updated 08:52 pm EST, Fri November 8, 2013
Does the new quad-core Amazon offering impress or disappoint?
Amazon has been a participant in the tablet wars for the better part of three years. Where competitors aim their devices at consumption, creation, or some other aspect of mobile computing use, Amazon is unapologetic for offering its tablets at a very low price for what you get, with the express intent of driving media sales. Amazon's latest offering, the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9-inch version hit our desks a few days ago, and we've been hauling the device along in our day-to-day travels.
For those unfamiliar with the device, the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX uses a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 clocked at 2.2GHz, with 2GB of RAM and Adreno 330 graphics, the latter of which Amazon claims to offer over three times the processing power of the previous generation. On the front is a HD camera, with the Fire HDX 8.9 adding a rear-facing 8MP counterpart with electronic image stabilization, a wide-aperture f2.2 lens, and an LED flash. The screen is a capacitative 2560x1600 display.
The custom-skinned Android tablet is clearly a device made from the ground up with consumption of Amazon media in mind. An app for playing video "rentals" from the $79 annual Amazon Prime service comes pre-installed, as well as a similar mechanism to "borrow" books for subscribers exists as well.
We used Amazon's Mayday feature to have the tech support technician walk us through a few things on the tablet -- on both a high-speed FIOS connection as well as a high-latency shared Wi-Fi network at a fast food giant, the service performed admirably. Communications were clear with no dropouts, and other than a complaint by the support representative that the food venue was a bit too loud, we had no issues whatsoever.
We have had some quibbles already in our brief time with the HDX, some of which may be solved by a deeper delve into the Amazon app store. We'd like DLNA support for the device. Migrating user data to the Fire HDX is easy enough, but designation for what app should open the file is not consistent.
The cameras are a new feature on this iteration of the product, and are nothing special. The front-facing camera is fine for video conferencing, but we really don't see a compelling reason for the rear shooter given the somewhat limited shot quality we've experienced so far. We're not sure yet if its the hardware or the middling software for the device -- we're working on narrowing this down for our full review.
While we were taking photos of the Kindle Fire HDX for this preview, we noted that the screen was incredibly reflective - so much so, that it confused the auto-focus on the DSLR we were using. This is a matter of personal preference, but in practice we found that it made using the tablet difficult outside in anything but dim light.
Despite this, we're pretty pleased with the tablet. Look for our full review discussing tablet performance, the camera in more depth, the child management options, and other features or issues in the coming weeks.