The Amazon Kindle Fire HD is the brand's new ereader-tablet hybrid but does it offer enough to take on the Google Nexus 7 and iPad Mini?
The original Kindle Fire shunned British shores last year, but it's arrived this Christmas - the form of the Amazon Kindle Fire HD - to join the charge of miniature tablets, such as the Nook HD, hoping to secure a place at the top of your christmas wish list.
Taking its Kindle ereader ethos of affordable hardware and oodles of readily available content, and adding a colour touchscreen, video playback, apps and web browsing, it's a cracker.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD: Size and build
Launched alongside the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, this is one of the sturdiest seven-inch tablets on the market, perfect for slipping into a jacket pocket or bag. It's slightly chunkier than the iPad Mini or Google Nexus 7, at 10.3mm, and it's screen has a heavy bezel around the outside, but the overall effect is of a tablet that's durable and portable.
Amazon's Smart Cover-like cases add to that effect, protecting the back, as well as the front of the tablet. The screen's strengthened by Gorilla Glass too, meaning less chance of keys and pocket detritus causing harm.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD: Screen
The Fire HD's seven-inch 1280x800 screen is warm, clear and bright, outshining the Nexus 7's display, which looks technically better on paper. The large bezel around the edge of the screen slightly distracts from its charms and some videos do cause letterboxing, but it's still a very fine way to watch films – one month's free Lovefilm streaming is included.
There's a slight deficiency of Android apps – Amazon's interface is a heavily simplified and tarted-up version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich – built for the Fire HD's dimensions, often you'll have to accept stretched phone apps. Also, if you're planning to use it mainly for reading ebooks, the glare of a non e-ink screen might cause eyestrain.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD: Features
Amazon is now a formidable content provider, with one of the largest selections of ebooks available, a growing – if still lagging behind iOS and Google Play – app store and magazines. It's this huge selection of content that's the Kindle Fire's biggest selling point.
It's other killer trait is how easy it makes it to consume this content. Amazon's skinned version of Android puts your content front and centre. The home screen is a rotating carousel of your most recently viewed apps, books etc, with each category accessible via a bookmark at the top of the screen. Along the bottom of the screen you'll find buying suggestions based on your recent purchases.
This can be turned off without hassle. It's not the only way Amazon is attempting to prise money out of you though. The Fire HD's standby screen also sports adverts and offers – you'll have to pay £10 to get rid of this.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD: Performance
The 1.2GHz dualcore processor hard at work behind the shopfront is more than capable of running HD video and even light gaming. This isn't exactly a tablet for hardcore users, but nevertheless you'll never see it lag.
There's a front-facing camera for Skype video calls – no taking snaps with the Fire HD, though – and you can conduct calls on the big screen by connecting via mini-HDMI to your TV. An 11-hour battery life is more than acceptable.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD: Verdict
Amazon knows its market. This is not a tablet for serious gadget obsessives. This is a tablet for serious gadget obsessive's mothers, fathers and kids. It's tablets made even more simple. For people who want a tablet purely as a way to watch films, read ebooks, play music and browse the web this puts everything within one tap of the touchscreen.
It's keenly priced and attractive enough to feel like a serious bit of kit. We'd like a 3G version, but there's no doubt the 16GB or 32GB Wi-Fi-only versions will be a massive hit this Christmas.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD release date: Available now
Amazon Kindle Fire HD price: £159 (16GB), £199 (32GB)
Review by Clare Sartin