The Kindle Fire HDX packs in a great screen, among other things, that make it an amazing tablet on the shelves right now.

When online retailing giant Amazon first launched gadgets no one took it seriously. As it turns out, the company doesn’t either! Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that they couldn’t be less bothered about the kind of devices they launch. It’s just that what the devices do for them is what matters more for the company! After a series of ereaders, Amazon had launched its first tablet the Amazon Kindle Fire two years ago. Now, it has upgraded the series with the Kindle Fire HDX. I spent some time with it to see how it fares.

Build

My personal favourite among Amazon devices is the Kindle Paperwhite. The Kindle Fire HDX, however, is built for a slightly different kind of audience. It’s much more than just an e-reader. It’s primarily a tablet that focuses on reading, but still takes care of all your multimedia – songs, videos, movies, apps - as well as digital shopping needs.

The unit I reviewed sports a 7-inch screen with a high-res 1920 x 1200 pixel display. The tablet has pretty good viewing angles as well as colour reproduction. The only niggle is that there’s a bit of blue light bleeding on the sides of the display. I’m not sure if that’s a problem with just the review unit or across the model.

The size is pretty convenient for everyday use, especially if you want a tablet/e-reader on you for your commute every day. There is also an 8.9-inch version for those who might want to reap the benefits of a larger screen display to read or browse on. The 8.9-inch version has a higher pixel density a well as an 8-megapixel rear camera, which the 7-inch Fire HDX does not have.

The ease of tapping and purchasing something on the Amazon store can get pretty addictive and it won’t be long before you have to check yourself before compulsively buying books or crowding your device with free titles from the Amazon store.

I could access the power button and the volume rocker from the back panel of the tablet. This could get a bit confusing especially if you’ve been turning the tablet around from portrait to landscape mode or vice versa. I always had to fumble for a couple of seconds before I could place the buttons.

To plug in your headphones, there’s a 3.5 mm jack on the right side of the tablet and a microUSB on the left to charge it or transfer media. Another downside might be the fact that there’s only a front-facing camera on the Kindle Fire HDX and none whatsoever at the rear; a feature you now find on almost every tablet in the market. The device itself looks pretty mundane. It’s not badly designed but it isn’t exactly eye-catching.

Ecosystem & Interface

With devices like the Kindle Fire HDX, Amazon seems to be executing brilliantly what you’d think only companies such as Apple can do well– locking you in to an ecosystem. When you use the Kindle Fire HDX or any other Kindle device for that matter, you’ll realise how heavily and singularly dependent you are on the Amazon store. That is not necessarily a bad thing considering you can find almost every book imaginable on the store, thus fulfilling the primary objective of this device. Unlike Apple products, the Fire HDX doesn’t even seem annoyingly insistent on going through its proprietary software (we’re looking at you, iTunes) to load media on to the device.

Powering the Kindle HDX Fire is a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, which makes sure the tablet multitasks with ease. It’s coupled with 2GB of RAM and Adreno 330 graphics to power apps and videos.

The stereo speakers on the HDX are pretty decent. Although they’re not the loudest ones we’ve come across, they are still free of distortion at high volumes and loud enough for someone to watch a sitcom on inside a room.

The interface on the Kindle Fire HDX will be familiar to those who’ve used the Kindle Fire. There’s a carousel of apps and books you might have downloaded on the home screen. You can easily swipe through these to get to the ones you want to access. On top, there’s a row of options that includes Books, Music, Audiobooks, Newsstand, Photos, Docs – basically access to any kind of media you already have or might want to download on to the Kindle Fire HDX.

Amazon’s proprietary Silk browser might seem a bit clunky to use for those who are accustomed to Chrome or Dolphin HD. But, the browser doesn’t disappoint when it comes to performance. It even has a dedicated ‘Reading Mode’ which converts any web page to a text-only version of itself so you can read all the content without getting distracted.

Amazon has ironically built in an excellent feature which consumers would otherwise loathe to use. I’m talking about Mayday, Amazon’s proprietary troubleshooting assistance, that debuts on the Kindle Fire HDX. Accessible via the pull-down menu, this delivers live 24/7 video-chat tech support, where the tech support agent can take control of your tablet’s display, and show you how the various features of the HDX works. This feature works perfectly fine in India.

Battery

As is the norm with e-readers, the Kindle Fire HDX has pretty amazing battery life, although it will get nowhere close to that of a black-and-white e-reader. After video streaming, considerable app usage and reading, the tablet was still charged up after two days of usage. Pretty commendable for a 7-inch colour display. If you’re mostly going to read on the tablet, it’ll easily give you company for a week before running out of charge.

$229 onwards

Love – Great display, Mayday

Hate – Bleeding along the edges, no rear camera

(This article was published on December 25, 2013)
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