Kindle Fire HD – First Impressions

I recently won a Kindle Fire in a contest at work, and to my surprise when I received it, it was a Kindle Fire HD (7″)!

First, let me say that I have a Kindle 3, and love it. Well, I used to have one. My wife has since claimed it as hers, seeing how I now have the Fire HD. The Kindle 3 is an excellent ereader, and I appreciated the fact that if I wanted to do serious reading, without interruptions or potential distractions, I could. But a part of me also wanted to take advantage of my Prime account, and watch videos. And magazines just look so much better on a tablet device, not to mention I like to take screen shots and notes, which is also easier (for me anyway) on a tablet device.

So I was excited to see this weekend just how the Kindle Fire HD would stack up against my experiences with the Kindle 3, the Nexus 7, and the iPad 2. My first impressions are:

Size and weight: I was caught off guard by the weight of the Fire HD. It is heavier than the Nexus 7, but the size was comfortable to hold. In fact, I liked the fact that the Kindle Fire HD has more of a bezel around the screen, as it made it easier to hold like a book, when using it as an ereader, than either the Nexus 7 or the iPad 2.

Music and video: Music sounded great, form the built in speakers, all things considered. Much better than the Nexus 7, though I still think the sound from the iPad is of slightly higher quality, when connected via a docking cable or through the headphone jack. Video playback was on a par with both the Nexus 7 and the iPad 2, although I am enjoying the fact I can browse and play Prime videos on a tablet now.

Books and Magazines: The reading experience for both books and magazines was superb, in my opinion. The only complaint I had here was when I tried to start a new magazine subscription. My default payment method was my Amazon store card, and not my Visa card. When I tried to subscribe, I never generated a failure message, I just never got the magazine. So I logged in from the laptop, and tried to subscribe, then I saw the error message about not being allowed to use my Amazon card to pay for the magazine subscription. It would have been nice if that message displayed on the Kindle.

The Amazon Store: The Amazon store experience on the Kindle Fire HD was much more pleasant and intuitive, than on the Kindle 3, with the exception of the billing issue I just mentioned above.

Silk: Yawn. Nothing special here in my opinion.

Games: I loaded a few games, including the Dispicable Me game, and found game play to be smooth and enjoyable.

Battery life: While I didn’t torture test the unit, or do any sort of formal testing, I think it was very acceptable. Starting with a full charge, I played 30 minutes of an action game, downloaded a magazine and a book, and then streamed a movie, and the battery level was down to 77%.

I did not try to use the Kindle Fire HD as a “productivity” tool. Not because of any shortcomings I found with the tablet itself, but rather because I already have two tablets that do all that for me. Plus I didn’t want the temptation of being distracted by incoming notifications for email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. while I am reading (one of the drawbacks in my opinion of using the Nexus 7 or the iPad 2, and was my biggest reason for liking the Kindle 3 as an ebook reader).

The only thing I really didn’t like about the Kindle Fire HD was the home screen carousel. It started to grow on me after a while, but I’m still not crazy about it. And I have to admit that the placement of the power and volume buttons took a bit of getting used to.

So is it an iPad killer? My gut reaction says no. Is it an awesome tablet for consuming ebooks, magazines, music, and video? Absolutely. Is it an acceptable gaming platform for the average person? Again, absolutely. Would I consider giving one to my mom as a birthday present? In all honesty, yes, I think I would. The user interface is intuitive, and with the tight integration into the Amazon store, it’s really a good end user experience.

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