Kindle Fire HD 7in (Wi-Fi) Review
Interface, Ads & Apps8.5
Ravi Mandalia | On 16, Jun 2013
The Amazon Kindle Fire HD (₹15,999 for 16GB, ₹18,999 for 32GB) is finally launching in India from June 27 directly from Amazon and that too with HD screens.
The 7in Kindle Fire HD (KFHD) is equipped with a well-designed interface that is a direct door to the already launched Amazon’s music, books and other services. This makes the Amazon KFHD not only highly entertaining but also potentially the best tablet around worth buying that offers a complete package.
The first thing you would notice is the solid and well-built feel of the Kindle Fire HD. The tablet is definitely not built from left overs of the BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet as many believed. The tablets measures 137 x 10 x 193mm (WxDxH) and weighs 395 grams and if compared to the original Kindle Fire that launched in the US last year, the HD is slightly bigger yet slimmer and lighter.
Constructed mostly out of matte plastic material that gives you a grippy feel, the corners of the KFHD are more rounded while the back is tapered. There is a shiny black strip along the back housing two powerful, dual-driver, room-filling stereo speakers. The bottom-mounted power button has been moved to the side now next to the volume rocker.
Display is definitely the area which Amazon has concentrated upon as once you start the tablet all you can say is WOW! KFHD’s 7-inch IPS LCD display gives only 1,280 x 800 resolution, which is fairly standard and available with many tablets, but it is non-reflective and the great colour balance it provides makes it a better display as compared to even Nexus 7.
You have the 1-megapixel video camera just above the screen that would allow you to make video calls and along the bottom you have the micro HDMI and micro USB ports. Amazon hasn’t provided any expansion slots for storage so you will have to do with whatever inbuilt storage comes with the tablet.
The battery isn’t removable and when we tested it out through a looping video at full brightness with Wi-Fi turned on, the tablet lasted for over 7 hours. This is a lot better as compared to HP Slate 7 but, lower than Google’s Nexus 7.
Interface, Ads and Apps
Amazon has worked up a custom operating system to power its Kindle Fire HD range of tablets based on Android Ice Cream Sandwich but, the customization is so extensive that you wouldn’t realize that the OS is Android up until you play with it for a while. All Android apps from third party vendors work just fine with the KFHD but, the main focus of the tablet is to allow users to play with content they have downloaded from Amazon.
Instead of the lock screen, when you start your tablet, you will notice a full-screen ad. Amazon feeds such ‘offers’ to your tablet instead of showing the standard lock screen and while you are using the tablet two-line text ads also appear at the bottom of every home screen. If you are not too keen on such ads, and hate them like I do, you could pay a flat one-off fee of $15 (₹870) and get rid of them permanently. Hopefully this option will be available in India as well.
The home screen is lined up with text options such as Shop, Games, Apps, Books, Music, Videos, Newsstand, Audiobooks, Web, Photos, Docs, and Offers (the aforementioned ads). I don’t know if all these options will be available in the Indian version of the KFHD as Amazon.in only offers music and books for now. Anyways, we will see what all options have been made available in the Indian version of the KFHD when it launches. Below the text options are large, rotating carousel of the most recent icons you’ve used. There is no obvious way to switch between apps running at the same time but, the music option stays in the notification bar allowing you to pause it as and when required.
If you are connected to the internet through Wi-Fi, clicking on any category brings up a virtual bookshelf of your content divided into Cloud and Device sections. While connected, you will have the option of moving content from the cloud to your device and vice versa as required. If you aren’t connected you will only see the Device section.
Amazon has loaded the Fire HD with its Silk browser which it claims is super-fast thanks to its seamless cloud acceleration. But, according to reports and our experience web browsing says otherwise. No doubt the browser is great but Google Chrome on a Tegra 3 based device is faster and allows for smoother scrolling. Amazon has promised that the browser will speed up over the next few months as its servers optimize various web pages.
The Kindle Fire HD is quite useful when it comes to viewing documents emailed to you like Word, PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, etc.
You can load you own apps by plugging in KFHD into your PC and the tablet appears like any other Android tablet out there. You can extract apps from an Android phone or tablet and install them on the KFHD using the Easy Installer found in Amazon’s Appstore.
Kindle Fire HD doesn’t allow you to install apps from Google Play Store and that seems to be a bit of over restriction. Anyways, looking for popular apps in Amazon app store also yield results. According to Amazon there are over 10,000 “Kindle Fire compatible” apps on its App Store and this certainly offers a range of apps for you to try your hands on.
The tablet plays AAC, M4A and MP3 audio files, and AVI, MPEG4 and H.264 video files without any problems but, there is no support for DivX, Xvid, or WMV.
If you were in the US you could have benefited from unlimited streaming of movies through Amazon Prime movie streaming service but, unfortunately this service isn’t available in India yet
Amazon, it seems, went a little overboard while promising things with the KFHD as the tablets under performs as against the promises made. Jeff Bezos, in his launch speech, in a way implied rather strongly that the TI OMAP4460 processor clocked at 1.2GHz is faster than the Nexus 7’s Nvidia Tegra 3. But, tests yielded rather something completely different.
We used a range of benchmarks and apps including AnTuTu, Geekbench, Basemark OS, Browsermark, and others. Google’s Nexus 7 beat the KFHD in overall scores and on graphics tests while the KFHD triumphed Nexus 7 on some memory access tests and the Basemark system tests. KFHD was slightly faster in the Basemark OS and AnTuTu tests if we look at per core performance but, the results will be different if all the cores are put into action and Nexus 7 may have an edge.
Kindle Fire HD is much slower when it comes to launching apps and it does create a perception of lag. I found the user interface being noticeably slow and it takes a couple of seconds before thumbnails on Amazon’s video and apps pages load. Now this is a bug that Amazon says it will resolve soon. If you launch too many apps at one go and make the KFHD go through heavy multitasking, the UI starts showing jerkiness. To my surprise, plugging in an HDMI cable also showcases the same kind of UI behavior. Amazon’s OS is definitely not as smooth in operation as Nexus 7’s Android 4.1.
Kindle Fire HD performs a lot better in the 5GHz as compared to the 2.4GHz. The tablet managed to garner an average download speed of 5.8Mbps as compared to just 3.7Mbps on the Nexus 7. Because of multiple antennas KFHD again comes out on top in areas with extreme reflections. Went down to areas with stoned walls and on a 2.4GHz network KFHD managed to register an average download speed of 2.4Mbps as opposed to Nexus 7’s 1.8Mbps.
Kindle Fire HD has a lot going for it all in all. It can be dubbed as an easy-to-use media consumption tablet and the 7-inch tablet will impress you with its gorgeous display and boosted Wi-Fi performance.
If you can’t be bothered about setting up the tablet when you get it out of the box like configuring widgets, home screen, etc. and want to start using it straight away the Kindle Fire HD is definitely for you. Geeks may not be too impressed with the rigidity Amazon has adopted with its “no messing with Home Screen” stance, but I bet there are millions of people out there and thousands of them would be reading this right now are want to watch and play with stuff rather than sitting there settings things up.