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Amazon Kindle Fire HD: what you need to know

Jim Martin | Sept. 10, 2012
Amazon's new Kindle Fire HD is the first 7in tablet to provide stiff competition to Google's Nexus 7. We tell you everything you need to know about the new device and how it compares to the Nexus 7.

Reading on a colour screen is different from a non-backlit e-Ink screen, and some people don't find it as comfortable for long periods. However, it means you can read digital magazines on the Fire HD: there's a choice of more than 150 titles to choose from in the new Amazon App Store.

Kindle Fire HD: App Store

Inevitably, the Kindle Fire HD means there's a new app store in town. Although the Fire HD runs a heavily customised version of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), there's no Google Play store. Instead, Amazon has a curated store of its own, with far fewer apps. The number is sure to grow quickly, and big-name titles are already there, but the Nexus 7 currently beats the Fire HD where games and productivity apps are concerned.

Kindle Fire HD vs Google Nexus 7

We could compare the Fire HD and Nexus 7 spec for spec, but that's not as meaningful as looking at what you can do on each device. The Fire HD is all about accessing Amazon's massive range of media, be that eBooks, music, movies, TV shows and - now - magazines. Yes, you can play Angry Birds on it, browse the web, and sent email as well, but it's predominantly an Amazon storefront.

The Nexus 7 is more of an enthusiast's tablet, with full access to hundreds of thousands of apps in the Play store. It also gives you unfettered access to the Android operating system, while the Fire HD's locked-down version isn't really recognisable as Android at all.

The specs war

Some of the technical details are worth understanding. One of the Kindle Fire HD's obvious advantages is that is, for your £159, you get 16GB of storage. Google gives you just 8GB and Amazon has gone to great lengths to point out that "8GB is not enough for an HD device". Bear in mind that, unlike a lot of Android tablets, neither the Fire HD nor the Nexus 7 allow you to add to that storage capacity using micro SD cards.

Less obvious is the Fire HD's screen details. Amazon has included a polarising filter and anti-glare technology which should improve on the already good viewing angles of the IPS (in-plane switching) screen, and make it more readable in bright light.

The speakers haven't been neglected either: there's a pair of dual-driver speakers in the back which, along with Dolby technology should make it sound a lot better than the Nexus 7 if you want to use it to watch movies or other videos without headphones.

The Fire HD has an 'HD' front-facing camera for Skype calls, but we'll have to wait until we can test it out to find out if it's any better than the Nexus 7's.


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