When is a tablet not a tablet? Answer: When it is a Amazon Kindle Fire HD. Sure, it is an Android tablet at heart but powered by a special Amazon fork of Android with no access to the Google Play Store. Not necessarily a bad thing because Amazon offers quite a selection of apps. Think of the Fire HD as a window into the worlds’ biggest department store.
The Kindle Fire HD 7 feels more solid, better-built, and classier than the original Kindle Fire.. At 7.6 by 5.4 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and 13.9 ounces, it’s slightly bigger, but slimmer and lighter than last year’s model but for some reason it feels heavier.. The corners are rounded, and the back is soft with a grippy feel. It’s constructed mostly of a matte plastic with a shiny black strip along the back housing two powerful, dual-driver stereo speakers. The 7-inch IPS LCD is only 1,280-by-800 but it’s non-reflective, with great color balance, and a terrific viewing angle. Terrific for watching movies made all the more enjoyable by the surprisingly good audio from the two speakers.
There are only a few buttons on the Fire HD; a power button and a volume rocker that are set flush into its left hand side in landscape mode. A 3.5 mm stereo audio jack is just above the volume rocker. A micro-USB connector is present below the lower bezel alongside a micro-HDMI port. There are no physical Android buttons, navigation is done completely within Amazon’s interface which includes a row of context sensitive soft buttons on the right side in landscape mode.
There’s no 3G / 4G option on the 7-inch Fire HD so you are limited to WiFi connectivity but not just any WiFi. The Live HD features MIMO connectivity. That’s multiple-input multiple-output which means the device can both send and receive data simultaneously over its pair of antennas. This means better throughput and reception. The Fire HD is able to stream video at locations in my house where other tablets can barely get a connection.
Like the earlier Kindle Fire, the KFHD’s home screen starts with a horizontal list of clear, text options: Shop, Games, Apps, Books, Music, Videos, Newsstand, Audiobooks, Web, Photos and Docs Below that there’s a large, rotating carousel of the most recent icons you’ve used.
Click into any category and you get a virtual bookshelf of your content, divided into Cloud and Device sections. When you have a Wi-Fi signal, you can download stuff to move it from the Cloud (where you have unlimited storage space for your Amazon-purchased content) to the Fire itself, or delete it back into the Cloud to free on-device memory.
The Web comes courtesy of Amazon’s Silk browser, which has failed to live up to its promises of being super-fast and seamless through cloud acceleration. I found it slow with hesitant scrolling. Amazon says Silk will speed up over the next several months as its servers optimize various Web pages.
This is a great tablet for those who want a portal to all that Amazon offers. It is easy to access Amazon content and even easier to buy. It is a good e-reader under any lighting conditions and avid readers will enjoy the access to suggestions of books to read that gets better the more you read. If you want a general purpose tablet with better browsing and access to the Google Play store then look elsewhere.
The Amazon Kindle Fire 7 is available from Amazon for $214 ($199 in the US) for the 16Gb model and $30 more for 32Gb of internal storage.