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on September 14, 2012
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)

HARDWARE:

BUILD QUALITY:
- 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.

SIZING:
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.

THE SCREEN:
- 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.

THE WIFI.
- 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.

THE SOUND:
- 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.

SKYPE:
- 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.

HDMI
- 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.

BLUETOOTH
- 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.
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on October 1, 2012
I purchased the Kindle Fire ten months ago for my daughter. Three weeks after she got it, it was stolen. Amazon worked with our police department to find the person who had taken it. Amazon first put a hold on the person's account and shut down the Kindle Fire so it wouldn't work. Then, once Amazon had a subpoena, Amazon gave the police all the information the thief had registered to my daughter's Kindle Fire and the police were able to recover it and get it back to us. Since that time, we have purchased an additional Kindle Fire and, just recently, a Kindle Fire HD. We use them like iPads at a fraction of the cost and the number of free books and apps available is unmatched by their competitors. Our oldest Kindle Fire (ten months old) just stopped charging and I contacted Amazon via Live Chat. Immediately, they said they would send me a replacement Kindle Fire and would also email me a printing label for free shipping to return the defective one. Their customer service is incredible! The Kindle Fire itself is amazing. The internet is fast; connects perfectly to all wi-fi; the graphics are clear and sharp; the books and apps offered are endless. My teenager listens to Pandora on it constantly. I'm always reading. My husband checks the sports scores. My young sons are always playing the game apps. We have them protected in KlearKase protectors and have found them to be well-made, quality devices. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a Kindle Fire to anyone of my friends and family.
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on November 29, 2012
I bought the Kindle Fire for my 5 year old son. I was going to get him a childs tablet for Christmas, but this was on sale for almost the same price. I decided I would get him a real tablet with a better range of games, books and overall better quality.

I bought the Kindle on Cyber Monday, and paid for 2 day shipping. I bought it around 2PM, and received it the next day by 10AM. I was incredibly impressed with how fast I received the product.

Before getting the Kindle, I read a review that there wasn't a paper "Getting Started" guide in the packaging. That review also went on to say that they had trouble navigating and figuring out how to use the Kindle. When I received the Kindle, it didn't have the guide. It only came with the Kindle and the USB cord. Having a smart phone, I wasn't too concerned because I know the basic functions of a touch screen. When you start the kindle, it walks you through a "Tips and Ticks" start up feature. When you get to the main screen, there is a getting started guide in the carousel of "Apps" to choose from. I applaud Amazon for being green! That's a great place to put the guide, and you wont' have to worry about losing it! I, personally, found the Kindle very easy to navigate without using the guide.

It does not come with a wall charger, but I used my iPhone charger and it works just fine 9 (and fast) in charging the Kindle. If you plug the USB into a laptop, it charges VERY VERY slowly BUT if you drop down to the notification screen on the Kindle, it does proactively tell you that it's connected to a low power supply and it'll charge slowly. It also tells you that while it's connected to the low power supply, it won't charge while the Kindle is in use.

Overall, I found the set up process very easy and seamless. I was able to start downloading within minutes of setting up. The picture quality is simply amazing. The video quality is crisp and the dual speakers are just awesome. I brought up one of the free books pre-loaded on the device to test reading, and the quality is just as wonderful! Very very easy to read the text. The touch quality is just as great as the rest of the features, it's not slow or spastic. I am extremely impressed with the quality of the product for such a low price.

It really is a great little tablet, especially for kids. I find it very user friendly, and I'm not concerned that my 5 year old wont know how to use it. I love the Cloud part of this device. It makes pictures/videos/music accessible without having to store it on your device (keeping memory free). If you're thinking of getting your little one a tablet, I really encourage you to get the Kindle Fire 7" or Kindle Fire HD 7", because it's perfect. Save your time, money and the headache of getting a child's tablet(having to connect it to the computer to remove and add things.. eck.). You'll get more bang for your buck with the Kindle and you will not be disappointed!

Or if you're thinking about getting this for yourself, I would definitely encourage it as well! I love it! I was having fun playing with it.

Nicely done, Amazon. As always, you've made me a very happy customer!
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on November 27, 2012
I am a self-confessed gadget junkie. I bought the very first Kindle, the very first iPad, and have updated both now. I saw the promise of the future in the first Kindle. I loved the size and ease of carrying multiple books with me any time I wanted. Also, the battery life was great. (One thing I really miss on the new Paperwhite is the cool screen savers on the original Kindle.) Then I bought the iPad and used the Kindle app some, but there were way too many distractions on the iPad to read much. This year I decided to upgrade my ereader to the new Kindle Paperwhite. I have it and love it for reading.

Now onto the Kindle Fire. When I ordered the Kindle Paperwhite, it wasn't supposed to be delivered until Dec. 21. I read reviews every day for the Paperwhite and started to get concerned about the negative reviews. I used the iPad in poor light or in the dark, but I wanted something smaller to take around with me. So, anyway, one day in early November I got a Lightning Deal on the Kindle Fire for $129.00. I decided what the heck. If I didn't like it, I figured I could give it to someone for Christmas or see about returning it. It ended up that I spent a total of $135.00 for the Kindle Fire and case and $158.00 for the Paperwhite and case. Still I got two cool gadgets for less than an iPad mini would have cost. I had considered the iPad mini at first, but I decided to wait for retina display on it before I felt compelled.

I ended up getting the Kindle Fire and the Paperwhite on the same day. I tried both of them out, and I like both for different reasons. I decided to keep both even though I have two iPads already. The Paperwhite is as great as I thought it would be for JUST reading. It has nothing extra to distract me from the joy of the book.

The Kindle Fire though was a surprise. I really like it too. I like the feature of it reading to you if you want. The Prime membership was a huge surprise too. I bought a new TV this summer and now I can watch a movie on the Kindle or my iPad on the Amazon video app and finish it up on the TV if I want. I am keeping the Prime membership for sure. I really think the Prime membership is necessary to get the full benefits of the Kindle Fire.

Yes, the Amazon app store has a lot to be desired compared to iTune's app store, but the basics are there. For what I wanted it is great. It is smaller and easier to tote around and it does some fun things. If you want to save some money, the Kindle Fire is a good buy for a gadget that can actually do a lot and be an ereader too. I would recommend the Kindle Fire for every age.
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on June 6, 2013
I have a kindle fire which was given to me a couple of years ago and I absolutely love it!!! I purchased this one as a gift to my Mother in law. Why do I hate this one? Because it isn't clear when you order that you have to order it without the specials or it will come loaded with adds. I had to pay an extra 20.00 to get the adds taken off and the adds still are popping up! I've had to call Amazon 3 different times. They finally told me that I have to sync the kindle to get them off. I haven't tried that yet because my MIL doesn't live close so I will have to try that when I visit her.
Another reason I hate it is because it doesn't include a charger. WTF? That doesn't even make sense to me! You have to spend extra for a charger? I complained about that to an Amazon rep after calling about the other problem and he said "All you had to do is call and ask for one and we'd send you one for free". He said they figure most people have a bunch of chargers around their house and probably wouldn't need one so this is their way of being eco friendly. I think that's a bunch of BS! If that were the case, then they should post that on the site when you order, that you should request a charger for free if you need one.
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on June 22, 2013
Don't waste your money. We bought two kindles within weeks of each other. Within days of each other, they stopped charging. BOTH of them. I contacted customer service and they actually tried to tell me it was a "rare" problem and wanted to SELL me two more. Nope. Now I'm out $400 for two kindles and all of the money for my apps and books. Thanks Amazon - you released a crappy product. People have this problem like crazy and because mine are 6 months outside of the warranty period, I'm out of luck, out of kindles and out of the money I've dumped into these useless paperweights. So disappointed to receive such garbage from a company I USED to be a HUGE fan of.

BUY A NOOK.
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on February 8, 2015
This is my THIRD Kindle Fire in 2 yrs., 2 months and 5 days. The first two were returned because they would not charge and the battery port was loose. My 3rd Kindle started developing charging issues, but is more manageable as it just charges slower.
This is a KNOWN issue, but unless your unit is still under the paltry 1 year warranty or raise a big stink AND get a helpful customer service rep, the best you can get is their offer for a (slightly) discounted, REFURBISHED unit. Not cool, AMAZON!
I just got off the line with Amazon Customer Service and while he was pleasant my issue was not resolved. I understand he can only do what he is authorized to.
So this time we spent about 40 min trying to fix a screen issue. When I tap the screen it acts as if I tapped elsewhere and opens something I did not touch on. The screen will lag and jump too. Looking on the Kindle Fire help forums I discovered other people have had this issue too. Well, we tried to update the software, but that didn't fix it.
I asked if I could have it serviced? No, they don't repair the Kindle Fire they replace them. My warranty expired 10 weeks ago so I can not get mine replaced. Instead I have the option of purchasing a Kindle at their "special" discount price. This consists of getting a refurbished model - some were the previous generation- for about a savings of $15-$20 off the regular retail prices. And although some of my data and game stats are backed up on the cloud not all of them are so that will be a loss.
This really isn't fair, especially when dealing with a known bug. And now I know the Fire only lasts about 12-13 months before issues develop, so do I want to pay more money for a device that needs replacing in another year?
My husband suggested they have a device subscription service -pay $80.00 a year and get a new device every 12 months as that is what happens anyway! And after reading the Kindle help forums and other reviews the newer models have bugs too, even the $400.00 model.
The sad thing is I LOVE my Kindle!!! I use it every day for my crafting business, my daughter's education, researching health issues and entertainment. I am thinking of going to an Android tablet device, but dislike the thought of losing all my Kindle content. I wish the Kindle Fires had a better lifespan or that Amazon would address the issues.
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on December 22, 2012
This is actually my third Kindle Fire - and I love them! My first Kindle Fire was well-loved by me and my grandchildren, it was used every day and in many locations. We took it to the pediatrician, the dentist, to school meetings, and especially when in the car and heavy traffic was anticipated. The plus-factors are the ability to download movies and/or TV shows and watch them anywhere, anytime; the many games available (even for preschoolers) so the kids are not stuck with just a movie; the wonderful books, including children's picture books, available for download. I told everyone who commented on the Kindle Fire that I felt they should be gifted to every parent/grandparent of a preschooler, and seriously considered as an alternative to video games for older children. One day, my granddaughter was playing with the Kindle Fire and fell asleep. It had happened many times before, she wasn't laying on it - it didn't fall - but it did shut itself off and it never came on again. Fortunately, I had ignored my husband when he told me NOT to buy the extended warranty (Square Trade). I called them, they completed a form over-the-phone, sent me to a webpage for the shipping label, and my new Kindle Fire was on the way! They even told me I could wait for the new one to arrive, put the defective one in the same box, attach the label and ship it out. What could be simpler? My new Kindle Fire is wonderful, and knowing I have up to four replacements available on my extended warranty - that makes a great product even better! One word of warning - my four-year-old granddaughter has been able to navigate through the screens and de-register my Kindle Fire twice. Easy enough to fix. She has also purchased a few games and the entire second season of Dora the Explorer...I have turned my 1-Click settings off! The new Kindle Free Time app looks good, I am trying it out - it allows a profile for each child, I can select books, games, apps to allow in each profile individually - AND I can set time limits! After my free trial, there is a monthly fee - but at least I won't have to worry about several more seasons of Dora and Diego! If you are thinking about a tablet - think about the Kindle Fire - I have several family members who now own one after seeing or hearing about mine...and all of them are happy with the Kindle Fire!

One last comment - I own the Kindle Fire 7" HD with Dolby Sound as well. When it comes to videos, I am not impressed. It seems to always want to buffer, and then it will ask me to adjust the video quality down to allow "optimal viewing." Even when adjusted to the lowest setting, I get "buffering." This does not happen with my Kindle Fire 1st generation or 2nd generation - both of the non-HD models handle videos excellently - and on the same network as the constantly "buffering" HD model. Without significant improvements, I would not recommend the HD models. Too much money for too little enjoyment. Stick with the simpler Kindle Fire models - you won't be disappointed!
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on July 4, 2017
A testament to Amazon's build quality after 5 years. This was released in 2012. The one I have was bought 2nd hand. It is in perfect condition even though there were finger smudges on the display but no cracks, and scratches. The device was factory reset. It really does a good job. I bought a game released 4 years after it was released and it ran the game with no major issues. Time does not affect the performance of the Kindle Fire. Albeit capacitors inside will eventually dry out and cause device failures in 10-15 years later. This is expected out of ALL electronics made since electronics was invented.

I have to admit there was some apps that had problems running on it but this is a grey area. We do not know if the app(s) were improperly written or the Kindle Fire disliked it. All I can say is use the trial and error process in the Fire Kindle.

I have tested these known apps:
Real Racing 3 (EA)
Most Wanted (2012 EA)
Sonic Dash (Sega of America dev Christian Whitehead)
Sonic CD (Sega of America dev christian Whitehead)

Real Racing 3 would run for 10 minutes then the device closes the app.
Most Wanted (2012 last updated 2015) Runs fine.
Sonic Dash Runs fine
Sonic CD runs fine.

Amazon I hope I have gave you assurance since KFOT (I never had the first one) that your build quality is excellent. I believe enough time has passed. You deserve kudos!
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on December 18, 2012
Overall:
1) I love my Fire and use it every day.
2) Keep-a you hands off! It's mine!

Expect:
1) Ease of operation if you have any computer skills whatever;
2) Great color and video detail;
3) Ease in book reading;
4) Internet connection amazing;
5) Ability to provide online magazines, all kinds of online services;
6) Expect to need the Cloud, and expect it to download with no problems.

Don't expect:
1) Don't expect help built into the Kindle Fire;
2) Don't expect to load everything into it even if you bought 32 GB of drive - videos will fill it up very fast.
3) Don't expect to do easily without the supplementary tools - charger, and holder with prop up gadget. You can do without the stylus, but every now and then I like to use it. Your Fire will wipe perfectly clean just by swiping it on your shirt to get rid of fingerprints. The stylus is a personal choice.
4) Don't expect any 8 hours of use before you need to recharge. That has not been my experience.
5) Don't expect to need any plastic clear sheets to protect your glass screen on your Fire. They have bubbles and are a nuisance. I spent $15 on the sheets at Walmart, but got sick of them and threw them away.

Needed improvement:
1) Provide BASIC instructions for the new user as soon as they turn their Kindle Fire on. See below, Needed Help 1).
2) Instruction in how to buy the help book. You have to buy the help feature for 2 or 3 bucks. You need to read the help book first. Otherwise you will be frustrated in operating. You have to figure out on your own how to get the help book, and unless someone tells you, you don't even know there IS a help book.
3) The charger and the holder should be provided at no extra charge in my opinion. The stylus is nice but not needed so much. The holder makes it possible to watch a video without having to hold it up with your hands.
4) The computer version of Kindle is not enough. There needs to be a computer version of Kindle Fire too, and also K Fire HD. The company will decide what is allowed, but the computer version needs to be more helpful in connection with your K Fire.

Needed help for first time use:
1) When reading a book, you must touch the screen in the MIDDLE, so you will be able to see the controls. Otherwise you can't find them. I kept pressing along the top edge and got nothing. I also discovered that I could drag down another list of controls from the top; but I found it by accident.
2) Go on your computer if you can't figure out how to do it on the K Fire, and buy the Kindle Fire Owner's Manual. I think it's $2.99. It's a Kindle book and your K Fire will automatically load all books from your computer's Kindle program. The manual ought to be free, but it's not. You need this user's or owner's manual.

More advice:
1) Don't worry too much about the 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB size. You have the Cloud.
2) Learn about the Cloud and stop worrying about owning something but not having it on your computer, even though it's nerve wracking at first. The Cloud is there so you won't have to keep adding more storage space to your Fire.
3) Understand that you can't use your computer's Kindle program to download videos you own - that's what the Kindle Fire is for. (Even though I wish I COULD download my videos from the Cloud onto my computer hard drive.)
4) While the Fire really is big time user friendly, take the trouble to learn more about your Fire. It'll pay off.
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