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Excellent Value and Great Gadget,
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This review is from: Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 4G LTE Wireless, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 64 GB - Includes Special Offers (Previous Generation - 2nd) (Electronics)
Originally published in November 2012, Updated January 19, 2013 after using this Fire for several months...
As there appears to be mixed reviews of the 8.9' Fires - ones with 4G access and those without - to clarify, this review is for the 8.9" tablet with the 4G connectivity option.
To get the iPad comparison out of the way, I put this tablet side-by-side to my iPad 2 I use for work. Downloads were slightly faster and the video screen resolution and the colors were more vibrant on the Fire vs. the iPad 2.
Screen Display / Video Playback:
With the larger HD screen, if playing video is important to you this is the version of the Fire to get as the screen display is fairly impressive with sharp and crisp colors. The display on this HD Fire was one heck of a lot better in terms of sharpness than last year's model and even this year's smaller HD model.
Amazon also added a cool feature on this one with the HDMI micro connection port. I have an HDMI micro plug and was able to hook this up to the big screen to watch an episode of the science fiction series Defying Gravity. It played back great smoothly with no problems.
My standard test for trying out new gadgets is to see how fast they run side-by-side with a known piece of equipment doing the same test at the best place of Wi-Fi in my house and the worst place where it drags. In this comparison, I had this 8.9" version of the Fire sitting next to the "smaller" HD version of the Fire, my Motorola RAZR smartphone, my iPad 2 (yes, the Kindle guy uses an iPad for work), and the new 7" Fire all just using a Wi-Fi connection vs. cellular connectivity..
My website test is to hit the mobile websites of FoxNews, CNN, my personalized Yahoo page, Google, and the Houston Chronicle. The ones that were usually slow on the other devices and were still slow but faster than the other devices (Houston Chronicle and CNN), and for the other sites I couldn't tell a difference in speed at the location closest to my router. When I went to the slowest / worst reception location of my house, the speed did have a noticeable difference in the other devices as this one was slightly faster but for a casual surfer it is not noticeable nor does it hang.
Email setup was very easy with the included email app for my main Google account - it took about a minute to input my email address and password information and I was good to go: sending and receiving emails was a snap, and when I sent a test message with pictures they displayed crisply. I will tell you I primarily us an existing app called Enhanced Email that I received here on the Amazon app store for free vs. what came as standard with the Fire for daily use, and it was easy to use - actually better due to the larger screen size - with this version of the Fire. For those of you asking yourself why am I using the Enhanced Email program, the simple answer is like many of you I have more than one email account: you can quickly switch back and forth on the accounts with the tool. The lazy person in me appreciates that as I don't like getting out of the lazy chair once I'm settled in!
I do play a lot of games, but they aren't the heavy action / interactive games many of the kids play today. For my test, I tried out several rounds of Words with Friends and a Majong derivative. The display was crisp and the tablet was very responsive as it interacted over the WiFi network of my home to the game server.
Sound / Music Playback
Different than last year's model and the $159 this year's model, the two speakers are located in the back of the Kindle Fire in two not-noticeable ports. My test of this feature was cranking up Van Halen's Panama to maximum volume (I wanted to see if it could really play the guitar licks), and I would alternate covering one speaker up over the other: you have true stereo sound with no degradation of the sound that makes you think you are about to blow the speaker. However, the sound is not very crisp (the $159 Fire sounds better to me) as the sound is going away from you with the speakers being in the back. With a cover on the Fire to protect it, that can be a problem. It's going to take a little bit of getting used to having the volume controls at the top of the device.
Reading a book was enjoyable and easy on the eyes with the larger screen: I appreciate being able to changing the default font to something else in addition to increasing the font size so I don't have to wear my glasses. Turning pages is pretty darn easy - just tap the side of the screen to go to the next page or back a page, or you can swipe your finger across the screen to do the same.
Bluetooth setup was very easy. I tested this with audio in my car as well as an external keyboard. From a music standpoint, there were no delays or skips with the connection, and it paired up in about 30 seconds; I hooked up a Motorola Bluetooth keyboard and started banging away with several emails. Just make sure you give it a device name so you can recognize it and be recognized.
Cellular Connectivity (This Section Updated 1/19/2013):
The 4G connection is a lot like how I have heard one of my friends describe his relationship with a girlfriend: when things are good, they are real good and when they are bad, they absolutely suck.
The same can be true for the 4G connection - it can be real fast when it wants to be fast, and you can be dead in the water in the strangest places. For example, I can be out in the middle of the country and see a cell tower on the highway / frontage road, and the cell service is screaming fast and very convenient. On the other hand, I can be in downtown Houston, the display says I have full cellular strength, and it just won't work - no Internet, no email, no anything.
In other words, I have a love-hate relationship with it.
Concerning the introductory data plan - the one where you pay a one-time fee of $50 for 250 megabytes of data per month for 12 months, I have mixed emotions about it, also. I am not a heavy user of email or web surfing, I dislike video chat, and I don't download big files all of the time, so I initially thought the 250 meg per month limit would more than suit my needs.
I was wrong.
Why was I wrong? It's all of the apps loaded on your Fire that auto-magically turn themselves on that constantly check the Internet for updates, apps like Accuweather and The Weather Channel, a few news apps, and Words With Friends. The Weather Channel app had to be the worst: despite manually shutting it down, it would miraculously come back on and download maps, constantly check for updates and refresh said maps so frequently it chewed right through the month's allotment in a day and a half.
No kidding. And it's not a very good app, either, in comparison to Acccuweather so I deleted it.
Bottom line is you need to watch the data throughput carefully, or you will go over. I upgraded to the 3 gig per month plan, which is the same plan I have with my work iPad and seems to be enough. That's $30 per month, so I wasted the $49.99 on the 250 meg per month plan (AT&T wouldn't give me a refund even though I upgraded).
Affordability vs. an iPad
Dollarwise, this version of the Fire whips the iPad when you stack up the annual cost of connectivity, 64Gb of memory, and the cellular (or not) models of the iPad. The iPad's screen is slightly larger, but when I put it up against each other for the same things (web page, game app) I really couldn't tell that much of a difference.
Overall, if you are looking for a larger tablet this one wins hands down. With the full-features included with this model - especially the 4G connection - I believe this will be my go-to device, and I will no longer be carrying my e-Ink Kindle in addition to my iPad every day.
Tracked by 17 customers
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Showing 1-10 of 173 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 24, 2012 10:19:58 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 24, 2012 10:21:28 PM PST]
Posted on Nov 24, 2012 10:20:10 PM PST
Kathie Louise Bursaw says:
I love my kindle fire 1st generation but i am longing for a bigger screen. I hesitate to purchase an ipad because i like being connected to Amazon instantly. No separate accts. for apps. & books. Amazon has always been amazing in their service when i needed help. My son has informed me 8.9 is in my X-mas stocking this year! I am re-gifting my original Fire to someone else for their X-mas. They will inherit my "old friend" kindle fire with much affection from me.
Posted on Nov 24, 2012 10:30:26 PM PST
What's the point of a 4G version when you can connect via a phone's 4G network. I have an iphone with verizon so I can just connect my kindle to it anywhere I am. 250mb is nothing and you will have to pay $50 a month a year from now anyway.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 12:04:34 AM PST
It's $50 a year, not a month. Also I cannot see paying an extra monthly fee to turn my Galaxy SIII into a hotspot when I have WiFi at home. Instead of carrying a Kindle to read when I leave home my smartphone is what I use.
It's a matter of preference...perhaps it's used for school or fun...maybe a big screen is needed because glasses are needed, etc.
I have last years Kindle Fire so I don't need or want the bigger one with more bells and whistles. Between my SIII, Fire, & laptop it'd be redundant.
Hands down the Kindle Mike is writing about beats the IPad in costs and use.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 1:47:34 AM PST
C. Beach says:
JunkFinder, forgive me for being dumb on the issue, but please enlighten me... I have been thinking about getting the 4g version vs. the wifi only version. I have a ipone with verizon also. You are saying I can plug my iphone in to the Kindi wifi only and it will use my Ipone's 3g? Do I need a special cord or adapter? And I won't have to pay any additional charges to make my phone a "hotspot"? Or would I have to pay Verizon extra to be able to do that?
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 3:48:21 AM PST
C.beach check with ur data provider before "teathering". Some charge a fee. This is what junkfinder may be getting at but I may be wrong. But one can tap if u will into ones mobile device's 3g or4g connectivity by teathering look into it under ur phone's settings.
Posted on Nov 25, 2012 4:55:49 AM PST
Thank you Michael Gallagher for this well written and even tempered review. I've been looking for reviews like yours that give me information on this much anticipated device. I have pre-ordered the 4G version and I'm still waiting for it, my order status is set for delivery between 11/28 and 12/04-->how did you get yours so early?
Are there Android apps that enable you to take advantage of the 4G GPS capability of this device? Any recommendations?
Thanks again for posting your review.
Posted on Nov 25, 2012 5:52:31 AM PST
Kindle Customer says:
Thanks for the great review---anxious for my Kindle to arrive!
Posted on Nov 25, 2012 7:16:00 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 25, 2012 7:16:31 AM PST
MB Texas says:
Is yours w/ or w/o ads? Is the ad bandwidth considered part of your monthly usage, or have they excluded the ads from your 250mb a month?
What about battery life?
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 7:41:17 AM PST
G. Roger Schoenhals says:
You are not "dumb" with your question, at least not to me because I have the SAME question. Before I buy the new HD 8.9 I want to know if I can get by with my Galaxy S3 hotspot. Otherwise I have to cough up another $200, plus charges, for the 8.9 4G LTE.