NEW YORK (
) -- My initial reaction to
Kindle Fire HD was
and after having the device for a week, my reaction has changed, but not by much.
Taking it out of the box, I found a sleek-looking 7-inch tablet in all black. Amazon got the look of the hardware right, that's for sure. After that, it gets a little more complicated. Turning on the machine isn't as dumb-proof as it should be. The on button is located on the side of the device, but not clearly marked. If you're in a dim room, this could be trouble.
The screen is clear, showing off 1280x800 HD display. In terms of pixels, brightness and clarity, it's no
iPad, but Amazon is making an effort. You can really see all 254 pixels per inch (ppi) packed into the display.
Even though I tested the 7-inch tablet, it felt heavy holding it for longer periods of time than it did initially. Conversely, Apple products never feel heavy no matter how long you're holding them.
Charging the device is somewhat disappointing. It takes 13.5 hours to charge via the USB cable provided, and with no wall charger provided this is a bit of a pain. Customers can add a wall charger for $10 when purchasing it, or $20 later.
Once charged, the look of the device is clean. The operating system, which is a custom-Android operating system, had a clean look to it and was easy to navigate between the different menu options.
There were multiple times where I incurred slowness and some pauses while searching for a movie, game, or music. Toggling between menus occasionally took a little longer than I thought it would. I'm not sure if that was the custom
processor or not, but the device's performance could have been quicker.
The wireless connection also left something to be desired. Amazon talked up the wireless connection at the Kindle Fire HD launch event, and it's still not that great, especially considering the hype CEO Jeff Bezos and his team gave it at the event. Downloading apps and music were slower than expected as well.
Watching movies on the device is a pleasure, though the HD in the Kindle Fire is anything but. It takes a while for the HD to "load," and even then it's not true high-definition. I found myself using X-Ray quite a bit while watching movies, something Amazon included to allow users to find out where they've seen a particular actor/actress before using
database. There's no 16:9 aspect ratio on the device, so watching movies in the letter-box format is an unpleasant feature.
The Kindle Fire HD is the first tablet with
Digital surround sound, and you can definitely notice. The sound on the device is phenomenal, and music easily fills up a whole room without cranking the volume. This is one area where the Kindle Fire HD outshines the iPad and it's noticeable.
Web browsing is on par with other tablets, but nothing to write home about. Amazon's Silk browser has been out for a while, and quite frankly I expected to do more with it, like opening bookmarks.
At $199, Amazon is appealing to value customers who are looking for a good tablet, want to differentiate from the
Nexus 7, and don't want to pay up for the iPad. The $199 price includes an ad-supported lock screen. Amazon later announced users could pay $15 to remove the ads, but ultimately I think this is a mountain-of-a-mole hill issue.
Customers are given one month of Amazon Prime free which certainly adds to the extras Amazon is giving you, but Bezos repeatedly said Amazon was making "the best tablet at any price." While the device certainly has plenty of positives, it is far from being the best tablet in the world.
The Kindle Fire HD is a valiant effort from Amazon, there's no doubt about that. However, I suspect the Kindle Fire HD will have strong initial sales in the beginning, then flame out in the future.
Final grade: 6.5/10
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Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York