Monday, December 17, 2012

Amazon Kindle Fire HD Review

I love Amazon. It is one of the first online stores I ever purchased anything from. I have been an Amazon customer ever since they opened their virtual bookstore door. Amazon remains the top destination for me when I browse for and for when I buy technology. Did I say I love Amazon? Yes, because I do!

I don't like the Kindle Fire HD 7", Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB tablet as much as I thought I would. I wanted to like it. No, really! I wanted to love it. When I pay cash for something I want to love it. If it was a review unit, then I might get away with "liking" it. I bought the Fire HD on Grey Thursday (aka Thanksgiving day) for $199 from Office Max.

I bought the Kindle Fire HD for my 11 year old daughter because she loves to read. I whould have gotten the Kindle Paperwhite if I wanted her to strictly read, but I wanted her to be able to have some entertainment options as well. This is the exact market that Amazon is targeting - those who like the idea of the Kindle, but who want to do more than read books. This is the same people who might be convinced to get an iPad or an iPad Mini instead and simply load the Amazon Kindle app on it to read their Kindle ebooks. It is also aimed at those who don't want to pay the additional $129 (plus the tax difference) for an iPad mini.

That is exactly me and my situation. I didn't want to fork out the additional cash. Now I am regretting that decision. I am not going to bore you with device specifications because the typical buyer of this category can care less. The few that do, has already viewed those specs elsewhere. I want to focus on the usage experience with attention called to physical features where appropriate.

There is no physical home button. The Kindle Fire HD has a virtual button that appears and disappears when appropriate. Sometimes I am looking for it and it just doesn't appear quickly or with the expected gesture. For the most part it works fine, but the few times that it doesn't can be irritating. The physical button gives a point of reference on the iPad mini that makes finding the other buttons like the power and volume buttons easier.

The power button on the Fire HD is very difficult to locate. This drives me crazy. The power button is designed to not be seen when looking at the device, but it is even hard to see or feel when you are looking for it. Think that is not a big deal? I was just at Best Buy and a older man was in the Customer Service line with his HP all-in-one computer. The tech had it all but one minute when he announce that the "power button is right here!" The man bought it in because he thought it was broke because it would not turn on. Hi-tech gadgets can be intimidating an confusing if it is not obvious.

The volume buttons are almost as hard to find, but I like that once you tap one of the buttons the on screen volume control appears. I like being able to slide the volume slider on screen once a button has been pressed.

The device is small and well built. It feels very solid, but it seems surprisingly heavy. If you have ever held a Kindle, that is simply a ebook reader, you know they are very pleasantly light. This device is not light at all. It feels as heavy as a full size iPad to me in my hand. The Fire HD is actually 13.9 ounces compared to my iPad 3's 22.4 ounces, so it almost half the weight of the big iPad. The iPad Mini weights 10.88 ounces, so while it is lighter - it not lighter by a whole lot. Still, picking up the Kindle Fire HD feels like picking up a toddler and expecting the kid to be light and instead finding the kid to be quite heavy.

The Fire HD feels like I am holding a heavy piece of glass. There is no way I would use this without a case. It just feels like trouble if this thing is dropped just once.

The Fire HD has some great things about it. The sound quality is just incredible. The dual speakers mounted on both sides on the rear of the device. I forgot that we are suppose to hear things in stereo after using my iPads for a couple of years.

I just purchased the Kindle Fire HD for my daughter for Christmas.

I wanted to get the iPad mini because I have tons of hundreds of apps for this platform already. Using my existing Apple ID would allow me use those apps and more on the iPad mini. My main reason to consider the Fire HD was for its parental control features. I want to control what apps, books, music and the other content is available to my kid.

I also want to control how much time is spent on the device and how much time on the types of media.

The Mini's parental controls is very basic. It has a feature called Guided Access which can be activated to lock the device into a single app. The iOS device also has restrictions that let you hide certain built in apps, so that they are not available to used. This feature can not be used with 3rd party apps.

I like the Kindle Fire HD approach better because it allows me to give the kid a list of apps that can used and for a certain amount of time. I can give her 3 hours a day; of which she could read books for the whole 3 hours, but limit the time she has for playing games to an hour.

The pros and cons that helped shape my decision:

Cons
- I would have to buy already purchased apps again
- Not all apps that my kid enjoys on my iPhone and iPad are available on the Kindle Fire HD
- It has Advertising on the lock screen and below selected app on the home screen ($15 to remove)
- Seems heavy for its size
- It can not mirror all of the screen content to my AppleTV
- it is not a "real" Android device so it does not have the customizable features like Nexus 7 might have
- it does not have access to the Google Play store
- the browser crashes constantly

Pros
- The Parental Controls are spot on
- It is $115 cheaper than iPad Mini
- The speaker is much better
- it has a better quality screen with higher resolution

What will it allow her to do? She can load her pictures, music, Kindle books and the some of the popular apps like Angry Birds, Plants and Zombies, Spiderman, Asphalt 7, etc.

I had to remember that I bought this for my eleven old daughter who might not care about these things, plus the Parental Controls weighed in heavily in my buying decision.

Now I have two problems. One my OfficeMax 14 day return period has expired. Plus they charge a 15% restocking fee. Secondly, the iPad Mini is simply impossible to buy.

The reality is that the Kindle Fire HD would be OK for someone that has never owned a tablet. For those that have used an iOS, the Kindle Fire HD would frustrate you something terrible. The sluggishness of the interface and limited amounts of apps and content will drive you batty.

If I had my way, I would have taken it back and gotten the iPad Mini instead. I don't like it either way, but I have a big enough investment into the Apple economy and therefore it will be quite awkward to fit the Kindle Fire HD into our tech setup at the house.

I will give my daughter the option to choose whether she keeps the Kindle Fire HD 7", Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB tablet or request the Apple iPad Mini tablet at Christmas.

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