Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review

Kindle Fire HD 8.9

Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9: what is Kindle Fire HD?

Both the original Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 are grown up e-readers that are also great for watching movies and films, browsing the web, sending and receiving email and playing games. You can download and install apps and music, and - yes - read books.

Indeed, with its heavily customised version of Android the Kindle Fire HD is a well-priced full-blown tablet, albeit an Android tablet that is tied in to Amazon's world. You can buy books, music, games, apps and movies to your heart's content - but you have to buy them from Amazon. That's not a problem. Amazon is, after all, pretty well stocked on that score. But it does illustrate the limitations of the Kindle Fire model. If Amazon doesn't want you to install it, you can't install it.

There are benefits to this: both the original Kindle Fire HD and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 share an easy-to-use interface. They are entertainment devices designed to be used by just about anybody - regardless of their technical knowledge.

As you might expect finding and reading books using the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is a great experience, even allowing for the extra weight. But you will find some limitations. You can install third-party apps, for instance, but it requires some technical knowledge to run apps from outside of Amazon's own app store. So although you can watch BBC TV programs on BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and 4oD remain conspicuous by their absence.

Movies is another area in which the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9 are slightly hobbled. Amazon wants you to use Lovefilm Instant for movies. To access this you need to sign up for a monthly subscription. That's all well and good, but it is an extra expense and to use Lovefilm you have to be online (you can't download films to your device). You can also install the Netflix app and sign up for that service.

And even the web-browsing experience is far from perfect. There's no general support for Flash, which means some websites don't work perfectly. Amazon has now included a Flash video player, however, so you can watch video clips embedded on websites. See also Group test: what's the best cheap tablet PC?

Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9: design and build

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 shares almost identical design and build quality with the original Kindle Fire HD - it is simply stretched to incorporate a bigger screen. So where the original Kindle Fire HD (and the originial Kindle Fire, for that matter) sports a 7in display, the newer Kindle Fire HD has an 8.9in screen. In both cases the screen is designed to be used in landscape format for everything but reading books. You get a shiny black slab with a capacitative touchscreen taking up most of the front.

Build quality is similar: Kindle Fire HD tablets are designed to be used often and on the move, and to sell at a cheap price. So they are robust and built to last but lack a little of the stylish finish of iPads or Nexus tablets. The bezel around the screen on both devices is thicker than we'd like, and at 567g the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is a little heavy for a tablet. (Add in Amazon's well-designed case attached and you'll find yourself carrying around 785g.) If weight is an issue you could opt for the lighter Kindle Fire HD. Its 395g feels significantly lighter, especially when in use as an e-reader - try holding 567g in one hand as you read in bed. (For comparison the smallest Kindle e-reader weighs just 170g, but the Nexus 7 7in tablet is 340g. In my experience that is perfectly fine for reading e-books.)

This virtually identical design means both the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9 sport similar ports, features and buttons in similar places. With either devive look on the bottom edge for micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports, and find the headphone jack sitting near the top. In both cases the two speakers are seated to the left and the right on the rear of the tablet, and the webcam is situated centrally above the screen. It does seem odd for an entertainment device to have rear-facing speakers, but the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9 are hardly alone in that respect. And Amazon gets back its kudos for including the necessary cables and adaptors for synch/charge and TV output.

Both the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9 hide their volume and power buttons on the right-hand side, flush with the tablet body. This can make them hard to find by touch alone. They also both suffer from a niggle with the keyboard in which the back button in the status bar sometimes sits to the right of the keyboard and you instinctively tap it to delete, instead of using the Delete key on the keyboard itself. See also: what's the best Android tablet?

Kindle Fire HD 8.9

Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9: display

Kindle Fire HDThe first Kindle Fire HD has a 7in, 1280x800 10-point multitouch capacitive screen which uses an IPS LCD panel. That makes HD movies look good, with decent detail at a pixel-density level of 215ppi. One of the advantages of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is its excellent full HD screen. It has a resolution of 1920x1080 which means that it has a pixel density of 254ppi over a bigger area. In the case of both devices viewing angles are wide, colours are deep and contrast is good. But the 8.9in device makes up for its heavier weight with a bigger, more detailed screen.

Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9: hardware and performance

Being blunt, the original Kindle Fire HD wasn't as fast as we'd have liked. In use it doesn't feel as snappy as an iPad mini or Nexus 7, especially when browsing the web or launching apps. Scrolling around web pages shows a white screen until the content is loaded.

In Geekbench 2, the Fire HD managed 1124 which is slower than the Nexus 7, which scored 1452. Running the SunSpider Javascript test returned a score of 1783ms, which is again slower than the Nexus 7 with 1665ms.

Scroll forward to the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 and things have improved... a little. The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 scored an average of 1398 in Geekbench 2, and managed a usable 12fps in the Egypt HD test from GLBenchmark. In the Sunspider JavaScript test, it averaged 1376ms.

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 has a faster dual-core processor than the Kindle Fire  HD but this doesn't make it feel noticeably zippier in general use. Both Kindle Fire HD devices trail the Nexus 7 in this respect, although the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 pretty much matches that tablet in our benchmarks.

NEXT PAGE: Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9: battery life, storage and the bottom line >>

We continue our Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9 comparison review with a look at battery life and storage, and our view on which you should choose.

Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9: battery life

Both the Kindle Fire HD and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 offer good battery life.

Amazon claims that you will get more than 10 hours of continuous use out of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9. In our tests we managed 7 hours and 15 minutes playing back video at full brightness with Wi-Fi switched on. This is a good result for a tablet with a 9in screen. It would certainly allow you to watch movies throughout a long flight, for instance (although you'd need to be online to watch the movie.)

The 7in Kindle Fire HD lasted even longer - putting in a performance of 7 hours and 42 minutes in the same test. Again the Nexus 7 outperforms the Kindle Fire HD tablets, with a result of 9 hours and 40 minutes, but this is exceptional. Even the iPad mini couldn't match that (at maximum brightness), lasting just six minutes longer than the Kindle Fire HD 8.9.

Note that you don't get a mains charger in the box with either device, and the Fire HD 8.9in will take a foot-tapping 14-odd hours to charge via your laptop or PC's USB port. That drops to around four hours with the optional Kindle charger – it's well worth budgeting for that when you buy if you don't already have a USB charger.

Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9: storage

You can choose either 16GB or 32GB models of both the Kindle Fire HD and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9. Neither of the Kindle Fire HD tablets offers expandable storage. Also, you shouldn't expect to have all of that storage available for apps and media. In our tests the 16GB Kindle Fire HD 8.9 had 12.7GB available for storage. With the 32GB model we found 27.1GB of usable storage.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9

Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9: the bottom line

There's little to choose between these two devices in terms of build, design and performance. If you already own a Kindle or have bought ebooks using the Kindle app on another platform, making the switch to the Kindle Fire HD or the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 will be very easy.

These are entertainment devices for people who don't want or need the freedom of a plain Android device: the people who don't demand the latest Android apps or to be able to buy content from wherever they like. As such they are priced to shift - Amazon is hoping to make its money from you via your purchases of media and apps. That does mean, of course, that the lifetime cost of a well used Kindle Fire will be alot more than what you pay to purchase it in the first place.

Should you choose the Kindle Fire HD or the Kindle Fire HD 8.9? There are three key factors: price, screen size and weight. The 7in Kindle Fire HD costs £159 for a 16GB device, and £199 for 32GB. Move up to 8.9in and the prices are £229 and £259. For that extra cash you get a bigger screen that has better resolution - so if watching HD movies is your thing it may be worth the outlay. But if you are a bookworm, the 7in device will offer a better, lighter reading experience. And save you some pennies.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9: Specs

  • TI OMAP 4470 1.5GHz dual-core CPU
  • Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • 8.9in IPS touchscreen LCD (capacitive: 10-touch point), 1920x1080 pixels
  • 770MB RAM
  • 16GB storage (12.7GB usable)
  • 802.11 b/g/n dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz
  • 1.3Mp front camera
  • micro HDMI out
  • micro USB 2.0 port
  • accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor
  • 239x163x9mm
  • 567g
  • TI OMAP 4470 1.5GHz dual-core CPU
  • Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • 8.9in IPS touchscreen LCD (capacitive: 10-touch point), 1920x1080 pixels
  • 770MB RAM
  • 16GB storage (12.7GB usable)
  • 802.11 b/g/n dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz
  • 1.3Mp front camera
  • micro HDMI out
  • micro USB 2.0 port
  • accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor
  • 239x163x9mm
  • 567g

OUR VERDICT

Should you choose the Kindle Fire HD or the Kindle Fire HD 8.9? There are three key factors: price, screen size and weight. The 7in Kindle Fire HD costs £159 for a 16GB device, and £199 for 32GB. Move up to 8.9in and the prices are £229 and £259. For that extra cash you get a bigger screen that has better resolution - so if watching HD movies is your thing it may be worth the outlay. But if you are a bookworm, the 7in device will offer a better, lighter reading experience. And save you some pennies.

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