The Kindle Fire HD 8.9" is available starting at $299.99 (Photo : Amazon)
The verdict is in on the 8.9" Kindle Fire HD, and tech critics have commended Amazon's media content ecosystem, but note the dearth of apps as a significant drawback for the device. Specifically, the Amazon Prime experience and video capabilities of the 8.9" model stand out, but not enough to warrant a full recommendation in the place of the premium-priced iPad if a consumer is looking for a fully featured tablet experience. Check out excerpts from the reviews below.
Which Kindle Fire HD you should buy is dependent on a single question. Which do you do more, read or watch movies? If you're a reader, the 7-inch model's smaller size and one-hand usability makes it the better device. If you're a cinephile (I fall into this category, at least when it comes to how I use a tablet), the HD 8.9 is a better buy thanks to its bigger, higher-res screen. I watched a lot of movies on the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, and it's a pretty fantastic experience. To be clear, though, both devices are good at both things, and they're incredibly similar overall - it's just a matter of tipping the balance slightly one way or the other.
Neither tablet, though, is as good as the iPad, iPad mini, or Nexus 7. It's the apps: Android's ecosystem is already a giant leap behind iOS's, and Amazon's is like a knockoff Android store. If you get most of your content through Amazon (and that's totally possible), the Kindle Fire HD is the best way to get it - the Prime Video experience is better on this device than any other I've tested, and if you make use of the HDMI port the tablet becomes a great Amazonian set-top box for your TV as well. But for the content omnivore, or a person who wants a good email experience or a better browser or a more powerful suite of apps, Apple and Google's tablets are a better bet.
The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 was made for Amazon's new Fire interface. Compared with the 7-inch version, navigation is snappier and the higher-resolution screen better displays menu options. Amazon's content offerings are vast, especially if you're a Prime member, and its 4G LTE speeds are incredibly fast. Starting at $299, it's one of the best tablet values available. The Kindle Fire line is still the strongest media consumption tablet line going, and this latest version is the best one yet.
In short, the Kindle Fire HD doesn't feel like a device that's good for anything but watching movies, reading books, or playing games. (But it is really good at those things.) If that's all you want to do, then you're getting a great value out of big-screen model.
I'd also skip the $499 4G LTE version and go with the WiFi-only $299 model instead. Once you start getting into the ~$500 range, you're better off with an iPad.
At $199, the Kindle Fire HD 7 stacked up squarely against the Nexus 7 and, for power users, that's something of a tough sell. But, with a size and price that slots in well below much of the larger, 10-inch tablet competition, the $299 Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is more of a difficult proposition to directly compare. So, it's more a question of what does it offer that its smaller predecessor lacks? The answer, of course, is slightly better performance, slightly more size and cellular connectivity -- if you're willing to spend a further $200.
In general we're quite fond of 7-inch tablets and so, of these two, we'd still take the more portable 7-inch Kindle Fire HD. However, those who need just a bit more workspace, or who can't stand to ever be offline from any location, might want to consider the 8.9. Meanwhile, if you're a more serious tablet user who wants access to the full power of the Android operating system, the decision is still simple: go with something else.