Wonderfully speedy ; Fantastic full-HD screen; Built-in tech support; Great parental controls; Huge library of content; Good battery life
Limited browser options; No microSD card slot; Lacks back camera
The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX packs a gorgeous 7-inch display, a very fast processor and one-touch tech support into a sleeker design.
Amazon's Kindle Fire line has always been about putting gobs of great content at your fingertips, and now you can add tech help to that list. For the first time on any tablet, the Kindle Fire HDX provides guidance from a live adviser with the tap of a button. This 7-inch Android slate has a lot more going for it, including a sleeker new design, superfast Snapdragon 800 processor and superior full-HD display. After spending some quality time with the HDX, it's easy to see why Amazon has done enough to make this one of the very best 7-inch tablets.
The shape of the Kindle Fire HDX definitely is more interesting than your average black rectangular tablet. Unlike the Kindle Fire HD -- which has soft, rounded corners -- every edge of the HDX is angled, offering an aerodynamic aesthetic look.
The only adornment on the front is the HD camera, which supports 720p recording. The thin edges are home to the microUSB port on the left and the headphone port on the right. Along the slanted, soft-touch back sides, in landscape mode, you'll find an indented power button on the left, and volume buttons on the right, that are easy to find by touch alone. The top edge houses Dolby speakers on each side.
At 7.3 x 5 x 0.35 inches, the HDX is shorter than the competition, including the Nexus 7 (7.9 x 4.5 x 0.34 inches), the Hisense Sero 7 Pro (7.9 x 5 x 0.4 inches) and the ASUS Memo Pad HD 7 (7.7 x 4.7 x 0.4 inches). Weighing just 10.7 ounces, the HDX is lighter than the 12.7-ounce Hisense and 11-ounce ASUS. But Amazon's tablet is a tad heavier than the 10.34-ounce Nexus 7.
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Like the Nexus 7, the HDX lacks a microSD card slot, something both the Sero 7 Pro and Memo Pad HD 7 offer. However, Amazon does make 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions of the HDX. In our 16GB review unit, 10.71GB was available for use.
When we watched a trailer for "Thor," viewing angles on the Fire HDX were excellent. Colors popped, as the hammer-wielding god's cape flapped and Loki's wicked smile shined with pure malice. In side-by-side viewing, Amazon's tablet beat Google's and Hisense's in clarity, color and contrast.
The Nexus 7 offers the brightest screen among its competition, with a lux rating of 531. But the 480 lux on the Fire HDX is still significantly brighter than the category average of 368 lux, as well as the Memo Pad HD 7 (358) and Sero 7 Pro (369).
Dual speakers, combined with Dolby Digital Plus technology, made for some impressive audio on the HDX. Due to the speakers' placement along the top slanted edge, the audio was actually amplified when we put the tablet on a table. We picked up some bass from Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," and the cowbells in One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" rang out crisp and clear, even at full volume. Plus, Loki's voice in the trailer for "Thor" gave us goose bumps.
On our LAPTOP Audio Test, the Fire HDX speakers pumped out audio at a loud 77 decibels. That's lower than the 83-db category average, but we had no problem filling a small room with quality sound. The Nexus 7, by comparison, offered up just 73 decibels.
Familiar to previous Fire owners is the carousel view of recently opened content or apps that sits at the top of the screen, just above a more traditional grid view. But this year, Amazon has added the Quick Switch feature from within apps; with a side swipe, you can reveal a tray of open apps without going back to the home screen. The carousel view still seems a bit My First Tablet to us.
The top bar of the screen shows some basic info, such as wireless setting and battery status. Below that is a row that separates your content by type -- games, apps, books, music, videos, newsstand, audiobooks, Web, photos and docs. Naturally, you can access the Amazon store from this bar. It's an obvious and clear system of navigation that we found helpful.
Screen Reader, Explore by Touch and Screen Magnifier are new accessibility features for the visually impaired. Screen Reader features Ivona's natural language text-to-speech voice. Explore by Touch describes items when you tap the screen. Screen Magnifier allows you to zoom in quickly.
Amazon isn't stopping with these enhancements. A Fire OS 3.1 update is planned for mid-November, and will add Cloud Collections, Goodreads and some enterprise-level enhancements. Cloud Collections allows you to group similar content and then store it on Amazon's server instead of your tablet's memory. Goodreads is a social network for bookworms that will allow members to see what their friends are reading, share highlights and rate books.
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Among other enterprise enhancements (such as VPN support and IT-department management tools), later this year, Fire HDX owners will be able to print to a wireless printer. The newer version of the Fire OS will come via a free over-the-air update.
Second Screen and Mirroring
Another part of the upcoming OS 3.1 update is Second Screen, which will enable users to share their tablet's content with select Samsung TVs, as well as the PlayStation 3 and PS4. If you don't own one of these devices, you can stream whatever is on your HDX's screen right now directly to Miracast-capable devices, such as the Netgear Push2TV Wireless Display adapter ($59).
We asked for Jace's help in setting up a user profile in FreeTime. He quickly circled the FreeTime app icon on our screen (think football Telestrator translated for the tech world) and walked us step-by-step through the process. We liked that when it came time to ask for our password, he paused his screen's access so he couldn't see what we typed. The whole call took less than 4 minutes.
The music version of this feature is a little different. When we listened to "I Will Wait" by Mumford & Sons, the lyrics streamed along the right side of the screen. We could navigate through the song by tapping a specific lyric. Any fan of karaoke will appreciate this addition.
X-Ray for video, which was added earlier this year, is more in-depth, as it syncs with IMDb's database. By tapping the screen while watching "Django Unchained," we could pull up bios on the actors in any given scene. You can also get general trivia. For instance, we had no idea that Kevin Costner was originally cast as Ace Speck but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. You can also navigate through the movie by skipping to specific songs as they play or, of course, buy the music from Amazon.
Amazon also is now offering a subscription to kid-friendly content called Kindle FreeTime Unlimited. For $2.99 per month, parents can automatically provide their children safe access to age-appropriate (ages 3 to 8) books, games, apps, movies and TV shows on their own profiles. The content comes from such well-known sources as Disney, Nickelodeon and PBS.
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A huge perk for Kindle Fire HDX owners is Amazon Prime. By being a member, which costs $79 annually, you can borrow books from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library for free once a month, with no due date. Plus, Prime members can stream unlimited commercial-free movies and TV shows. And for physical goods, members get free two-day shipping. Amazon is now offering a 30-day free trial of this service.
When it comes to movies and TV, Prime members get access to thousands of popular movies and TV shows, such as "The Hunger Games," "Under the Dome" and "SpongeBob SquarePants." Prime Instant Video movies and shows now can even be downloaded for offline viewing.
We also like a few of the unique features, such as Reading View, which removes images and pop-ups for a faster read. A pop-out left menu offers easy access to content types, such as Most Visited, Bookmarks and Trending Now. Trending Now is neat for discovering what people across the Web are reading now. The Silk browser also lets you share pages via email, Facebook and Twitter. As you add apps like Pocket, Evernote and ES File Explorer, you get more options for sharing.
On Quadrant, which measures overall performance, the Fire HDX went nuclear, with a score of 19,924. The Nexus 7, which still scored about 1,500 points above average, scored just 4,949. The Memo Pad HD 7 came in with 3,414, while the Sero 7 HD Pro registered 4,109.
Similarly, the Fire HDX obliterated the AnTuTu average of 7,491 by scoring a mind-boggling 32,835. In comparison, the Nexus 7 scored 19,572. The Sero 7 Pro scored just 12,092, while the Memo Pad HD 7 saw a similar 12,750.
When we ran An3DBench, a test that measures graphics prowess, the Fire HDX scored 7,999, about 600 points above average. The ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 scored 7,139, the Google Nexus 7 scored 7,165 and the HiSense Sero 7 Pro 7 notched 636. In the same vein, the Fire HDX scored 16,201 on 3DMark Unlimited, while the Nexus 7 scored just 10,624. The category average is 5,804.
While playing "Riptide GP," we were impressed with the graphics and special water effects, which were on a par with those on the Nexus 7.
The only lag we ran into with the Fire HDX was when opening FreeTime. It took a few seconds to load a child's user profile. It took even longer -- 28 seconds -- to open the "Minion Rush" app, but the wait on the Nexus 7 was an even longer 37 seconds.
We appreciate the fact that Amazon can combine all of your disparate image files into one Amazon Cloud file. By downloading the Amazon Cloud app to our PC and our Samsung Galaxy Note II, we easily synced all of our pictures for seamless safekeeping. Plus, we connected to our Facebook account to upload those pics for safekeeping.
Amazon claims the Kindle Fire HDX will get 11 hours of battery life. The retailer also says that when the HDX is just used for reading, it is smart enough to power down unused system components, which could extend the endurance to 17 hours. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), the HDX lasted 8 hours and 39 minutes. That's slightly longer than the Nexus 7 (8:26) and about 1 hour and 20 minutes longer than the category average (7:07).
At the low end, the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX will cost you $229 for 16GB of storage and a Wi-Fi-only antenna. At the top end, it could cost you as much as $424 for 64GB and Wi-Fi plus LTE coverage through AT&T or Verizon. That version, of course, would require a monthly data plan as well.
Those looking for a purer Android experience will prefer the Nexus 7. Google's device offers a wider range of apps and some features the Fire HDX lacks, such as the useful Google Now and a rear camera. However, while the Nexus 7 offers user profiles, Amazon has absolutely nailed its family target audience with its more robust parental controls and huge library of content. Overall, the Kindle Fire HDX is easily one of the best tablets of the year.
|CPU||2.2 Quad-Core Snapdragon 800|
|Storage Drive Size||16GB|
|Storage Drive Type||Flash Memory|
|Display Resolution||1920 x 1200|
|Graphics Chip||400-MHz Adreno 320|
|OS||Kindle Fire 3.0|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution|
|Card Reader Size|
|Warranty / Support|
|Size||7.3 x 5 x 0.35 inches|