Look and feel
The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9’s solid body can suck up bumps on the road, and while it’s a little hefty, it’s comfortable to clutch thanks to the soft-touch rear.
Ease of Use
Amazon’s custom desktop provides a quick and easy way of accessing all of your Amazon content. It’s just a shame you can’t customise it a bit more.
The 8.9-inch screen is bright and sharp, and you get a front-facing camera for making video calls (but no rear camera). Both 16GB and 32GB models are available, but there’s no memory card slot for expansion.
The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 handles games, apps and movie streaming without any kind of issue.
With just over five hours of media streaming from a single charge, a rather average result, you’ll at least have enough power to keep you going for a full day of commuting.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,4/4/2013 12:08:48 PM
Ease of use
Fast, easy access to Amazon content;
Bright, spacious screen;
Solid build quality;
No memory card expansion;
Amazon’s original Kindle Fire HD tablet took its sweet time hitting UK stores, but when it arrived at the end of 2012 we thought it was worth the wait, thanks to the formidable backing of the Amazon online store. Now you can enjoy all of your Amazon digital purchases on an even bigger screen, as the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 adds an extra couple of inches onto the original tablet’s seven-inch display.
The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 enjoys the same design as its little sister, with solid all-round build quality. We reckon this tablet could take a beating on the road and shrug it off. It’s surprisingly heavy, with a similar heft to Apple’s iPad, but you can comfortably clutch it two-handed and the soft-touch rear gives you good grip. There’s no memory card slot but you get 16 or 32GB of built-in storage for your apps and so on, and there’s a Mini HDMI port to hook up to a TV. There’s a front-facing camera but none on the rear, and since we hate taking photos with tablets, we don’t consider that a loss.
The main draw of this model is its spacious 8.9-inch screen, which proves to be a great size for kicking back with a flick and more. Apple’s iPad uses the same size of display, but the Kindle Fire HD has a widescreen aspect ratio, rather than the iPad’s square design. We still prefer the iPad for browsing the web, but this tablet provides a comfortable experience and its blinding brightness levels means you won’t be squinting against any glare to see what’s going on. Best of all is its sharp 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution, which keeps your movies and photos looking crisp.
Apps and media
You get a handful of apps pre-installed on the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, including Skype for making video calls, but it’s refreshing to only have a small selection crammed on there instead of tons of bloatware you end up deleting. To grab more apps and games, you can access Amazon’s online store with just a single tap. The selection is pretty good, while not quite as comprehensive as Google’s Play store, and most users will have no trouble finding enough time-wasters to keep themselves entertained. Our only real gripe is there’s no way to browse the full selection of free apps – you can only check out a short list of the most popular free games.
As well as apps, you can also download movies, music, books and magazines from the online store, and the selections here are unbeatable. Readers will adore the enormous library of digital books and mags, but cinephiles be warned, you’ll need a LoveFilm account in order to stream movies and there’s no way to rent or buy a film to download onto your tablet and take with you – you’ll have to manually copy your videos onto the Kindle Fire HD from a computer if you want something to watch on the commute. If you’ve got a LoveFilm account, you can stream a good selection of movies and TV shows on demand, complete with cool built-in iMDb functionality.
Ride the carousel
Everything you download appears on the Kindle Fire HD’s desktop carousel, which takes up a big chunk of your desktop space and shows this tablet’s true purpose – it isn’t a device you can personalise and customise to your own preferences, it’s simply a slick way of consuming your media. While you can add and remove items to the carousel so it doesn’t get too cluttered, you can’t change the background or add your own themes. Basically, you’re stuck with Amazon’s pre-set layout. If that bothers you, you’re best off checking out other Android tablets instead.
Above the carousel you have a list of different media types for fast access – games, books, music and so on. You can also access your work docs directly from Amazon’s cloud service (just email any items to your personal Kindle address, which is set up automatically when you create your account, and they’ll appear in the cloud). Lastly, you have access to the web using Amazon’s Android browser, which is thankfully intuitive and makes surfing the web a breeze. The homepage shows you a list of most-visited sites, and you can quickly browse your bookmarks and a full web history too.
Keeps on burning
With the screen brightness turned right up, we found we could stream movies for almost five and a half hours before the battery died. That’s about average for a tablet and means you can happily play around on the daily commute, providing you remember to charge up at nights.
One minor quibble: we found the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 wouldn’t charge when connected to the mains if the screen brightness was turned to maximum. You’ll need to either turn down the brightness or power off the tablet if you want the battery to recharge.
The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is a no-brainer for Amazon fans, providing a tough and sleek way to enjoy all of your apps, books, magazines, music and more, now on a larger screen. Movie fans will need to sign up for LoveFilm to take full advantage of the streaming service, which is limiting if you’re a Netflix user or don’t have the cash for a monthly subscription, and some users may balk at the lack of personalisation. But for this price, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is a great budget buy.