If you’re interested in purchasing a Kindle Fire this year, know that the Fire HD 8.9 is the version to get. Its larger, higher-resolution screen better facilitates Amazon’s still-new Kindle Fire interface, and its faster processor makes for a much smoother and zippier experience than what its 7-inch counterpart delivered.
Design: Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9
This is the perfect size for a full-size tablet. It’s just more comfortable to hold than the 10-inch slates it’s up against. Holding it one-handed in portrait mode, especially, is more comfortable than it is with the Nexus 10 or iPad, thanks of the smaller size and lighter weight combined with the same spacious bezel. It’s got a rubberized back that will be familiar if you’ve used a 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, twin speakers placed on either side of the tablet while in landscape mode, which is how you’d want them for watching movies.
Kindle Fire HD 8.9 Review: Good News and Bad News It doesn’t quite have the industrial polish of the iPad or the Nexus 10, but it’s still a handsome tablet. Its optional case, though, while identical to the 7-inch Fire HD’s—which we liked—just seems too bulky for a larger tablet. You’ll prefer to keep it undressed.
Hardware: Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9
The display is extremely nice, bringing on a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels over 8.9 inches, that being 254ppi. That’s less than the iPad 4 and less than the Nexus 10, but up at this resolution we’re not able to tell the difference without getting up real, real close – closer than we’d get on any normal day, that’s for sure.
Colors are reproduced extremely accurately and with the darks on this machine being as deep as they are, we’ve been using this machine as a content machine via the miniHDMI as a top pick. Downloading an HD video from Amazon’s collection and playing it on the device or through the microHDMI port to an HDTV makes for a massively impressive experience – amongst the best on the market if not straight up the best there is with a wire.
The speakers on the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 are Dolby powered and stereo – bringing on two channels for real. The speakers on this device are loud enough that you’ll not want to be a room away from a sleeping baby when them turned all the way up – you’ll wake that baby up. It’s unfortunate that they’re facing backwards as most of the tablet universe still has them aiming, but holding the tablet with two hands has the sound bouncing off your palms – that’s good enough for most.
Battery life on this device is rather good, especially since you’re only working with wi-fi connectivity at this time. LTE might make you bust down a bit quicker when it comes around, but for now you’ve got a couple of days at least with daily usage as a game-player and TV show downloader/watcher. Chatting on Skype (which is, mind you, generally OK but certainly not the nicest Skype experience on the market by a long shot due to less-than-perfect video quality) will drain your battery quickest.
There’s also a rather nice case/cover that you’ll probably want to pick up from Amazon if/when you purchase the Kindle Fire HD 8.9. It’s made by Amazon and looks like what you’re seeing above, complete with a magnetic “smart” off/on function (as the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 does indeed have that sensor) and has a rubbery bumper that allows it to stand up like you’re seeing here too.
Performance: Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9
The Kindle Fire 8.9″ packs a dual-core TI OMAP 4470 processor that delivers adequate, but not stellar performance. If this tablet wasn’t so darn inexpensive I’d complain, but performance is acceptable given the price. As we’ve been seeing on these high-res tablets recently, game frame rates suffer as the dense screen strains the tablet’s GPU: I got 33 frames per second on the simple Nenamark2 graphics benchmark and only 9.2 frames per second on the more complex Taiji benchmark, which means Need for Speed: Most Wanted isn’t quite as smooth as it is on the iPad.
The tablet’s overall scores on the Basemark OS system benchmark was roughly in line with other popular devices like the Google Nexus 7 and the Samsung Galaxy S III $189.99 at Amazon Wireless, so you’ll be neither amazed nor appalled here. Amazon’s complicated, extremely graphical shopping menus tend to introduce some lag, though, as the tablet downloads big pictures and icons. Sometimes those menus take ten seconds to load; it’s a buzz kill.
Amazon’s special Silk browser also continues to be a damp squib. Silk was supposed to accelerate browsing by pre-caching pages on Amazon’s servers, but it continues to be slower than the browsers on Apple and Google tablets. The Kindle HD 8.9 loaded our basket of pages in 11.4 seconds on average, as compared with 5.8 seconds on the Nexus 10 and 5.4 seconds on the iPad 4.
It’s possible to get some productive work done on the Kindle Fire, but if you’re really looking for a productivity tablet, go for an iPad with an add-on keyboard or a Microsoft Surface instead. You can download the Microsoft Office-compatible OfficeSuite Professional 6, Pocket Informant for calendars and tasks, and a range of email programs, but there’s still the sense that you’re pounding a square peg into a round hole.
So general performance won’t win any awards here, but it’s perfectly good given the price. For battery life, on the other hand, the Fire beat out both the iPad 4 and the Nexus 10 in our test, which loops a video with the screen set to full brightness and Wi-Fi switched on. We got 7 hours, 14 minutes with the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, as compared with 5 hours, 36 minutes with the iPad and just over five hours with the Nexus 10.