Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Review

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“A premium device the whole family can enjoy”

Amazon has been trying to capture a larger chunk of the tablet space with their Kindle Fire line and the HDX 8.9 is the latest and greatest to become a part of that list. In case you are not aware, Amazon’s devices are designed mainly to sell the company’s content, and the Fire HDX is no different.

Even though the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 looks almost the same as its previous iteration, there have been plenty of changes under the hood. It remains one of the best looking tabs in the market and has an angular and minimalistic design which sets it apart from many other devices. The rear side has angled edges which makes the tablet really easy to hold.

Power and volume buttons are large and easy to find, and present on the left and right sides respectively. It is extremely light at 372g and as thin as the Google Nexus 9 at 7.8mm. The chassis also contains a microUSB port and a headphone jack. If you want to hook up the device to a larger screen, Amazon also has a microUSB-to-HDMI adapter which can be purchased separately. The HDX is the first tablet to come with Dolby’s Atmos technology, which should improve audio performance.

Price

As with most other tablets, the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is available in a variety of price points, depending on the storage you choose. Prices vary from $379 to $594, depending on the device you choose. The prices of normal models are mentioned below. If you want to opt out of Amazon’s Special Offers, add $25 to the price. An LTE variant will cost an extra $100.

Operating System

The Fire HDX runs on Amazon’s proprietary Fire OS 4.0, which is basically a heavily skinned version of Android 4.4 KitKat. It is a safe and secure OS which has been designed to stay true to Amazon’s business model of using their tablet as a way to get people to buy from their online store. It is highly restrictive, and you won’t even get the option to modify your home screen without using apps. App selection is limited since there is no access to the Play Store. However, Fire OS does support customized user profiles for both children and adults, which means that you can share the device among family members easily.

So What Do We Know So Far?

So far, it looks like the 8.9 inch Kindle Fire HDX is a great tablet which has plenty of premium features. It is aimed squarely at people who have already bought into Amazon’s ecosystem, or find it compelling enough to invest. Fire OS does have its restrictions, but is easy to use and intuitive. It is well priced, and if you have no problems with advertisements, you can get it for a lower as well.

Let’s see how well it scores in other areas.

Performance

Inside the HDX, you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 2.5GHz quad-core Krait 400 CPU and 2GB RAM. The processor is augmented by an Adreno 420 GPU which helps the device handle games pretty well. Even though there aren’t a lot of games to choose from in the app store, graphically intense ones like Asphalt 8 perform pretty well anyway. However, the tablet does have a propensity to crash/reboot/stutter from time to time. Sometimes, apps crashed right after loading too.

Apps load quickly and there is no lag in performance. The Silk browser makes web surfing a joy and pages load quickly. Because of the OS’s limitations, there was no way to run the usual gamut of benchmarking apps. But, the apps we did run gave solid results, putting it in the same category as Samsung’s offerings.

Additional Features

  • LTE available
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac
  • Accelerometer and Gyroscope

Display

With the Fire HDX, you can get an Amazon Prime subscription, which gives access to a range of movies, TV shows and books. To help with the movie-watching experience, the device sports a gorgeous 8.9 inch display with a resolution of 2560×1600. It has a pixel count of 339ppi, which is way better than the iPad Air 2, and a contrast ratio of 1273:1. Colors are vibrant and life-like, and it is the one of the best tablet displays currently available.

Camera

Amazon has improved the 8MP rear-shooter on the Fire HDX, and it is one of the best I’ve seen on a tablet, which isn’t saying much. The camera app is well designed as well and offers features like panorama, lenticular and HDR. Low light performance is pretty bad and pictures turn out to be very grainy. But, the flash is very powerful. The front cam is a basic piece which can record at 720p and is more than enough for video calling.

One of the more unique uses of the camera is in the Firefly feature. This feature uses the dual mics and the rear camera to analyze an artifact you are pointing the device towards to give more information about it. Firefly can be used to find more information about anything from a piece of art to a scene is a movie, and it works really well too! It cannot be found in any other tablet.

Battery Life

Amazon claims that the 4500mAh unit will last for around 12 hours of casual use. The review unit lasted for around 15 hours of casual-to-moderate use, which is excellent for a tablet, especially one that has a sharp screen like the HDX has. In fact, the battery life is better than many other tabs which have a larger power unit.

Final Thoughts

PROS:
  • Brilliant display
  • User accounts and parental controls
  • Good speakers with Dolby Atmos sound
  • Firefly and Mayday are useful and unique
CONS:
  • No microSD slot
  • Limited app options
  • OS cannot be customized much

The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is a well-priced and powerful tablet with plenty of features which can be useful for the whole family. However, the limited selection of apps and the fact that it is tied in deeply with Amazon’s ecosystem could be a deterrent for some people.

8.5 Total Score
Very Good!

Display
9
Performance
9
Camera
7.5
Battery Life
8.5
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