- Large, vivid screen
- Excellent sound quality
- Surprisingly good email client
- Low price
- Unpolished hardware with some rough edges
- Glare is a real problem, depending on lighting conditionss
- Locked into the Amazon ecosystem for content
- Slightly disappointing battery life
The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is Amazon’s largest tablet to date, featuring an 8.9-inch display with 1920 x 1200 resolution, a 1.5 Ghz processor, Dolby stereo sound, a front-facing HD camera, Buetooth, and dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi wireless networking.
Prices start at $300 for the 16GB ad-supported version, and go up to $385 for the 32GB ad-free version.
Build & Design
The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is similar in size to Apple’s iPad, with the exception of being somewhat narrower. It measures 9.4-inches tall, 6.4-inches wide, and 0.35-inches thick, and weighs twenty ounces. The front is dominated by the 8.9-inch display, of course, and on the back you’ll find a dark slate gray soft-touch finish and a metal band near the bottom that houses the speakers and features the Amazon Kindle Fire branding.
The tablet is sturdy and pleasantly thin and lightweight, but I’m not terribly impressed with the hardware. The edges on the front are angular, not rounded, so they dig into your palm and the tablet isn’t very comfortable to hold for extended periods of time. The bezel is quite narrow as well, so if you’re holding the tablet in one hand your thumb will rest on the glass bordering the display — which means that you have to grip tightly in order to prevent the tablet from slipping out of your hand.
There are also a couple of visible seams where things don’t line up quite right — not enough to be considered a manufacturing defect, but more a sign of less-than-perfectly-polished design and construction. The Fire isn’t poorly made by any means, but it isn’t anywhere near as perfect as an iPad either.
The 8.9-inch display has a 1920 x 1200 resolution, and it looks fantastic. Text, photos, and video are all sharp and colors are vibrant. Video in particular looks great, with no ghosting or other issues to detract from the experience. The widescreen display also minimizes the letterboxing issue on video, which may not bother some folks, but is always a distraction for me.
The one problem wih the display is glare — there’s a lot of it. It isn’t much of a problem if you’re watching video, but it is when you’re reading books. An anti-glare screen protector will significantly reduce the glare issue, and they are available in three-packs for less than four dollars.
There’s no physical keyboard on the Kindle Fire HD, but the screen is plenty big enough for easy data entry on the virtual one. The keyboard response is a bit slow, however, so if you’re doing much more than entering a search term for the Kindle store you’ll need to slow down just a bit so the tablet can keep up with you, or else use a Bluetooth keyboard.
Other Buttons & Controls
The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is rather minimal when it comes to buttons and controls. The headphone jack, power and volume buttons are located on the right side when the tablet is in landscape mode. The buttons are extremely low profile to the point of near invisibility; it will take some training in order to hit them without having to look. I handed the tablet to several colleagues at my office and only one of them was able to figure out how to turn it on.
The microUSB charging port is located on the bottom edge of the device, next to the micro-HDMI port. The only other physical feature of note is the HD camera that is centered above the display on the front of the tablet. There is no home button, which was a source of frustration for this reviewer.