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Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9

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Manufacturer: Amazon
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What's hot: Excellent full HD display, very good stereo audio, easy to use and great for Amazon Prime and Kindle customers.

What's not: Heavily customized Android means no access to Google Play Store, so app and UI selection is limited vs. general purpose Android tablets.


Reviewed November 30, 2012 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Like the Kindle Fire HD but wish it were a bit larger? Amazon is hoping you'd say that since they've released the Kindle Fire HD 8.9", a tablet that's a little bit smaller than the iPad and appreciably more roomy than 7" tablets. The Fire HD 8.9 starts at a very reasonable $299 for the 16 gig WiFi model, making it an appealing budget tablet with better than budget features. Like all Kindle tablets, it runs a heavily modified version of Android, so this tablet is best for those looking for easy consumption of Amazon's products and services (ebooks, music, Amazon Prime video, magazines and apps) rather than a jack of all trades tablet like general purpose Android tablets.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9

Everything here is the same as the Kindle Fire HD 7" model we reviewed two months ago except the tablet size, display resolution and CPU (thus our reviews will share some text). A larger screen begs for a higher res display and Amazon delivers a very sharp 1920 x 1200 IPS display with pleasing, accurate and rich colors. That's the same resolution as the Asus Transformer Infinity TF700, but a bit lower than the class-leading 2560 x 1600 Nexus 10. To push all those extra pixels, the CPU is a bit faster vs. the 7" Fire HD. It's a 1.5GHz dual core OMAP 4470 and it benchmarks faster than the 7" Fire HD, though not as fast as Tegra 3 and Exynos CPU-based tablets by a long shot.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9

The tablet is is a third of an inch thick with the same styling and Dolby stereo speakers as the 7" version. The bezel sizes are the same as is the soft touch finish and fiddly power and volume controls. At 1.25 lbs. it's lighter than many 10" tablets on the market, but it's an inch smaller as well. The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is available in 16, 32 and 64 gig storage increments and there's an AT&T LTE 4G + WiFi model for $499 with 32 gigs of storage. A 64 gig LTE model is available, but the WiFi model stops at 32 gigs.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9

The Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9"

Design and Ergonomics, Video and Audio

In terms of looks, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" is actually a good looking tablet for the $299 price. At 0.35" it's a member of the skinny tablet crowd and it's a little thinner than the 0.4" Kindle Fire HD. 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 20 ounce Kindle Fire HD 8.9" look less modern and stylish, but ergonomically it gets the job done by giving you a place to grip the unit when reading. At 1.25 pounds it's relatively light for a large tablet and we didn't mind holding it when reading a book for a half hour.

The Fire HD 8.9" has a micro HDMI port, Bluetooth 4.0 and a front video chat camera, same as the 7" Fire HD and important additions over the original Kindle Fire. The micro HDMI output good quality audio and video in our tests with a Sony AV receiver, and we were able to watch Amazon Prime videos on the big screen using the tablet.

The Fire HD has a micro USB port so you can charge the tablet and transfer content to the tablet (books, music, videos and personal files). You can also use Amazon's unlimited cloud storage service to transfer content to the tablet and stream anything you've bought from Amazon, obviating the need for more internal storage or an SD card (the HD Fire models lack SD card slots). Amazon includes a USB cable in the box but no charger. You can charge over USB, use your smartphone's charger or buy Amazon's pricy $20 Kindle Fire HD charger. While we understand that manufacturers omitted E-Ink reader chargers to bring the price down (E-Ink readers require charging only once every few weeks on average and require fairly low amps to charge quickly), it's a little disappointing that Amazon left it out for this much more power hungry LCD-based device.

The front camera delivers surprisingly sharp and bright video when using the included Skype for video chat. It's one of the better mobile video chat cameras on the market, and the only thing that reduces quality is if you walk around while chatting (the camera has a hard time keeping up with quick background changes and sends out blocky video). The mic picked up our voice and sent clear audio to our chat partner. Incoming audio was likewise clear and reasonably loud. You can also use a wired or Bluetooth headset for chats.


Deals and Shopping:


Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9" Video Review


We rarely devote a section to a tablet's speakers, but the Kindle Fire HD models have remarkably good stereo speakers with Dolby audio. Not only are they a vast improvement over the meek original Kindle Fire speakers, they're full and rich sounding with noticable channel separation. While the first Fire wasn't loud enough to overcome the whirring of my exercise bike in an otherwise quiet room, the Fire HD models manage just fine. That's important for a device that's designed to present both music and video. In fact, music is actually enjoyable through the speakers rather than sounding like the soft, hissy nastiness that we hear from most 7" tablets including the Nexus 7. For even better sound, plug in a decent set of stereo headphones or speakers. You can even use Bluetooth stereo speakers with the Fire HD.

Performance and Horsepower

The dual core TI OMAP 4770 CPU runs at 1.5GHz, which is 300MHz faster in terms of clock speed than the 7" Fire HD. That's also a somewhat faster CPU with a slightly faster PowerVR SGX 544 graphics processor. The 8.9" Fire HD needs that extra horsepower to drive all those additional pixels vs. the 1280 x 800 resolution Fire HD. It has solid though not cutting edge 3D performance. It handily outperforms the Nvidia Tegra 2's GPU, but can't touch the quad core Tegra 3 with 12 core GeForce graphics. The Fire HD 8.9" has 1 gig of DDR2 RAM.

Despite Jeff Bezos' hype, the Kindle Fire HD tablets aren't going to set new speed records for Android tablets. Far from it. But it is more than fast enough to get the job done, from HD video playback to moderate gaming. Web browsing speeds are as good as on devices with much faster CPUs, and games on the Amazon App Store played perfectly. This isn't a tablet for cutting edge geeks who crave the fastest silicon in production. It's here to get a job done, and it does that job just fine. We also noted that the Fire 8.9 feels a little snappier than the Fire HD 7" model, though in each case we have a feeling that Amazon's highly customized UI stands in the way of even greater responsiveness.


  Quadrant GLBenchmark 2.1Egypt Offscreen AnTuTu Sunspider JavaScript Test
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 2810 N/A 7757 1338 (Silk)
Kindle Fire HD 2174 33 fps 6749 1787 (Silk), 1605 (Chrome)
Kindle Fire SD (first gen) 1963 N/A 4665 2145 (Silk)
Nexus 7 3638 64 fps 10,456 1720
Google Nexus 10 4959 89 fps 13,658 1308
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 3545 49 fps 7050 2003
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 2705 28 fps 4841 2288


Really, little has changed from the last gen Kindle Fire, but we'll note the new features here. The Fire HD now has access to X-Ray for movies in addition to books, so you can get info about the movie and actors when watching an X-Ray compatible Amazon video (courtesy of IMDB, which Amazon owns). You can read a book while listening to it read aloud via text to speech and now with Audible companion books too. There's Whispersync to keep your place in books, movies and audiobooks. In fact, Whispersync can save your place in compatible games too via the new GameCircle that also handles social gaming.

We're thrilled that the Fire HD has calendar and contacts applications that can sync to Google, and the email client (pretty much the standard Android email client) can pick up POP3/IMAP/Exchange/Yahoo/Gmail/AOL and other popular email sources.

The Fire HD models are ad sponsored. That means you'll see an ad when you wake up the device. If you swipe the double-ended unlock bar left to right, you'll get more info about that ad (a special offer, a trailer for an upcoming movie or TV show, even a free $5 to spend on the Amazon MP3 store). If you swipe right to left (grab the lock symbol and swipe), you'll go back to whatever screen you left off on. Amazon will make your Fire HD ad-free if you pay them $15.

Yes, you can side-load apps that you've downloaded to your smartphone or tablet and transfer them to the Kindle Fire HD, but it takes some know-how and often rooting your other device to extract apps from it to transfer to the Kindle. You can also search the web for the apps you're interested in, and you may find them available for download from places other than the Google Play Store. Peruse the Amazon App Store from your computer's web browser: if you find key apps missing, the Fire HD 8.9" might not be for you.

The Kindle Fire HD is rootable, though the bootloader is securely locked. Root access opens up possibilities for installing the Google Play Store and enabling login in other side-loaded Google apps.

Battery Life

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9" has a 6000 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. As mentioned, it doesn't come with a charger so you'll either use your smartphone charger or buy Amazon's $20 charger. You can charge via your computer's USB port but plan on keeping it plugged in overnight if the battery is nearly drained. The company claims 10 hours of use with mixed tasks that include web browsing, reading books, watching video and listening to music. In our tests, the tablet averaged a respectable 9 hours and standby life is much better than average.


It's hard to not like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9. It excels at its purpose as an affordable one-stop device for reading Amazon books and magazines, streaming Amazon video, playing music and providing you with a safe (albeit somewhat limited) app store. It's brain-dead easy to use, Amazon provides excellent support and their various stores have more than enough content to keep you entertained for the next 20 years. The IPS display is very sharp and has excellent viewing angles, the speakers are awesome and battery life is good. The larger screen vs. the Fire HD 7" model is a strong selling point if you watch videos often and read digital magazines. It's everything that a purpose-built entertainment tablet should be. Just remember, it's not designed to be a general purpose Android tablet.

Price: $299 for 16 gig model and $369 for 32 gig model. $499 for 32 gig LTE 4G model (includes a very small monthly data allowance).



Kindle Fire HD 8.9


Kindle Fire HD 8.9


Kindle Fire HD 8.9


Kindle Fire HD 8.9

iPad Mini and Kindle Fire HD 8.9"



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Display: 8.9" IPS touch screen. Resolution: 1920 x 1200, supports both portrait and landscape modes. Has an ambient light sensor, accelerometer and gyroscope. LTE model has a digital compass.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable (sealed inside).

Performance: 1.5GHz TI OMAP 4470 dual core CPU with PowerVR SGX544 graphics. 1 gig RAM, 16, 32 and 64 gig storage options. 64 gigs available only on LTE model.

Size: 9.4 x 6.4 x 0.35 inches. Weight: 1.25 pounds.

Cellular: Optional LTE 4G on AT&T.

GPS: LTE model has aGPS, WiFi model uses location triangulation via WiFi only.

Camera: Front HD camera with Skype.

Audio: Built-in stereo speakers with Dolby audio, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n with MIMO and Bluetooth.

Software: Android OS 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich heavily customized by Amazon.

Expansion: None.


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