Thursday, 11 April 2013

Kindle Fire HD 8.9

It seems like quite a while ago since the Kindle was just about reading books. Last year's seven-inch Kindle Fire HD was a full-on tablet, powered by Android and putting equal emphasis on web browsing, movie viewing, gaming and yup, you guessed it, the 8.9-inch version is like that, but more.
It goes on sale this week at
This Fire has got to be the heaviest Kindle ever, tipping the scales at 567g -- not so heavy for a tablet perhaps, but it's way out of ereader territory now. The solid plastic casing with curved edges gives good grip, but the matte finish is a fingerprint magnet. There's a volume rocker and power/sleep button on the side but no other controls. There's also a microUSB port for charging, a 3.5mm headphone jack and micro HDMI port for mirroring on your TV. Oh, and there's a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front for video chat, using Skype or other apps that you can download from the Kindle store.
The screen is of course the big event with this latest incarnation of the Fire HD. Nestling behind Gorilla Glass, it measures 8.9-inches, getting ever closer to full tablet expansiveness. It boasts a gorgeously sharp pixel count of 1,920x1,200, which boils down to about 254ppi and looks stunningly vibrant as soon as you switch it on. The viewing angle is wide and it's bright enough to show up well in sunlight too. It's not quite up there with the iPad's Retina display, but it's close, and is easily ahead of Barnes & Noble's Nook HD, perhaps the Kindle's most direct competitor.

UI and features
The interface is straightforward enough, with a menu of media types across the top and you can scroll through a carousel showing your books, videos, music, games, photos, docs and web pages, plus the Kindle store of course. Incidentally, though the screen can handle full HD videos from YouTube and elsewhere, Amazon's streaming video is limited to 720p for the moment.
It has a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm ARM Cortex-A9 backed by 1GB RAM, a step up from the seven-inch Fire's 1.2GHz, which keeps things ticking along nicely, though not noticeably faster than the smaller model.
The Kindle Fire HD is still very much a tablet that's about consumption rather than production. The interface works fine for viewing movies and playing games, both helped by the Dolby Digital Plus audio processing that's applied before the sound emerges from the large stereo speakers on the back. It's good for reading books even, though it soon gets heavy if you're holding it up for any length of time.
There's 16GB of memory on board, but despite running on Android there's no access to Google Play apps, and email and calendars are a bit clunky, with no easy set-up for social networking apps. If standard Android apps are key for you, you're best off looking elsewhere.
By signing up for Amazon Prime for £49 a year, you have a choice of movies and TV to stream, plus the Kindle Owner's Lending Library, with over 200,000 books to borrow for no extra cost, which isn't a bad deal if you plan on using your Kindle a lot.
It has a great screen, decent speakers and easy access to the biggest library of content in the world. If you want to watch, listen, play or read, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is a very nice piece of kit. It doesn't have the versatility of the iPad or most Android tablets for creation or social networking, but so long as you know what you want it for, it's well worth a look.

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