GADGET WATCH: Kindle Fire HD

The Amazon Kindle Fire has been a bright spot in the overcrowded tablet space. Although the company doesn’t release sales figures, it claims the Fire is making up 22% of US tablet sales.

That’s an impressive feat, if true. But can its next iteration, the Kindle Fire HD, offer any sort of improvement? Reviewers haven’t had much time with the device, but there’s been enough attention to gather some initial thoughts.

Hardware and features

The Fire HD comes in two versions, with a 7-inch screen and a larger 8.9-inch model. Default storage now comes in at 16GB, while both models run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

The smaller version features a 1280×800 resolution, while the larger model sports a 1920×1200 resolution. Both are powered by OMAP 4470 processors, and offer Bluetooth and HDMI connectivity. The two models also feature front-facing cameras.

What’s the consensus?

Reviewers haven’t had too much time with the device yet, but several have offered at least some preliminary thoughts.

Over at TechRadar, the publication noted the HD is “incredibly light” and its rubber backing made it easy to hold. It also praised the display, saying it “looks gorgeous” and that films and television shows appear crisp and bright.

“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% less glare, according to Bezos.”

Engadget also praised the build, although it found the new speaker system – which features Dolby Digital Plus – didn’t add to the experience.

“We’ll let you, the reader, decide how important virtual surround is to your listening enjoyment, but overall we didn’t find the speakers themselves to be particularly impressive in terms of their acoustic delivery.”

However, it had good things to say about performance. The tablet was quick, it said, with web pages loading faster, albeit not as fast as the Nexus 7.

Overall, it said the Kindle HD would probably market itself more towards the casual user looking for something cheap.

The Verge also had good things to say, noting the “fantastic” display and the satisfying touch response. It also praised the battery performance of the Fire, and said the results were “largely favourable”.

“Amazon claims you can get about 11 hours of use out of a single charge, split amongst web browsing, video viewing, music streaming, and various other casual activities. I found that this number mostly holds true, but you certainly start to see a burn when using the Fire for something like Skype video calling.”

It also argued the Kindle HD is able to beat out the competition with the amount of content on the device, including books, films and television shows – although Australian users won’t be able to access all of those.

But even so, it says the Amazon options simply aren’t up to scratch in other areas.

“One other big point worth noting: the Amazon Appstore is simply not up to par with either Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store in terms of application offerings. In fact, I found it to be deeply lacking in some key areas, with well-known apps like Rdio not even available for download.”

Who’s it for?

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD looks like a solid device, with a good build, a cheap price and plenty of features. But it’s also a casual device, not built for someone who needs a tablet for enterprise needs.

Look here for casual use – but shop elsewhere if you’re more serious about your tablets.

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