Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013's Kindle Fire HD and HDX Review

With all of our new device reviews and more to come, it’s shaping up to be a very merry digital holiday season! There’s still time to curl up with an eBook on a tablet in front of your video fireplace with a robotic dog at your feet.  (All right, I still prefer real fireplaces and real dogs, even if both could be more dangerous than their digital doppelgangers. I’m still a fan of quality tablets to use OverDrive Media Console with, however.)

We reviewed the Kindle Fire HD last year. Like 2012’s 7-inch model, 2013’s offering has the same 1280 x 800 pixel display (with a crisp 216 ppi) and 1 GB RAM, and also comes in 8 GB and 16 GB versions. It’s slightly thinner and lighter than the previous Kindle Fire HD, but it also drops the front-facing camera (and $60 off last year’s price—it now starts at $139). There are a few other performance differences, but aside from the visibly upgraded operating system on the device, most users won’t notice a difference between the two 7-inch devices. (If I hadn’t known about the differences in advance, I wouldn’t have noticed, either.) Amazon continues to sell last year’s Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch model, but starting at $269.

Where the real changes lie are in Amazon’s new flagship tablet models, the Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch and 8.9-inch, starting at $229 and $379, respectively. Both screen sizes come in 16, 32, and 64 GB models and have a speedy quad-core 2.2 GHz processor (a step up from the dual-core 1.5GHz processor of the normal Kindle Fire HD models), which makes them perfect for using OverDrive’s streaming video service! eBook text looks clear and sharp on both the 7-inch model’s 1920 x 1200 (323 ppi) screen, as well as the 8.9-inch model’s 2560 x 1600 (339 ppi) screen. The resolution is comparable to both the previously-reviewed Nexus 7 (2013 Edition) and the iPad Mini with Retina display. Both Kindle Fire HDX tablets were extremely light, yet still felt sturdy. The only thing that concerned me was plugging in the micro USB cable to charge them. The cable tilts slightly upward instead of lying parallel to the tablet, making me somewhat worried that if I accidentally dropped something on top of it, the metal part of the cable might break off inside of the device (not that it ever happened to me with a video camera once.…).

Both sizes of the Kindle Fire HDX have a front-facing HD camera and microphone, the latter of which comes in handy for Amazon’s latest customer service feature that we were eager to try out: Mayday!

Amazon’s brand-new “Mayday” button, designed for instant help on the Kindle Fire HDX from a real human being via video, was extremely impressive. Pressing it indicated that we were in the queue waiting for a technician to become available, but the response time afterward was almost immediate (granted, we tried this before the start of the holiday season).

When the video of the live technician popped up on the lower part of the screen, it was almost shocking. We asked, “Can you see us?” He explained that he could not see us, but he could hear us, and could see and control anything on the screen of the Kindle Fire HDX. We explained that we just wanted to see how it worked, and he kindly provided a demo of swiping through menus, opening an eBook, and circling various items on the screen. We were quite impressed.

The “Mayday” button would be a great tool for library staff members to suggest to patrons who may be having trouble with a Kindle Fire HDX, especially if they are new to the world of tablets. This holiday season, thanks to Amazon’s new Kindle Fire devices, the tablet world may get a lot of new users!

Provided by Jenny Norton is a Support Services Specialist at OverDrive.

Buying an tablet or eReader this Christmas?  Be sure to download the getting started guides located on the left column.  

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