Tablets are becoming more popular for people looking for new ways to be productive or to enjoy their hobbies. Between Apple’s iPads, Google’s Nexus, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and more, you may be having trouble deciding on the right one. You can check out the ultimate spec comparison chart here.
I’ve had an iPad for nearly two years, but I decided to pick up a Kindle Fire HDX after it’s release date in Canada on Nov. 26th. Amazon’s shipping process is a breeze, and it arrived at my door only a day late after a major snowstorm.
Here I will review the main things I look for in a tablet and how the Kindle Fire HDX performs in each.
Kindle Fire HDX 7” 16GB Wifi
Let’s face it, the very first thing I look at before buying is how much a product is going to cut into my wallet. I picked up an iPad 2 for over $600 at the end of 2011 and it was the lowest end model. Compared to that, the brand new Kindle Fire HDX was a steal: $260CDN for 7” of HD goodness and 16GB of storage, which is more than enough to suit my needs. If you plan on using it for lots of large files like videos, the more expensive 32 or 64GB options will give you better usage.
2. Battery Life
The battery lasts me over 9 hours when I am using it throughout the day – that includes various apps, web browsing, and reading. When only reading, however, the battery lasts over 15 hours as far as I can tell. The power hardly drains at all when left in sleep mode on and off for days at a time. For maximum battery life, make sure to turn check there are no apps running in the background and keep the brightness at a minimum.
With a 7” display and weighing in at 11oz, the size couldn’t be more perfect. I can slip it into my purse and hardly know it’s there. I’ve noticed that when reading certain documents and digital magazines the print is rather small, which is fine for me, but it might be a headache for those who prefer a larger print size – in that case I would go for the 8.9”. The Kindle Fire HDX has a smooth matte plastic back and rim, but it may feel cheap compared to the metallic backed Apple products – but it’s very light, so any protective case won’t add much weight.
4. Touch and Display
The touch screen is responsive and doesn’t lag. The display is clear and sharp with the option to automatically adjust brightness depending on the light in your environment. Not only is it nice on the eyes, but fingerprints and smudges are less noticeable than the iPad 2, whose screen was constantly dirty-looking. Whether a tablet has a camera is not important to me, but this model has a front-facing camera and the 8.9” has a rear one as well. Photos can be edited on the spot.
One thing I don’t like is how apps or files recently opened automatically appear in the “carousel” (the large icons in the home screen) and you have to tap to remove them every time if you don’t want them there.
I have a stylus which works with the touch screen just fine (any stylus made for iPad should work), but the selection of apps for handwritten notes is lacking.
5. Media and Connectivity
The internet connection has worked well at every wifi spot I’ve visited, it remembers networks without issue, and the Amazon Cloud sync is simple and quick to work with. Any documents, files, or photos can be added to the Cloud for you to view on your computer or vice versa, as well as having the option to email files to and from the Kindle. The email client is very well designed. You can add different social network accounts to the device for easy updating.
Videos load with minimal buffering and the sound quality is top-notch. When the device is set flat on a surface the speakers are not blocked as they are designed on a side angle. It has a functional alarm clock with various tones to choose from.
The default internet browser, Amazon Silk, is alright, but the Appstore does not support Google Chrome or Firefox so any bookmarks you have on other browsers will not be available. There are paid apps to sync from other browsers that must be installed separately – this was a big concern for me to start, but I have since figured out ways to get around this minor issue.
The main reason I bought this device is to read my large library of e-books, and it’s definitely been worthwhile. 16GB of storage holds my hundreds of books and comics without filling even a smidgen – it’s the other files like music and videos that take up a bit more space. Books, documents, and graphic novels load nicely formatted to fill the display. If you buy your books from Amazon, you can keep them in the Cloud until you’re ready to read them and they will not take up storage on your device. If you have purchased books from other sources such as iBooks or Nook, there are ways to convert them so you can read them on the Kindle as well.
I’ll be honest, after Apple’s beautiful and extensive App Store I was a bit skeptical about Amazon’s selection, and it turned out to be a slight disappointment. They have a decent amount, but a few of the main ones I used like Google Chrome, Google Drive, and Google Maps were not available like I thought they would be. Not to worry, I did a bit of research and found that you can still use almost any Android app on your Kindle Fire, but it must be downloaded from a different source.
All in all, I would recommend the Kindle Fire HDX for anyone looking for a decent multi-use tablet. As a student, it’s incredibly useful to have all my textbooks and materials stored on one device. If you’re an avid reader it’s even better, because you won’t find a better selection of books on another platform. If you’re comfortable moving files between your tablet and computer, you should be fine with the app selection between Amazon’s Appstore and external Android sources – please make sure you follow the tutorials I will later post to ensure you get maximum functionality. Battery life couldn’t be better for a high-powered device; it definitely lasts for a good 10-15 hours.The near pocket-sized 7” is perfect for those looking for maximum portability, while the 8.9” would be better for the visual junkie.
If you’re still checking out other options for now, here’s how the Kindle Fire HDX compares against the main features of other tablets:
Size and Power:
The Kindle Fire HDX holds up well for being a powerful and high-resolution tablet. It wins out for having the best battery life during active use, especially for reading.
The iPad Air is the lightest and most powerful full-size iPad yet, and is also one of the most expensive.
The iPad Mini is the heaviest of the 7” tablets, but it wins out in resolution for its size.
The Google Nexus 7 comes in at an extremely close second in terms of power and display, and retains maximum portability with its 7” display.
Apps and Accessories:
Amazon’s Appstore is lacking in my opinion, but the good news is you can still use any Android app on the Kindle Fire HDX – it just takes a little more tweaking. If you’re worried about this, the Google Nexus 7 supports all of Android’s apps right off the bat.
iTunes and the App Store for iOS have the best selection of music, apps, and podcasts, but of course Android has most of the apps Apple has to offer.
Cases, screen protectors, and styluses are easily attained for any tablet, but Samsung’s Galaxy Note has the S Pen stylus that is specially built to have no palm-on-screen issues when writing.
Amazon Kindle bookstore has the best selection of e-books, but you can still have the Kindle bookstore app available on any iOS or Android device.
Kindle is known for being easy on the eyes when reading, as well as having the best battery life for long periods of reading or travel.
Other tablets support different e-book formats but the functionality is similar. The Kindle does not support the popular EPUB format, but e-book conversion is a simple process.