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Amazon Kindle Fire HD Early Hands-on Expert Review

Amazon’s Kindle Fire quickly became a powerhouse of media content consumption when it was introduced in 2011, and Amazon’s looking to maintain that momentum with the just-announced Kindle Fire HD.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took the stage in Santa Monica, Calif. on Thursday to introduce the Kindle Fire HD, a new umbrella that covers 7- and 8.9-inch tablets with a variety of data options.

TechRadar was on hand to take the Kindle Fire HD in all its flavors out for a spin.

Kindle Fire HD specs and design

The base 7-inch Kindle Fire HD is incredibly light, at 20 ounce and 8.8mm thin, with a rubbery backing that makes it easy to grip.

The new HD display packs a 1920×1200 resolution with in-plane switching and 254 PPI, and frankly it looks gorgeous. HD movies like The Hunger Games flow by with perfection, and games like Jetpack Joyride looked crisp despite their pixelated graphics.

An advanced true wide polarizing filter and omni-directional, full spectrum color make the display look great from every angle, and a touch sensor laminated to the display rather than simply being stacked on top of it means a sharper image, better contrast and 25 percent less glare, according to Bezos.

A new HD front-facing camera supports Skype integration, and also provides a handy way to tell when the Kindle Fire HD is upside-down, since there are no physical buttons on the front bezel (volume and lock controls are on the side of the device).

An HD tablet isn’t complete without HDMI out, and the Kindle Fire HD sports bluetooth as well.

All that would be meaningless if the Kindle Fire HD didn’t pack a punch, and under the hood you’ll find the TI OMAP 4470 processor, 16GB of storage (vs. the Kindle Fire’s 8GB), new dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus, and two dual-band 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi antennas for more consistent and speedier connections.

Combined with new-ish MIMO tech that improves reception of redundant signals, all-in-all the Kindle Fire HD’s Wi-Fi is reportedly 41 percent faster than the latest Apple iPad and 54 percent faster than the Google Nexus 7.

That all sounds great on paper, though in practice the Kindle Fire HD may be overreaching a bit – it stuttered for up to 10 seconds as we switched between games, videos, music, web, periodicals, and other categories on the home screen, though the new carousel/quick access interface is snappy enough.

Kindle Fire HD UI

Games took a rather long time to load as well, though that may come down to developers more than the hardware itself.

The Kindle Fire HD brings several new features that streamline the user experience: Whispersync saves game, book (audio books, too) and movie progress in the cloud, and X-Ray for movies (using IMDB) can tell you what actors are in every scene, providing profiles, filmographies and everything else you expect from the site.

They’ve even got X-Ray for textbooks now.

“Immersion Reading” fuses audio and text books for, mixing the two together by highlighting words on the screen as the narrator speaks them.

And Kindle FreeTime lets parents set different time limits for different types of content, so kids can read unlimited books but only play, say, an hour of movies and games.

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Verdict

Like the new Kindle Paperwhite to the original Kindle, the Kindle Fire HD is an upgrade to the Kindle Fire in every way.

More than anything, it continues to provide an easy-to-navigate gateway to Amazon’s massive content library, and now more than ever before, everything is in the cloud.

Buggy navigation can be fixed, so we’ll reserve judgment until the device ships.

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD ships Sept. 14 at $199 for 16GB, while the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD ships for $299 on Nov. 20, also with 16GB.

There’s also a $499 8.9-inch option with 32GB and 4G LTE compatibility – plans will cost $50 per year for 250MB a month, 20GB of cloud storage, and $10 in Amazon credit.

Additional data will run 3GB for $30 and 5GB for $50 through AT&T, an Amazon representative revealed at the event.

The 8.9-incher was not available for a hands-on demo at the unveiling on Thursday, though TechRadar did manage to snap some images of it.

Full expert review coming soon!

Amazon Kindle Fire HD Early Hands-on Expert Review

 

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