resolution (1920×1200) on the this model. The resolution is only slightly less than the famous Retina Display of the Apple iPad 4. The iPad 4 has a resolution of 264 pixels per inch (PPI). The Kindle Fire HD has 254 PPI. That’s not a difference the naked eye of an ordinary human being can detect.
- Anti-glare screen – 25% less glare compared to the original model: this has been accomplished by eliminating the air gap between the LCD on the bottom and the touch sensor on the top of the display. A really helpful feature if you plan on using it outside/in day light. From our experience, the glare is less on the new model than the older model; however, there is QUITE A BIT OF glare when we take it outside. In contrast, this model has no glare whatsoever.
- TRUE HD screen – the 1280 X 800 (of the 7″ Fire) and 1920 X 1200 (of the 8.9″ Fire) displays are a 16:10 displays which are perfect for newest 16:9 HD movies. In contrast, the iPad Mini has a 4:3 display on which 16:9 HD content is viewed Letterboxed with a 1024 X 576 resolution. This is far from HD and is very close to SD (Standard Definition) video. True HD viewing requires a display with a minimum resolution of 1280 X 720.
- Front facing HD Camera and Mic – Finally!! this was a much talked about shortcoming on the 2011 version. Thanks to the HD camera and the mic, now you can Skype using the Kindle Fire. Don’t forget to check out our Kindle Fire HD Camera Guide which walks you through all the tips and tricks about accessing the camera, taking photos, videos, transferring them to your computer by cable and by wireless means etc. etc.
- This is a video we recorded with the Kindle Fire HD camera. What do you think about the picture quality? Not bad for a tablet eh?
- Ultra-fast Wi-Fi – The Kindle Fire HD is the world’s first tablet with dual-band, dual-antenna Wi Fi. This makes it 41% faster than the iPad 3 (single-antenna, dual-band) and 54% faster than the Google Nexus 7 (single-antenna, single-band) when it comes to downloads and streaming. Check out the nice graph on this page. You can read about all the differences between the Kindle Fire HD and the iPad Mini on our iPad Mini vs Kindle Fire HD comparison.
- 16GB or 32GB internal storage – That’s up to a 400% increase from the 8GB of the original model. Since this is an HD display, you need this extra storage because HD movies can run into several GB in size (~3GB). You can check out features of the 32GB model here (click the link to open new tab/window UPDATE! $20 Price Cut). You can actually further increase storage capacity (up to 64GB or 96GB) using this simple cheap device and free app for wireless data transfer.
- 1.2 GHz dual-core processor with 3D graphics core and 1GB RAM - The 1 GB RAM is an improvement from the 512 MB of the original version (the Kindle Fire that was sold for $129 on Cyber Monday is considered 2nd generation because it’s a slightly upgraded version from the 1st generation tablet). Together with the powerful dual-core processor, provides the power needed for the HD display.
- 11 hours of battery life- that’s an improvement of about 3 hours from the previous model (however, during a test that we did, we only got about 10 hours of continuous battery life – but we had the speakers on and the volume deliberately high, the display deliberately bright, Wi Fi continuously on etc. etc. All that sucks up battery power. So depending on how you use it, don’t be surprised if you don’t get the 11 hours. However, unlike certain other tablets, you won’t have to charge it in the middle of the day. It will last the whole day and charging at night would be sufficient even for the heavy users)
- Dolby Digital Plus with surround sound – dual-driver stereo speakers for virtual surround sound. Surround sound on your tablet? Times are indeed changing! Sound quality of the Kindle Fire HD speakers are probably the best of any tablet in the current market
- The iPad 4 does NOT have stereo speakers
- The iPad Mini has stereo speakers, BUT they’re so close to each other that it’s difficult to appreciate the stereo effect.
- In contrast, the stereo speakers on the Kindle Fire HD are spaced widely apart that you can actually appreciate stereo sounds
- HDMI out – Micro-HDMI (micro-D connector) port for HD video output to HDTVs or A/V receivers. Useful for watching video on TV, if the TV or Blu-ray player doesn’t have Wi Fi connectivity
- External volume controls – looks like Amazon listened to user complaints. The original Kindle Fire didn’t have any hardware volume controls. The only way you could up/down the volume was using the virtual/on-screen volume control. Some people didn’t like this and was a big complaint from last year. They have been cleverly placed that there is no chance of accidentally pressing them while holding the tablet
- Bluetooth – so that you can listen to music and calls wirelessly
Which version would you like to learn more about?
7″ Wi Fi 16GB
7″ Wi Fi 32GB
8.9″ Wi Fi 16GB
8.9″ Wi Fi + 3G/4G LTE 32GB
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As we emphasized earlier, the content ecosystem that provides content for the Kindle Fire HD or any other tablet is an extremely important component of any tablet review. Showing the features of the Amazon Digital Store alone won’t necessarily give you a true idea of its quantity and quality. That’s why we included a table that compares the Amazon Digital Store to Apple iTunes. There is no doubt that the iTunes store is larger, however, Amazon wins on cheaper content. However, you will find that some content is priced the same in both stores, especially when it comes to purchases (vs rentals).
Amazon Digital Store vs Apple iTunes comparison
We could have randomly picked several movies and compared prices. But then, one could have argued that we deliberately picked movies that were cheaper on Amazon or iTunes, depending on what we wanted to prove was cheaper!
To avoid any confusion of that sort, we got the Top 10 Videos On Demand published by Rentrak for the current week (week of December 10th – 16th 2012), and did a price comparison between the two stores for the top 5 movies.
Movie rentals are $2 cheaper on Amazon
4 out of the Top 5 movies were cheaper on Amazon Instant Videos, regardless of whether it was standard definition or high definition. Winner? Kindle Fire!! You’re saving $2 when you rent a movie. Depending on how many movies you rent, the savings can certainly add up.
Purchase prices are not different
In contrast to the huge difference in price of rentals, there was hardly any difference between the movie purchase prices. Of the top 5, only “Men in Black 3″ HD version was a $ cheaper on Amazon while all other movies were the same price between the two stores.
Winner? It’s a TIE
We have taken screenshots of all above movies on iTunes as well as Amazon Digital Store. We’re not going to include them all below, but here’s just one of them, so that you know we didn’t pull those numbers out of thin air
Image credits: Amazon digital store and Apple iTunes
Here’s a comparison of the two stores with some additional numbers
Disclaimer: All prices are based on information available as of December 25th 2012. The simple test that we did by testing the top 5 movies is not scientifically 100% accurate. Such a statistically accurate test would require comparing prices on 100s if not 1000s of movies/MP3s etc. We have tried our best to be as accurate and unbiased as possible, however, we make no warranties as to the accuracy of above prices/features on a large scale.
Overall winner for content?
We think there’s a clear winner. Based on the above data we collected, we’re going with Amazon digital store. But don’t take our work, you should be able to come to your own conclusion; we have shown all the info you need to make that call.
- Content – over 22 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, books, audiobooks, popular apps and games (some are free, some are not). There are many benefits including gazillions of Free Kindle books, Free MP3 music downloads, 30 day Free Trials on leading magazines, movies starting at $0.99 etc. etc.
- Amazon Prime – you get access to the Kindle owners’ lending library, Prime instant video etc. etc. However, please note that only the first month is free. Then it’s $79.99/year. That is slightly cheaper than NetFlix which is $8/month and comes to $96/year. Update: Now 3 month FREE TRIAL available (valid as of May 2013; conditions apply)
- Free app everyday – you have to pay for these apps on any other day. But everyday, Amazon picks one paid app and offers it for free. Check out the daily free app here and get an idea about the kind of apps you get for free. Typically these are priced around $2.99, but we have got apps as expensive as $14.99 for free thanks to the “Free App of the Day“
These are not ultra-important, nevertheless, can come in very handy when you start using your Kindle Fire.
- Free unlimited cloud storage – unlimited for Amazon content (that’s MP3, movies, ebooks, apps etc. etc. you buy from Amazon digital store) and 20GB for non-Amazon content (that would be like photos or other personal files you decide to upload on to the cloud)
- Kindle FreeTime – it’s basically an app included on the Kindle Fire HD that allows parents to create a customized content experience for each of their children. Kindle FreeTime provides a personalized content viewing experience for up to six kids. Each child sees only the content (books, videos and apps) added by the parent. Kids cannot exit Kindle FreeTime without the Parental Controls password. In other words, they can only use it the way you want them to use it. They can’t exit Kindle FreeTime and go browse the web or watch videos on YouTube. Click Here for a detailed breakdown of Kindle FreeTime features.
- Parental controls – lack of proper parental controls was a major limitation on the 1st generation Kindle Fire. My kids would go online and purchase all kinds of games (not that they’re disobedient, they were too young to understand ). The only way to stop that was to turn the Wi Fi off. This was a major a major headache, not only to me, but to parents all over the USA. I had to contact Amazon support several times to get a few refunds for apps. But with new software updates, the parental controls have dramatically improved and now you can have the Wi Fi turned on. They can browse the apps, the web (according to what you decide they can do and cannot do) etc. with the Wi Fi turned on, but they CANNOT purchase anything without knowing the unlock password. This was a much needed feature, and Amazon seemed to have listened to the complaints and implemented the changes. Read more specifics on parental controls on this page.
- Whispersync for voice – automatic sync between audiobooks you listen and ebooks you read
- Whispersync is also offered for books, movies and games
- Immersion reading – synchronizes Kindle text with companion Audible audiobooks with real-time highlighting. I don’t think I’m going to use it, but I’m sure this is going to be an awesome feature for kids learning to read
- Buy once, enjoy everywhere – read/watch/listen to content not only on your Kindle Fire 2, but also on your PC, Mac, TV, Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation, Roku streaming device, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Smart TVs, Blu-ray players etc. etc.
- X-Ray for movies and books – just like do X-ray for tablets! ha ha!
- New email app – lets you sync all your different email accounts + other rich features
- Read-to-me – text-to-speech feature that I missed on the original version of the Kindle Fire
- Accelerometer - what the –?@!!? this is what turns the display from portrait to landscape and vice versa when you change the orientation of your iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire etc. Also plays a role in certain games like this one where physical movements of the KF are necessary
- Gyroscope - together with the accelerometer, the gyroscope helps determine the orientation. Again, comes to play when you switch from portrait to landscape and when playing games. Don’t take this wrong! We’re not saying that the accelerometer or gyroscope are unimportant; what we’re saying is that it’s not a deal breaker because it’s pretty much standard these days and all the leading tablets come with them.
- Price – at $199, it’s $130 cheaper than the iPad Mini. If you go with the 32GB Kindle Fire HD, that’s $200 cheaper than the 32GB iPad Mini (after the latest price cut). Even the 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD is $60 (16GB version) or $130 (32GB version) cheaper than the iPad Mini. The Wi Fi only 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD, at $269, is $200 cheaper than the full sized iPad 4 priced at $499. The Wi Fi + 3G 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD priced at $399 is $330 cheaper than the Wi Fi + 3G iPad 4 priced at $729.
- Content – it let’s you easy access to one of the best, if not THE BEST, digital content store. Content is generally cheaper compared to iTunes, so your savings add up over the months/years. Amazon Prime and all those free daily apps add to the savings.
- HD display and sound system- the second-to-none crisp sharp image/video quality is an absolute eye pleaser. The whole idea of buying a tablet computer is to watch content. So there better be a good quality display. The high definition display on the Kindle Fire HD is way better than the non-HD display of the iPad Mini tablet. The dolby digital stereo speakers are as good as any found on tablets and complements its superior display.
- Fast processor and RAM – the dual core 1.2Ghz processor and 1GB RAM make sure a smooth user experience
- Wi Fi – ultra-fast Wi Fi download speeds thanks to dual-band dual-antenna technology
- Kid control – Kindle FreeTime and Parental controls may not be useful to everybody, but for those of us that have kids, these two features are amazing
- No expandable memory – you have the option of buying a 16GB or 32GB Kindle Fire with the 7″ version. When it comes to the 8.9″ version, you could buy a 16GB, 32GB or 64GB tablet. However, all of them have a ‘fixed’ internal memory. There isn’t an SD card slot for expanding memory. The iPad mini or full-sized iPad also doesn’t have expandable memory. But certain tablets like this one and this one do. As we mention elsewhere also, even though the Kindle Fire HD or iPad don’t come with memory card slots, you can still increase the storage capacity even up to 96GB by using a FREE app like this one that works with a device like this one.
- No 3G on the 7″ version- not many people want 3G on their 7″ tablets, while some people that travel a lot, do. However, the 7″ Fire HD only comes with Wi Fi connectivity. This is a potential problem for those that travel a lot and don’t mind spending some extra ca$h for the 3G capability. If you want 3G on your tablet, there are 2 options.
- Option 1: Buy 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD with 3G/4G LTE + Wi Fi connectivity. This model also comes with a SUPER $ saving feature where you can get 12 months worth of 4G LTE for a one-time payment of $49.99. With any other tablet, you pay $10+ monthly for 3G/4G.
- Option 2: Use something like this gadget or this one and you have 3G (no 4G at the time of writing this) on your Kindle Fire HD.
- No rear camera- many 7″ tablets like the Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus 7 and Nook HD do not sport a rear-camera. There are several potential reasons for this.
- Limited use – while a front camera is used for video chatting (so that you can see yourself on the screen) a rear-camera is used for photographing objects/people in front of you (so that you can see what you’re photographing on the screen. If you use the front camera to take pictures in front of you, you need to turn the tablet screen away from you and you can’t see what you’re photographing. You kind of have to blindly aim the camera at an object/person). But, what are the chances that you will carry a 7″ tablet taking photographs around you? If you’re planning on using your tablet computer to take a ton of photos, definitely think of some other tablet than the Kindle, Nexus or Nook!
- Expensive – including a 2nd camera would increase the cost of production – here’s what ASUS, the manufacturer of the Google Nexus 7 had to say about it “To make [the Google Nexus 7] accessible to the widest possible market, price is very important. ASUS believes that for this device a good rear camera is important. Adding a high quality rear facing camera will increase the price point and many users would not have a use for it. Adding a lower quality rear facing camera would compromise on the overall user experience so the decision was made not to include a front facing camera therefore keeping the price down and user experience extremely high.” That’s probably one of the reasons why the basic iPad Mini, that has a rear-camera starts at $329. The more gadgets you have, the more pricier it will be.
- No GPS – the majority of Kindle Fire tablets don’t have GPS capabilities. Only this specific Kindle Fire HD has GPS: location-based services via Wi-Fi and assisted-GPS
Now that you’ve read all about the Kindle Fire HD, which version would you choose if you were to purchase?
7″ Wi Fi 16GB
7″ Wi Fi 32GB
8.9″ Wi Fi 16GB
8.9″ Wi Fi + 3G/4G LTE 32GB
To Buy or Not to Buy?
We think, the hardware features and the content/services features we outlined above are very strong reasons for one to purchase a Kindle Fire HD. Compared to other leading tablets, all of the above for $199 is nothing short of a bargain.
Once you complete the poll, you will be shown the most up-to-date results! We appreciate you taking part in this poll.
Also please don’t forget to comment at the end of this page and to share your thoughts after you cast your votes! Thank you!