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Simple, efficient design stunted by software

Due to its comparatively light weight, the is fairly easy to hold for long periods of time. Without any sharp angles, the bezel on the Kindle doesn't dig into your hand after a long period of use, so most users should find holding it to be fairly comfortable.

Most interactions with your tablet will be governed entirely by the operating system's re-skinned interface, which is a bit of a chore.

Controlling a tablet through a capacitive touchscreen is simple enough, as it registers your touch quickly and accurately. However, because there are so few physical controls, most interactions with your tablet will be governed entirely by the operating system's re-skinned interface, which is a bit of a chore. Basic functions are located in a horizontal list near the top of the screen, settings are in a swipe-down menu at the top, and the menu bar can be called out by tapping the bottom of the screen.

Unlike Android, you can't customize your lock screen or home screen. Unfortunately, the Kindle Fire HD tablets have ads that appear all the time on the lock screen, and they're there to stay. Similarly, you can't alter what's available to you on the home screen in the form of widgets or apps: The carousel of recent items will always be there until you decide to root the device and install an actual version of Android on there... if you elect to do so. Also missing from the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is a feature that's usually available in both of Google and Apple's small tablets: GPS. While it may not matter to some, the lack of GPS means no maps, no navigation, and no services like what Google offers its fully-loaded Android tablets.

This Kindle has a lot to offer media mavens of all sorts, as it has a micro-HDMI port to export your content to a TV screen. Additionally, you can pair accessories with it using the Bluetooth 3.0+EDR wireless standard. The usual connectivity options for an Android-based tablet also apply here, as it has both a micro-USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Few features, but fair performance

The bigger, badder brother of the Kindle Fire HD is built around a 7.625 x 4.75-inch screen, with a resolution of 1920 x 1200. With a high pixel density, any eBooks you decide to read on this piece of hardware will be very legible, but the color performance is terrible and the contrast is thoroughly average.

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The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is just not a good platform for finding the latest apps.

In comparison to the virtual duopoly of app markets (Google and Apple), Amazon's selection pales in comparison, and as such, has a much higher percentage of apps that you are less likely to download. Not only that, but many of the more popular and stunning apps like Flipboard are nowhere to be found, so the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is just not a good platform for finding the latest apps: It's a media consumption device at its core, and nothing more.

Awkwardly priced, and rather lacking compared to other tablets in its price range

If there's one thing the Kindle Fire HDs do well, it's media consumption for the masses. Fortunately for Amazon, that seems to be a winning strategy for its tablets, even if they're severely lacking in the internet features department. Despite the fact that their app selection is almost laughable behind that of Google and Apple, the Kindle Fire family seems to be doing well in the market as media consumption devices.

However, a tablet can be so much more than something to watch content on, and this is the main shortcoming of the : Its ceiling for usability is so low, and there's nothing you can to to change that. This isn't inherently a bad thing, as there are several different ways people like to use their tablets, it's just that there's one very specific use that the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 has, and that's it.

For those of you primarily looking for a way to stream movies, music, and literature onto a tablet with a decent screen on the cheap, the remains a great option if you're willing to deal with ads. If you're an app fiend or gaming nut, however, this is probably not the tablet for you.

Though the software is a chore to use, the hardware is about average.

Fair contrast and low reflectivity, but the color accuracy isn't great

Given that the has a 7.625 x 4.75-inch screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200, we can do the math out to figure that the has a pixel density of 252 pixels per inch (PPI), which is very close to the density often termed "retina" by other tablet manufacturers. If you're going to be holding the tablet at a natural position, you're not going to notice individual pixels if your vision is anything less than perfect.

Despite the acclaim given to this screen, the contrast performance is not very inspiring. While it does net a good contrast ratio by having a good black level of 0.44 cd/m2 and a decently high peak brightness of 343.2 cd/m2, its gamma (how well it transitions from each value along a greyscale) is very poor and inconsistent. Right now you're probably thinking: "whatever, nerd who cares?" Well, if you're a fan of horror flicks, you'll probably be unable to see the monsters lurking in the shadows of your movies, and this may get annoying after a while.

When compared to the rec. 709 standard, the 's color gamut leaves much to be desired. Not only does it undersaturate reds and greens, but it also shifts the deepest blue values towards a more cyan color. You may not notice this unless you demand absolute perfection from your screens as a videophile, but it's something to make a mental note of.

Where the 's screen does shine is in terms of reflectivity, though the idiom is a bit ironic as the screen does not shine much in bright light. As it only reflects 9% of all light shone on the screen back at the user, we've seen far worse tablets in this regard, and you'll be able to use it in brighter lighting conditions no sweat.

Thoroughly middling battery life

After running the gantlet of our rather unforgiving battery tests, we've come to the conclusion that you can reasonably expect the to last 5 hours, 52 minutes reading an eBook, and 6 hours, 22 minutes playing a video file. In our tests, we crank the backlight and disable all wireless and additional apps, so deviating from this mode of operation will give you different results.

Meet the tester

Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

Staff Writer, Imaging


A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.

See all of Chris Thomas's reviews

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