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Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ Review and Comparison to the iPad Air

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 ReviewThere are android tablets, and there are iOS tablets. As we showed in an earlier discussion, the Kindle Fire is by far the most popular Android tablet in America. To be more precise, over 55% android tablets in use in the USA are Amazon Kindle Fire tablets. If the Kindle Fire was a crappy tablet, it’s unlikely that it would be so popular, wouldn’t you think? On this 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX review, we try to see if it actually lives up to its popularity.

Home screen Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 tablet

This is a screenshot of the homepage of the Kindle Fire HDX. Pressing the power button and volume down buttons together takes a photo of the current screen

The 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX beats the iPad Air in 7 Departments

That’s a strong statement, if anybody wants to prove me wrong, game on 8-)

Feature Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ iPad Air
1a. Pixel Density (pixels per inch/ppi) 339 ppi 264 ppi
1b. Total number of pixels 4.1 Mega pixels 3.1 Mega pixels
2. Processor/CPU 2.2 GHz quad-core 1.4 GHz dual-core
3. Price $379 $499
4. Weight 374g 469g
5. Battery life 12 hours mixed use and 18 hours reading 10 hours mixed use
6. Rear camera 8 MP 5 MP
7. Tech support Mayday – Live on-screen tech support for life Phone support for 90 days

Does any of this really matter from a practical standpoint?

  • 28% higher pixel density : even though HDX is about 28% more pixel dense than the iPad Air, not many untrained eyes will notice it because 264 ppi of the iPad is already pretty dense. Once the pixel density reaches a certain level (>280 ppi), the human eye can’t notice anything beyond that. However, with the HDX 8.9″ and the iPad Air screens, there’s more to it than just the pixel density (see below). Unlike with TVs, in the case of tablets, we zoom in on things. This is when pixel density comes in to play. It may look perfect as is, but as you zoom in, you will encounter pixelation on the iPad sooner than on the HDX. On the HDX 8.9″, you’ll have to zoom in quite a bit before you see any sign of pixelation.
  • More powerful processor and RAM: let’s say there are 2 guys, one strong, the other like me :) One can lift 100 Kg and the other can only lift 50Kg. But if all packages are 25 Kg, the weaker guy is as good as the stronger guy in lifting those packages. Similarly, there are apps/programs that are less taxing on the CPU, like checking email or browsing the web, and ones that are more taxing on the CPU, like some CPU intensive games/apps. So just like with the stronger and weaker guys, you wouldn’t even need the more powerful quad-core 2.2GHz processor for more stuff you do on a tablet. But when it comes to CPU intensive apps/programmes or multi-tasking, the quad-cores will kick in and make things smoother and fluidy instead of sluggish and buggy.
  • 95g lighter: really helps during long reading sessions, especially when you’re holding with one hand
  • $120 cheaper: that’s the cost of a 2nd tablet, an eReader, Amazon Prime membership, 10-15 Kindle Books, 2 pairs of Levis etc. etc.
  • Battery life – unless you’re using it primarily for reading, there isn’t a big difference between 10 hours and 12 hours
  • Rear camera – I don’t use my tablets to take photos, so for me, I really don’t care about 5MP vs 8MP, but somebody else might
  • Mayday – definitely comes in handy. With various tech gadgets, I would have easily spent several hours on Google tring to figure out how to do various things. So in that sense, Mayday is a time saver for sure.

As you will agree, some of the ‘technical advantages’ of the 8.9″ Amazon tablet may not have a practical advantage over the iPad at times while others definitely do have a practical advantage.

Angry birds game on the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX

Another screenshot. You can take screenshots whether the screen is static or not

There’s more….

  • The Display is not just about the pixel density. There’s a ton more to it like the color accuracy, screen reflectivity, color gamut, color warmth, contrast, brightness etc. etc. DisplayMate technologies, a professional display evaluating and calibrating company, compared the displays of the HDX 8.9″, iPad Air and Nexus 10 and concluded that Amazon’s 8.9″ tablet was the clear winner.
  • Content is cheaper on Amazon. Like we always say, a Full HD TV is of no use if there’s no HD content to watch on it. Similarly, a tablet with perfect hardware is no good if there isn’t a good content eco-system to feed it. According to several studies/reports, music1, movies2, ebooks3 as well as apps4 are cheaper on the Amazon digital store compared to Apple iTunes. These savings from content adds up to that initial $120 savings from the device. The more content you consume, the more you save in the long run.
  • Amazon Prime further adds to the savings - you’re basically getting access to an unlimited amount of videos (movies and TV shows) for a flat fee together with free 2 day shipping on millions of items. This is something unique to Amazon and Amazon is using it nicely to their advantage. There is a 3 month FREE TRIAL and a 50% off Prime membership that not many people are aware of (conditions apply, not everybody qualifies). Doesn’t hurt to check out if you qualify.

The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ ain’t perfect

  • It doesn’t look as good as the iPad Air – anybody who doesn’t agree is a Kindle fan boy (no pun intended because I’m one too)
  • WHAT? For god’s sake, I’m the CEO of company XYZ, I’m can’t to take a Kindle Fire to a board meeting!#@ – can’t blame you sir!
  • Smaller app library – Amazon’s eBook, music and video departments are pretty similar in size to that of iTunes. However, the App department is considerably smaller than iTunes considering that they have only been in the App business a few years. As far as the content eco-system goes, the smaller app library of Amazon is the biggest limitation compared to Apple.
  • iOS vs Fire OS – I personally like iOS better, especially iOS 7 is very smooth and fluid-like. That doesn’t mean, Kindle Fire OS isn’t. Fire OS also has certain advantages over iOS. For example, there isn’t a function to show the recently accessed widgets/apps on stock android or iOS. In contrast, with Fire OS’s carousal, the recently read books, watched movies, browsed websites, played games show up at the front of the carousal. Besides, the new Fire OS 3.0 also has the grid view
  • Amazon centric – in my case, that’s not a bad thing because I shop on physical products as well as digital products. The REAL bad thing at least for now is that it gives no access to the Google play store. So if you already have apps that you have purchased from Google Play, there isn’t a way to import them. Well…I lied, there are ways, but that included rooting etc. which I’m not familiar with and not prepared to learn. Now do you think the iPad is NOT Apple centric?

Bottom line – HDX 8.9″ or iPad Air?

$$ come in the middle of most things we do in life. For a lot of people, the iPad vs Kindle Fire HDX decision is also governed by US$. If you’re getting less value for less dollars, you shouldn’t consider buying anything. But we think you DON’T get less value with the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ even though you’re spending $120 or more less than on an iPad Air. In fact, it’s only fair to say that you’re getting MORE value with the Fire HDX given all those 7 features + cheaper content + Amazon Prime (if you choose to go that route).

Now that you’ve learned some Pros and Cons of the 8.9″ Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, which tablet would you go with?

  1. Click here if you’d rather go with the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ tablet
  2. Click here if you’d rather go with the Apple iPad Air tablet

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