Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

Amazon announced their latest Kindle Fire tablets, the Kindle Fire HDX, earlier this fall as two separate devices running on either a 7-inch display or a slightly larger 8.9-inch display. One of the main selling points of the Kindle Fire HDX is its exclusive HDX display, which offers a 323PPI on the 7-inch model and 339PPI on the 8.9-inch model.

As you probably could tell, we’ll be taking a look at the 8.9-inch version of the Kindle Fire HDX in our review, which has many of the same internal specs as its smaller 7-inch sibling does. It features a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, Android 4.2.2 running Amazon’s Fire OS 3.0 UI, an 8MP main camera, a 720p HD front-facing camera, 16GB of internal storage and is said to last for up to 12 hours of reading, web browsing and watching online video.

Amazon has produced some impressive tablets in the past, so let’s just see how good the latest Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 compares to previously released tablets in the Kindle Fire series.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Specs

Display: 2500 x 1600
Display Size: 8.9 inches
Display Type: HDX
Processor: 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB / 32GB / 64GB
MicroSD: No
Battery Capacity: N/A
Rear-Facing Camera: 8MP
Front-Facing Camera: 720p HD
Weight: 374g
Dimensions: 231mm X 158mm X 7.8mm

Context

Before we get on with the review, I’d like to take a moment to explain what I tend to do with tablets when I use them in my personal life. Tablets tend to be perceived as a piece of tech that you can’t create much media with, so I tend to just intake media as I watch YouTube videos, browse various websites like Reddit and keep up with what my friends are doing on various social media services like Twitter and Facebook.

I also keep up with my emails on tablets as being able to sit back and correspond with friends and family from the comfort of a tablet is something I really enjoy. The Amazon Kindle has always been a tablet geared towards people who enjoy reading more than anything else, and although I’m not a traditional reader in the sense that I don’t often read books, I do read quite a bit on a daily basis from various articles to more in-depth stories.

Industrial Design

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

The majority of tablets tend to offer the same overall design as the front of the device tends to feature its display, with buttons and ports featured at different areas of the outer rim, depending on the manufacturer. Amazon for the most part offers what you’d expect from a tablet in its Fire HDX 8.9, although it offers a few interesting design choices that may or may not be your cup of tea.

When you first open your package from Amazon, you’ll be met with the Kindle Fire HDX’s 8.9 inch display, which we’ll get into how it performs and everything else in the Display portion of our review. For now, know that the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9’s display is capable of offering a 2500 x 1600 resolution. Surrounding the 8.9-inch display is a strong, black bezel that looks to measure in at around 1 ½ inches. Sitting above the display is where you’ll find the Fire HDX’s 720p HD front-facing camera.

"THE HDX DISPLAY LOOKS ABSOLUTELY STUNNING"  

The outer rim of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is kept pretty bare when compared to other Android tablets. There are absolutely no buttons available anywhere on the tablet’s outer rim, instead, there are only two ports available at either side of the top portion of the left and right rim. The left side is where you’ll find the Fire HDX 8.9’s microUSB port that can be used to not only recharge the tablet, but to also sync content from your computer to the tablet. The right side is a little less exciting as it only has the tablet’s 3.5mm headphone jack, but important nonetheless considering how important headphones are to mobile devices.

The rear of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is by far it’s most interesting area as there are a lot of jagged edges, although they aren’t sharp or anything like that. The top portion of the rear is where you’ll find the tablet’s 8MP main camera along with a flash located right next to the camera lens. At both sides of the top portion, you’ll find dual speakers. The area housing the camera and speakers of the tablet are covered in a thick, black piece of plastic which seems to go against the rest of the aesthetics of the tablet’s rear, which is covered in a light rubber material.

The Fire HDX 8.9’s rear is also where you’ll find the tablet’s volume rocker and power button, which are found on close to both of the device’s sides. When using the tablet, the volume rocker and power button can accessed easily since your hands are most likely already holding it at its sides. It certainly is an interesting location for both sets of buttons, and one that we certainly became accustomed to shortly after using the tablet.

Display (excellent)

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

Amazon made a pretty big deal of its HDX display for both the 7- and 8.9-inch versions of the Kindle Fire HDX. For the 8.9-inch version, the HDX display looks absolutely stunning as you don’t see many tablets this size sporting a 2500 x 1600 resolution display. The HDX display is able to provide some great visuals as high-resolution images look extremely crisp and detailed on its display. Reading text on the HDX display also offered a great experience as text looked extremely crisp and very easy to read, even when zooming it at extreme levels.

Viewing the Fire HDX 8.9 at extreme angles also resulted in a very good experience as we didn’t notice any degradation of the quality of an image. Although, as you’d expect from most IPS displays, the brightness tended to not be as bright when viewing the display at extreme angles.

The display is also extremely bright as it is able to pump out 400 nits of brightness, which will certainly make it easy to read text even when you’re out on a sunny day. We tested the tablet outdoors on a sunny day and found the screen’s brightness was able to perform exceptionally well, making it even possible to read in direct sunlight.

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Custom Features / Apps

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

Mayday

The Kindle Fire HDX allows you to speak to a live Amazon representative through a Mayday button that can be accessed by dragging down the tablet’s notification bar. Tapping on the Mayday button will allow you to connect with an Amazon employee, who can then help you with any issues you’re currently having. Best of all is Mayday will always be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Mayday connects you to an Amazon representative in 15 seconds or less. Once connected, you’ll be able to see the support representative in a small window, which they can then see whatever you’re currently viewing, although they can’t see you through the tablet’s front-facing camera. Representatives can assist users with visual and auditory cues, and if all else fails, they can remotely access your Fire HDX to help resolve your issue.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

Kindle FreeTime

Amazon announced its Kindle FreeTime late last year, rolling it out to Kindle Fire HD tablets. The Kindle Fire HDX also includes this feature, which was created to limit the amount of time a particular user has on the tablet. The process of setting up FreeTime is simple as you input a parental control password, add your children’s profiles and then dropping in content you want your children to access. You’ll be able to add certain applications already available on your Fire HDX, books and videos.

Once you have the content you want your child to access, you can then set limits to how long they can either use the Kindle Fire HDX or set limits based on activities. Let’s say you want your child to have an unlimited amount of time reading books, but want to limit their video and app intake. You can do just that within FreeTime.

Killer Apps

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

Virtual Keyboard (good)

The virtual keyboard on the Kindle Fire HDX is pretty much what you’d expect from most Android keyboards, although the color scheme gives off an Amazon vibe as an orange “Done” button will catch your eye when compared to the overall gray keys of the virtual keyboard.

The first page of the keys features the standard QWERTY keyboard with the option of selecting a secondary key simply by holding the key down. This makes accessing numbers and often-used symbols much easier as you won’t have to change to the second keyboard page as often in order to reach these keys. More advanced keys can be accessed by changing to the second page and then holding down keys on that page.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

Facebook (good)

The Facebook application on the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 seems to be an overgrown version of the smartphone application as the content doesn’t quite come up to par with the tablet’s 2500 x 1600 resolution display.

When using the tablet in landscape mode, images are centered, leaving a lot of blank space on the sides with the text looking tiny. Portrait mode improves the Facebook app a little bit as images tend to fill up the entire width of the screen, removing the blank space found when using the tablet in landscape mode.

Aside from some layout issues, the Facebook app will act as you’d expect as you can view your News Feed, initiate or continue chats and comment on content as you would on any other mobile version of the popular social network.

Entertainment (very good)

Video Playback (good)

The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 encourages its users to stream video directly from Amazon as their Videos category takes you straight to their storefront. If you want to watch videos located on your tablet, you’ll need to choose the “Personal Videos” option from the Videos category.

Once you find your personal videos, you won’t be given many options as you can simply play your video, pause it or fast forward and rewind through the use of a video playback bar. You’ll also be able to manipulate the videos sound, but that’s pretty much it.

Streaming videos through Amazon, on the other hand, gives you way more options as you can access closed-captioning, change the size of the video, rewind by 10 seconds and even skip to the next episode in the series you’re currently watching.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

Gaming (excellent)

With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, we expected the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 to perform very well when it comes to gaming as it’s one of the most powerful mobile processors currently available. For the purpose of our Gaming test, we played Candy Crush Saga, Temple Run 2 and Dead Trigger to see how well the tablet performs across a wide variety of games.

Through our tests, Candy Crush Saga performed as well as you’d expect considering it doesn’t push the hardware of a system hard enough to slow down its performance. Temple Run 2 performed very well as we didn’t notice any sort of lag or hiccup during play, and in fact, the game looked amazing on the HDX display. Dead Trigger, on the other hand, had issues orienting itself properly when I attempted to play it. Even though I had to play the game upside down, I didn’t notice any slowdown or lag of any sort. Hopefully the game’s developers can offer a fix so Kindle Fire HDX owners can also enjoy the title.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

Speaker Quality (very good)

The speakers of the Kindle Fire HDX are found at the rear of the tablet towards the top, which is somewhat different from what we’ve experienced in other Android tablets as they tend to be located closer to the user.

"THE FIRE HDX 8.9 IS ABLE TO OFFER SOUND RANGES ALL OVER THE SPECTRUM"  

The tablet features dual speakers, and their quality is actually pretty good considering they’re on a tablet this size. The Fire HDX 8.9 is able to offer sound ranges all over the spectrum as you’ll be able to hear highs, mids and lows without feeling like there’s anything missing. Extreme lows that require bass still has a bit of trouble on the HDX 8.9, but it still does an impressive job of being able to give the user the full range of sounds they’re looking for.

Digital Imaging (average)

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

Camera Application (average)

Considering how user friendly the majority of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is, we’re not surprised Amazon has kept things absolutely simple in regards to the tablet’s camera application. Accessing the tablet’s camera will present you with the ability to take photos and videos with its 8MP main camera or 720p front-facing camera. You can adjust the camera’s flash as well as take HDR and Panorama photos. That’s pretty much it.

Amazon improves the application experience a bit as you can share and edit photos from within the application. You’ll be presented with a number of ways you can edit the photo, such as enhancing the image, cropping it, and rotating it. There are also some additional fun changes you can make such as the use of filters, stickers and even creating a meme from your photo.

As much thought Amazon put into the editing of photos on the Fire HDX 8.9, we wish they would have given users more options with the camera itself.

Photo and Video Quality (good)

For the purpose of our review, we put the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9’s 8MP main camera up against the Surface 2, which features a 5MP main camera. Our sample images were taken indoors on an overcast day with indoor lighting.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

As you can see from the comparison shots, the camera on the Fire HDX 8.9 captures colors nicely. There isn’t a lot of detail in the image, but its autofocus is able to keep the subject in focus at close range, which also allows the camera to capture some nice contrast. There’s also the presence of very slight noise in the image, although considering the photo was taken on an overcast day, it could just be due to the lack of daylight.

Performance (very good)

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 features one of the most powerful processors currently available, the Snapdragon 800, in addition to its equally powerful Adreno 330 GPU. Many top-tier mobile devices have been using this combination for the past several months, and each device tends to do very well in our performance benchmarks as a result. For the HDX 8.9, we ran two different benchmarks to test how well the tablet will perform: Antutu and GFXBench 27.

Antutu 3.x is an overall system performance benchmark which takes into account everything an Android device has to offer, including its CPU, GPU, and storage. The majority of Android devices tend to fall into a comparable performance footprint, which means unless you need to do something very specific with your device, like gaming, then you can expect a similar performance across the board.

Unfortunately, we were unable to run Antutu on the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 as each time we attempted to, the test wouldn’t run, no matter how long we left the tablet on for. Considering the internal specs of the tablet, we’re confident this is more of a programming issue than it is a hardware issue.

GFXBench 2.7 was designed to stress the Android device’s graphics processor by running a game-like demo which features a fight between various characters in a number of different environments.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

The Fire HDX 8.9 scored 23fps which is pretty high compared to other Android tablets, and may be the highest score we’ve seen for a tablet this size. The Tegra Note 7, for example, scored a 20fps in GFXBench 2.7, while even larger tablets, like the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition scored 22fps. Considering the Fire HDX 8.9’s internal specs as well as its HDX display, this score is even more impressive.

Perceived Performance

The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 was extremely fast and didn’t offer any noticeable lagging when jumping from one application to another. We did notice some web pages took a little longer than we would have liked to load, which is completely dependant on the site, through the tablet’s default Silk Browser. Considering how high the tablet scored in our benchmarks, we think the long load times have more to do with the browser and less to do with its hardware.

Battery (excellent)

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

Amazon doesn’t outright say the size of the battery the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 has, instead, they tout how much battery life the average user can expect from the tablet. According to Amazon, you should expect up to 12 hours of battery life through moderate usage, such as visiting web pages, reading or watching online video.

Moderate Usage (excellent)

For our moderate usage test, we used the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 off and on for an hour performing a number of tasks that wouldn’t drain too much of the tablet’s battery. We corresponded through email, read some stories, and did some light video watching and after an hour, we noticed a drop in the tablet’s battery of 6%. This means through moderate usage, you should expect over 16 hours of battery life, although your tablet’s battery life could certainly vary depending on what you do on it.

Video Streaming Test (excellent)

Since a lot of people are streaming videos these days, we think it’s important to see just how far a mobile device will go when this kind of activity is being done. For this test, we stream a YouTube video for an hour with its brightness set to 50%, or in the case of the Fire HDX 8.9, at 200 nits. After an hour, we noticed a drop of 8%, which means you should expect over 12 hours of battery life if you’re streaming video.

Intense Usage

For our intense usage battery test, we played Riptide GP2 for an hour, which is a 3D racing game that pushes the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9’s hardware to its limits. After an hour of playing Riptide GP2, we noticed a drop of 16% in the tablet’s battery. This means you should expect over 6 hours of battery life when playing games or performing other intense activities.

Charging Time

As important as knowing how long a device’s battery will last, we also find it’s equally important to find out how long it’ll also take it to charge. For the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, we noticed an increase of 30% after charging the tablet for an hour with its display turned off. That means it should take a little over 3 hours to charge, which we feel is neither great, nor is it terrible.

Conclusion (very good)

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Review

Amazon certainly improved its Kindle Fire tablets with the release of the Kindle Fire HDX, and in the case of the 8.9-inch version, it’s now able to offer an experience that can easily rival its competitors and even larger tablets.

With that said, we feel the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 would be best in the hands of someone who doesn’t know their way around Android tablets, but wants the best of what’s currently available. The Fire OS keeps things extremely simple as you can access much of Amazon’s digital goods straight from the home screen, while also being able to purchase books, magazines and other digital goods with ease.

"AN EXPERIENCE THAT CAN EASILY RIVAL ITS COMPETITORS AND EVEN LARGER TABLETS"  

If you know your way around Android tablets, you’ll most likely feel constrained using the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9. Even though it runs on Android, not all Android applications can run on the tablet as they need to be included in the Amazon Appstore in order to be installed on the Fire HDX 8.9.

At the end of the day, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is certainly a great addition to the company’s stable of tablets as it has some impressive internal specs, an amazing HDX screen and offers a surprisingly rich speaker experience.

Overall product rating: 8/10
This article was filed in Homepage > Featured > Reviews > Tablets and was tagged with Amazon and Kindle Fire HDX.
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