NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Six-inch touchscreens seem to be all the rage for more and more of today's high-tech offerings. Amazon's (AMZN) new $99 tablet is a perfect example. There's also an ever increasing number of super-large smartphones such as Apple's (AAPL) iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung's (SSNLF) Galaxy Note 4, Google's (GOOG) Motorola-made Nexus 6 and Microsoft's (MSFT) (nee Nokia) Lumia 1520 which all offer 6-inch or nearly 6-inch screens.
The Amazon Fire HD 6 has been described (albeit by Amazon) as "the most powerful tablet under $100," and it is. The touchscreen is an IPS liquid-crystal display capable of displaying 800 by 1280 pixels which translates to a density of 252 pixels per inch. That means it's capable of rendering 720p high-definition video and not 1080p or beyond, with the screen being made with Corning (GLW) Gorilla Glass.
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The Fire HD 6 measures 6.7 by 4.1 by 0.4 inches and weighs in at a hefty 10.1 ounces. Measured against smartphones with 6-inch screens, that's really a handful. For comparison, last year's Lumia 1520 weighed 7.4 ounces, while the upcoming Nexus 6 weighs 6.5 ounces and the iPhone 6 Plus is only 6.07 ounces. The Fire HD 6 is also more square than any of these smartphones. It can be comfortably used as a one-handed device except if you're considering one for it's obvious target audience - youngsters.
Inside this tiny package is a 1.5 GHz, quad-core processor from an unnamed manufacturer, 1GB of RAM, either 8GB or 16 GB of storage with no microSD card expansion offered. Instead, Amazon says the tablet comes with free, unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content and photos taken with all of your Fire devices. There's a 2MP camera on the back and 0.3 MP up front, a single (mono) speaker featuring Dolby (DLB) sound and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity.
The Fire HD 6 runs Amazon's highly skinned version of Google's Android 4.4.4 operating system, known as Fire OS 4. As you might expect, it highlights all of Amazon's branded offerings including Kindle books, plus music, videos, games shopping apps. Amazon also offers its own Web browsing software called Silk Browser and apps to view and edit Office documents.
As a tablet, the Fire HD 6 is pretty good. It displays items somewhat faster than you might expect from a device with a 6-inch screen (which is large for a smartphone) using only 1GB of RAM. Videos looked quite good and Web pages loaded quickly. Reading a Kindle book was a breeze and sound quality was clear from the mono speaker. The Fire HD 6 doesn't have the latest, greatest components inside, but then again it was designed as a budget tablet and fulfills that role very nicely.
Overall, this is a nice device although somewhat heavy. It could be somewhat difficult to hold for long usage sessions. The rear-facing camera was capable of taking acceptable looking snapshots although nowhere near as good as what comes from any of the 6-inch smartphones we've tried. I found that battery life was a little better than average from the Fire HD 6. (Amazon doesn't specify battery capacity). With light-to-medium use, the tablet was able to squeeze out an entire day's usage on a full charge.
The Fire HD 6's biggest selling point is its small price. You can buy a one for only $99 but that model only comes with only 8GB of storage. That doesn't leave much room when you consider that the built-in operating system take up a huge chunk of that space. A 16GB version of the tablet retails for only $20 mo43.
There are a host of optional the accessories available for the HD 6. For instance, a magnetically closing, standing case costs $30 or a leather version for $40 (that's 30% and 40% of the tablet's selling price, respectively), a Fire-to-HDTV adapter for $25, a screen protector for $30 or a two-year extended warranty/accident protection for $25. Adding a few extras could make your final tab a lot higher than just $99.
Amazon also offers a separate version of this tablet and its 7-inch tablet as well. The Fire HD Kids Edition comes with an 8GB tablet, a "kid-proof protective case," a year of Amazon's Free Time unlimited content for children and a "two-year, worryfree guarantee." It's priced at $150. Special orange kids headphones (on sale for $25) and a blue car charger (now $20) are optional.
Final Grade: 7/10-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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