Amazon has made tablet buying incredibly easy. It’s no longer necessary to give up an entire paycheck for an overpriced iPad just to have good performance and screen quality. Amazon’s Fire HDX lineup isn’t just a cheaper alternative, it’s a superior product due to its remarkable value and stellar hardware. Despite Apple’s modestly priced iPad Air 2, the Fire HDX triumphs in nearly every area, boasting superior build quality, longer battery life, better UI, more storage size options and a better screen resolution.
Apple’s well-established branding may still appeal to the techy “cool kids,” but Amazon is catching up quickly. The Fire HDX 8.9 is a testament to their customer loyalty and commitment to quality. It’s a beautifully designed piece of tech, and it doesn’t cost a fortune. Unless you’re emotionally tied to Apple’s brand and broad accessory ecosystem, the Fire HDX 8.9 is the way to go. It’s easily one of the best tablets money can buy this year.
"While both models boast a 2.2 GHz Quad-core processor, the HDX 8.9 is more optimized. Navigating apps and pages is notably snappier."
The Fire HDX 8.9 is an enhanced version of its smaller, 7 in. predecessor. It’s thinner, more responsive and less prone to crashing. The improved wireless can reach peaks of 600Mbps, making it four times faster than the HDX 7. This makes streaming and web browsing a much smoother experience. While both models boast a 2.2 GHz Quad-core processor, the HDX 8.9 is more optimized. Navigating apps and pages is notably snappier. An extra camera has been added to the rear too, which is great for those who enjoy taking photos with their Fire HDX.
The HDX 8.9’s biggest selling point is the improved display quality. With a 2,560 x 1,600 (339 ppi) resolution, the new Fire model looks sharper and more vibrant. Text is crisper and easier to read, and gaming has never looked better. Color accuracy (100% sRGB) and color temp. are calibrated perfectly, although gamma seems slightly off. Our tests indicate that gamma is set somewhere between 1.6 and 1.8, a few degrees from the standard 2.2. Luckily, this doesn’t impact overall image quality by much, but the inconsistencies can be seen when viewing dark movies and photos. Unlike its predecessor, the HDX 8.9 features Dynamic Light Control. This changes white point balance based on the environmental lighting to make reading outside easier. The bright whites gain a subtle warm tint, mimicking the appearance of real paper.
"Unlike its predecessor, the HDX 8.9 features Dynamic Light Control. This changes white point balance based on the environmental lighting to make reading outside easier."
The patterned conductive grid in the active area of the LCD is also somewhat detectable. The dots, or diamonds, are present within all touchscreens, but they are typically barely noticeable. Here, they’re “lightly” visible when viewing pages with light backgrounds. A lot of touchscreen devices have this problem, although I wonder why it wasn’t visible in the HDX 7. Maybe the bigger screen size struggles to mask the grid, or maybe the active areas have been enlarged to improve responsiveness. Nevertheless, the display is absolutely beautiful and there aren’t many devices that come close to this kind of quality.
If you’re someone who regularly uses Amazon’s new Prime Music feature, you’ll be completely blown away by the Fire’s improved audio performance. The HDX 8.9 is the first tablet with Dolby Atmos. The multidimensional sound is crisp, clear and completely distortion-free. Watching films and TV shows no longer requires headphones for an immersive experience, although a nice headset improves HDX’s sound quality even further.
Nearly every app has been improved and tweaked to perfection. The HDX’s Silk browser was a disaster in the last Fire version, causing constant crashing and freezing. The new Silk runs buttery smooth now. After an entire week of extensive browsing and streaming, the app hasn’t crashed a single time. Firefly is another superb new standout feature that takes shopping and cataloguing to a whole new level. Using the device’s camera, users can scan physical objects, and the HDX identifies them and lists the best available price. Firefly can also be used on bar codes, phone numbers, email addresses and images.
"Graphically demanding titles like Dead trigger 2 and Eternity Warriors all run without a hitch. The touchpad is precise and responsive, and the beautiful display makes colors in vibrant titles like Candy Crush and Tales From Deep Space pop off the screen."
I do a lot of mobile gaming, and while Fire’s game library isn’t as extensive yet, the games that are available all run flawlessly. Graphically demanding titles like Dead trigger 2 and Eternity Warriors all run without a hitch. The touchpad is precise and responsive, and the beautiful display makes colors in vibrant titles like Candy Crush and Tales From Deep Space pop off the screen. A few games exhibit subtle stuttering here and there when tested against the pricier iPad, but considering the HDX’s low cost, Amazon’s tablet is a true technological marvel. If Amazon’s Game Studio continues to produce quality titles like Tales From Deep Space, the Fire HDX will have no competition.
When it comes to tech-support, very few companies rival Amazon’s customer assistance. The free built-in Mayday app lets users contact an Amazon rep 24x7, 365 days a year. In less than 15 seconds, a customer rep is ready to answer any questions. It’s a remarkable service that actually works as promised, and serves as the perfect example of how a company ought to their their customers.
Amazon’s HDX 7 was an already impressive tablet, and while the HDX 8.9 isn’t a massive overhaul, Amazon has ironed out all the little quirks and annoyances of its smaller brethren. Buying a great performing mobile device no longer means having to invest big. At only $379, the Fire HDX 8.9 is an unbeatable deal. If Amazon can manage to secure a few more Google apps and expands its gaming library, they’ll dominate the mobile market.
Review by: Tin Salamunic