tablets

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 Review

A notable size upgrade over the first Kindle Fire HD, the 8.9 inch version falls a bit short.

November 29, 2012
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Introduction

After a long wait, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch is finally here. A bigger variant of its little brother, the Kindle Fire HD, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch brings a better performance and size to the table(t), though it does fall short in many areas like color gamut and reflectivity.

Design & Usability

Simple, efficient design stunted by software

Due to its comparatively light weight, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch is fairly easy to hold for long periods of time. Without any sharp angles, the bezel on the Kindle doesn't dig into your hand after a long period of use, so most users should find holding it to be fairly comfortable.

Most interactions with your tablet will be governed entirely by the operating system's re-skinned interface, which is a bit of a chore. Tweet It

Controlling a tablet through a capacitive touchscreen is simple enough, as it registers your touch quickly and accurately. However, because there are so few physical controls, most interactions with your tablet will be governed entirely by the operating system's re-skinned interface, which is a bit of a chore. Basic functions are located in a horizontal list near the top of the screen, settings are in a swipe-down menu at the top, and the menu bar can be called out by tapping the bottom of the screen.

Unlike Android, you can't customize your lock screen or home screen. Unfortunately, the Kindle Fire HD tablets have ads that appear all the time on the lock screen, and they're there to stay. Similarly, you can't alter what's available to you on the home screen in the form of widgets or apps: The carousel of recent items will always be there until you decide to root the device and install an actual version of Android on there... if you elect to do so. Also missing from the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is a feature that's usually available in both of Google and Apple's small tablets: GPS. While it may not matter to some, the lack of GPS means no maps, no navigation, and no services like what Google offers its fully-loaded Android tablets.

This Kindle has a lot to offer media mavens of all sorts, as it has a micro-HDMI port to export your content to a TV screen. Additionally, you can pair accessories with it using the Bluetooth 3.0+EDR wireless standard. The usual connectivity options for an Android-based tablet also apply here, as it has both a micro-USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

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Performance

Few features, but fair performance

The bigger, badder brother of the Kindle Fire HD is built around a 7.625 x 4.75-inch screen, with a resolution of 1920 x 1200. With a high pixel density, any eBooks you decide to read on this piece of hardware will be very legible, but the color performance is terrible and the contrast is thoroughly average.

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is just not a good platform for finding the latest apps. Tweet It

In comparison to the virtual duopoly of app markets (Google and Apple), Amazon's selection pales in comparison, and as such, has a much higher percentage of apps that you are less likely to download. Not only that, but many of the more popular and stunning apps like Flipboard are nowhere to be found, so the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is just not a good platform for finding the latest apps: It's a media consumption device at its core, and nothing more.

Conclusion

Awkwardly priced, and rather lacking compared to other tablets in its price range

If there's one thing the Kindle Fire HDs do well, it's media consumption for the masses. Fortunately for Amazon, that seems to be a winning strategy for its tablets, even if they're severely lacking in the internet features department. Despite the fact that their app selection is almost laughable behind that of Google and Apple, the Kindle Fire family seems to be doing well in the market as media consumption devices.

However, a tablet can be so much more than something to watch content on, and this is the main shortcoming of the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch: Its ceiling for usability is so low, and there's nothing you can to to change that. This isn't inherently a bad thing, as there are several different ways people like to use their tablets, it's just that there's one very specific use that the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 has, and that's it.

For those of you primarily looking for a way to stream movies, music, and literature onto a tablet with a decent screen on the cheap, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch remains a great option if you're willing to deal with ads. If you're an app fiend or gaming nut, however, this is probably not the tablet for you.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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