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This tablet is on fire
Kindle Fire HD 16GB
Member Name: carlz2001uk
Kindle Fire HD 16GB
Advantages: Reduced screen glare, sound quality, dual band support, price
Disadvantages: Plug adaptor doesn't come free, Movies issue
Although the Kindle is much more well known for its kindle e-reader, the Kindle Fire HD has, in my opinion, made a big impact on the market, showing that for the price it is a decent contender within the market. In comparison to the iPad it does fall short, however at half the price it really does make it worth the while. In our house, with my iPad and the two Kindle Fires, nobody is ever short of a tablet, and often we find ourselves just picking up whichever one is to hand (or charged!), meaning for the purposes of this review I have an upper hand in that I can review it as a stand-alone product, but I can also make comparisons to the market leader, the iPad.
First and foremost, the High definition touchscreen display is outstanding. I was actually incredibly surprised when I first saw this device switched on. It is absolutely crystal clear and when watching films and music videos, it really does bring the content to life. By using a new way of making the device, the Kindle Fire has reduced screen glare (something that I really struggle with the iPad) by combining the glass screens together. This is really a noticeable benefit and a massive thumbs up to Amazon. An advanced polarised filter also works to provide the richest colours at all times so even when the screen is angled low, where the colour would normally become reduced, this doesn't happen here. The HD processor means that the touch screen software doesn't offer any delay between when you touch the screen and when it responds.
Something else that surprised me with the Kindle, was not only the quality of sound, but also the clarity. Using Dolby Digital Plus, the Kindle can create its own surround sound and through the dual stereo speakers provides a really noticeable quality sound experience. At times when my daughters are listening to their music, I can even hear the bass! Not something I expected to be contending with at age 5 and 7! For use with music and movies, it really does optimise the experience to its full potential, and doesn't distort even when at its maximum volume.
As this device was built for HD quality, watching HD movies doesn't compromise the battery life or storage capacity but still offers fast streaming. Amazon advertise the Kindle Fire HD as having the ability to deliver over 11 hours of watching videos, browsing the web, playing music or reading. As is usually the case with most manufacturer claims, this is a load of rubbish! You may just about get 11 hours if you solely read, however, watch a film and you will see your battery life rapidly deplete. On a recent holiday to France, we had to ration the childrens use of the Kindle (not as easy as it sounds on a 12 hour journey!). If the claims were as accurate as Amazon say, they should have had an hour or so of not been able to use their Kindles (although they would have had extremely square eyes!), but this just wasn't the case. One other flaw while we are on the subject of batteries, is the charger doesn't come free with the Kindle Fire. You get a USB charging cable in the box, however if you need the plug adaptor to boot, it will cost you. If you have any apple products, the USB cable will plug into the adaptor, which is all I do when I need to charge the Kindles. The girls don't use them every day anyway so it's not as much of a hassle as it sounds. The device takes approximately 5 hours to fully charge. It can be used while it is plugged in charging.
Although I don't advertise usage of the internet to the girls on the Kindle, I have myself used it a few times and have been impressed by how fast it is. I had borrowed a friends Kindle Fire (not HD) only briefly when making our decisions about which tablet to buy them, and noticed how slow the Wifi was. The Kindle Fire HD however, as the latest model within the range, has noticeably faster speeds, with Amazon advertising this at 40% faster, by using the dual band support. The dual band works by switching between frequencies as connection slows when the bands become congested. Pretty clever stuff! Media streaming is flawless and my girls have only once had a loss of connectivity when streaming.
Using the Kindle
Accessing your content is easy and you simply spin your way through the content on your Kindle. This does appear a little unorganised as it is listed in the order of download, so a song may be next to a book which might be next to an app. There is a handy menu screen across the top which lists apps, books, music and video content so you can see grouped items more easily although they will still be in the unorganised 'spin'' jumble beneath. As with most tablets, the Kindle Fire can be 'tipped' to be viewed in either landscape or portrait, making it easy to adapt to your needs.
Unfortunately, this is the Kindle Fires biggest downfall and its a pretty big one too. The only way that you can watch any movie content (apart from YouTube), is through Lovefilm, which of course incurs a pay monthly subscription fee. That in itself I don't actually have a problem with, we pay £5 a month and the girls can watch unlimited movies streamed straight to their Kindle. What I do have issue with is the availability of movies on Lovefilm. While the DVD collection by postal service, is vast and offers plenty of choice, the downloadable movies seems poor at best. Their is little option, and what is available is often obscure and of low quality. Perhaps I have noticed this more as we are basically paying to watch one genre, the children's section. We have the full Sky package which I barely have time to watch as it is, so Lovefilm is not something I have the time for, so basically the girls are just watching the children's section and that's it. The Kindle did come with a one month free subscription. One massive niggle for me was the girls like to watch the latest release on holiday and I often treat them by downloading onto my iPad before we go, however this isn't an option at all with the Kindle Fire. Why they would limit themselves to this I have no idea, but I would imagine this is very off putting to many customers.
Set up is straight forward and requires little in the way of synchronisation as it arrives pre-registered to your Amazon account. This beats the iPad hands down as it was a little bit of a headache to set the iPad up in the first instance. By synching to your Amazon account straight away it gives you immediate access to any purchased content you may already have. As we were previously iTunes customers, this meant our daughters didn't have any music that they could use despite us having thousands and thousands of songs, which was a little frustrating, so they now have their own music (which we can't access on the iPad - all very frustrating!) which they can share between themselves.
The integrated Bluetooth connectivity will connect to a variety of wireless accessories. The girls only have a little speaker each but this is connected by the jack so they don't really use the Bluetooth but its still handy to know the option is there.
The Kindle Fire is a tough little cookie and absolutely perfect for children. It feels more durable than the iPad, however I'm not willing to test my theory so we'll leave it to the facts! The device is made with materials 30 times harder than plastic so no need to worry when you hear it go bump onto the floor!
The Parental Controls section is essential for us and was the deciding factor when purchasing the two devices. Given that the girls would often be using the Kindles unsupervised, we had to know they were protected from web access and that we were protected from content purchasing. After several horror stories have emerged about children racking up bills worth thousands of pounds from free apps, I was nervous to say the least, however the Kindle takes the worry away with password controls to protect you and you child.
Skype to Skype HD video calls were a life saver when I went to Las Vegas for my 30th a month ago and we realised our phones didn't work. I had to speak to my girls! Luckily we had taken our iPad so connecting through the hotels wifi, we were able to Skype the girls Kindles and see each other (much to their amusement that we were at opposite ends of the globe!).
Invest in a protective case. I'm not usually a fan of these cases, they usually bulk up the devices, however because the Kindle Fire is a lot smaller than say the iPad, its sometimes awkward to hold and therefore requires a stand of some description. The cases usually have an integral stand and can be picked up for less than £10 on Amazon in various colours.
£159 16gb with offers (£169 without offers)
£179 32gb with offers (£189 without offers)
For both girls we opted for the cheapest device. A smaller memory isn't an issue and after slightly winding us up at the prospect of paying for a device without offers on, we decided to buy the 16gb with offers twice. I have to say to anyone considering buying this device, paying £10 for a device without offers is an absolute con! All you get is an advertising on your screen saver which you swipe off when you want to access the device. It's basically just a screen saver and doesn't intrude on your usage whatsoever so the thought of paying £10 to not have this, seems an absolute waste. Keep your £10 and buy a case for it instead. Storage wise, for the girls usage 16gb is more than adequate. Songs and books are stored on the cloud (which is unlimited content), and movies are streamed from Lovefilm anyway so the only way they will run into problems with storage would be from the number of apps they download.
193 mm x 137 mm x 10.3 mm
Warranty: 1 year.
To conclude, invest in the Kindle if you don't want to spend iPad prices and don't have a huge catalogue of songs on iTunes. Also, perfect for children just starting out but perhaps the iPad is a better option for iPhone users who can synch their iTunes accounts / apps, etc. An excellent contender nonetheless.
Summary: 4 stars
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