Kindle Fire HD Review
A few weeks back, I received an email asking if I wanted a free Kindle. Now, I’m sure that you, like me, get these kinds of emails on a daily basis. So, you’ll forgive me when I tell you that I was just about to delete the thing. Then, just as I was about to get rid of it, I noticed that it had come from Ladbrokes, who I know to be a legit online gaming company based here in the UK.
So, I opened the email and it turns out that the good people over at Ladbrokes like what we’re doing here at Fantasy-Faction: promoting books and reviewing them to streamline readers’ decision making process as to which book they should pick up next. I’d never really considered it before, but it was explained to me that Ladbrokes were big investors in technology and I guess, when you think about it, it’s not that surprising. Like the book industry, the gambling industry has undergone a fundamental change in how it operates. No longer is it based on the ‘local shop’ model; now, like publishing, gambling is moving towards one day being an exclusively digital phenomenon. So, it’s with a big tip of the hat to Ladbrokes and Co that we’re able to bring this review – thanks, guys.
The first thing you notice when you un-box the Kindle HD is how slim it is. Having owned a couple of eReaders, I was expecting the addition of a HD screen and relatively powerful graphics/processing system to really add some weight and depth to the thing. However, when you consider what the device offers compared to its little brothers and sisters (HD screen, movie playback, a modern operating system, ability to play games and more), it’s amazing how little bulk has been added to its frame. In terms of weight, the Kindle Fire HD is 395g-567g (depending on the model you chose), which is only about double-triple that of your standard feather-light kindle (the iPad is just a bit heavier at 650g for comparison).
In addition to being very portable, I liked that the Fire HD feels so ‘solid’. Whereas a Kindle always feels quite ‘breakable’ in your hands, the Fire HD has that same solidity and obvious build quality of Apple’s iPad. To cut this section short and spare those who aren’t tech-geeks: if you’re sitting on the train next to someone with an iPad or iPad mini, you’ll be comfortably able to contest that you have the better looking machine.
It’s not all about the body though, is it?
Next we move on to the screen. The screen, you’ll not be surprised to hear, is High Definition and therefore really, really clear. The colours are bright and the picture is sharp meaning that whether you’re watching a movie or reading a book the clarity is fantastic. For the geekier readers: The newer model Fire HDs have a resolution of 1920 x 1200 Pixels, which beats that of the iPad 2 and iPad Mini (both come in at around 1024 x 768 Pixels) and although it doesn’t quite match up to the iPad 3?s resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels, I would say that you’re unlikely to utter a word of complaint once you’ve seen the thing on – they’re almost identical.
For those who aren’t so technically-inclined and wondering what the heck all that actually means ‘to them’: Well, if you have ever tried reading from an iPad or iPad 2 you probably would have struggled. This is because they only had around 132 Dots Per Inch. This means that in every inch of the screen there are 132 pixels. The problem is that the eye can detect the gaps in these dots at the kind of distance you read a book at. So, the new resolution means that the Kindle HD is able to manage 254 Dots Per Inch, this is good as, it means that from as little as 40cm of distance your eye cannot discern pixels, the picture below shows you what I mean a bit better:
So, we can read off it – but we can read off a normal Kindle too… The real test comes with using the thing and how its new features add to our experience, right? How does it actually work?
Well, it’s certainly damned easy to use. If I want to read a book, I turn the thing on, click on Books and then, using my finger to swipe across the screen, I select one and begin reading. I found the screen to be really great for reading (for reasons I mentioned above). Truly, whereas I’ve always struggled to read in great quantities on my desktop or on an iPad 1 or 2, on the Kindle Fire HD I found myself able to read chapters and chapters without getting any eyestrain or vertigo (which I get when scrolling a lot on the net). You can turn the brightness up or down, and a huge advantage of this model over the earlier Kindles is that you can use it in the dark or in poor light (note: some newer Kindle models do have a back-light).
Really, where the Kindle Fire HD has a massive advantage over other eReaders is its interface. Similar to the Android OS and not really that different from the iPad I guess, you’ll be able to swipe your way through various screens to install applications, play games, browse the net and even watch movies. The Kindle Fire HD uses a custom Android OS, so if you’ve ever used an Android device, you’ll likely be able to find your way around.
The big selling point for the Kindle Fire HD (other than price) is Amazon’s shop, which makes acquiring media very, very easy. If you want to a TV show, movie or book you’ll find the search function excellent and the speed you can acquire things both quick and painless. So long as you have an Amazon account, it’s pretty much one click stuff. Also, I really like that adding notes to an ebook or highlighting anything within that book is now really simple. The screen is very responsive and the keyboard is far, far easier to use than the ones the earlier Kindles and various other eReaders have built into them (whether touch based or hardware based).
All this said, if I simply wanted something that looked nice and allowed me to read – even buy – books, I would buy a Kindle because they are a heck of a lot cheaper. The Kindle Fire HD (£129, £159 or £229 depending on the model you want) where as your standard Kindle is just £69.00 (£109 or £169 for a Paperwhite depending if you want 3G).
The question is then, do you just want a Kindle? I’ve always thought that iPads are pretty pointless. I mean, I have a desktop computer. Yes, an iPad is damned sexy, yes an iPad loads up in just a couple seconds, but really isn’t it just a novelty? Now in comparison, an eReader is a time saving, space saving and worthwhile investment for people who like to read. In my house I have over 500 books. The Kindle Fire HD allows me to store up to around 6,000 books. That means I can take 6,000 books with me on the train, on holiday, to work, to my friends house, etc, etc. Also, rather than having to search book stores for a book, I can connect to the internet and download the book I’m after in a couple of seconds – even if it is a hard to find title.
So: eReader = Worthwhile; Tablet = Pointless if I have a laptop.
In saying that, I often find myself sat on the train or at work with my eReader pulling my phone out my pocket to look something up on the net, maybe putting my iPod on so I can listen to music, Tweeting or Facebooking between chapters on my laptop/desktop. With the Kindle Fire HD I can do all of this on a single machine with a sleek interface. I can also watch movies and visit the Fantasy-Faction forums if I like. It is important to note though that there are limitations.
Although you have games and applications on the Kindle Fire HD you don’t have anywhere near the number or quality you’ll find on one of Apple’s Devices. That’s its big downfall: if you’re looking for an alternative for your laptop, this truly isn’t it. You know those adverts on TV right now where doctors are using their tablets to design presentations and managing their patient’s statuses on their iPads or Windows Tablets? Well, this isn’t that kind of device. The applications and interface are far more limited than your more expensive tablets. This is a device made for readers, movie watchers and social media addicts, not professionals/hard working students (they exist… don’t they?) looking for something with practical work based applications.
Finally, one of the most important aspects of a portable device is the battery. You’ll be glad to know that the Kindle Fire HD packs enough power to be played with for 10 hours straight. Obviously that’ll go up quite a lot if you’re simply reading and fall a bit if you’re watching movies and connected to Wi-Fi constantly, but it’ll certainly go toe to toe with that of an iPad and probably quadruple that of even the higher capacity laptops.
So, Overlord, should I buy a Kindle Fire HD?
The answer is: I don’t actually know. It all depends on what you want from your device. I guess if you’ve made it this far through my review you want something and the likely-hood is that you’re stuck between an eReader, a tablet or this hybrid eReader/Tablet thing. If that’s the case, I can help.
Buy the Kindle if: You honestly do want to just read. If you have no desire to play games or use the Internet, the Kindle is for you.
Buy the iPad if: You want an alternative to a laptop. If you have a laptop, you probably don’t need an iPad. It is worth noting that the iPad isn’t designed for reading and so that application for reading books on the machine is more of an afterthought compared to that of the Kindle or the Kindle Fire HD, which have been built to read books on.
Buy the Kindle Fire HD if: You want a device that allows you to read books on, whilst also being able to do the majority of things your phone would allow you to do.
Personally, I’d pay the extra money for the Kindle Fire HD over buying just a Kindle. However, I’d not pay the extra money for an iPad over a Kindle or Kindle Fire HD. As an avid reader, Tweeter, Facebooker, Surfer of the net and person who has a desire to take a rest from a book to play a couple games or watch an episode of a television series (when on long journeys and such) the Kindle Fire HD does everything I need it to. It might not be the device for you, but it is the device for me. I think it works as the perfect product for those wanting a bit more out of their kindle, whilst knowing that they really can’t justify getting an iPad.
For me, this hybrid device is exactly what I needed to bring together my love of reading, watching television/film and social media into one affordable device.
For disclosure purposes (as noted above) I received the Kindle Fire HD for review from Ladbrokes and Co. Being given the Kindle Fire HD did not influence my opinion in this review.