Just a few years ago Amazon, along with a few other companies, decided they wanted to take a bit of a risk and invest in eBooks. Since then the eBook market has literally exploded, and there are now a wide range of eReader available. Although Amazon’s Kindle line of eReaders aren’t the only decent eReaders on the market, it’s probably fair to say that they are the kings of the eReader category. So far we’ve also reviewed the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 and the Sony Reader. We also did a side by side comparison of the Kindle Fire HD versus the Apple iPad to give you an idea of the choices you have. It’s a big market out there for buyers now…just choose wisely and figure out exactly what you want your tablet to do for you.
However, Amazon have decided to go one step further now, and have tried to combine eReaders with tablets in their new Kindle Fire products. With the launch of the second wave of Kindle Fire products in September – the Kindle Fire HD range – Amazon are really pushing to break into the tablet eReader market. So let’s take a close look at the Kindle Fire HD, and see how it stands up as both an eReader and a tablet.
16GB And 32GB Storage Options: Compared to a standard eReader, one of the best things about the Kindle Fire HD is its much larger storage capacity. Even the smaller of the two options offers several times as much storage as any of the standard Kindles. That means you can store tens of thousands more books on the device.
And in terms of competing with other tablets, the larger storage capacity is more than adequate. Even the 16GB option can compete, but the 32GB option really slides this in alongside some tough tablet competition.
Tablet Features: As an eReader, the Kindle Fire is fairly unique for offering a suite of standard tablet features in addition to its capacities as an eReader. In fact, it’s more correct to say that as a tablet, the Kindle Fire also offers a suite of standard eReader features! These features include the touch-screen menu navigation system, downloadable applications, photo and video browsing, web surfing etc. These, together with the eReader functionality, make the Kindle Fire HD a great all-round product.
Amazon Prime: The Kindle Fire HD comes with a one month free trial of Amazon Prime – Amazon’s premium online shopping service that comes with a range of benefits. Not only does it grant you unlimited access to Amazon’s range of streaming film and TV content, as well as some streaming music, but it also gives you access to the free Kindle lending library that has over 180,000 books – including some recent best-sellers. You can borrow up to one book every month using this service.
As a device, the Kindle Fire HD has been built from the ground up to give you quick and easy access to the Amazon store, so if you’re an avid Amazon shopper this device should please you no end.
Front-Facing Camera: As a tablet, the Kindle Fire can utilize its front-facing camera for Skype video chat. If you’re buying this device primarily as an eReader, then this is a fantastic bonus. If you’re looking at the Kindle Fire HD as a tablet, then it’s an expected feature and allows the device to compete well with other rival products.
Touch Screen: Just like the Kindle Touch, the Kindle Fire HD is touch screen – offering multi-touch for up to ten simultaneous touches. This makes the Kindle Fire HD as modern as any rival tablet, and well ahead of most rival eReaders.
Image Quality: As the name suggests, the Kindle Fire HD has great image quality at HD resolutions. Everything on the screen looks crisp, sharp and bright, and colors are well balanced. Text looks really good on the screen – very fine and clean.
Speed: As tablets go, the Kindle Fire HD is pretty fast. Sure, it doesn’t compete with high-end devices so well, but it’s still good enough for the kind of work it’s designed to do.
Cloud Storage: Like the previous Kindle Fire, the Kindle Fire HD offers cloud storage for most all multimedia purchased through the Amazon store. You’ll also be able to store your eBooks online too, freeing up the on-board storage space for things like photos, movies and applications.
Charge Time: The Kindle Fire HD has an excellent charge time of around 4 hours, unless you are charging through a USB connection to a computer in which case it takes around 11 hours. The mains charging is, however, very fast by comparison to other tablets.
Battery Life: From a tablet standpoint, the Kindle Fire HD fares well with around 11 hours of use. This compares favorably with most other tablets on the market.
Ports: This tablet comes with a USB port and micro HDMI port, two essential features that are fast becoming standard for tablets. It’s great to have the option of USB connection, as well as the ability to connect out to an HDTV to watch your movies and view your photos on a big screen.
Sound: Unlike many tablets, the sound quality on the built-in speakers of the Kindle Fire HD is great, and it’s easily loud enough to make use of without any boosting software.
Counteracts Glare: One of the big problems faced by any portable device with a screen is visibility when used outdoors – especially in sunlight. The Kindle Fire HD does very well on this front, with adjustments made to compensate for glare automatically. This should keep the product usable in the majority of lighting conditions.
Text To Speech: One very useful feature on any eReader is text-to-speech, where the device is able to read any text to you out loud. The Kindle Fire HD does this very well, which is great for those with visual impairment, or those who just want to close their eyes for a bit as they enjoy a book.
Kindle Fire HD: The Cons
Backlit Display: As an eReader, the big failing of the Kindle Fire HD is the backlit display. Conventional eReaders try to move away from the kind of glare given off by a computer screen as you read from it, opting instead for a display that more closely resembles a page in a book.
Basically, the great strength of an eReader, and it’s suitability as a conventional book replacement, lies in the fact that the pages are not physically lit up from within. This avoids giving the user eyestrain and other uncomfortable visual experiences. The Kindle Fire HD has a screen like any other tablet or computer – one that is lit from within. This means it can give you eyestrain and so on, and makes it far less suitable for lengthy periods of reading.
However, it does come with new anti-glare technology that will make it easier on the eyes, especially when in bright lighting conditions, than standard tablet screens.
Weight: If you’re looking at this device for use as an eReader then you may be disappointed with the size and weight of the thing. It’s nearly double the weight of the other Kindles – a significant amount that definitely impacts the experience of holding the device in a position for reading.
Battery Life: While the battery life is good for a tablet, for an eReader it’s terrible. Most eReaders can go for weeks or even months of use on a single battery charge. The Kindle Fire HD only goes for 11 hours.
Adverts: The Kindle Fire HD is really cheap, but makes up for this by trying to sell Amazon stocked products to you at every available opportunity. For example, the lock screen displays only ads. To remove ads from the device, you have to pay an extra $15, which isn’t great.
No SD Card Slot: Unfortunately Amazon still haven’t thought to include an SD memory card slot on the device. It’s a shame, because these are very useful and are slowly becoming a standard inclusion on tablets.
Connectivity Issues: Some users have reported issues with Wi-Fi connectivity. Generally the connectivity behaves well, but sometimes it goes wrong and requires that you restart the device to fix the problem. This issue will probably be fixed in a software update, but it would be nice if it wasn’t there at all.
Crashes: A small number of users have been reporting occasional crashes when the device tries to open applications. This is annoying when it happens and needs to be addressed.
Laggy Interface: The interface on this tablet currently suffers from a bit of lag – something which the previous Kindle Fire did not. This is an important matter that needs to be dealt with promptly.
Is The Kindle Fire HD Worth Buying?
Overall, the Kindle Fire is worth buying as a cheap tablet that can double up as an eReader for occasional reading. However, if you’re primary interest is in a device for reading eBooks you’d be better off looking elsewhere as no tablet will offer you the kind of thing which the eyes really need from a product if they’ll be doing lots of reading.
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