Customer Review

186 of 202 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Tablet with some Tweaks/get Dolphin Web Browser, December 2, 2012
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This review is from: Kindle Fire HD 8.9", Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB (Electronics)
I have the Kindle Fire 1st gen, and decided to go with the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" since it solved some of the issues I had with the first one. There are plenty of reviews about what the tablet functionality includes, so I'll only cover some basic things about how it compares to the first gen Kindle Fire and some notable items about how to improve the HD with better apps. Toward the bottom of this review I provide instructions to installing the Dolphin Web Browser, which is the single best thing you can do to improve the Kindle Fire HD.

A few notable improvements from the Kindle Fire 1st Generation:

* Volume buttons: this is huge! Big improvement. Although I think the buttons should be separated a little to tell them apart, or be physical different somehow to tell which one is increase or decrease.
* Freetime: huge improvement. I don't worry about giving it to my kids any more, and my kids love it!
* Generally it's more responsive, the screen is better quality, and I like the size much more. As far as the screen goes my 7" Kindle Fire was good for reading books, but not so much for browsing the internet. If I needed/wanted to browse for something I'd usually fire up my laptop for a full browser. The Kindle Fire HD 8.9" larger screen and resolution makes a huge difference. I'm no longer using my laptop as much and able to more quickly look up things I need on the Kindle. It's a full tablet! Of course, this is also a slight negative--I could fit my old Kindle in some pant and coat pockets so it was easier to take around with me. I can't do that, and I'm taking it with me more. I'm a little more afraid of losing it.

Now a few things about the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" specifically:

* Overall I like much of it. The UI is great for novice and intermediate users. I'm an advanced user, and I still think it works pretty well for my purposes with a few simple enhancements I'll mention below. If you like Amazon's platform and have Prime, it's a no-brainer. Free books via the Lending Library or just free titles is great!
* Video is a real standout with this: I'm going to cancel my subscription to Netflix now! Netflix's catalog is going downhill quick, and is still terribly difficult to search for good content. On the flipside, Amazon's Instant Video on the Fire is now much better! I love how the free Instant Video is the 1st option when opening the video tab, and how they have shortcuts immediately to Editors Pick and Just for kids. Makes it simple to find good video, and it looks great output to my TV in HD. I've also installed the HBO To Go app and found it's awesome as well. HBO directly on it! I've also found myself just watching video on the Fire instead of plugging it up to my TV or turning on my TiVo for the same content--just easier.
* Integration with Audible is awesome! I used Audible several years ago and found when I logged in dozens of old Audio books I can download in a moment, with great quality. It almost makes me want to go back to Audible. I use Overdrive now and borrow from my local public library to my iPod, so probably will still do that.
* Books: it's a great ebook reader. I hate to say it but I prefer most books to be on my Kindle now. Don't forget you can get them from your public library as well (search for Overdrive!). One negative is that I can't put books into folders and I have a lot of books. Oh well...
* Integration with Amazon's cloud drive for music and files works great as well. Not much to say but it works flawlessly.

The device is great but does have some flaws:

* Most notably, Silk is a terrible web browser. Mine crashes continually and is very slow. Even after turning off "acceleration" it's slow. See a fix below for this.
* The battery life is so-so. I'm getting around 6-7 hours of use before the battery is dead.
* It really should have a forward looking camera.
* It would be very nice if Amazon allowed more advanced control over the settings of the device. There are tons of things I'd like to customize, but since this is a more controlled environment than other Android tablets, I just can't. One example: I get lots of email for work and personal use, and as a result I don't like audible email notifications. However, when I turn those off I lose all notifications. There isn't an ability to still show the new mail icon unless you have audio notifications!

Overall, I love my Kindle Fire HD 8.9". I have had some frustrations so I'll share how I've fixed those below:

* Web browser: GET THE DOLPHIN WEB BROWSER. Most people don't know this, but you can get a different web browser. You can also get plenty of other apps than what is available in the app store. Here's how:
o Set your Kindle to allow installing unknown applications: Settings > Device > Allow Installation of Applications = On.
o Install the One Mobile Market (independent market place). Amazon won't let me give a URL for this, so just Google "1 Mobile Market" or go to 1Market d o t com. This gives you the ability to install pretty much ANY Android application (with some functional limitations).
o Once installing One Mobile Market launch it and search for the Dolphin Browser. This browser works great and is much faster than Silk. It has more options to control privacy and other features. The only negative is that you can't change the Kindle's default "Web" menu item to open Dolphin--you'll just need to add it to your Favorite's menu.
* One you install the One Mobile Market and Dolphin also install:
o Youtube. Must have.
o OneNote (great notetaking product from Microsoft that allows you to sync notes to the cloud)
o Anything else you want--just remember that anything that relies on Google's framework functionality won't work without rooting your device. Generally, if an app is already in Amazon's store, get it there so you ensure it works with the Kindle.
o AirDroid: This is an amazing tool that allows you to access your Kindle from any web browser to copy files between your computer and Kindle--pictures, etc, and do other advanced tasks.
o Flash: While in Dolphin, find a Flash APK file to download. I had a link here but Amazon removed it. Instead, just BING for "flash_player_ics.apk". Currently the top link at Bing is the file you need directly from Macromedia's servers.
* In the Amazon App Store make sure you download these key must-haves:
o Slacker Radio--Spotify and Pandora have better PR, but Slacker is better IMO. Radio + choose your own music, and if you pay $10 a month you can listen to anything you want, any time.
o NetFlix
o GSam Battery Monitor
o MapQuest--It's surprisingly good. You can also download Google Maps from 1 Mobile Market, but it doesn't work great due to bugs running on the Kindle.

UPDATE 12/3/12:
Two additional items I realized I should mention:
* I didn't mind the Fire didn't come with a charger. I bought this instead: PowerGen Dual Port USB 2.1A 10W AC Travel Wall Charger for Apple iPad 2, New iPad 3, Amazon Kindle, Kindle DX, Kindle Fire / Noble Nook Color / HTC Flyer / Samsung Galaxy Tab Series (USB Cable not included) - White. This has 2 USB ports and works at a high-enough amperage to charge the Fire quickly.
* I bought the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9" Standing Leather Case, Ink Blue (will only fit Kindle Fire HD 8.9"). I gave that 4 stars in my review there. It's really great as well but just a little overpriced.

UPDATE 1/7/13:
I still love my Fire, but wanted to write a quick update about Kindle FreeTime. The Kindle FreeTime function is great -- it helps kids have their own area on the device that is locked down to the items you let them have, so they don't accidentally start buying stuff on Amazon or send emails on your behalf.

The key thing though is Kindle FreeTime "Unlimited". This is the monthly subscription service that gives your kids immediate access to hundreds of books, apps, and videos. (http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000863021). I used this for the 30 day trial for my two kids, and it is a huge benefit. My kids love my Kindle now because there is so much to do on it--and it's not just Angry Birds. They watch movies--even educational videos like Reading Rainbow, read books, and play apps that are educational. Last night I watched my 8 year old son help my 5 year old daughter play a learning game for 45 minutes--what is this animal, what sound does it make, etc. For $6.99 per month it's a huge value--worth every penny!
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Comments

Tracked by 11 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 24 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 2, 2012 11:07:04 PM PST
R. Angeloni says:
Great review, and yes, I totally agree with you about Slacker. Much more comprehensive library than Pandora. I also like Rhapsody over Spotify.

Posted on Dec 3, 2012 4:05:30 AM PST
Great review Trent, I would like to know which websites you mentioned in your review, unfortunatly they were blocked in your review. can you try dropping them in here or maybe email. driebe77 @ aol . com . thanks man, i need some guidance with my KFHD

Posted on Dec 3, 2012 5:09:04 AM PST
Vortex says:
hey.. u forgot to complain about the charger and the missing user guide!!!!
Just kidding :) ... you gave one of the most useful reviews... thanks!!!

Posted on Dec 3, 2012 2:53:25 PM PST
Thank God somebody finally made a real detailed and comprehensive review instead of the petty complains made by many whiners out there!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2012 8:25:15 PM PST
Trent says:
I just updated my post so hopefully it will come through in a format you can find. Just google the One Market and flash_player_ics.apk and you should find both items.

Posted on Dec 6, 2012 10:12:12 AM PST
L. Baum says:
Thank you so much for your detailed review and suggestions! I was ready to send my Kindle back before I read your review and downloaded the new browser! I completely agree with your review - for media, it's amazing, but Silk sucks as a browser! Now that I have a new browser to use, I am going to re-evaluate keeping this. The screen is gorgeous, and until the iPad mini has higher resolution, I really want to make this device work. thanks again!

Posted on Dec 11, 2012 11:30:04 AM PST
Wrightlynx says:
Thank you for the suggestion on the dual charger, it could save outlet space in my house!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 11, 2012 1:59:14 PM PST
RangerDog says:
Thanks for the tip on AirDroid! Haven't gotten my Fire HD 8.9 yet (ordered during yesterday's sale), but that app is awesome for connecting my Android phone to my Mac. Can't believe I hadn't found it before. Beats the pants off Android File Transfer, which requires USB connection.

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 12:14:47 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 13, 2012 12:23:53 AM PST
I'm considering buying the Kindle Fire HD 4G, reading both the good and the bad about it. I'm planning on using it for mostly reading books and streaming series/moves with apps like Netflix, HBO GO, Amazon Prime, ect. I've heard some complaints when people saying it's not able to stream the movie or video because of the speed. My 3G phone has a tenth of a megabit per second (and I'm aware 3G is slower than 4G, I just don't have another 4G to compare it to). My internet speed at home is about 25 Mps, and that works great for streaming and doing a lot of things at once on a laptop. However I don't want to especially the Kindle HD it at home. I want to take it with me. I can't connect to the internet with my laptop away from home because those travelling internet cards give you a crappy 1-3 mps (dial up) from the ones I've seen and I'm gonna be a whiner and say that's just too slow so I'm not paying for it. From my experience, whether it be a phone, laptop or other device with an internet connection that's not a home network, it gets usually 1-3 mps, and that dial up speed just can't stream movies like the higher ones can. So my questions are: Does the internet that comes on the Kindle HD stream it without interruption? For someone who's disappointed with internet cards on laptops, and my own 3G phone's performance because of it's speed, do you think I would be disappointed with this as well? And just out of curiosity, does anyone know what the speed is that you get with the 4G LTE on the Kindle HD? There's a speedtest.net app on Android system, though I don't know if it went through the certification process to be on the Kindles. Lemme know if you know. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2012 8:31:29 AM PST
Trent says:
Hi Jenny, I purchased the Kindle with only Wifi, so I can't speak to how the performance works on it. That said, I'm familiar with 4G on cell phones and expect the same performance. There isn't a way to easily answer your question--the performance of your "4G" will vary based on cellular strength and your provider. I'm sure that with a great 4G signal your Kindle would do well, but the 4G signal isn't always reliable. You'll have this issue with any tablet or cell phone out there, which is why most people use WiFi for streaming.

Also, you need to make sure you consider the cost of cellular data plans. Streaming movies via 4G will incur significant data usage. Most plans, including what comes with the Kindle Fire 4G, are limited and will cost you an arm and a leg to stream videos.
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