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Kindle Fire HD review: A better Kindle, but not a better tablet

Preston Gralla | Sept. 17, 2012
Amazon's newest Kindle, the 7-in. Kindle Fire HD, is a great buy if you're an Amazon customer, but it falls short as a general-purpose tablet.

The new Kindle Fire HD, which goes on sale today, is a worthy successor to the Kindle Fire. It offers significantly improved hardware, useful new features for watching movies and reading books, and the same access to the Amazon content universe as the original Kindle Fire. Those who buy into the Amazon entertainment ecosystem will welcome it.

However, after trying it out, I feel that the Kindle Fire HD falls short as a general-purpose Android tablet, lagging behind what looks like its main competitor: Google's 7-in. Nexus 7.

The Kindle Fire HD is a worthy successor for those who are active in the Amazon ecosystem.

The $199 device's hardware specs are solid, if not overwhelmingly impressive. The 1280 x 800 resolution 7-in. screen offers high contrast, rich colors and excellent video, and it does a nice job of fighting glare -- it's a superb display.

The basic Kindle Fire HD comes with 16GB of storage, double the 8GB you get on the base models of its main competitors, the Google Nexus 7 and Nook Tablet. If you want additional storage, you can get a 32GB version of the Kindle Fire HD for $249.

(In contrast, the Nexus 7 costs $199 for 8GB and $249 for 16GB, while the Nook Tablet recently dropped to $179 for the 8GB version and $199 for the 16GB. The Nook Tablet also comes with a memory card slot, something the Kindle Fire HD doesn't have.)

The Kindle Fire HD has a mini HDMI jack, which means that you'll be able to connect it to a TV. (No HDMI cable is included.) Unlike the original Kindle Fire, the Kindle Fire HD comes with a front-facing camera.

I thought the sound generated by the device's stereo speakers was far better than what you get on the tinny speakers that the Nexus 7 and Nook Tablet sport.

This is a Wi-Fi-only device that Amazon has packed with dual antennas, support for MIMO and reception in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands in an attempt to speed up the connection. Despite that, I found Web browsing to be noticeably slower than on the Nexus 7 -- so in my experience, at least, that hardware addition is for naught.

The device is missing some prominent hardware features that its competitors have, such as GPS. The Kindle Fire HD's processor is far from leading-edge: a 1.2Ghz dual-core OMAP 4460 Texas Instruments processor, compared to the more powerful quad-core Tegra 3 processor that powers the Nexus 7. After several hours of use, I found the tablet seemed to suffer occasional lags when opening apps and on occasion when using apps. Restarting the device solved the problem, but then the lags eventually reappeared.


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