Kindle Fire HD

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What's better than a modern tablet with a quad core processor? One that costs just $199. That's right: the power of the Kindle brand has been mated with an HD screen and it won't cost you an arm and a leg.

Coming in at 16GB and 32GB flavors, the Kindle Fire HD is a big hit, bringing the simplicity of the e-book range to the tablet arena, with dedicated space to access your movies, games, apps and music too.

It’s a little simplistic for some, but for others it’s the perfect mix of curated content and easy to use interface – and despite the price, it’s got a decent build quality, too.

For casual tablet users or those already knee-deep in Amazon’s digital media abyss, the  is a fantastic option, especially at the low entry price. It offers a simple and uncomplicated experience through and through, and is built to support the digital media it aims to sell you, with an excellent screen (for a 7-incher) and surprisingly able speakers.

The Kindle Fire HD offers a significant step up from the original Fire model, with a new build and a fantastic display, though it’s not the only notable $200 tablet out there. Considering the super-streamlined interface and limited app and game selection, can Amazon’s best-yet effort compete with the Nexus 7 ?

The Good

 

An excellent 1280×800 display is a huge improvement over the fuzzier screen of the regular Fire, and it even bests the similarly-specced Nexus 7 in terms of contrast and color saturation. It shines with movies and vividly animated games.

You’ll get roughly 10 hours of use from the device – without the brightness cranked up all the way, of course – which is really stellar for the price point. Paired with the slick display, you’ll want all of those hours to watch and play everything in sight.

With dual-band, dual-spectrum Wi-Fi, the Kindle Fire HD aims to offer simultaneous transmissions, faster speeds, and more reliable connections. In our testing, we saw consistently stellar network performance, and the cloud-enhanced Silk browser still offers a quality web browsing experience (for the tablet size).

Amazon’s media offerings are still hugely appealing, between its book, movie, TV, music, and magazine selections. Beneficial features like X-Ray make these digital releases even more alluring, and the booming speakers mean you can kick back and watch a film without needing external amplification or headphones.

It’s a really great value, too. At the same price as the Nexus 7, you get double the storage with a slightly better screen and myriad other helpful features. And overall, the build here is rather nice, especially with the distinctive plastic strip on the back.

 

The Bad

Well not a whole lot not to like about this tablet but there a few small complaints,

The interface may run on Android 4.0, but unlike a pure Android install, there’s no real way to customize the look and feel of Amazon’s overlay – which is streamlined and simple. That’s perfect for casual users and tablet newbies, but others will feel stifled here. And the app storefront curiously runs rather slowly.

I appreciate the addition of a physical volume rocker, but both that and the power button are difficult to locate along the plastic frame. Subtle placement can go a long way, aesthetically, but the usability suffers in this regard.

As with the Nexus 7, external storage, cellular connections, and back cameras are MIA here. No surprise, considering the price, but they’re worth noting.

Verdict

For casual tablet users or those already knee-deep in Amazon’s digital media abyss, the Kindle Fire HD is a fantastic option, especially at that entry price. It offers a simple and uncomplicated experience through and through, and is built to support the digital media it aims to sell you, with an excellent screen (for a seven-incher) and surprisingly ample speakers. Considering the $199 starting price, even existing kindle owners might want to think about upgrading – yes, already.

Still, despite some notable perks over the Nexus 7, it doesn’t quite compare to the full package that Google and Asus offer for the same cash, which ultimately comes down to its use of Android 4.1: Jelly Bean and Google Play. Amazon’s locked-down UI and limited app offerings make it a tough sell for power users and those who wish to exert some control over their devices.

But for everyone else, the Kindle Fire HD is an impressive option, a big leap over the first Fire, and likely to be the stocking-sized tablet of choice this holiday season – well, unless Apple really does throw its hat into the tiny tablet ring with the Ipad mini

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