Kindle Fire HDX 8.9: Two weeks in and replacing the iPad Air (almost)

The longer I use Amazon's latest tablet, the less I use the iPad Air. If not for one thing it's lacking, the new Kindle could replace the iPad Air.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

I have been impressed with the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 from the moment I took it out of the box. The favorable impression grows the longer I use Amazon's latest tablet. The hardware is outstanding and the software is quite good. It is the tablet I reach for most of the time, leaving my iPad Air feeling neglected in the corner.

My time with the Kindle Fire HDX has demonstrated it is as good as the iPad Air in almost every way. This is significant considering it was $250 cheaper than Apple's latest iPad. My Kindle is configured the same as my iPad, 64GB with 4G LTE.

For an in-depth look at the Kindle Fire HDX, check out my review with photos. Go ahead, we'll wait here for you.

See related: Why you should buy a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 (review)Kindle Fire HDX: Smooth operation, great screen (hands on) | Belkin QODE Keyboard Case for Kindle Fire HDX 8.9: Poor design at a price | Review: Poetic Keybook Case, take the Kindle Fire HDX to work

That gives you an idea why I like the Kindle. I admit I am surprised that I am preferring it over the iPad Air. This is significant for someone who proclaimed the iPad Air to be the best tablet ever made. Of course, that was prior to the appearance of the Kindle Fire HDX.

What makes the Kindle so special? It may not be the same for everyone but for this writer it's because it is more enjoyable to use. The interface keeps the most-used apps front and center, along with music and books. Recently accessed content and apps live side-by-side on the home screen carousel, and that just feels right.

The Kindle Fire HDX is much lighter than the iPad Air, and its slightly smaller form is easier to handle for extended sessions. Even with the Origami Case from Amazon in place, the Kindle feels better in the hand than the iPad Air. I never thought I'd be saying that, but that's the case.

Speaking of the Origami Case, Kindle Fire HDX owners should definitely get one if you haven't already. The design using magnets to hold the case in the proper form of a stand for the Kindle is superb. It's quick work to open the cover and pop the case in the proper form, and the case is very stable with the magnets holding the folded cover. I like the Smart Cover for the iPad Air, but it pales in comparison to the cover from Amazon. The higher price ($55 - $70) of the Amazon Origami is well worth it.

There are lots more apps in the iTunes App Store than there are in the Amazon shop, but I have yet to want an app on the Kindle that isn't available. I have apps for leisure and apps for work on the Kindle Fire HDX that handle all of my needs.

The primary apps  I use on the Kindle Fire HDX (in no particular order) are the following:

  • Mail, Silk Browser (preinstalled on the Kindle)
  • TweetCaster (Twitter client)
  • toodleTasks Tablet (toodleoo to-do manager)
  • Evernote
  • Facebook
  • WeatherBug for Kindle Fire
  • March Madness
  • gReader for Feedly
  • Flipboard
  • Gmail, Google Play Music (requires sideloading procedure detailed on the web)
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Can the Kindle Fire HDX totally replace the iPad Air for me? Almost. There's one need I have that prevents my ditching the iPad entirely. This shortcoming affects my using it for work, and it will be a factor for companies wanting to deploy the tablet from Amazon.

Regular readers know I use all of my tablets for my work, and that requires a physical keyboard for my writing. I can compromise to a degree for such work, but I write too much to put up with shortcomings too great.

That's the situation I have with the Kindle Fire HDX. There aren't many keyboards available for the Kindle, and the two I bought aren't as good as my favorite keyboard for the iPad Air.

If the folks from ZAGG would make a ZAGGkeys Cover for the Kindle Fire HDX, my ability to migrate totally would be possible. While the Poetic case I use is workable, it's not good enough for heavy use like I need.

Those not needing nor wanting a keyboard should find the Kindle Fire HDX to be a good alternative to the iPad Air. You'll have a bit of cash left in your pocket, in addition to a good tablet.

The keyboard situation makes the iPad Air better for those wanting a tablet for work, and for those companies looking to deploy tablets. While tablets can be used without keyboards, many employees are going to prefer having them for typical office tasks such as creating documents. 

For now, the huge accessory ecosystem for the iPad makes it the better choice for the enterprise. The Kindle Fire HDX can compete fairly with the iPad Air as a tablet, but the lack of keyboards make it fall short for some work.

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