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In addition to your tablet, the black cardboard packaging includes a USB cable for charging on your computer and file transfer. That's about it: there's no wall charger unit included, and no other accessories outside of a little card with some documentation on it.

Due to the design of the tablet, it's very obvious that Amazon intends for its users to hold their tablet in a landscape orientation, as the layout of the speakers and the camera lends well to this. While it makes sense for a media consumption device to do this, it does make it a bit harder to hold with one hand. This is all relative, of course, because the tablet itself isn't all that heavy due to its diminutive size. Still, it's just something to be aware of.

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The new addition to the Kindle Fire lineup is built around a 5.9375 x 3.75 inch LCD screen with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, and a fairly well-performing one at that. Not only does it have a decent contrast performance, but it also has a good color gamut. It's not the best, but hey: it does well for the price you'd pay for it.

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Given that the high reflectivity is mitigated somewhat by the high peak brightness, the does fairly well outdoors, though sharp reflection patterns and bright lights will absolutely ruin your fun. It's not an uncommon problem with LCD screened tablets, as they require their backlight to overpower the ambient lighting in order for their picture to be seen, and tablets with extremely high brightnesses will hurt your eyes in lower lighting conditions.

NOTE: The images above are shot with a variety of lighting sources, which may cause some color shift.
Due to the good ratio of screen size to resolution, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD’s screen is very legible, and a cut above the last generation of Kindle Fire. You may notice some “stair-stepping” as a result of the screen not being absolutely perfect, but unless your vision is better than 20/20, this shouldn’t be a big issue for you.

Reflectivity is a bit of a problem on the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, but it could be worse. By reflecting about 19.2% of all light back at the user, you’ll definitely notice glare if you’re outside and looking to use your tablet. If you must go into the bright light, we suggest maxing out your backlight.
A screen with a 5.9375 × 3.75 inch real estate and a resolution of 1280 × 800 nets the Amazon Kindle Fire HD a pixel density of 215 pixels per inch (PPI), which is becoming the new normal for 7" tablets. For the curious, tablets of this size are starting to see displays that are oft-referred to as “retina” are becoming closer to the norm.
In our labs, we measured the Amazon Kindle Fire HD’s screen output to have a black level of 0.65cd/m2 , and a peak brightness of 450.1cd/m2 , giving it a lackluster contrast ratio of 692:1. Unfortunately for the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, it lost a lot of points because its gamma, or how well it transitioned from dark to light, is bad, meaning it does not handle transitions in lightness easily. You may notice some detail errors in shadows.


In terms of color performance, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD actually does a fairly acceptable job, though there are some quirks. Namely, reds are shifted and undersaturated, greens are undersaturated, and blues are shifted wildly towards more of a cyan-ish color.

All things considered, the battery life of the Amazon Kindle Fire HD is fairly good, but doesn’t come close to touching the Kindle Fire HD’s main competitor. After we maxed out the backlight and turned all additional processes and antennas off, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD was able to read Tolstoy’s tome War and Peace (in digital form) for 6 hours and 22 minutes, while it was able to play video files back to back to back for 6 hours, 3 minutes.

Users reading about the 's OS and expecting anything close to Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich (upon which the Kindle's OS is based) will be very disappointed. Sure, the interface looks pretty, but the control scheme is much less consistent than you'd expect for it being based on Android. It's awful. The control bar jumps from the bottom to the right side in some apps (but not others), and the same frustrating layout on the home screen makes sifting through different functions a lot more complicated than it needs to be.

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The controls on the top right side of the iPad body: volume, lock and power.

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There is a modicum of basic connectivity features that just about all tablets share, namely an 802.11n wireless card. Additionally, you can pair accessories using the bluetooth 3.0 wireless capability of the , and use the microUSB port to load up files from your computer. If you're a media junkie that wants to use their tablet as a home base for all things streaming, the also has a very large item in the plus column: a microHDMI port to export your content to a TV.

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Here we see a Lightning dock in its natural habitat.

All things considered, the battery life of the is fairly good, but doesn't come close to touching the 's main competitor. After we maxed out the backlight and turned all additional processes and antennas off, the was able to read Tolstoy's tome War and Peace (in digital form) for 6 hours and 22 minutes, while it was able to play video files back to back to back for 6 hours, 3 minutes.

Reading eBooks on the is as simple as it is on any other Kindle device: once the app is open, just tap or swipe your finger to turn pages, tap the bottom to call out a menu of font and size options, or hold your finger down to select text and share it over social media. Overall the experience isn't something that causes much consternation or worry, as Amazon has figured out a way to manage their eReader app that has more or less become market standard.

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The iBooks program offers a range of controls for font and text size

Buying books on the is also very simple. Once you've linked your Amazon account to your device and turned one-click on (this will also require you to add your billing info), all you have to do is tap the "buy" icon and you will be billed automatically, and your title will download immediately.

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Books can be purchased on the iPad through the iTunes store

s come pre-installed with the Kindle app, which has more or less become the market standard for eReader apps in the mobile world. However, this does mean that you're initially limited to files that can be used by the app itself, which include PDF, TXT, and AZW files.

Newspapers and magazines also work much in the same way as eBooks, though instead of tapping "books" you'll be tapping "Newsstand" instead. If you've already linked your billing information to your account, you can buy any issue of your favorite periodicals, or you can subscribe and have them automatically download at every issue cycle.

Reading issues of your periodical titles work in exactly the same way same as they would if they were an eBook; the tap or swipe to turn pages, font options, and everything else is in exactly the same layout. It's like having a magic brick that updates with your favorite periodicals.

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The New York Times is available on the iPad through their own app

Playing music on the is easy, though the advanced options are a bit lacking. By tapping the "music" icon on the launch bar, you'll be taken to a list of your media available through your Amazon account. Once you've downloaded a song or uploaded your own, tapping the respective icon will begin playback, giving you a larger image of the album art, a play/pause icon, a scrub bar, and volume slider.

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The iPod app shows the cover art while playing music

Of the few things left untampered with from Android 4.0.3 is the file management system: all your music will be downloaded into a folder with the same name onto your tablet, but can be accessed through the music app. Once there, you will see one of a couple views, but the default will allow you see a splash of album art images that you can tap to access.

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Audio files can be sorted by title, artist, album, genre or composer

When playing back a video, the has a very simple control scheme that disappears after a second or two of not being touched. Once called out, you'll be able to adjust the volume, position of your flick, and pause or resume playback.

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Using your own files is a bit tricky on the , but after a while you'll get used to it. After using the included USB cable to connect to your computer, you'll need to set up your tablet as a USB drive that can recieve files. If you have a Windows PC, this is taken care of already, but if you have a mac, you'll have to install the Android File Transfer utility. Once you have the folder opened, you can drag and drop your files into the "Movies" folder.

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The gallery is used to navigate videos, and only offers thumbnails

The slightly annoying part comes when you try to play those files back. Instead of having an option through the "Video" icon in the launcher, you have to open the App drawer, then open "personal videos." Like I said, not overly mystifying, but it can be a pain for those used to other operating systems, or those never having used a tablet before.

Users with a bunch of video files that they'd like to transfer will have to make do with limited file support, as the supports very few common files. Normally this isn't a huge deal for an Android-based device, but because the tablet does not have access to the Play Store, finding a replacement player or codec will be enormously annoying.

Here is where the truly shines, as it has some fantastic streaming options. If you have a membership to Amazon Prime and/or Netflix streaming, you can stream titles from enormous libraries of content right on your tablet wherever you have a WiFi connection. With that screen, your videos will look great, albeit a bit tiny.

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Included in the software for the is an email app, which allows you to sync your inboxes over the most common types (POP3/IMAP/Exchange). All that's required from you is to follow the wizard and provide it with the information it asks for.

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The iPad email app is basic, but adequate for most users

Once this is accomplished, you can operate the email client much like you would on a computer, but instead of having a keyboard, you have to tap text boxes in order to call out the keyboard on the screen. It's a bit of a pain, but that's just the way it works.

Also included on the is a fairly basic web browser that offers about the same major features as any modern browser on a computer. You can use multiple tabs or windows, surf sites with ease, bookmark your favorites, and generally not even think twice about how the program functions. You won't be able to mess around under the hood like you can with Chrome, but it's just a tablet browser.

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The iPad boasts a fully featured Safari web browser

As far as apps go, Amazon really has not done enough to gain ground on its competitors in the mobile market, but considering the purpose of the is not to sell apps, but content, this is no surprise. Still, you should be aware that this is not a tablet that will allow you immediate access to the hottest apps and programs, and will leave you high and dry if you want to routinely use it to work or do anything other than consume media.

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All that being said, the email function of the should be passable in a pinch if you have a POP3, IMAP, or Exchange inbox. Simply follow the wizard in the app and your email will go to your tablet from then on.

If the first Kindle fire was a home run, this one is a foul ball.

When the first Kindle Fire was released, it threw down the gauntlet and challenged the rest of the industry with a low price point and a certain standard of functionality. With the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, not much has changed in the software department aside from a different outdated version of Android to re-skin, and that's a problem. When the closest dedicated competitor runs circles around it with function at the same price, the dual speakers and other minor features become far less important.

That's not to say that this is a bad tablet: it has marked improvements almost across the board from its previous iteration, and it works very well for media consumption. However, the Kindle Fire line of tablets does not seem to be keeping pace with the competition in terms of value or capability. What happens in terms of sales is one thing, but when it comes to measurable performance, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD falls quite a bit short.

The main advantage you get with the Amazon Kindle Fire HD is access to Amazon's extended programs... but only if you have a Prime subscription, making the final bill for the tablet about $80 more expensive than its arch-nemesis, the Nexus7 . If you have a subscription to Amazon Prime and you're only looking for a media consumption device, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD is a perfectly good option that will not disappoint you. However, if you are an app junkie, or need an exceptional battery, this is probably a tablet to skip.

Meet the testers

Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

Staff Writer, Imaging

@cthomas8888

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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