What's right (and wrong) with the new Kindle Fire HDX and Kindle Fire HD

What's right (and wrong) with the new Kindle Fire HDX and Kindle Fire HD

Summary: Amazon has unveiled a new lineup of tablets to take it into the holiday season. These tablets being superb hardware at a price that will make you do a double-take, but as with all things, not everything is perfect.

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World's largest online retailer Amazon has refreshed its Kindle Fire range of Android-powered tablets ahead of the holiday season in a hope that it can cash in on the irresistible pull that tablets currently have on consumers.

New Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
(Source: Amazon)

Not only did Amazon refresh the Kindle Fire HD tablet, but it also introduced a new Kindle Fire HDX tablet in 7-inch and 8.9-inch varieties, so there's plenty on offer for those looking for a tablet to put under the tree.

What's right with the new Kindle tablets?

The price is absolutely right: The price is so right. With the price tag ranging from $139 for the Kindle Fire HD to $229 for the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX ($329 if you want the 4G version), to the top end of $379 for the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX ($479 if you want 4G). At these prices, there's a Kindle Fire to suit almost all budgets.

Awesome screens: Amazon is putting considerable effort into creating hardware with superb screens. For $139 you get a 1280x800 HD display with a pixel density of 216 pixels-per-inch. The higher-priced Kindle Fire HDX gets you 323 and 339 pixels-per-inch for the 7-inch and 8.9-inch tablets respectively. On top of that you get a screen that offers perfect 100 percent sRGB color accuracy, reduced glare, dynamic image contrast, and improved brightness for better viewing under a variety of lighting conditions.

Lightweight design: The 8.9-inch weighs in at 375 grams, which is only 70 grams heavier than the iPad mini, and a good 300 grams lighter than the full-sized iPad.

Superb sound: All the new tablets come kitted out with Dolby Digital Plus audio and virtual 5.1 multi-channel surround sound.

Superb battery life: 10 hours plus means all day usage from a single charge.

The Mayday button: An innovative new feature that gives users access to free tech support for any Kindle feature 24x7, 365 days a year.

Enterprise support: The Kindle Fire HDX comes kitted with a raft of enterprise features, including data encryption, Kerberos authentication support, VPN support and more. This is a huge win for Amazon and brings the Kindle into the BYOD market.

Android, but not Android: Amazon's decision to not go with a stock Android version, and instead develop a highly customized operating system based on Android. People like the Fire OS and find it a lot easier to use than a stock Android.

Access to a mammoth ecosystem of content: Kindle Fire HD and HDX owners have access to a huge amount of downloadable content, ranging from books and music to games and apps.

Huge storage options: Ranging from 8GB to 64GB depending on device choice.

What's wrong with the new Kindle tablets?

Not stock Android: For some people, the lack of a stock Android operating system is a deal breaker.

Locked to Amazon: While a vast proportion of customers won't care that their Kindles are locked to the Amazon ecosystem, but for those wanting more choice, or who don't want to be locked into a walled garden (albeit a pretty garden), the one-size-fits-all Amazon-or-bust might be too restrictive.

No expandable storage: While there's no doubt that Amazon is hemorrhaging money at the low-end of the Kindle spectrum, the higher-capacity tablet offer Amazon a little more profit, so potential buyers are being steered towards spending more simply because the Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablets don't offer a way to expand storage.

Some tablets are a long way off: While you can pre-order these Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablets today, the ship dates are spread out over October to December. That's a long time for people to wait for their tablets, and may put some buyers off, at least in the short term.

The bottom line

It seems to me that Amazon has taken the original Kindle Fire HD tablet and performed a serious upgrade on the hardware, splitting the tablet into two different, and quite compelling, lines. Also, the price tag, which was already low, has been slashed considerably.

I'm willing to bet right now that these tablets are going to be a huge hit over the holidays, and is going to put pressure on other Android tablets. 

Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Tablets, Bring Your Own Device

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51 comments
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  • Not stock Android

    You say Not Stock Android is a problem but you don't mention CyanogenMod:
    http://liliputing.com/2013/08/cyanogenmod-10-2-brings-android-4-3-aging-kindle-fire-nook-tablet.html#comments

    Those concerned with that should know all their options. Thanks.
    Pris0ner
    • Cyanogenmod for Kindle Fire HD 7" (and others)

      I've been using my Kindle Fire HD Amazon-free since Cyanogenmod was ported to it this summer. Full Dolby functionality and OTG USB have yet to be achieved, but there are both 10.2 and 10.3 beta releases (based on Android 4.2 and 4.3, respectively) which work quite well -- not official Cyanogenmod yet. Google "xda kindle fire hd".
      solar_satellite
  • I'm confused about Amazon's strategy here.

    They certainly seem to know what they are doing in regards to the price and specs but what benefit is there to announcing something that is not ready to ship, hasn't Apple proven its better to wait?

    I don't know much about android tablets but at this price I would pick one up as an impulse buy, but its not available yet? Also from what I have read, you can't download stock google apps like gMail and Maps to the Fire which puts me off, android is just to damn fragmented. I'll have to check out cyanogen mod, thanks.
    efforting
    • Hmm

      New Apple tablets due and Google stumbling over itself with bad updates and broken Nexus 7 2013 models... I would say, the timing is just about right and the hardware potent enough to really attract more than a few potential customers.
      slickjim
      • Broken Nexus 7 2013?

        What exactly is broken about it. The GPS? The touch screen? Both fixed less than a month after release via update. I bought mine 3 weeks ago, turned it on... it updated itself, and I've had zero issues with it. Hmm...
        waterhzrd
      • Already fixed

        Regarding timing, I just bought a Nexus 7 last week and it auto-applied the fix as soon as I connected to WiFi. That's WAY sooner than some of the new Kindle Fires will come out.
        skeeboe
    • The ease of installing non-Amazon apps on a Kindle Fire

      @efforting,
      For two years, Kindle Fire users HAVE been able to get Google apps on the devices without modifying their Kindle Fires at all. Amazon enabled the Android Settings option which you can check-mark to allow installation of apps from 'unknown sources'... This is a setting that Barnes and Noble did not allow, hiding it from the user.

      Then we can go get other Android appstores' store-apps (1Mobile is a favorite) and download their Google Play apps just as we download from the Amazon store. There are many appstores, and 1Mobile has over 300,000 apps now and they allow Kindle Fire tablet access while Google does not.

      I did a blog article on how to install non-Amazon apps on the Kindle Fire HD's, requiring no mods at all, and including straight downloads of the install-files, using the tablet. The guide is at
      http://kindleworld.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-reviewer-myth-that-kindle-fire.html

      It's very simple but most tech sites are not aware that it's not a walled garden. That latter is a myth that is strong despite the increasing numbers of users and writers who have now discovered how easy it is to get Android apps from secondary sources and who describe this on tech forums.
      andrys1
      • The average user doesn't know that and doesn't want to know

        He or she wants a satisfactory, enjoyable experience out of the box. Lots of additional things are possible if one reads the tips on blogs like yours, but few would bother or even *want* to go after that. This is not a criticism - they are paying customers and have the right to expect good value for their money without extra trouble to maximize it. So, I think it makes perfect sense for a columnist like Adrian to base his comments and criticisms on what a user gets straight out of the box. Knowing how an obscure setting enables them to get standard Android apps or how to install CyanogenMod to have the "real" Android experience (I have installed CyanogenMod on my phone and it's definitely complex, risky, and not for the faint-hearted) can be great things, but they shouldn't be *necessary* for a satisfactory experience; they should be *choices* for those who are willing to have them.
        goyta
        • Extra trouble

          If it's "extra trouble" to learn how to use a device you pay money for, then it's the users problem, not the other way around.
          waterhzrd
        • I agree with goyta

          It is *not* a user problem; it's a market problem and ultimately, it's an Amazon problem. Users' expectations are rising, due in no small part from the typical Apple experience (e.g. "it just works"). Consequently, even those who consider themselves tech-saavy become disgruntled when a device or tablet doesn't work as expected right out of the box. We can say "it's a user problem" but at the end of the day, regardless of whose at fault, who pays the price? The consumer? Not likely. The company trying to push its product fails.

          (I use the word "fails" cautiously here, and only in terms of marketing; I happen to like what Amazon has done and plan to purchase accordingly - I don't mind tweaking the product as necessary to achieve maximum result)
          wolfshades
          • Apple's "It just works"

            Well, Apple maps and other problems lately has their audience getting used to looking at other vendor's apps once they are allowed into Apple's great garden, and Google was welcomed back in a huge way with their maps app.

            Appled decided Flash was not going to work for their preferences, and their crowd accepted it, aided by a YouTube app, but there are all kinds of places I like to play flash video.

            When you can get free Tubemate (I got mine from Amazon's store but it's available almost anywere) can both easily play and download the Youtube videos, and free BSPlayer can play just about any video format, things are good.

            Amazon actually has been working on its own 'experimental streaming viewer' and it's working well but they're expanding the sites where it will. I still just add the Dolphin browser with an appropriate flash player file and that combo plays anything. In the meantime the new HDX tablets are said to be 'Youtube optimized' despite their interest in selling their own videos of course. But it's the 'opium' of varying needs met that keeps people around, to buy and Amazon's not apologetic about it. They're a store.

            It's a matter of what you want. Apple decided they didn't want Flash and their audience went with it, accepting the beauty of the inner walls, but Apple still approved an app that played Youtube videos and let it inside.

            Vendors are so odd, when it comes to $ and territory.
            andrys1
        • Android tablet users have to go through hoops too.

          Playing flash video on Youtube and elsewhere, Nexus users and Kindle Fire HD users alike will, if they really want to watch video on network TV (full-episode viewing on Demand, ABC,NBC,CBS) they'll need to find a way to get the right Flash app, as Adobe does not support v4.04+ with their current version and will need to know that a browser like Dolphin will support the flash player file.

          A toaster may be wanted, but none of them are toaster-like.

          A mere check in a checkbox to allow apps from 'unknown sources' is not difficult and is part of the tablet. Sometimes people will look for settings and sometimes they'd rather not, but it's part of the system.

          Sometimes people will think this or that appstore is the ONLY source for an app, but it's not.

          The 'hard' part is getting the store-market app and putting on the tablet (we all have to do that unless we prefer to stick to one store) is to go and 'download' it, straight to the tablet's 'download' folder and then say 'yes' to install it.

          It works just as any other app store. Often a current version does not work well and we look for older versions. For that I go to other app stores that keep older versions along with the new.

          To say that Amazon
          andrys1
          • Android users have to go through hoops too, Part 2

            That last post from me was prematurely ended.
            To say that Amazon users are 'locked' to the Amazon ecosystem is just inaccurate.

            The setting to install apps from 'unknown sources' is a normal Android setting. It also means the tablet is not walled in the way it's thought of -- access to the outside. You can decide to open the door and allow yourself to go outside it to pick up an item you want.

            The key in writing about Amazon's lack of GooglePlay access (which Google will approve if companies grant them certain concessions) is to just tell people there is a way to get apps from other stores, by enabling a checkbox's option and then downloading the app from another appstore and there are many of them.
            andrys1
        • Obscure setting

          Checking the box that allows you to install apps from unknown sources is definitely not an obscure setting. On most android devices it pops up if you go to a different market place and try to download an app, saying you need to change that setting if you want to download the app from there. I would agree with you 100% that installing Cyanogen mod shouldn't be necessary but changing a basic setting shouldn't be beyond the ability of an average tablet user.
          ZiggyBoomBox
      • Thanks for that!

        I was torn between a refurb ipad from apple or a new KF HDX and the one thing that bothered me was I would either have to go cyanogen or just without a lot of apps if i went kindle. ON the other hand KF HDX is still cheaper in the long run. I appreciate the heads up. As a mom of many littles still home I don't always know what's up in the tech world though I do try. :)
        Wendy Matchen
    • Gmail & Kindle Fire HD

      Actually, they have a feature already on the kindle fire hd (i have one) called "Contacts" and if you open it up it allows you to enter in your gmail info and bam! all your contacts are on your device. I also am able to check my gmail on it through a gmail app. I urge everyone to switch to the kindle because it is better than all APPLE products and all ANDROID products in my opinion. So far it seems like I can get anything I could have got on my ipad, and anything I could've got on my android phone...amazon just rocks...just sayin
      KaraokeManda
      • Do you....

        really think so? I am leaning the kindle way the more I read. I just want to make sure cuz this is my "big" thing I will purchase and will have to do me for some time. I even decided against a new laptop to go for a tablet ( ipad or kindle) I do like my iphone quite a bit but not married to it.
        Wendy Matchen
  • Walled Garden

    The fact that their tablets are locked into Amazon, guarantees that I will be going with the Nexus 7.
    lesliedellow
    • Hmm

      You might want to research that first.
      slickjim
      • Don't bother researching

        They're great, bugs fixed, and you can return it if you don't like it. What's to lose?
        skeeboe