Kindle Fire HD 7″ Initial Review

I have not had a lot of time on the Kindle Fire HD 7″ yet, but thought I would post my initial review of the features that are important to me.  This is a day or so after my initial Kindle Fire HD unveiling and I am still playing around with the tablet and learning its features.  I’m sure I will find out much more as I go along (so please bear this in mind). I also have not read any of the reviews or blog posts about the Kindle Fire HD so that I would approach it with a fresh eye.

The physical device

The new Kindle Fire HD is much sleeker than the Kindle Fire 1.  It feels very good in your hands, sleek, not slippery, pleasant to look at.

The speakers are on the back of the device, but wrap around to the sides, so sound can project from the back and both sides – which is great if one or more of these areas are blocked.

There is a microUSB port and an HDMI port on one side.  I still think Amazon cheaped out not including a power cable and cheaped out a second time not including an HDMI cable.

On the top (or is it the bottom?) are the earphone port, volume key, and on/off button.  It is great that they have included a volume button – that was a horrible mistake on the part of the Kindle Fire 1.  The On/Off button on the Kindle Fire 1 was also a horrible mistake.  I do have some complaints about the current volume and on/off button on the Kindle Fire HD.  They are hard to find.  I have finally figured out they are on the shorter side of the device, but there is no easy way to see them or really feel them.  They each have a raised indicator on them, but it can easily be mistaken for the speakers.

Ease of charging – plug the microUSB cable into a USB port on your computer and into the microUSB port on your Kindle Fire HD.  Look for an external indicator that the device is charging.  There is none.  Really?  No little green/red light?  How much would that have cost?  This is one of the negatives I have on the Google Nexus 7.  You don’t know when your device is done charging.  Open up the loading screen and go to the home page.  Looking at the battery indicator, I cannot see that there is any indication that it is charging.  I finally plugged the Kindle Fire HD into my Google Nexus 7 charger and the battery indicator turned green and showed a charging indication.  Still nothing on the computer.

The size of the new tablet is good. The proportions work well. However, creating a new size (slightly wider) means that the previous Kindle Fire case does not work on the new Kindle Fire HD 7″.  Another way for Amazon to try and grab money from end users.

Rating: Looks 5 stars, Speakers 5 stars, Volume button 4 stars, On/Off button 4 stars, Ease of charging 3 stars, New size 4 stars. Overall 4.25 stars for the physical device itself.

The interface

There are some good things and bad things about the Kindle Fire HD interface.  The HD screen in and of itself is very crisp and sharp. Great colors.  I like HD.  I don’t see any visible improvements in anti-glare functionality.  Overhead lights in my office cause the same amount of glare on both Kindle Fire tablets.

The opening splash screen has been updated to get rid of the ugly yellow slider and replace it with a slider with a lock button.  But – from that moment on, you are inundated with ads.  Not just a few ads.  The Kindle Fire HD is a walking (and possibly even talking) ad interface for the Amazon store.  An ad everytime you turn on the device.

The Home Screen still has the carousel.  So far I have not found a way to tell the carousel what I do and don’t want to see (other than pressing on the item and removing it).  Can’t I tell it not to put out every book, app, video, etc in the library? Or not see any webpage I visited? The shelf is gone and the Home screen now has a plain black background.  The favorite item shelf is gone (I really liked that). It has been replaced by – brace yourselves – ADS!  The ads differ based upon what item is front and center on the carousel.  If it is a book – it links you to similar books that customers also bought. Similar with music, videos and apps.  Oh – and below the ads is another ad for Amazon Prime membership and its benefits.

It does appear to be a little easier to get to the settings, sync, etc.  Just drag down by the battery indicator instead of repeatedly tapping. The Home button also is easily visible on most screens.

Rating: Updated look and navigation 4.5 stars, Ads 1 star, HD 5 stars, Home screen 3 stars.  Overall 3.5 stars for the interface – ADS are a big drawback to me.

The Sound

I’m not a technophobe when it comes to sound.  That gene got left to my oldest brother and somehow passed to my son-in-law.  But I do have good hearing, so tested the same songs on both the Kindle Fire 1 and the Kindle Fire HD.

The Dolby dual speakers – they are awesome.  I could get the sound at least twice as loud on the Kindle Fire HD and it sounded crisp, clear and beautiful.

Rating: 5 stars.  Much better than I ever expected on a $199 tablet.

The Speed

Downloading movies, songs, books, and apps appears to be faster on the Kindle Fire HD than on the Kindle Fire 1.  So some improvements there.  Still not as fast as on a higher end tablet, but decent.  I will need to test this more to come to a better conclusion.

Rating: Tentative 4-5 stars.

The Apps

I’m an app developer and I was curious that Amazon has not said a word to us about our Kindle Fire apps.

One of the first things I did after connecting my Kindle Fire HD to WiFi was to see what apps it is showing in The Cloud for me. On my Kindle Fire 1 I have 106 apps.  On my Kindle Fire HD I have 77.  Wow – where did they all go?

I wanted to check out the new email app.  Can you believe it did not come as a default on the device?  Same with Skype.  You would think that since Amazon was touting these apps, they would have them already loaded, but they didn’t.  Installed there was just Calendar, Contacts, Help & Feedback, IMDb, OfficeSuite, Personal Videos, Shop Amazon (of course) and Silk.

Going back to the apps – my company (7 Dragons) has 15 apps in the Amazon Apps for Android store.  These have all been tested as working well on the Kindle Fire 1. On the Kindle Fire HD 7″ – only four of these apps are available.  While these apps work, their proportions are off because of the larger screen and because Amazon removed the 20 pixel gray bar from the bottom of all apps.  I have found the same in Angry Birds, Fruit Ninjas and all apps not designed specifically for Kindle Fire HD 7″ (which are very few).

Amazon has brought out this highly anticipated device and knows that app content is very important to tablet users.  But they have reduced the number of apps that work on the device without letting end users and developers know.  This on a device that is fairly comparable to the previous device in size.  What is going to happen with the 8.9″ devices.  Are we just going to be told – ooops?  Bummer?

Rating: 2 stars.  The lack of apps, the lack of information, the modification to the device without letting end users and developers know the consequences.

The Summary

The Kindle Fire HD 7″ is definitely a major improvement in many ways over the original Kindle Fire 1. I still have a lot of experimenting and experiencing to do and think that this has the potential to be a great tablet for end users.

I am seriously considering paying the extra $15 to get rid of the ads on the device.  I think this is not only distracting, but a very “In your face” move that Amazon should not have done.  I think the decisions they made on the screen size and the impact this is going to have on apps and app developers is also something that was not thoroughly thought thru.

My initial overall rating of the Kindle Fire HD 7″ is 3.5 stars.  Not what I had hoped for considering the hype this has been given.  I will be learning more and researching items this week and will post updated reviews as I examine different features.

4 Responses

  1. First Load getjar.com then load “Dolphin Browser”
    Or load firefox.

    https://wiki.mozilla.org/Mobile/Platforms/Android#Download_Firefox_for_Android

    I find that by not using silk you just get the firefox or dolphin icon instead of one fore each page. (firefox v 1)

    The only think I really don’t like about what I have heard is removing the favorite book shelves. This is really bad. It makes it unusable in schools.

    • scottus,
      I have all my Favorites in that area now where shelves used to be, and you click on the omnipresent Star on a top or bottom edge, to bring them up. That obliterates the ‘suggestions’ and these are global Favorites, browser-independent and callable from an app or a webpage, so it acts kind of like a task switcher. Definitely more pleasant to see than the mostly unwelcome Suggestions. Too pushy on a personal tablet.

      Also, I prefer Landscape so I didn’t see Suggestions for days. That’s another way to avoid them, and web pages are more easily read in Landscape mode (and if you double click on too-small text).

      Switch’s reaction matches the bulk of responses I’ve seen to Suggestions and I think Amazon ought to make those optional. Why build anger in your customers? Some customers like Suggestions, so let them choose it.

  2. I paid the price and had them remove (most of) the ads within 24 hrs after receiving my KF HD. The ads on the e-ink models were fairly unobtrusive. But in bright, shiny, HD color–whoa! Now if I could just get them to remove the unnecesary recommendations…

  3. Great suggestions on removing the ads.

    Kennette – you answered one of my questions – I think removing ads should also remove recommendations. Don’t you? Obviously Amazon thinks we don’t realize that recommendations are also ads.

    Anieb – wish I could select a way to have the star options up constantly and switch the suggestions as able to come up with a little flush toilet icon.

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