Review: Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” 32 GB, Wi-Fi (2013 edition)

Source:  Review: Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” 32 GB, Wi-Fi (2013 edition)    Tag:  x ray machine dimensions
 
MRP: Rs 36,000 (eBay.in)

Amazon is known for its humungous e-books store and also for its amazing Kindle brand of e-book readers. With the advent of Android tablets, the company also felt the pressure to introduce an Android-based Kindle tablet known as the Kindle Fire, which broke away from the traditional concept of e-ink screen. It did well and that's why the company later introduced the Kindle Fire HD and HDX in two screen sizes having more pixels for crisper text and images. Until now, the Kindle Fire HDX was not available in India, and Amazon has still not officially launched it here. But thanks to eBay.in, it is now possible for us to buy in local currency without having to worry about customs hassles. Let's take a look at whether this is really worth the extra bucks.

 

Design And Build
While the Kindle Fire HDX may look like any other Android tablet at first glance, but it is different. With a dark grey body and a screen with black bezels, it certainly is a good-looking device. The back of the device has a soft-touch rubberised finish that helps get a firm grip. In fact, it appears like a unibody design which extends to surround the bezel from all sides. This actually provides as a structural reinforcement and imparts the Kindle Fire HDX a solid build. The device has dimensions of 231 mm (L) x 158 mm (W) x 7.8 mm (H) and weighs about 374 grams, making it very light and thin.



The 8.9" IPS screen has pixel dimensions of 2560x1600, which gives it a widescreen aspect ratio of the standard 16:10. This gives it an unmatched in its display size pixel density of 339 PPI. It has a glossy finish, but with a brightness of 400 nits is bright enough to be readable in a normally lit room. The colour reproduction is perfect (100% sRGB), which means that you will see the images or videos as the photographer or videographer intended.

Amazon states that it has fused the touch panel and the LCD panel into a single glass sheet to improve clarity by avoiding the air gap between them. Also, it uses a polarising filter on the glass to reduce reflections and enhance viewing even in bright conditions. The screen is protected against scratches by Gorilla Glass. This touchscreen features a 10-point capacitive input. A front HD camera is present on the top bezel for video chat.

Stereo speakers are present at the back near the top, covered by grills on the left and right. Each of these contains dual drivers, thus ensuring louder Dolby audio with a range much better than the regular tablet speakers.



There are only a few buttons on the device: a power button and a volume rocker that are set flush into its right and left hand side respectively. A 3.5 mm stereo audio jack is present just above the volume key. A micro-USB connector is present near the power key. There is no micro-HDMI port unlike previous version devices because Amazon has decided to support the wireless MiraCast protocol in its place, allowing it to stream videos to compatible televisions and devices. The micro-USB connector allows you to connect the Kindle Fire HDX to a PC for data transfer using MTP mode, but you can only charge the battery with the supplied charger, which charges it completely in less than 4 hours.

A quad-core 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU with an Adreno 330 GPU power the Kindle Fire HDX, thus providing enough firepower to run the most demanding games. The processing power is well-complemented by 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage. There is no memory card slot, so you can only depend on the Amazon Cloud Drive for free unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content if you run out of this local storage.

This version supports Wi-Fi with dual antennas and dual-band. These features are meant to improve the signal reception and it really did performed better at streaming video content as a result. Bluetooth 3.0 + EDR is also supported with HID and A2DP profiles only.

The device runs Android 4.4.3, but this is almost not evident right from the lock screen. The device runs an Android fork designed by the Amazon team, known as Sangria. The carousel interface of the device is nothing like what you would expect from an Android device. It is a list of horizontally scrolling list of e-books, apps, games, videos, music, etc from your library or from your cloud. The latest run/installed app/e-book appears first. Amazon does a good job at completely hiding the stock Android interface and uses its own UI which is fluid.



E-book Performance
When you buy it, the Kindle Fire HDX comes pre-configured with your Amazon ID and you will find all your previously purchased e-books and apps already present in it. Of course, these are actually present on the Amazon cloud and are downloaded only after you click on them. It supports AZW, TXT, PDF, MOBI, PRC, DOC, and DOCX formats for e-books, and still misses out on the EPUB format.



Thanks to the HDX pixel dimensions in an 8.9" size, the text appears very sharp on the screen with excellent readability. Individual pixels are not visible while viewing the screen from regular reading distance of around 30 cm from the eyes. Contrary to our expectations of experiencing eyestrain due to the LCD backlighting, it was actually comfortable to read on the device for long hours. The screen actually mimics a real printed paper by automatically adjusting the white balance and brightness according to the surroundings, thus providing a pleasant reading experience unlike any other tablet. Being an IPS panel, the screen colour doesn't change when viewed from any angle. You can also adjust the font size (1 to 11), font type, colour scheme (white, sepia, and black), and line spacing to suit your viewing comfort. The accelerometer automatically orients the page from portrait to landscape and vice versa as you require. You can lock the orientation if needed.



In case you are too lazy to read or just want to rest your eyes, there is the text-to-speech engine that reads out the book for you, if the book supports this feature. The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX uses Ivona's Salli voice, which is a female voice with an American English accent. Salli sounded as authentic as a real woman reading out the text to you. In fact, we can say that this sounds a lot more natural than what we have seen with text-to-voice efforts by Google on its Android OS or by Microsoft on its Windows OS. You can also download more voices and even for different languages to use with various e-books.

It is possible to add professional narration by paying for the professional-sounding Immersion Reading from Audible.com (which was acquired by Amazon), but this has to be purchased separately after you purchase an e-book and the cost varies according to the deal available at the time. Unlike the text-to-speech engine that is built into the device, this is an audio file that gets downloaded to the device once purchased for individual e-books. Thanks to Whispersync for Voice, you can seamlessly sync between reading and listening to an e-book without missing on any content. We must say that the professional narration is certainly worth the download as it is really immersive and not lifeless like a machine version.

X-Ray is yet another feature that has been introduced in the Kindle Fire HDX, which analyses the page being displayed for names of people and places, and displays their appearance across the various pages in the books in a graphical manner. Some of the other noteworthy features about the e-book reader are the ability to add bookmarks so that you can visit a page later, ability to add notes (annotations), and the option to share the page or an excerpt online. It is interesting to note that the e-book reader also provides you an estimate of the time it will take you to read the book by learning the speed at which you read the first few pages.



The Kindle Fire HDX comes with 30 days free access to various international magazines specially tailored for the device. These include Cosmopolitan, OK!, Maxim, Rolling Stones, Smithsonian, Guns & Ammos, and Women's Health.



Additionally, there is also the Firefly feature, which uses the rear camera to identify objects being pointed to and quickly find out where they are available for purchase.

There is also the Mayday feature, which is a one-click live tech help to get you out of a tight situation with the device when required. While this feature is available only in the US, it is possible to access and use it by setting the country to US, with an address in that country.

Multimedia Performance
In addition to being an e-book reader, this device is a formidable multimedia performer. The dual driver stereo speakers at the back produce possibly the loudest sound we have heard from speakers on a tablet or even a laptop. The stereo sound separation with the clarity of voice makes it a delight to watch movies on this tablet.

We must mention here that while the Fire HDX connects to the PC and may show up similar to a USB mass storage device; it actually connects in the MTP or Media Transfer Protocol mode just like a Windows Phone 8.x handset. While this allows transfer of data files, it monitors the video and audio files being transferred for playback compatibility with the Kindle Fire HDX. It seems that Amazon has decided to support only MP4, 3GP, and VP8 video file formats, even though it should technically be able to play any format due to the powerful hardware.

The inbuilt video player is just a plain video player that does play the movies well. However, in order to support subtitles, we installed the MXPlayer and we liked it better than the stock video player due to its sheer number of settings that can be tweaked around. The video plays flawlessly in either of the players, while the Dolby sound ensures clarity of dialogue. Thanks to MiraCast, you can watch the movies on your big-screen TV as well, provided it supports this protocol.

The 3.5 mm audio jack can be used to plug in a headphone to listen to music. The audio quality is really good overall.

Internet Experience
As mentioned earlier, the Kindle Fire HDX has got Wi-Fi connectivity with dual antennas and with dual bands. This indeed accelerates the throughput as we found out. YouTube videos played smoothly on the Kindle Fire HDX using the same Wi-Fi source. We played YouTube via the Silk browser as there is no app for the same in the Android market.

The Kindle Fire HDX has the Amazon Silk browser which is said to use cloud acceleration (something similar to what Opera does), to speed up loading of web pages. It indeed works as advertised, but it lacks Adobe Flash and uses HTML5 instead where available. It must be noted here that the original Kindle Fire did support Flash, but the support has been withdrawn by Adobe since August 2012 for Android devices having version 4.0 and above.

Apps Performance
The Kindle Fire HDX has access to the Amazon Appstore, which has only a small fraction of the apps that are available on Google's Play Store. Some of the apps that come on the Kindle include Skype, which works very well with video calling, thanks to the good front-facing camera.

As mentioned earlier, there is no access to Google's Play Store. You can only download apps that are available for download on the Amazon Appstore. However, it is possible to install APK files on the device by downloading them on the PC and transferring them to the Kindle Fire HD. This opens up the opportunity of sideloading apps that are not available on the Amazon Appstore and also increases the versatility of the device, which Amazon should have done in the first place by not placing such restrictions.



We installed a few games to try out the performance. The hardware is powerful enough to be able to easily handle most games. Our standard benchmarking game of Temple Run 2, which we use to test the various aspects of an Android tablet such as its screen responsiveness, accelerometer, and graphics performance, ran well on the Kindle Fire HDX, thus proving it to be a good gaming tablet.



We also ran the Antutu, Quadrant, PCMark for Android, 3DMark and Basemark X benchmarks. The results are consistent with what we expect from a 2.2 GHz quad-core CPU.

AnTuTu

Quadrant
 
PCMark for Android

 
3DMark

Benchmark X

Battery Life
The Kindle Fire HDX worked for around 11 hours, which is almost in line with its 12 hours claim. Wi-Fi was on during the test and we played a 2 hours movie as well. The device did not heat up during testing.

My Verdict
The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX performs great as an e-book reader and also as a multimedia device. The crisp screen is good not only to watch pictures and movies, but its high pixel density makes reading very easy on the eyes. The exclusive e-book reader features such as the amazing text-to-speech and X-Ray sets it apart from other Android tablets. Its multimedia performance is great with the loud and clear twin speakers with dual drivers. Possibly due to Amazon's restrictions, it performs remarkably better than similarly spec'd Android tablets. There is no access to Google Play Store, so you are restricted to Amazon's Appstore with only a fraction of the apps, but you can still easily install any app by simply transferring to the device the APK file for the same. The very high price tag of Rs 36,000 is probably the only deterrent for this otherwise great tablet. The 16 GB version is available for Rs 32,000, which is again too expensive. All said and done, if you are a purist, then you would probably not mind breaking the bank for this amazing piece of hardware, which still costs less than the iPad Air, whose screen cannot compare with the one on the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9”.

Rating:

Features: 4/5
Build: 4.5/5
Performance: 4.5/5
Value for money: 3.5/5

Overall rating: 4/5

Pros:
Outstanding display quality, Amazing sound, Great performance, Very long battery backup, Slim and light, Access to thousands of e-books on Amazon Appstore, Can sideload Android apps.

Cons: Very expensive, Doesn’t support Google Play Store, No expandable storage.