Length:: 2:29 Mins
UPDATE: I bought both a Fire HD and a Gen 2. (as a present to my mother in law) My initial reviews were written after playing with them for like 20 minutes. I merged both reviews into one to really compare the two products. I'm still answering questions in the comments if you have any. And see the video that compares the two and gives a mini tour of the Kindle system.
My Background: I've had 4 android phones, I've had multiple e-readers and my latest 'touch' device is the Le Pan II Android tablet. I've worked on several iPads but never been compelled to spend the extra money for one myself. Wife has a first generation Fire.
The new Kindle Fire and Fire HD are the second generation color kindle e-reader/media player/tablet devices. The original Fire received a lot of well earned 4 star reviews. It was a great product but at the end of the day, it was a first generation product. It was no iPad slayer. The Fire HD raises the bar and raises it quite a lot. Jeff Bezos said they set out to make the best tablet available period and -in some regards- they did that in spades. In other ways not so much. (more on this below in the closing thoughts)
- BOTH are top Notch. I didn't expect anything less from Amazon but they really are solid feeling.
- FIRE HD lighter and while it is about the same thickness, the edges are rounded more like an iPad. sleeker look and more comfortable to hold.
- FIRE GEN 2 is heavier and 'boxier' built to more fit existing covers I guess. It's heavier too.
The HD is just a bit taller but a decent bit wider than the Fire. --- NOTE pay attention to accessories because THEY ARE NOT THE SAME SIZE. The cover from my wife's Gen 1 Kindle will fit the Gen 2 kindle (sorta) but NOT THE HD.
- FIRE HD SUMMED UP IN TWO WORDS Oh. My. The Le Pan, the iPads and the Gen 2 Fire all have great screens. The Fire HD takes them all out. I read somewhere there was polarizing a filter over the Fire HD screen. Polarizers reduce glare by only letting 'straight' light though not off angle bounced light. This makes an enormous difference to this display. The off angle viewing is probably the best I have seen in any flat screen. 6 stars.
- FIRE GEN 2 Still a high quality screen. I'd same the same or better than any other high end tablet on the market.
- NOTE A few people in the comments asked about the touch response. - I do not have a problem except in the browser, it is sorta too sensitive. If you move your finger smoothly you can avoid the jitters.
- FIRE HD I admit only the geeky probably care but the wifi rocks. I have a mimo router and one quick copy from my server and I was getting almost 30MB/s. To put that into perspective, that's about as fast and an external USB Hard drive can push data to your computer. (USB 3.0 will be faster but they are rare today) -- The other thing is that I have a long skinny house and when I'm in the back bath, the Le Pan drops off. (ahem not that I surf on the potty or anything, just when I test it, you know.) With the Fire HD I can surf in the back yard.
- FIRE GEN 2 still got 20MB/sec. But consider this... at that speed you can fill the entire memory in 5 minutes. Seems good enough to me.
- FIRE HD ok I'm a bit of an audio snob. The sound is fantastic for being a tablet. Which is to say it's still only marginally acceptable. You can still buy a $15 pair of Koss KSC75 headphones and blow the speakers away BUT I will say this is the first device I would actually listen to music on. The rest I simply don't even bother. I suspect most people would call the sound excellent.
- FIRE GEN 2 still have a very good sound. For the spoken word it would be very fine. For music it is lacking in my book.
SPEED: Both are quick with the HD being quicker. The Le Pan II is no slouch but I think the HD edges it out. Since the Le Pan apparent died this morning it's hard to compare. :-(
NOTE: IT DOES NOT COME WITH A WALL WORT CHARGER It comes with a micro USB cable that can be used with your existing USB wall worts. (ie your cell phone charger) You can buy a rapid charger for it or even plug it into your computer to charge. This is an odd choice from Amazon IMO.
NOTE 2: Unlike the Gen 1 Fire, (and contrary to what you might have read) the new Kindles DO NOT support flash. Rumor has it you can hack it to install Flash I have not tried yet. I'll try to run this down by this weekend.
NEW FEATURES (as promised)
EXCHANGE CALENDAR SYNC:
BOTH - Exchange on the Fire (both) just rocks. I really like the calendar app. The contact manager can't keep up with the one on the iPad but it is sufficient. Ditto the email. But the setup was easy and it seemed fast. Love it.
- FIRE HD Spent way too long video skyping today. It worked as well as skype ever works. (long time skype users will understand that) yes it was glitchy but less than other platforms so no complaints. The sound really made a difference here.
- Fire GEN 2 I don't think Skype came with it. I'll update with a definitive later.
- FIRE HD ONLY I promised someone in the comments to test this soon but I misplaced my HDMI cable. (drat) I guess I'll order a new one and update when it arrives.
- FIRE HD ONLY worked very smoothly pairing with LG tone. (great product btw) I'll be using that for Skype in the future.
FREETIME: BOTH This is a widely requested feature that allows multiple users (i.e. kids) to log in and have their own customized tablet experience. It also allows parents to limit the time kids spend on certain tasks, like watching movies, while giving them unlimited time to read. Parents have been asking for this forever. (Are you listening Apple?) I wasted 20 minutes looking for it before I looked it up and Amazon is not shipping it until next month. The existing parental controls are pretty decent actually.
CLOSING THOUGHTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
If you're new to Kindle make sure you understand what you are buying here. Kindles are made -and sold at a highly discounted price- to allow you to purchase media from Amazon. Don't think of this as an android tablet, because it really isn't. Yes Amazon uses the Android operating system but you'd never know they hide it so well. This device is made (basically) exclusively to read/watch/listen to media you buy from Amazon. In that regard this device is about as great as they could make it. HOWEVER. The Kindle Fire (first generation) was notorious for not playing well with many Android apps. If you're a app monster or looking for something to replace your laptop to allow you do work on the road and occasionally consume media, you need to look at an Android tablet or an iPad. But don't let that discourage you:
Via Amazon Prime, you get 25,000 streaming movies and T.V. shows you can watch 24/7 unlimited. We dropped Netflix because Prime Instant Video was so good. Amazon gives you a free month with the either Fire so you'll get to see the value before you buy. (it's a no brainer btw) There are also over a million free books available for the Kindle. I try to limit how many I buy/download but I have over 100 books on my previous Kindle that are waiting to be read, all but like 4 of them were free. Also if you own a Kindle and subscribe to Prime, you can borrow one book per month from the Paid section. And big name books too... all 7 Harry Potter books are up there. If you figure that is worth at least 10 bucks a month, you're getting $120 of content per year and Prime only costs (I think) $79. Or looked at another way, that's $240 in content in two years and the Fire HD is only $199.
If you're new to e-readers, owning one might just change your life. I had probably read 8 book length books in the last decade. (I'm a periodical junkie.) I now read at least one book per week. I was a big reader before but I'm reading more than I ever have in my life. Many studies show that people are reading as much as 3X more when they get an e-reader. If you're a parent looking to inspire a love of reading in a child, STOP. DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200. Buy them an e-reader.
SO THE BIG QUESTION, WHICH ONE DO I BUY?
- If you're on a VERY tight budget the Fire Gen 2 is a great product at a great price point. Coupled with Prime, you have access to mountains of cheap content.
HOWEVER. When you look at what you get for the small difference in cost, the Fire HD blows it away... You get a better screen, better sound, bluetooth, it's faster, thinner and lighter than the Fire. You also get double the memory, better wifi and over 2 hours more battery life. All for $40. I guess Amazon wants to make color Kindles as affordable as possible but I don't even know why they made the small one. I'm not sorry I bought it but all things considered, I would buy two big ones if I had it to do over.
I'll be taking questions in the comments for the next week or maybe more, so feel free to ask.
Hope this was helpful.