Amazon's 7-inch Kindle Fire HD. (Armand Emamdjomeh / Los…)
The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD is Amazon's follow-up to the Kindle Fire released last year, and this time around, the Seattle company has made big improvements and is vying for the top spot in the lower-end tablet market.
The Kindle Fire HD's biggest improvement comes in its new high-definition, 7-inch LCD screen. The new display has a 1,280 by 800 pixel resolution and is capable of playing up to 720p HD video.
Amazon has also added a more powerful processor for its marquee 7-inch tablet, giving it a Texas Instruments 1.2Ghz OMAP 4460 processor. It's also got a longer-lasting battery that lets the new 7-inch Kindle Fire HD stay powered for 11 hours of continuous use.
Amazon's given the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD a front-facing camera, which is there for video calls. I tried it out with my cousin on Skype, and he said the video he saw looked great.
The Kindle Fire HD has also been outfitted with two new features that help it stand out.
Amazon has packaged it with two Wi-Fi antennas, which the company claims lets the Kindle Fire HD download and stream content 40% faster than the third-generation iPad, and it did perform admirably (one quick note though: the Kindle Fire HD cannot connect to 3G or cellular networks, so you can use only Wi-Fi).
The new Kindle Fire HD also has one feature that I would love to see on all tablets, which is stereo speakers on either end.
But despite making progress, there are some things about the Kindle Fire HD that I did not like.
The first major issue is its advertisements.
Amazon has riddled this thing with advertisements. Every time you press the power button, the lock screen shows a new ad. Every time you scroll to an app, movie or a magazine, Amazon suggests more stuff for you to buy. And the Kindle Fire HD always shows some sort of text ad at the bottom of the home screen, which also is suggesting more content for you to purchase.
Amazon says you can turn off ads for $15, but isn't very clear where exactly you go to do that.
For some, the ads will be a thing they can put up with while others may not even notice. And you can understand why Amazon is doing this. Loading the Kindle Fire HD with advertisements helps the company justify selling it at the price it does, but having to pay $15 to get rid of something on a device you already paid for isn't something we're used to seeing. And that'll definitely tick some people off.
Another downside is the tablet's wide bezel frame that is around the screen, which makes it more difficult to type on than with its main competitor, the Google Nexus 7.
That wide bezel was probably added for the sake of the camera, but it also contributes to another thing I didn't like on the device, which is its weight. It checks in at 13.9 ounces, and every time I let someone else handle the Kindle Fire HD they had the same first impression: "Oh, wow. It's heavy."
The weight can become an issue when you're holding the tablet for extended periods. It becomes tiresome, and this happened when i was playing the car racing game "Asphalt 7: Heat."
And while we're on the topic of games, I can also say I wasn't impressed by the Kindle Fire HD's graphics or its selection of higher-end games. Of course, the tablet can still handle and play the basics such as Temple Run, Fruit Ninja and so on, but I wouldn't recommend purchasing the Kindle Fire HD if you want it for hard-core gaming.
Another small detail I think could be improved upon is the tablet's power button and volume rocker, which are located on one of its side edges. They work fine, but there's hardly any definition between them and the rest of the tablet. That made it impossible for me to just grab and turn it on or raise and lower the volume. I found myself always having to look for the buttons -- I could never just feel for them. But this may be an issue that goes away as you use the Kindle Fire HD over time.
And finally, the last big problem I had with the Kindle Fire HD was with its operating system.
The Kindle Fire HD still runs on a highly-modified version of the Android operating system that Amazon customized, but it's been updated to run on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. That isn't the latest Android, but it is an improvement.
However, the operating system isn't good for being highly productive. It takes longer to load up apps than its competition, and multitasking isn't something that Amazon has really incorporated. It can be an issue switching from one app to another without first jumping back to the home screen.
But this is only a big problem for people who want a tablet to be productive. If you just want your Kindle Fire HD to lay back, relax and enjoy a movie, read a book, or play a couple of rounds of Angry Birds, then it won't be an issue.