Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kindle Fire HD 7", 16GB, with special offers

310: 5 O'clock
310: 5 O'clock (Photo credit: pvera)
Background: I have owned multiple copies of the first three generations of the Amazon Kindle, and the first generation of the $79 Kindle with offers. I have also owned three copies of the first generation Kindle Fire for about a year.
The good: Almost everything that was changed in the Kindle Fire was an improvement. The screen is much better, the battery life is much better, and the device is faster. The OS changed a tiny little bit, which is of no concern to users that haven't experienced the first generation. The speakers are a lot better. The wireless wakes up much faster.
If you put the device down it will go to sleep on its own unless you are playing video or audio. Pick it up and it wakes up again. The charging port is now on the side, which sucks if you want to prop it up in landscape mode with the official case. You can flip it of course, but then you lose the benefit of using the case as a prop stand.

The ads are not intrusive. You get an ad instead of a screen saver, and whatever is the active element in the carousel will attempt to display a row of related items for purchase on the bottom row of the screen. The favorites auto-hide to show the related items row.

Reading: Because the screen density is so much higher, it is more pleasant to read than the first generation device. I hated reading on the first Kindle Fire because it felt just like reading off my laptop's screen. With the second generation device it feels less like an LCD. If I was a reader and didn't care for the extra functionality, I would pick either the cheapest e-ink Kindle available, or the PaperWhite. I have read five books on the new device and I am very happy about the reading experience. PDFs depend a lot on the quality of the file itself, if the PDF is built properly then the fonts scale up very nicely regardless of how much you zoom.

Media: The wireless works a lot better whenever streaming video or audio. Video looks a lot better, but in landscape mode the controls are fixed on the right side of the screen, which sucks if you are a lefty. Except for that minor annoyance, it works perfectly.

314: Small
314: Small (Photo credit: pvera)
Case: I have the official leather case, which is basically a molded plastic bumper that protects the edges and back, and a soft-lined screen cover. Both sides of the case are lined in leather. The leather looks really damn nice.

The plastic bumper has the proper holes to allow the microphone, micro USB and video ports to work. It also has built-in buttons to activate the power and volume buttons. This is the only part of the case I am not 100% happy with, since it is hard as hell to distinguish these three buttons by touch. When you close the lid it puts the device to sleep, open it up and it wakes up immediately. The lid has a magnetic clasp.

The bad: not much. There is no longer a charging LED, so there is no way to know if the device is charged simply by plugging it in. There is no default camera application, and none of the apps I have found for free in the marketplace wants to work with it, except for Skype.

There is no AC charger, all you get is microUSB and a pitch to buy the fast charger (I did). If you buy it at the same time Amazon will give you a 50% discount, so it is only $10. I received one of those fast chargers as a warranty replacement for the dead charger on one of my first generation Kindle Fires, but I haven't tested it yet. So yes, I got two of those but haven't had the need to use them yet.

Except for what I outlined above, the experience between the old and new devices is pretty much identical.

Would I buy another one? Absolutely, Ivette actually wanted a PaperWhite until she saw this one. Now she decided that she would rather have a Fire HD. PJ is going to have to use his until he runs out of warranty coverage and/or uses up his three accidental damage insurance claims (2 still unused with a year to go on the coverage). If you have one of these devices you really need to buy that warranty extension just because of the built-in accidental damage coverage. I have had to return our Kindle Fires more than a few times, but only once due to accidental damage (shattered screen, covered at no extra cost to us), the others either had broken microUSB ports, or had a fried board.

Kindle Fire HD math:
As of right now, you can buy a Kindle Fire HD 7" 16GB, the leather case, a fast charger, and the two-year warranty extension AND two year accidental damage insurance (3 incidents) for $10 than what it costs to buy the cheapest iPad Mini.