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Amazon Kindle Fire HD: First Impressions

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (TheStreet) - Amazon (AMZN) held its Kindle event this week, amidst much fanfare. After demoing both new Kindle Fire HD's, as well as a revamped Kindle Fire, it's clear that the company has vastly improved is tablet and e-reader offerings, but there's still some issues and kinks that need to be worked out.

Amazon announced both a 7-inch and 8.9-inch version of the Kindle Fire HD, which I got a chance to demo. The software on the devices was fairly responsive, thanks to their custom Android-based operating system, although it did feel sluggish and had problems loading a couple things, including a movie. I'm not sure if that was the custom Texas Instruments (TXN) processor or not, but the devices' performance could have been quicker.

The first Kindle Fire, now revamped with a faster processor and reduced in price to $159, seemed more responsive to touch and had no lag time for swiping across the screen. The screen quality, though, wasn't as nice as the Kindle Fire HD.

At 20 ounces, the 8.9-inch version felt light to hold for the few minutes I was able to play with it, and did not feel like it would get heavy in my hands after extended use.

The operating system had a clean look to it, easy navigation, and the screens on both the 7-inch and 8.9-inch versions were brilliant. You can really see all 254 pixels per inch (ppi) packed into the display. This is something Amazon does very well; it's not Apple (AAPL) in terms of clarity, but it's close. The screens seemed to smudge fairly easily, although that could've been a result of all the journalists playing with the products.

Kindle FreeTime, which lets parents set time limits on their kids using the device, was fairly easy to use. It took me no time to figure out how to set up time for a child to let them use the device for games or movies. If your kid wants to read books, there's no time limit on the device. While reading is something that should be encouraged, it's self-serving given that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he wants to make money when people use the device, not when they buy it.

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