Apps and Games
As well as casting out the Android look, the Kindle Fire HD also leaves out the Google Play app store. All of the standard Google apps are missing here, replaced with alternatives.
The app store that takes Google Play’s place in the Kindle Fire HD is the Amazon Appstore. In September, Amazon announced that the store had hit 50,000 apps, which is just a fraction of what’s available on Google Play.
However, it’s probably the best third-party app store, with a reasonably reliable interface and a good selection of apps. Again, it’s not quite as quick as Google Play, though, although it does offer a neat free app/game every day.
Amazon has also started its own equivalent to the iPad’s Game Center, called GameCircle. This tracks the achievements you unlock in games that support the gaming network, and lets you compare progress with your friends.
It’s a great addition, but is limited by its very nature. It can only be used by Kindle Fire owners, making its audience small. And there’s not much point in using it if the only person you can find on there is a vague acquaintance you don’t like that much.
There are many high-end 3D games available on the Amazon Appstore, including mobile classics like Galaxy on Fire 2. Apps end up, predictably enough, in the Apps section, where they’re displayed as chunky square icons.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD Web Browsing
As the Amazon Kindle Fire HD does not have mobile internet connectivity, you’ll need to be within range of a Wi-Fi network to browse the web on the tablet. However, it offers a great browsing experience.
Its size is large enough to discard mobile sites in favour of the full-fat versions, and the capacitive screen is extremely responsive and allows multi-touch gestures. As is the norm for new Android tablets nowadays, Adobe Flash isn’t supported.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD Video
The main portal for video in the Kindle Fire HD hooks directly into LoveFilm, which is owned by Amazon. It uses LoveFilm Instant, the company’s movie and TV streaming service.
This costs £5.99 a month and gives you unlimited streaming of thousands of TV episodes and films. LoveFilm now offers HD-quality streaming for some films too, which looks great on the Kindle Fire HD screen.
You can also watch your own films but Amazon doesn’t make it immediately obvious that you can do this. The feature doesn’t have any position on the main carousel as standard, but is instead a pre-installed app called Personal Videos. Native video support is pretty patchy, however.
The Kindle Fire HD failed to play most of our video samples, and official support is limited to basics like H.264, VP8, MP4 and 3GP. This support is largely intended to cover online video, and MKVs and Xvids refused to load.
There are third-party video player apps available from the Amazon Appstore, but the ones we tried used software decoding and stuttered through HD-quality samples. If you want a pure video player tablet, we’d advise picking the Google Nexus 7 over the Kindle Fire HD.
Transferring video files to the Kindle Fire HD is easy enough, though. Just plug the tablet into a computer using a microUSB cable and the internal memory shows up as a media player drive, letting you drag and drop files.