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Amazon Kindle Fire HD (7” Display): At the Edge of E-reader Perfection!

Kindle Ebooks, Kindle Fire

Two years ago, when I purchased my Amazon Kindle Keyboard ebook reader, I had no idea what a positive impact that device would have on my reading habits. (I am, by all accounts, a voracious reader, averaging nearly 20,000 pages a year for the past five years.) In addition to reading, however, I spend a great deal of time watching movies, browsing the web, and playing computer games. Unfortunately, I can’t take my ancient and venerable laptop everywhere, and my Kindle Keyboard isn’t capable of playing the latest games or fully browsing the web.

I discovered that I needed a new electronic companion that would completely meet my growing needs. It should be noted at the outset that my primary use for a handheld electronic device is as an ebook reader, then as a general purpose tablet and PDA.

Several weeks of research led me to the best possible solution to my dilemma: I decided upon Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD 7″ (KFHD7) tablet/ebook reader. In the past few weeks, it’s proven itself about as perfect an electronic companion as I could ask for. It serves a variety of purposes very well: it’s an ebook reader, a hi-definition video player, superb web browser, game player, and PDA. All with stunningly brilliant 1200-by-800 video resolution, superb Dolby Surround audio, the quickest Wi-fi I have ever seen in any device, and a list of features so long it’s impossible to name ’em all…


Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Display: 7″ LCD, 1200 x 800 pixels, up to 720p HD
Audio: Dolby Surround, dual driver stereo speakers.
Storage: 16GB or 32 GB on board, plus free “cloud” storage for Amazon content.
Operating Syatem: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich); heavily modified for Amazon.
Connectivity: Dual-band, dual antenna Wi-fi only (2.4 and 5 GHz); no 3G or 4G in 7″ models.
Processor: Dual-core 1.2GHz OMAP4460 system-on-a-chip.
Battery Life: 11 hours (continuous use)
Interface: 10-point multi-touch
Price: $199 with “special offers” (advertisements); $214 without.

In this review, I’ll focus on the three qualities of the KFHD7 that I find most important: ease of use, ability to meet my high expectations, and versatility and convenience.

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HOW EASY IS IT TO USE “OUT OF THE BOX?” Like all of the current generation of tablets and other handheld electronic devices on the market today, the KFHD7 of a very convenient size (7.6″ tall x 5.4″ wide x 0.4″ thick) and weight (13.9 ounces). This makes it easy to take along nearly everywhere. Also like the KFHD7’s older cousins in Amazon’s Kindle family, this device’s design is simple and sleek. The front has a 7″ display screen made with Gorilla glass and a bezel wide enough to hold the device comfortably without getting fingers on the display area. The back is made of a black, fingerprint resistant, high-impact plastic that feels good in the hand. On the back are located a pair of stereo speakers that bring the KFHD7’s Dolby Surround audio to life. .Along the top edge are the on/off switch and volume rocker.

As with all devices I’ve purchased from Amazon, my KFHD7 was ready to go right out of the box. After charging the internal lithium-ion battery for an hour or so I turned the device on. I was immediately stunned by what I saw: the clearest, sharpest, most vibrant video display I’ve ever seen in a computer device. (More about that later…)

My first test of the KFHD7 was, of course, reading books. All 106 of my Kindle ebooks came pre-loaded on the device (a feature I find very convenient!). I found reading on my KFHD7 to be even more simple and straightforward than reading on my Kindle Keyboard. The KFHD7 uses touch-screen controls instead of physical buttons to navigate through books, magazines, and other publications. A light touch the right side of the screen advances a page, and a touch to the left side goes back a page. You can also “swipe” left or right with your finger to achieve the same results. You can add a bookmark by touching the upper right corner; bring up the menu of options (including highlighting text, making notes, and finding more in-depth information through a feature called “X-ray.”) by touching the center of the screen. It’s all designed to make reading as comfortable as… well, reading a book. And it succeeds admirably.

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Like its older cousins, the KFHD7 as e-reader isn’t limited to just books. You can subscribe to a panoply of magazines and newspapers through the Amazon Appstore and read to your heart’s content. Of course, all photos, pictures, and other graphics are displayed in high definition brilliance.

DOES IT MEET MY HIGH EXPECTATIONS? Once my KFHD7 passed that first test (literally, with flying colors!) it was time to see how it would meet my other expectations.Here’s how it did:

As a Movie player: Through Amazon Prime, I have access to thousands of free streaming movies and TV shows, most of which are streamed to my KFHD7 in high definition video. I have watched several movies now and have not seen even a single instance of hesitation, stutter, or break in signal. This is due to the KFHD7’s advanced wi-fi system that uses two antennas and two frequency bands to ensure perfect, glitch-free video and audio streaming.

Video Display: The KFHD7 comes with a true high definition display with a resolution of 1200 x 800 pixels and a pixel density of 216 pixels per inch. This renders all screen graphics unbelievably clear, crisp, and brilliant. All six fonts of the Kindle ebook reader are as sharp as you’ll find in the best “hard copy” books. High definition movies and TV shows come alive on screen. And game graphics are vibrant and smooth.

Audio: The KFHD7 uses Dolby Surround audio that’s crisp, clear, and provides a nice balance between high, middle, and low frequencies. I was actually surprised by the high quality of the sound emanating from those tiny stereo speakers on the back of my device. I think the audio is one of the KFHD7’s strongest features.

HOW VERSATILE AND CONVENIENT IS IT? One of my key expectations for my Kindle KFHD7 is: how capable is it in a wide variety of settings? Can I take it anywhere and do everything I want with it? So far, my answer is a qualified “yes.”

Connectivity: Unlike its older Kindle Keyboard cousin, the KFHD7 does not come equipped with 3G/4G cellular capability, but relies instead only on its dual-band, dual-antenna wi-fi system for connectivity. This means I only have access to the Internet where wi-fi is available. (Fortunately, I have a smartphone that provides my KFHD7 with a wi-fi “hot spot,” which solves this problem.) As long as I am in a place where I’m able to connect through wi-fi, I can take full advantage of every feature, including live video streaming, browsing the web, and synchronizing books, newspapers, and magazines through Amazon Whispernet/Whispersynch.

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Kindle Accessories, battery life:My KFHD7 shipped in a pretty “bare-bones” configuration : only a mini-USB cable is provided with the device. All other accessories – cases, chargers, screen protectors – must be purchased separately. These are all available from Amazon, as well as a large number of independent merchants. Cases and covers come in a variety of colors and sizes; with or without built-in lights; and can be reasonably inexpensive or downright costly. I purchased a good solid leather cover that provides plenty of protection for my KFHD7.

Battery life for the KFHD7 is nearly as good as advertised. With wi-fi turned on, and with me reading an average of 2 – 3 hours per day, I can make a full battery charge last for about 2 – 3 days.

MY VERDICT: Over the past few weeks, I have become a constant and enthusiastic user of my new Kindle Fire HD 7″ tablet/ebook reader. So far, this excellent device has met or surpassed all my high expectations. Because my Kindle Fire HD7 is so versatile and easy to use, I find that I can not only read more often and faster, I can aso watch movies, play games, and browse the web nearly anywhere I want. In short: my Kindle Fire HD 7 is my nearly perfect companion, anytime and anywhere!