Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD review

Kindle Fire personal photos

UPDATE: With the launch of the Kindle Fire HDX tablets, Amazon has now discontinued the original Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire HD remains on sale at £119, as a 'previous generation' product. There are no configuration options for this model: it has 16GB of storage and there's no option to remove the special offers on the lock screen. This is confusing as there's an updated 'All new' Kindle Fire HD with an upgraded processor. This starts at £119 as well, but with only 8GB of storage. If you're considering a second-hand Kindle Fire, you'll find useful information here. For the latest buying advice, see our 14 best tablets of 2013 chart.

See also: Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9 review and Nook HD review

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD comparison review: Price

The Fire originally cost £129, making it £30 cheaper than the Fire HD. This is now a moot point since you can't buy the Fire any more. Bear in mind that both tablets will display 'special offers' on the lock screen unless you opt for the version without them - this bumps the price by £10. If buying second hand, you might want to check if the original owner paid to remove the ads or not.

Some people might find these deals a handy way of grabbing a bargain, while others might be annoyed by them. We've heard reports of users complaining that their tablet turns on from standby to display these offers, although it didn't happen during our time with them.

Fire and Fire HD lock screens special offers

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD: Design

The Fire has thinner borders around the screen than the Fire HD, and looks less clunky and old fashioned. It still won't win any style awards, and it's not especially light at 400g - the same weight as the Fire HD, give or take.

The Fire measures 189 x 120 x 11.5mm, making it 17mm shorter and a fraction thicker. Its design is different to the Fire HD in that it's very similar to a traditional E-ink Kindle, and designed to be used in portrait mode.

Both speakers are at the top, with the power button on the bottom. On the Fire HD, the speakers are on either side in landscape mode, which is great for watching videos.

Oddly, the Fire has no physical volume buttons, which is an annoyance. Next to the power button is a micro USB connector for sync and charging, and a standard headphone jack.

Note that neither tablet comes with a mains charger - you have to buy this (the PowerFast) separately for £18 (although it was reduced to £9 when bought with the tablet at the time of writing). You can, of course, buy any USB charger which provides 5V at 1.8A.

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD: Screen

For £119 (only £9 more than a Kindle Paperwhite), the Kindle Fire is a 7in tablet with an IPS (in-plane switching) screen. This is the same type as used in iPads and means vibrant colours and wide viewing angles. The Kindle Fire's screen also happens to have great contrast.

The 1024x600 resolution is better than most tablets at this price, but everything looks noticeably fuzzier than on the Kindle Fire HD's 1280x800 screen (and much worse than the Nook HD's fantastic 1440x900 display).

You particularly notice the lower resolution when browsing the web, but for reading books and watching videos, it's fine.

Kindle Fire main menu

The other difference is that the Fire has only a two-point touchscreen, whereas the Fire HD can detect up to 10 fingers at once. This is of little consequence, though, since two fingers are all that's required for most things such as pinching to zoom.

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD: Storage

This is one of the Kindle Fire's weak areas. There's only one model, and it has 8GB of storage. After the OS and other system files are accounted for, there's around 5.5GB for your own stuff: apps, books, music, movies and photos. That's not a lot, and there's no memory card slot for adding more.

You get free cloud storage for all the content you buy from Amazon but it's hardly convenient to have to delete apps and other media from your tablet because you've run out of space locally.

With the Fire HD, you have a choice of 16GB or 32GB. Again, the user storage is a few GB less in each case.

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD: Camera

If Skype is a priority, don't buy the Kindle Fire - it has no camera at all. The Fire HD has a 1.3Mp front-facing camera which can also record 720p video (if you download a third-party app which has this capability).

Kindle Fire vs Fire HD

Next page: connectivity, software, performance, battery life and extras

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD: Connectivity

Again, the Kindle Fire HD bests the Fire here as, in addition to a standard micro USB port for synch and charging, it also has a micro HDMI output. If you want to watch videos or show photos on a big-screen TV, this is obviously useful to have.

With both tablets, you can drag and drop files in Windows Explorer, just as with any Android tablet. However, Amazon has made it a pain to read ePub books on the Kindle Fires - no surprise given that it wants you to buy eBooks from its own library.

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD: Software

There's very little difference between the two when it comes to software. The interface is slightly different on the Fire due to the lower resolution - everything feels a little more cramped. However, unless you hold the two side by side, it's nothing you'd ever know about.

Although Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich lurks beneath, there's no outward sign of this. The customised operating system is unrecognisable from any standard Android tablet.

Kindle Fire front and side

It's very easy to use, and you can quickly get back to apps, books and other content you looked at recently thanks to a carousel on the Home screen.
Amazon's App Store has plenty of choice, with lots of popular apps. However, it can't compete with the variety on offer in Google's Play store (which you can access if you buy the £159 Nexus 7).

Unlike the Nook HD, though, there is at least an option in the menu to allow the installation of apps from sources other than Amazon's store. This means that, if you know what you're doing, it is possible to install Android apps that you can't buy in the Appstore.

As we said in the Fire HD review, it's frustrating that you can only stream films from Lovefilm, not download them and watch them offline. The Personal Videos app will play videos you copy to the internal memory, though, and there's support for most common formats.

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD: Processor

Both tablets have a dual-core 1.2GHz processor (not the same model) and the benchmark results show that they're similar performers. In the SunSpider Javascript test - a measure of web browsing speed, the Fire completed the test in 1805ms on average, and the Fire HD in 1783ms.

In GLBenchmark 2.5.1, which tests 3D gaming performance, the Fire edged the HD here with 9.1fps against 8fps. Neither tablet is great for demanding games (few are at these sort of prices), but can easily cope with casual titles such as Angry Birds.

The only test where the pair differed was in Geekbench 2, which tests general processing power and storage speed. Here, the Fire HD scored 1124, but the Fire could manage only 831. We don't place much emphasis on this test - the iPad mini scored only 752, but is faster than either Kindle in general use.

That's not to say the Fire or Fire HD are sluggish. Their interfaces zip along with no noticeable lag, and apps launch without too much of a wait. Our only grumble is that the web browser feels slow, and scrolling around web pages isn't nearly as quick as on the Nexus 7, for example.

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD: Battery

Amazon claims that the Fire will last around 9 hours with Wi-Fi turned off, and the Fire HD for over 11 hours. In our video looping test with brightness at maximum and Wi-Fi turned on, the Fire HD lasted 7 hours and 42 minutes. The Fire lasted around two hours less than this, which isn't a terribly impressive result. The Nexus 7, to put things in perspective, lasted 9 hours and 40 minutes.

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD: GPS, 3G and NFC

With both tablets designed for content consumption, it's not too surprisingly that Amazon decided not to spend extra money fitting them with extra such as GPS receivers and NFC chips. The Nexus 7 has both.

All three tablets lack a 3G version, though, so you're limited to connecting to the web via Wi-Fi.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD: Specs

  • 7-inch tablet
  • Google Android 2.3 with Amazon interface
  • dual-core
  • Wi-Fi
  • 169 pixels per inch display
  • 190x119x11mm
  • 412g
  • 7-inch tablet
  • Google Android 2.3 with Amazon interface
  • dual-core
  • Wi-Fi
  • 169 pixels per inch display
  • 190x119x11mm
  • 412g


Both the Kindle Fire and Fire HD are now previous-generation products, so use this comparison review only as a buying guide for second-hand, used models.