Kindle Fire HD Review

For the past 2 ½ years, the iPad has been the only tablet to own, and you had to shell out $500 or more to own one. New products this year are changing all of that. The new Amazon Fire HD is selling for $199 and while not perfect, but it does offer a lot for the price.

In my testing the Fire performed quite well. The screen is crisp and clear and videos look great. The Dolby Digital Plus stereo speakers are outstanding offering the best sound that I’ve found in any tablet. The email worked seamlessly. Reading books on the Fire was an excellent experience. Amazon has even added a new feature that allows you, for a few extra dollars, to add an audio selection to a Kindle book you purchase. Doing that enables you to seamlessly switch between the two. So if you are reading at home and need to make supper, you can switch to the audio version in the kitchen without losing your place. It is called Imersion Reading and it work quite well. Amazon has several classic Imersion books that you can try for free.

I thought Fire’s Web browser could have more features and I found an occasional lag in performance when surfing the Web. However, all-in-all, I was very pleased with this device. It has a front-facing camera, but that allows you to make Skype video calls. It also has a useful HDMI port. With the addition of an HDMI cable, you can stream movies from the Fire to your HD television eliminating the need for an Internet-connected TV or Blu-Ray player.

Like the iPad, the Fire HD doesn’t have a replaceable battery or accept a media card. Like the lower end iPads, it has 16 GB of storage. Yet, you won’t need as much storage with the Fire because Amazon provides an easy way to store all of your content. When you go to play a movie, television show or some music, you see two choices at the top of the screen, “Cloud” and “Device”. You can store your music and movies easily with Amazon on the Internet (Cloud) or you can store them on your device. Since the Wi-Fi connection on the Fire HD is very good, there is little reason to store your data on the device except for when you want to have access to it when you are on the go. So if you want to watch a movie or listen to music at the doctor’s office or at the beach, you will have to think ahead and download what you need to the device.

With the Fire you get 5 GB of free Cloud storage for videos and files and space for 250 songs.  You can up that to 20GB for $10 a year and 250,000 songs for $24.99 a year. One month’s free membership in Amazon Prime comes with the Fire and gives you free two-day shipping on Amazon purchases, instant streaming of many movies and TV shows and the ability to access the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. After your free month, Amazon Prime membership costs $79 a year.

Amazon gives you a lot for your money with the Fire HD.  It is obvious that Amazon is subsidizing the cost of the Fire in hopes that you will pay for additional cloud storage buy additional content, and/or join their Prime membership. Another way that Amazon is leading you to purchasing their content is through ads. Yes, the Kindle Fire comes with ads. You don’t see them when you are actually using the Fire. They only appear on the home screen when you start up your Fire. If you don’t like the ads, you can pay Amazon an extra $15 to remove them.

The ads, however, are very well done and not at all invasive. In fact, I found some of the ads useful. For instance, shortly after I started using the Fire, I was presented with an ad that offered a $5 credit for the Amazon MP3 store. I said “yes” to the ad and the credit was immediately put into my account and I was provided a link to the MP3 store where I found the new Big Bad Voodoo Daddy album for $5. In less than five minutes I was listening to my new music on the Fire. Amazon makes shopping very easy. They have 120,000 movies, 1.2 million books, 20 million songs, and 100,000 audio books.

While the Amazon App store doesn’t have as many apps as the Apple App store or the Google Play store, all of the apps that I use every day were available and all were free. These included FlipBook, Wall Street Journal, Pulse, an Alarm Clock, Evernote, Pandora, Sound Hound, Shazam, Skype, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Angry Birds and Words with Friends.

The Fire HD comes with only a USB cable for connecting it to your computer and for charging. Charging by this cable took more than 12 hours. While I was able to charge the Fire in about four hours with a Micro-USB wall charger that I had on hand, when I purchased the Kindle Fast Charging wall-adapter, the charging went even faster and seemed to last longer. Amazon says that they expect one charge to last 11 hours. While my testing fell slightly short of this, I feel that most people will be able to get a full-day’s use out of one charge.

Last week I told you a few of the things that the Fire HD can’t do. It has no cellular connection, no GPS for directions, and no rear-facing camera. In my testing, I didn’t really miss any of these. The thing that I missed in the Fire was voice recognition.  After using the iPhone and Android phone for dictation, I longed for such a feature on the Fire.

All-in-all the Fire HD is a very capable device at a great price. I expect to see a lot of them under Christmas trees this year.

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