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Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch review: Third time's the charm

Andy Ihnatko | Oct. 3, 2013
Considerable hardware and software improvements make Amazon's third attempt one of the best content-consumption tablets around.

They become more interesting when you look at X-Ray and their other unique content-driven features. Then you go and reread the added benefits of your $79-a-year Amazon Prime membership. It gives you free two-day shipping on your orders, but it's also a subscription content service. You get streaming access to 41,000 movies and TV shows. A Fire device can download many of these titles for offline playback. You also have a "lending library" of 350,000 Kindle books, also available offline.

The iPad has a huge content library of its own, but it also suffers from lock-in problems. The digital movies and books you purchase from Amazon are DRM-protected just like the stuff from the iTunes Store, but Amazon doesn't limit you to playing them only on Amazon-brand hardware.

The Fire HDX has two weaknesses. First, it's not a truly international product like the iPad (the Coca-Cola of tablets). Second, although you'll find plenty of games and productivity apps in Amazon's Android app store, the exclusion of Google Play makes it a second-class citizen in the world's second-best mobile app marketplace.

Bottom line
The 7-inch HDX is better competition to like-sized iOS and Android counterparts than the 8.9-inch model is to its own. Consumers shopping for a smaller tablet are more likely to be buying it as a content device, which plays straight into the Kindle Fire HDX's considerable strengths.

There's another shoe waiting to drop: a likely iPad refresh. I don't expect to see Apple lower the price of the 16GB iPad mini below its current $329. For the life of me, I don't know what Apple could do to enhance the iPad mini to make me recommend it over the Fire HDX, provided that the person asking my advice had little interest in productivity or gaming. A 7-inch Fire HDX will give you a superior content experience and leave $100 in your pocket—which you can spend on books, music, and movies.


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