Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9in review

4 Dec 2013

The best Android tablet to date, with astounding performance and lightweight design. Only the usual Amazon lock-in puts us off

Price when reviewed 
329
Buy it now for 
5

The Amazon Kindle Fire started life as a smaller cheaper alternative to the iPad, but with the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9in, it's grown into much more than that. This is now a fully fledged rival, packing in the latest hardware, a high-DPI display and a design that's different to Apple's, yet arguably just as appealing.

In terms of looks, the 8.9in HDX is very similar to the smaller Kindle Fire HDX. The rear is mostly matte, soft-touch, black plastic, with wide angled borders that slope towards the edges, and a glossy plastic strip along the top, framing the speaker grilles and camera lens. It's extremely well made and remarkably light.

We were blown away by how light the iPad Air was when we first picked it up, but this tablet weighs even less, at 369g. Admittedly, the screen is smaller, but 0.8in isn't much to sacrifice for a 21% weight saving.

As with the 7in HDX, we don't like the positioning of the volume and power buttons, which are on the rear, close to the left and right edge. It's a poor design decision, and we found ourselves feeling around blindly every time we wanted to switch the tablet off, or adjust the volume.

Still, there's plenty about the HDX to compensate for this, and in terms of hardware it's at least the match of the iPad Air. The screen is a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution IPS unit, boasting a ridiculously high pixel density of 339ppi. It has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU and Adreno 330 graphics as found in its little brother, where the iPad's CPU is a dual-core 1.4GHz unit. There's an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with an LED flash and a front-facing, 1.3-megapixel shooter for video calls, and as with the smaller HDX, no microSD slot for storage expansion.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9in

In many respects, it's a specifications list that sees the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9in leap ahead of the iPad Air. The really exciting part, though, is that the Kindle is £70 cheaper for the base 16GB Wi-Fi model, and the price gap grows even greater as you move up the range.

Display, performance and battery life

The question is, how does all this powerful hardware perform? The display is excellent. Measured with our X-Rite colorimeter, it yielded a maximum brightness of 470cd/m[sup]2[/sup] and a contrast ratio of 1,244:1 – both better figures than the iPad Air.

Movies, games, books and websites (at least those optimised for high-DPI displays) all look great. One small complaint is that there's a small amount of backlight bleed in the bottom-left corner, but this is only obvious in dim conditions.

Detail

Price ex VAT Wi-Fi: 16GB, £329; 32GB, £369; 64GB, £409. Wi-Fi and 4G: 16GB, £399; 32GB, £439; 64GB, £479
Price inc VAT all prices
Warranty 1 yr return to base
Overall rating 5
Performance 6
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 5

Physical

Dimensions 230 x 7.7 x 158mm (WDH)
Weight 369g

Display

Primary keyboard On-screen
Screen size 8.9in
Resolution screen horizontal 2,560
Resolution screen vertical 1,600
Display type Multitouch, capacitive
Panel technology IPS

Core specifications

CPU frequency, MHz 2.2GHz
Integrated memory 16/32/64GB
RAM capacity 2.00GB

Camera

Camera megapixel rating 8.0mp
Focus type Autofocus
Built-in flash? yes
Built-in flash type LED
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Other

WiFi standard 802.11abgn
Integrated GPS no
Upstream USB ports 0
HDMI output? no
Video/TV output? no

Software

Mobile operating system Kindle Fire OS

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£330