The Kindle Fire HD 7" tablet is Amazon's follow-up to the successful $199 Kindle Fire (now reduced to $159 and rechristened the Kindle Fire SD). The HD Fire improves just the things we wished for as first gen Fire users, but it's not the power monster that the also $199 Nexus 7 is. And that's fine with us because the tablets go for two very different kinds of users. The Kindle Fire HD is for those who want a tablet primarily for easy content consumption; primarily Amazon's content though Netflix and Hulu Plus are here too. In fact, you can even side-load the Android Nook app if you like!
The Kindle Fire HD 7" runs Android OS 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, though you'd barely guess from looking at Amazon's highly customized user interface with the big carousel of content and tidy bookshelves. No geeks, there's no way to make this look like standard Android without hacking the tablet. It has a very sharp IPS 1280 x 800 display that's very noticeably better than the 1024 x 600 Kindle Fire SD display. Movies look so much better! Text in books is extremely sharp and clear. Graphically rich magazines in page view mode actually have readable tiny text.
The Fire HD has a new TI OMAP CPU clocked at 1.2GHz, and the tablet feels more responsive, though that may in part be due to better software tuning. On Quadrant, it scored 2174, which would be par for the course among last year's Android tablets, but falls way behind the mid 4000's we see in Tegra 3 tablets. Still, that's a bit faster than the original Fire and it's more than adequate to power the apps and services on the Fire HD. Movies render fine without stalling (the dual band WiFi with MIMO certainly helps too), web pages render much more quickly and games run smoothly. The UI lags less than on the first generation Fire.
In terms of looks, Amazon isn't going to turn out a design contest winner for $199. That said, this is a very nice looking tablet, though it still manages to look chunkier than it is (its' the same thickness as the Nexus 7 but appears thicker). The tapered sides look modern and attractive and we like the racing grille that traverses the soft touch back and showcases the excellent stereo speakers with Dolby audio. The bezel is wide and that makes the 7" Kindle Fire HD look less modern and aggressive, but ergonomically it gets the job done by giving you a place to grip the unit when reading.
Here's our Kindle Fire HD 7" video review. Our full written review will follow soon.