The latest generation Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 has just been released and packs quite the punch with its new hardware and software. All of the internals have seen a massive upgrade and the new Mojito software takes Android to a new level. How does this tablet compare to prior Fire offerings and is it a viable investment with so many new devices coming out?
The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 features a seven inch capacitive multi-touch screen with a resolution of 1920×1200 pixels. The resolution is a huge upgrade from the previous generation which only had 1280 x 800. HD videos on Netflix and HD comics from Comixology are the most noticeable improvements. Magazines actually don’t see any improvements as the ones purchased from Amazon seem to be scaled down to be functional on their entire line of devices. In a direct comparison to the 3rd generation Kindle Fire, they looked exactly the same.
Underneath the hood is a quad-core 2.2 GHZ processor and 2 GB of RAM. You have different models for storage and the entry level model has 16 GB of internal memory. When you take it out of the box for the first time there is only 8.8 GB of memory to play with and there is no expandable memory via SD.
There are two stereo speakers on the rear of the tablet and they are placed at the top. The sound quality is fairly solid, but they pale in comparison to the Kindle Fire HD. There is also a power button and volume buttons also on the rear.
This is simply the best seven inch tablet Amazon has ever produced. The hardware makes everything load up super quickly and you tend to never notice any LAG or sluggish performance.
Amazon has upgraded their Android OS to version 4.2.2 and has skinned it with a new version of their proprietary entitled Mojito. What has really changed with the older model vs the newer iteration?
There is an upgraded carousal that has higher resolution book covers, app icons and short cuts to your apps, videos and music files. Underneath that by swiping down is a new tray of icons that look very much akin to the vanilla Android experience. You can initiate Quiet Time, which eliminates the distractions and app notifications when you are reading. Finally, there is Mayday, which allows you to talk via the 720 P camera and duel-microphones to talk to a dedicated Amazon rep. They can walk you through anything you need to do, which is good for first time tablet users. Aside from all of these new enhancements, most things remain the same.
Some of the most noticeable software elements include Kindle Freetime. Parents can make a dedicated profile for their child and establish books, apps, videos and music they have access to. They can also establish specific parameters of usage and configure the amount of time they can read, use apps and surf the internet. There is also a Freetime subscription platform to download a ton of kid apps and use them as much as they want for around $9.99 a month.
One of the things I really liked was the way Amazon now handles pictures. In the past you could load pictures on your device via the USB cable that came with your device and then load in your own galleries. Now, you can connect up to your Facebook account and every single picture you have on your profile will be automatically added. If you have a smartphone, such an iPhone, you can enter your telephone number and click on a confirmation text. You can then sync over every single photo on your phone and store them. All photos once on your device are then stored in the Amazon cloud, and if you have other Kindle Fire tablets, everything will automatically be synced.
The Fire HDX has a few drawbacks that center around its content and ecosystem. If you live outside the US and UK, you will be unable to watch any movies. You can buy them and download them to your unit, but you will get a pop-up saying that it is not available in your geographical region. You will need to purchase a VPN and an American Credit Card to bypass this, and Shop e-Readers offers them for a fairly affordable rate.
Another drawback is the Amazon App Store. They don’t really offer many of their competitors apps, so if you want to download comics you have to do it from the Kindle bookstore. Otherwise you will have to either side-load in your own apps or download an alternative app store like Good e-Reader.
Still, the Amazon ecosystem on their tablets is super deep. You can shop for audiobooks, eBooks, music, video, and a slew of other content. They developed their hardware to work perfectly in conjunction with everything else they sell. The only other company to successfully pull this off is Apple, and they tend to do quite well.
The Kindle Fire HDX 7 is a tablet that is primarily built for e-reading. Whether you are reading a standard eBook, listening to an audiobook, checking out the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine or keeping abreast of the latest news with the New York Times.
Reading an eBook is fairly standard and Amazon has not broke any new ground in the way books show up or the type of options you have to augment the reading experience. You can change the font size quite easily or change the font entirely from a list of eight built in ones. The one new change i like the grey background that almost mirrors the standard background in a physical book. The Kindle Fire HD 3rd generation which also just came out as a bright white background, which hurts the eyes after long reading duration’s. I actually found it easier to read on this model than any of the other Fire tablets.
One feature I dig is the translation function which will automatically translate words in 12 different languages. You can hit the audio button and have a robot sounding voice translate a specific word or entire body of text that you have highlighted.
One of the more popular aspects of dealing with Amazon is the synergy between Audible and Kindle. You can buy both the eBook and audiobook at once and have a slew of functionality that is available. You can listen to the audio edition while you are reading the book and the text is highlighted as the audio plays back. If you are reading the Kindle edition and turn the tablet off on the 3rd chapter, you can pick up where you left off on the audio edition on your phone while you are commuting. Not all eBooks and audiobooks work with Whispersync for Voice and Whispersync for Text, but the ones that do offer cool features.
Amazon sells a copious amounts of magazines by major publishers and you can pinch and zoom to read the text if its too small, but little else. As stated earlier in the review magazines seem to be down scaled. They look exactly the same on a high resolution tablet like the HDX as they do on the 3rd generation Kindle Fire HD. I suggest if you are really into Magazines to install a 3rd party app like Zinio.
Newspapers for the most part are either dedicated apps or Kindle editions. The former don’t have any design consistency and tend to all look completely different. You will have different options and a UI with the USA Today then you would with The Onion. The New York Times is a Kindle edition, which means you can have full control over your experience just like an eBook.
Overall, Amazon offers one of the deepest ecosystems for quality content anywhere in the world. You can get Singles, Serialized Fiction, Indie Titles, fan-fiction or hundreds of thousands of books written by major publishers. Amazon may not have the sheer amount of titles that Kobo has, but it is presented very well and no one can match their selection.
The Kindle Fire HDX 7 is the best tablet they have ever produced. The software side of things is very slick and refined over a few generations of constant refinement. The hardware makes everything hum along very quickly. If you are looking for a dedicated tablet just for reading and multi-media consumption this is one of the best.
When you purchase the HDX you are buying exclusively into the Amazon ecosystem. If they don’t have a particular app you want, you will have to jump through numerous hoops to load in your own. If you want to borrow books from the library you need access to a PC to send them to your Amazon account. Suffice to say, there is a learning curve involved if Amazon does not have what you want.
Still, the upsides destroy any of the possible downsides. At least you can install 3rd party apps, something Barnes and Noble still does not allow you to do with their entire line of tablets.
One of the best eBook experiences
Front facing 720 P camera with duel microphones
Mayday and Quiet Time
Speaker quality is not as good as prior models
Magazines are down scaled and don’t look as vibrant as they do on the iPad
Single Issue Comics and Manga is non-existent, you need 3rd party apps
Does not support Live Wallpapers or Widgets
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.