Hardly the most catchy title, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9” is likely to get lumped in with other Kindle Fire models in most people’s minds, however this would be a crying shame, as this is, by a long way, the best product in the Kindle Fire range, and the first true competition with Apple’s iPad from Amazon in the multi-function tablet market.
For a long time the Kindle has been the undisputed king of the ebook reader market, with their eInk readers being far better than the competition from Kobo, Nook, Sony and other brands. Until now, the Kindle Fire tablets have not been the runaway success of the parallel Kindle range. Whilst not bad products per se, the Fire and Fire HD are outclassed not only by Apple’s iPad, but a significant number of rivals.
Recently we have seen the release of the Kindle Paperwhite. For anyone wanting an eInk device purely for reading books, this is by far the best ebook reader on the current market. Whilst the Kindle Fire HD 8.9” is not the clear runaway winner for the multi-functional market, it does hold a number of advantages over its closest competition, the latest iPad, and the excellent Nook HD+.
From a hardware standpoint, the specs are almost identical to those of competing models. The most important thing about an ebook reader or tablet however, is the screen, and the HD 8.9” screen weighs in at a very respectable 1920 x 1200 pixels, which is a huge and very noticeable improvement over the previous Kindle Fire HD 7. The screen has a slightly lower resolution than the Nook HD+ and to my eyes the colours don’t seem quite as perfect as the Nook, but it’s extremely close. The recent full size iPad’s Retina screens are of a higher resolution, but are 4:3 rather than widescreen aspect ratios, so its arguable that watching a movie would look better on the HD 8.9” and HD+. One clear advantage of the HD 8.9” is that the screen is completely flush with the bezel, using gorilla glass, making the use of the touch screen a more comfortable, seamless experience.
The standout feature of the HD 8.9” is the sound system. It has four dedicated high quality speakers and hands down the best audio of any tablet I’ve ever heard. This is probably the first tablet that could realistically be used to play music out loud whilst you work or tidy the house, without having to resort to an expensive and unwieldy docking station. For many this will be a standout feature, especially when combined with an HDMI socket, meaning that you can use the tablet as a multimedia storage and playing device, and play movies and games on your full sized television.
The main drawback compared to the HD+ is that the Amazon model does not contain a memory card slot, so those requiring storage of large films and such will need to pay for a more expensive model, essentially $70 more to upgrade from 16 to 32 GB. The HD 8.9” is also the first tablet to offer 4G Internet, however the 4G model is vastly more expensive than the cheapest Wi-Fi model at up to $599, which essentially makes even the full priced iPad look a better value bet.
At $299, the cheapest model of the HD 8.9” Kindle really is a solid buy, and one that I’d certainly recommend for anyone wanting to play music out loud and play movies on their TV. For those not caring about these features, the Nook HD+ is still the best value high spec full size tablet; and for the luxury market, the newest iPad still rules the roost.