Look and feel
Rubber feel on the back, with design flourishes gives the Kindle Fire HD a tough, yet premium feel.
Ease of Use
Simple. Amazon's heavily repurposed Android OS funnels users towards the store and makes it very easy to find content and purchase more.
Peerless Dolby sound, dual antenna dual-band Wi-Fi for quick browsing and excellent access to the Amazon store and its smooth cloud streaming service.
Using the Kindle Fire HD is a slick experience. The reskinned Android is not intensive, so the processor rarely encounters problems, while streaming HD video is a joyful experience.
If you keep the brightness low and don't play with games or watch video, you can get a day of reading out of the Kindle Fire HD 7". Throw browsing and general messing about into the mix, and you're looking at 10 hours.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/6/2012 4:34:41 PM
Ease of use
Superb screen; Incredible sound; Gigantic media library; Smooth performance.
Lack of customisable features is frustrating; Too commercially driven; Ads included as default; Not as practical as other, less media-centric, tablets.
Amazon wants you to buy things, and the Kindle Fire HD isn’t afraid of letting you know that.
In fact, as soon as you turn on the device, you’ll be confronted with an advert in glorious HD. Sign in and get through to the homescreen, and there are more ads; underneath the carousel of things you already have, is another showing products that other people have bought. You should definitely buy them too. Go on.
It’s not like Amazon has conned anyone though. When Jeff Bezos stood on stage and announced the latest Kindle line-up, he made it perfectly clear that the Fire is a service and not a gadget. Sure, you can browse the web and check emails, but that’s not the Kindle Fire HD’s raison d’etre.
Content consumption portal
This is not the device if you want to get some work done, chat with friends and make life easier using innovative apps. The Kindle Fire HD is there for books, games, movies and music. Books, games, movies and music you have bought from Amazon, at that.
Amazon's Appstore is a huge bonus. Thanks to it being tied to Amazon's own purchasing system, it's easier for you to buy games/albums/whatever from a trusted source, and then be able to access those purchases from a staggering amount of other connected devices thanks to the cloud.
This is where the Kindle Fire HD has something of a dichotomy. The basic device offers 16GB storage (no SD card expansion), but with an overriding message of BUY BUY BUY, something has to give.
Now, Amazon has offered one way around that problem by letting users store all their content on the cloud, and then stream those files or download them to the tablet. However, for a device that is supposed to be portable, and only comes in Wi-Fi flavour, that cloud access isn’t necessarily going to get a great deal of use.
It’s not going to be a dealbreaker for most people, but is definitely something worth considering if you’re leaning towards the Fire HD and like to have a decent library of movies and music at your fingertips at all times.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that a mains charger isn’t included in the box, so be sure to order one of those lest you wind up spending waiting to use your new toy as it trickle charges from a computer.
Battery life is above average, but will not blow you away. Be clever with the brightness levels and you can get a day of reading out of it, but that gorgeous screen will scoff power if you're not careful - we were able to stream HD video at full brightness for a touch over four hours before the battery gave up.
Starting at £159 for the 16GB model, Amazon can sell the Kindle Fire HD for such a competitive price thanks to the commercials that pepper the user experience. The lockscreen adverts aren’t all that intrusive, but those on the homescreen take up valuable real estate and are (at times completely inappropriate.
Thankfully, there is a way to get away from the incessant adverts, but it will cost you. Users can opt out of ‘special offers’ (ie. adverts) for £10, which isn’t too bad a proposition, especially if you want to shake that niggling feeling that the tablet isn’t quite yours; with so many ads thrust your way, it feels like it’s just on loan from Amazon.
With streaming and downloading being such a major part of the attraction, the dual antenna, dual-band Wi-Fi makes a real difference and as long as your Wi-Fi connection is solid, it’s very unlikely you’ll ever encounter lags or stutters.
For a multimedia device, the HD’s form factor is perfect. If it was any smaller, lengthy films would be less enjoyable and the impressive speakers wouldn’t deliver the same kind of performance. Any larger, however, and reading books would become an exercise in absurdity. Have you ever tried to get comfortable and read a novel on a tablet nearing 10-inches? Nobody curls up on the sofa with the Guinness Book of Records. At 395g it’s about the right weight for reading, with a decent-sized bezel around the screen for thumbs.
The gadget feels solid, and has a comfortable rubbery back that makes it easy to hold, with a thin glossy plastic band across the back, housing the speakers. Amazon has also listened to consumers and added physical volume buttons – an improvement on the previous Kindle Fire.
Another bonus to buying a Fire HD includes automatically being signed up for Amazon Prime for one month, offering free one day delivery on physical purchases, an ebook rental service and other benefits. Unlike other free trials, this is one you’ll probably want to hang on to – free next day delivery is particularly helpful come Christmas time.
For a tablet aimed at being a one-stop shop for watching, reading and playing, the Kindle Fire HD is quite unhelpful when trying to use file formats it doesn’t like. Although a great deal of the video files on your hard drives will be in .avi you’ll need to download an app like VLC to actually play them.
Once you’ve got them playing though, the 1280x800 HD display will make them look fantastic. Games too, get a new lease of life. Large, graphically intense games (The Dark Knight Rises, Contract Killer) look brilliant and the 1.2 GHz dual-core processor twinned with Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core keeps everything fast and smooth.
The lack of customisation will be a problem for some. You can change the homepage to an extent, but the basic layout will always be the same. If you’re used to stock Android and like to make devices work around you and your needs, the inability to tailor will be challenging. As will the Kindle’s incessant desire to funnel you through to its stores – no matter where you are, the ability to spend more is only a tap away. It’s a double-edged sword; very handy in some respects, but at times the grasping is massively irritating.
While entertainment is well-represented, many apps that you may have come to rely on, are not. There is no Chrome, no Firefox; your one choice of browser is the homemade program Silk. As browsers go, it’s perfectly serviceable, but the lack of choice is frustrating. So too is the lack of YouTube, Dropbox, Gmail and other things you would expect.
Ultimately, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD is a device for spending money and consuming content, a £150+ personalised shop window, but it’s damn good at what it is trying to do. The discovery and download journey is elegant, and the delivery of that content absolutely flawless.
If you’re after something to use for watching, reading and listening while commuting or just for messing about with before going to sleep, it’s hard to think of a better device. Just be sure that that’s all you want before laying down the cash.