Amazon Kindle Fire HD review: Amazon Kindle Fire HD

The books side of things will be familiar to anyone who has used a Kindle app on their smart phone -- you get access to all the entire library of books on Amazon and the ability to download and read anything you have previously bought with your Amazon account. The screen is high resolution enough to make text very readable indeed. Letters are crisp and not blurry as they are on some tablets.

Music is similarly strong. Any MP3s you have bought from Amazon's shop in the past are available to listen to from Amazon's servers for free. In addition you can transfer 250 tracks from your computer to Amazon's cloud service to stream onto the Kindle Fire HD and other devices, which you can increase to 250,000 for £21.99 per year. Or you can simply copy the files you want to play over with a USB cable.

Kindle Fire HD music
There's plenty of music available to download from Amazon, often cheaper than iTunes.

Sound from the stereo speakers is pretty good for a device this size -- it's fairly tinny as you would expect, but it's loud for a tablet, and it's good not to have sound coming out of just one side, as with most slates. Photos and documents can also be uploaded via Amazon's cloud service -- you get 5GB for free or pay for more space. USB transfers are possible here too.

For a content consumption device, though, there is one big problem -- video. Amazon owns Lovefilm and you get a 30-day trial of its streaming service with the Fire HD. Lovefilm's streaming catalogue isn't bad, with a wider selection of new movies than Netflix in my experience, and the streaming quality on the programmes I watched was good.

Kindle Fire HD movies
You can stream movies and TV through Lovefilm, but you can't download them for offline viewing.

But the main problem is that it's streaming only -- if you're on the move and without a Wi-Fi connection, you're out of luck. If I were buying this, one of the main things I'd want to do is to watch video while travelling, but the only way to do that is to transfer an MP4 video file over USB. That essentially means there's no legal way to view new films and TV programmes without an Internet connection.

Magazines and newspapers

One of the links at the top of the homescreen takes you to a magazine shop. Titles are available to buy as one-offs, or under subscription, and some have 60-day trials. It's easy enough to find and buy what you're after, but the quality of what you find is entirely down to the publisher, so you'll want to use the risk-free options wherever possible.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD magazine
You press one of these numbers floating over a picture in GQ to see the caption.

I tried the latest issue of GQ, which involved an awful lot of swiping through adverts for watches and shoes which don't bother me when reading the printed issue, but for some reason irritated me on the Kindle. The scrolling wasn't particularly smooth either, which didn't sit very well the super-glossy look of the magazine.

Games

If gaming is your primary concern when buying a tablet, I'd look elsewhere. There are plenty of games to be had, but as with apps in general, the selection isn't as great as on an Android tablet. To take a popular new game at random: Angry Birds Star Wars is available, but it costs £2, whereas it's free through the Google Play store.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD game
Six-Guns features guns, horses, maps and more in a Wild West setting.

The games I tried seemed work well enough though. When playing Six-Guns, a 3D shoot-em-up, for example, the graphics seemed of a reasonable quality, although not the standard of, say Infinity Blade on the iPad. Action was relatively smooth, although slightly choppy in places. As a nice-to-have add on, games are fine then, but not a reason itself to buy the tablet.

Hardware

Hardware-wise, Amazon makes a big deal about the Wi-Fi inside the Kindle Fire HD being superior to other tablets. This is a hard thing to test scientifically: all I can usefully say is that when using the tablet in my house, which suffers from patchy Wi-Fi, the connection seemed more reliable than with other devices I've tried in the same place, but that could have been down to environmental conditions. The battery was good for a day's use for me.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD back
The Kindle Fire HD doesn't seem to as superior in the hardware department as Amazon claims.

Conclusion

The Kindle Fire HD is an easy-to-use tablet for people who are quite happy buying everything from Amazon. But for more advanced users, it's on sale too late here -- you'll be better off with a Google Nexus 7.

Update, 12 December 2012: This review was originally published on 2 November, and later updated with the sections on Magazines and Newspapers and Games. The review score remained the same.

What you'll pay

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    Where to Buy

    Amazon Kindle Fire HD

    Part Number: B0085P4OWM
    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. UK specs are unavailable.

    • Wireless Connectivity Bluetooth
      IEEE 802.11n
      Bluetooth
      IEEE 802.11a
      IEEE 802.11a
      IEEE 802.11b
      IEEE 802.11b
      IEEE 802.11g
      IEEE 802.11g
      IEEE 802.11n
    • Weight 13.9 oz
    • Type Amazon Android
    • Storage 16 GB integrated
      16 GB integrated