This week’s Reader Question Day actually has nothing to do with writing.
MLM asks, concerning Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets:
Tell me everything you know about Kindle Fires. I’m coveting…
Everything I know? This will take a while!
Basically, there are choices. Four models are available currently:
The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, at $139 with 8 GB of storage.
The 9-inch Kindle Fire HD, at $229 with 16 GB of storage.
The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX, at $229, with 16 GB of storage.
The 9-inch Kindle Fire HDX, at $379, with 16 GB of storage.
(Models with higher storage and cellular connectivity are available, but obviously that drives up the price.)
The 7-inch HD Fire has a 1200 x 800 display and no camera.
The 9-inch HD Fire has a 1920 x 1200 display (basically, more pixels so the screen looks prettier and more things fit on it) and a front-facing camera for Skype and such.
The 7-inch Fire HDX has a 1920 x 1200 display, which means it basically packs the same of pixels as the 9-inch Fire HD in a smaller space, so the screen looks very, very good. It also has the front-facing camera for Skype and so forth. It will have a lighter and thinner build than the HD Fires, and a better battery life.
The 9-inch Fire HDX has a 2560 x 1600 display, which is a lot of pixels and one of the best tablet displays currently on the market. It also has front and back cameras, so you can take pictures with it, though I imagine that would be rather awkward. Basically, the nine-inch HDX is the nicest of the lot, but the most expensive by far.
Both the HD and the HDX Fires come with Special Offers – Amazon sets the lock screen to show ads and featured deals on products it thinks you’ll like. Some people find it creepy, but I suspect you would not object. You can pay more for a Fire without Special Offers, but most people don’t.
The HDX Fires have better battery life and are lighter than the HD models, but the HD Fires aren’t particularly heavy and get good battery life.
Both the HDX and the HD have good speakers, and you can use them without headphones in a quiet room. Both make unexpectedly good portable stereo systems.
The HDX Fires also come with a feature called MayDay – you hit the MayDay button, and within seconds an Amazon rep appears for a video chat to solve your problem (assuming your Internet connection is working). I personally think that’s a bit creepy, but I think most people will love the feature. Don’t know if you’ll ever use it.
The content offerings on all the Fire models are very heavily geared towards Amazon – they work well with Kindle, Amazon MP3, and Amazon Instant Video and so forth. There are Netflix and Hulu Plus apps available for the Fires, but the Fire tablets work best with Amazon’s media services. Obviously, you won’t be able to install the Nook app on a Kindle Fire, or anything from Apple.
Speaking off apps, the app selection is somewhat limited for the Kindle Fires. The only source to get new apps is from the Amazon Appstore, not the Google Play store. The selection isn’t terrible, and most (but not all) of the popular ones are in there. However, certain Android apps might be missing, so if there’s an app you absolutely MUST have, it’s good to check to see if it is there first.
Related to that, the Kindle Fires do not have a lot of offline storage. The baseline model, the HD 7-inch, comes with 8 GB of storage, and after the OS and various apps are installed, I believe only 5 GB or so is available for user files, and 10 GB on the HDX 7-inch model. Additionally, the Fires do not offer microSD slots for storage expansion. One HD movie can weigh in at about 6 GB, so if you have a big music or video collection, you’re not going to fit a lot of it on any model of Fire. (I think Amazon prefers that you stream everything anyway.)
Ebooks take up a comparatively small amount of space, so you won’t have to worry about filling it up with ebooks unless you have something like 4,000 books or more in your library.
In the ads Amazon has been touting how you can work with Microsoft Office documents on a Fire HDX, but practically speaking, it’s hard to actually do work on a tablet. You can probably use the Fires to read a long Word document or spreadsheet or something, but if you actually need to sit down and compose a long document or a PowerPoint presentation, you’re going to use your laptop.
So, to sum up, if you want a 7-inch Fire, go with the 7-inch Fire HD on cost, or a 7-inch Fire HDX if you’re willing to spend the extra $100 for a nicer screen. If you want a 9-inch Fire, get the 9-inch Fire HD – I don’t think the 9-inch Fire HDX is sufficiently improved over the 9-inch HD to justify the extra cost.
And that is all I know about the Kindle Fires.