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Kindle Fire HD teardown reveals repair-ready tablet, minor annoyances

TechRepublic's Bill Detwiler disassembles the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and shows you why it's easy to crack open and how it compares with the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab 2 7.0.

Now playing: Watch this: Cracking Open the Kindle Fire HD

With a base price of $199, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD gives you a lot for your money. And while it's just as easy to crack open as the original Fire, it has better hardware and a completely redesigned interior.

Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD has a 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460 system on a chip (SoC), 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, a 7-inch IPS LCD (1,280x800-pixel), and Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (MIMO) support. The base model has 16GB of storage, but a 32GB version is also available. The Fire HD measures 5.4 inches by 7.6 inches by 0.4 inch and weighs 13.9 ounces.

Full TechRepublic teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Easy to open and disassemble
Like the original Fire, the Kindle Fire HD is a snap to crack open. With the help of a thin metal blade or plastic case-opening tool, you can pop off the back cover. No tamper-resistant screws here.

Once inside, removing the internal components is also a straightforward process. Other than a single Torx T5 screw on the battery, you can remove all the interior screws with a Phillips #00 bit. After disconnecting a few cables, you should find the battery, motherboard, speakers, headphone jack board, and internal frame all come out without much fuss.

Minor complaints

Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Despite the Fire HD's easy-open case, I have a few complaints about the tablet's internal design. First, the copper tape covering the processor and RAM packages is a pain to remove. Second, you must remove the motherboard before removing the right speaker. And last, one of the Wi-Fi antennas is held to the internal frame and front panel with adhesive and must be detached to remove either part.

I usually criticize manufactures for fusing a tablet's display and front panel. But, not this time. The Fire HD's display and touch sensor are laminated together into a single layer of glass. This construction technique eliminates the air gap that forms when a traditional glass touch sensor is mounted over a separate LCD panel. According to Amazon, by removing this gap, the company made the screen easier to read and reduced glare.

Kindle Fire HD vs. Nexus 7 vs. Galaxy Tab 2 7.0
So how does the Fire HD stack up against other low-cost 7-inch tablets, such as the Google Nexus 7 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0?

Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

The Fire HD Fire has a 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460 system on a chip (SoC) and the Nexus 7 has 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3 SoC. Despite the 4460's support for dual-channel memory, the Tegra 3's higher clock speed, four cores, and better GPU give the Nexus a slight edge. The Galaxy Tab trails both the other tablets with its 1GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4430 SoC.

As for RAM, all three tablets have 1GB of memory, but the Nexus 7 uses DDR3 SDRAM compared with the other tablets' DDR2.

For storage, the base model Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab 2 have 8GB, while the entry-level Fire HD has 16GB. The Galaxy, however, does have microSD card slot.

All three have 7-inch displays, but the Fire HD and Nexus 7's screens operate at a resolution of 1,280x800 pixels with the Galaxy Tab at 1,024x600.

Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Don't judge a tablet by hardware alone
When it comes to hardware, all three tablets have their pros and cons. If you want two cameras and expandable storage, the Galaxy Tab 2 is the way to go. If you want NFC and a Tegra 3 processor, it's the Nexus 7. And if you want MIMO support, right and left speakers, and a base model with 16GB of storage, then the Fire HD is the one.

But honestly, you can't judge these tablets on hardware alone. As CNET's Eric Franklin wrote in his review, "It's not a question of which is better. It's more a question of which is better for you."

Like its predecessor, the Kindle Fire HD is really designed for heavy Amazon users and Amazon Prime subscribers.

A more detailed version of this story was first published on TechRepublic's Cracking Open.