Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7" Tablet Review
Amazon falls short with the Kindle Fire HDX 7".
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Digging in the Bargain Bin
Amazon grabs headlines with affordable tablets, but this time the news isn't stellar. The world of seven-inch tablets is rife with low-cost options—though some are definitely high-quality, others are simply cheap. Enter the Kindle Fire HDX 7" ($229 MSRP), an entry-level tablet from Amazon.
Though Amazon's newest tablets bear the Kindle OS' latest-and-greatest features, the devices themselves are hit-or-miss. Sure, a 24-hour customer service video-chat app is an innovative feature, but that only goes so far, given that the HDX's access to content is limited to proprietary sources.
Though the spec sheet reads with many impressive numbers, the HDX 7" still doesn't measure up to the competition. The only thing the HDX has over the Nexus 7 is access to Amazon Prime Instant video. Otherwise, you're paying the same amount of money for ads, a worse screen, poorer battery life, and a worse selection of apps and services. Build quality is also an issue, leading me to believe that the "loss leader" strategy has finally caught up to Amazon.
Lamborghini body, Fiero Chassis
If you do get your hands on a Kindle Fire HDX 7", you'll be treated to a very light and easy to hold tablet. It's almost unnerving how weightless it is, but don't worry: you won't break it easily. Though the headphone jack and microUSB port used for charging are very basic for a tablet, the Kindle Fire HDX 7" sports a camera on either side of the unit. Additionally, the best tablet-based speakers I've ever heard reside on the top of the Kindle Fire HDX.
The soft-touch backing is the perfect texture to combine with the shallow angles of the bezel, and you'll have no trouble using it for hours. Underneath the hood is a market-leading Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, along with 2GB of RAM and a drive starting at 16GB of storage space.
However, the screen is a glaring problem. Not only is the backlight ill-fit for the Kindle Fire HDX's form, but you'll also notice fringing on all edges as a result. It's tough to get over very visible problems like this when you're showing off photos and video to friends, especially when there are better screens for the same price—or cheaper.
As an aside, the low price of the Kindle Fire HDX 7" was assisted in part by the display of advertisements on your lock screen unless you pay extra for them to go away. While it's not a big issue for those who simply flick them away, others may be very annoyed at the prospect of seeing ads in yet another place where there once was none.
Despite the good score here, I'm going to roast this tablet. Oddly fitting given its name, but there are several performance issues that don't show up in the lab that any user can plainly see—the screen fringing for one is quite annoying.
Additionally, the processor's performance is shockingly wonky despite sporting a cutting-edge model: from what I found in the lab, the performance takes a nose-dive the lower the power reserves get. If you're playing a lot of games, you can expect to see performance slowdowns rather quickly.
When it comes to instrument measurement, the Kindle Fire HDX is one of the best at reproducing color along the universally-accepted parameters. Additionally, a very wide contrast ratio and bright screen allow comfortable use outside. This is absolutely necessary for the HDX 7" given its high screen reflectivity.
By the numbers this tablet bests its competition quite handily in a few measures, but that's missing the forest for the trees: though that screen might hit some attention-grabbing headlines, it's grossly hindered by things that don't show up on a spreadsheet. Though image and video content will look great, you may be distracted by the constant color fringing on the edges of the screen.
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The idea behind the Kindle Fire HDX is something that was tried before with early Android tablets: If you can't beat the competition on equal footing, why not flank them by outmuscling the competition for cheaper? It worked for Android against Apple, but there's no reason to believe that it will work for Amazon without the user experience to match.
Though their Mayday feature is admittedly a huge feat, it's tough to overlook things like the absence of Google services. You may not think much of YouTube or an official GMail app now, but you'll notice it when it's gone. Now that the latest Kindle Fire can only reach the same price as the Nexus 7 via the support of advertisements on your lock screen, it's a tough sell—especially when there's something better out there for the same price.
The hardware of the Kindle Fire HDX 7" looks good on paper, but put together it's a mess. Though it looks fine before you turn it on, the HDX 7" has low build quality and noticeable problems. The Mayday feature may be enticing, but unless you use Amazon Prime for your streaming content, there's very little reason to buy this tablet.
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