Reviewed in the United States on September 17, 2012
I've been an iPad user since the original came out. I also have an iPad 3. I have worked in IT for the past few years so I would say I am pretty good with technology and fancy new devices. With that introduction out of the way, I will be reviewing key points that I have seen touched upon in other reviews. Here goes...
The device feels nice and solid. I'm a little surprised at how heavy it is, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The rubberized backing is always nice for added grip. It's not as nice as say unibody aluminum, but it's not $500 either.
The screen is fantastic. But my problem is the same as when iPad got Retina Display, other than the OS, most apps look rather pixelated. A lot of the games I tried are not high definition, at least not high enough to look smooth on this screen. Hopefully apps get updated to higher resolutions.
LOCK SCREEN ADS
Yeah there are ads on my lock screen. I'm not sure why this is such a big deal. How much time do people really spend looking at the lock screen? The first thing I thought when I saw the ads is WOW the pictures are really crisp! The ads are there to subsidize some of the $200 price tag. I might pay the $15 to get rid of them so I can customize it, but I might not. I feel like this has been blown out of proportion by other customers.
The sound from the speakers is great. Much better than you would get from more expensive devices, very crisp and clean. I have the official Amazon case on and it has not affected the sound at all. Nothing much else to say, I doubt anyone will complain about this.
I've had two apps crash on opening. I don't know if it is the app or the OS. It's probably somewhere in the middle. Again, not a big deal for me. If it crashes, then I just tap it again and it works. I've also watched a few movies using the built in player as well as Netflix and Amazon Prime. No crashes for me at all. I'm sure OS stability will be improved as time goes on.
Compared to my iPad 3, obviously the Fire HD is not as "good" so to speak. I mainly got it because I wanted something smaller. I also mainly used the iPad to surf the web, watch videos, and play some simple games. The Fire HD accomplishes this and does so much more. If you are expecting an iPad killer, or a desktop replacement, or a productivity machine, then you should look elsewhere.
I bought this to be a media device, and I believe that is what Amazon meant this to be. In this regard, I think this is a great device. In fact, I decided to keep this and sell my iPad 3, which will give me another $200+ to spend on other things. Just remember, this device is not for everyone. If you want a media device, you will be happy with this. Do not expect an iPad for $200.
Just wanted to add a few more things I have noticed over the past 24 hours.
- Power/Volume Buttons: There are a bit hard to press, which is somewhat alleviated by having the official case. Maybe it's because I'm a longtime iPad user, but this will definitely take some getting used to.
- Screen Glare: It took me a little while to notice, but I was playing a Seek & Find game while on Caltrain, with the bright Palo Alto sun shining right on me, and didn't have any trouble seeing the screen. I remembered that Amazon mentioned how the screen was changed to reduce glare, and they did an amazing job.
Two days later and I am still very happy with the device. Here are some more thoughts from me:
I have been playing Enigmatis (a hidden object game) for about an hour and a half each day on my commute. This drains about 15 - 20% of the battery with the screen brightness almost at the highest setting. Again, not iPad gold standard, but still very good.
I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 and used an app called Easy Phone Transfer to get all my music from iTunes onto the phone. It transferred everything, including album covers, and I was hoping to find something like that for this device. I tried iSyncr, a $3 app, which did the job, but did not sync over album covers. I uploaded all my music into the Cloud, then downloaded it from Amazon, which increased the audio quality for a lot of my songs and added artwork, but this still did not show up on the device.
I got very frustrated getting all the album artwork over and eventually just gave up. It's not a big deal but I am kind of anal about those kinds of things. Just a heads up if anyone else out there is crazy about it like I am.
I got a call from Amazon Customer Service about this review, which surprised me very much. They advised me the best way to get the artwork to show up is have the songs in both the Cloud Player as well as the device, which I know does work fine. I was hoping to have the artwork show without needing things in the Cloud, but not a big deal any more.
I am more impressed with the fact that Amazon called me to give me advice on how to remedy the situation and ask if there were any other questions I had on the Kindle. The representative said he wanted to make sure I was happy with the Fire HD. This is one of the big reasons I went with the Kindle, and with Amazon in general. I have had great experiences with their customer service, who have always been able to handle my issues quickly and efficiently. No need to set up an appointment days later with a wannabe IT guy with a hugely overstated job title.
So this update is not really for the device itself, but sometimes it's not just the device, it's the company that offers it that makes a difference. This is why I no longer have any Apple devices, as cool as they may be. But it's not 100% gravy, as I have noticed lately that the keyboard keeps popping up randomly on screens where there is nowhere to enter text, ie. while playing a game. I just have to press the Back arrow to get rid of it, but maybe a bug the Amazon engineers want to take a look at.
So I don't know if it was always there, but over this past weekend I noticed a dead pixel on my Kindle's screen. I called Kindle Support and after a short 5 minute call, they sent me a new Kindle, no questions asked. So once again, very happy with Amazon customer service. I am still very happy with the device, and have some more thoughts on it:
I bought an HDMI cable to hook up the Fire to my 46" Samsung and was quite impressed with the results. The quality was very good, not Bluray quality of course, but better than SDTV on an HD screen. You actually see every single thing you do on the big screen, like you are using a giant Kindle.
GOOGLE PLAY APPS
One of the main drawbacks in my opinion is, or should I say was, the lack of all the Google Play apps available on the Kindle. With a little research, I found out how to add apps that are not available in the Amazon store. It is pretty easy to do and works very well with the apps I tried. This greatly improves my opinion of the Fire HD.
PLASTIC AROUND THE SCREEN
The outer most edges of the Kindle are plastic. I noticed some kind of discoloration on the corner of mine, and just thought it was some dirt to scratch off. So I rubbed my thumb nail on the area, and noticed there were visible marks on the plastic. It appears this plastic can scratch some what easily, but I think this is just cosmetic as not of the plastic actually flaked. If you are not very anal about how your stuff looks, you probably won't notice it.
Here are two small gripes I have with the OS that I'm sure could be fixed with an OS update:
- Battery Meter: It would be nice if the battery meter could show percentage instead of just a graphic bar. Some people have mentioned Battery HD, but you still have to swipe down to see the percentage, so this makes it easier but does not solve the issue I had.
- Personal Videos: The mp4 videos I put on the device are located in the "Personal Videos" app, which shows screen shots of all the videos I put in. The problem is, all that is shown are the screen shots. You can get more info by holding your finger down on each video, but when you have multiple seasons of a show on the Kindle, it can get confusing. Ideally we should be able to look at videos in a list like our music.
Still very happy with the device. Here are some more thoughts:
LEFT HAND MODE
I did't think this would be a problem until I played a Solitaire game that DID have a left-handed mode. As a lefty who usually uses the Fire in landscape, I often have to reach across the screen to access the Settings or Home button in the menu. It's a small grievance, but can be really annoying when watching a movie or reading something. If there was an option for a left-handed layout with the menus on the left side of the device, that would be great.
PERSONAL VIDEOS APP
I had earlier complained about this app, as it did not list my movies and crashed playing a pair of them. I recently drove down to LA from SF, and put 5 movies on device, only to find that 4 of them would not play! I was pretty mad, until I remembered a simple solution, download another app. I downloaded Avia Media Player, which is not the greatest either, but it played all the movies I put on the Kindle. My faith was restored.
GOOGLE PLAY APPS
A lot of people have asked how to do this. If you are not having luck with Google searches, try this: