The Amazon Kindle Fire HD is the first colour screen Kindle to come to the UK. It may belong to the bookish Kindle series, but this is really a 7-inch tablet like the Google Nexus 7 or iPad mini. It's affordable, it's portable and it gives you easy access to the expansive worlds of music, video and literary content that Amazon owns. It's rather swish, and a good buy as long as you can live with the highly simplified, Amazon-focussed interface.
2012 has seen the 7-inch tablet gain a lot of momentum. Quite why it took so long to convince the world it's a great form is a little baffling. Try and use an iPad 4 standing up on the train and you'll soon end up with sore wrists. And you'll look a bit of a fool. Not so with a smaller 7-inch tablet like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD.
However, in its class the Kindle Fire HD is larger and heavier than most. There's a wide bezel area all the way around the 7-inch display, one that's much larger than seen in the Nexus 7 or iPad mini. At 395g, it's a fair bit heavier too.
This becomes noticeable when you try and hold the thing one-handed. It's not too heavy to use like this, but borders on that danger zone. Unlike the Nexus 7, it's also too wide to grip side-to-side in one hand.
Amazon may try and counter these claims by saying that the Kindle Fire HD is designed to be used in landscape aspect - and it clearly is - but it's nevertheless a curious design decision.
Aside from the extra width and weight, this is a very well-made little tablet. Its touchscreen is covered by a sheet of toughened glass, and the rest is plastic.
Although plastic generally doesn't provide the most desirable finish or feel, Amazon has put in the extra effort to make the Kindle Fire HD feel right in-hand. The edge of the tablet is plain old plastic, but the rear panel has a soft touch finish that's much kinder on your fingers. Soft touch plastic is used in the new Kindle Paperwhite, keeping the feel consistent across the range.
There's a strip of glossy black plastic on the rear too, which is a home to the speaker grilles. It interrupts the soft touch panel, but you can always turn the tablet over so it's not under your fingers when watching a film, for example. Unlike most tablets, the Kindle Fire HD has stereo speakers that fire out from each end of the body.
The grilles are cleverly carved into the curved edges of the tablet, so even if the Kindle Fire HD is laid flat on its back, the sound isn't blocked.
Ergonomically, the Kindle Fire HD is good, if not excellent. Its edges are bevelled to avoid feeling to severe in the hand, but the distinct seams mean it's not quite Apple-grade. But then, of course, neither is the price. The Amazon Kindle Fire HD costs just £159 for the 16GB edition, or £199 for the 32GB model.
At the price, the Kindle Fire HD offers more-than-respectable core specs. Its processor is a dual-core 1.2GHz OMAP 4460 chip, and there's 1GB of RAM on-board. This combo doesn't quite provide as much power as the Tegra 3 processor of the Google Nexus 7, but is a decent spec for an Android-based system. We'll cover real-life performance later.
Although the Kindle Fire HD doesn't quite have the pure grunt of the Google Nexus 7, it does better the Google tablet on hardware connectivity. It's still basic, but here you get a microHDMI video output on the bottom as well as the microUSB charge socket and 3.5mm headphone jack, which sits on the left edge.
There's no memory card slot here, and you need to choose between the 16GB and 32GB models carefully, because that's all the local storage you'll get.
The Amazon Kindle Fire HD doesn't fare too well with wireless connections. This is a Wi-Fi only tablet, and there's no GPS or NFC. Many buyers may not care, but this rules-out being able to use the tablet as an in-car GPS device, which the Google Nexus 7 can handle - with the right app in tow.
Aside from Wi-Fi, all you get is Bluetooth, letting you connect with Bluetooth speakers and headphones.
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