Reviewing Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7 - A Good Tablet With Strong Hardware
Recently, we got our hands on the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7, a tablet manufactured by, you guessed it, Amazon. The company is a giant in the world of online retail, and it's also the most renowned e-book reader manufacturer out there. However, for some time now, they have also produce other mobile devices, like tablets, smartphones or TV sticks. The Kindle Fire HDX 7 is the third generation of Kindle Fire tablets and it promises to deliver great hardware and an improved operating system, that's both light, elegant and easy to use. This is our first encounter with an Amazon mobile device, so you can imagine how curious we were about it. Find out from this review all the strong and all the weak points of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7:
Unboxing The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7
The Kindle Fire HDX 7 comes in a black, high quality cardboard box. On its front side, you can see a picture of the tablet you'll find inside, the name of the tablet and also its main hardware specifications. The back side of the box highlights some of the tablet's characteristics, in several languages.
Then, when you open the box, you get to see the Kindle Fire HDX 7 itself.
Beneath the tablet, you get a quick start guide and the warranty leaflet. Tucked away to the top side of the tablet, you'll also find a USB cable. Unfortunately, the Kindle Fire HDX 7 we received had no power charger, but that may vary by your location.
That's pretty much it when it comes to the package and what you find inside it.
The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 offers a 7" IPS LCD display, with a high resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels at 323 ppi pixel density. Amazon promises that the display offers perfect color accuracy and great brightness levels.
The processor powering it is a powerful quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU running at 2.2 GHz. It comes with 2GB of RAM memory and a fast Adreno 330 video chip. In terms of storage space, you can get the Fire HDX 7 with 16, 32 or 64GB of internal storage. Unfortunately, you cannot add a microSD card in order to extend the storage space.
The size of the tablet is 186 x 128 x 9 mm (Height x Width x Thickness) or 7.32 x 5.04 x 0.35 inches and weighs a total of 303 grams or 10.69 oz. The battery has a capacity of 4550 mAh, which doesn't seem like very much, but Amazon promises it can get you up to 11 hours of mixed use.
The operating system installed on the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 we got is Fire OS 4.5.4 "Sangria". It's essentially a custom flavor of the Android operating system, customized by Amazon for their own devices.
The Kindle Fire HDX 7 has a front facing 720p HD camera, but no rear camera. The front camera works really well for video calls in Skype or any other similar app. In terms of connectivity and ports, you get a dual-band WiFi adapter capable of using the 802.11 a/b/g and n protocols, a Bluetooth chip, a microUSB 2.0 port and an standard 3.5mm audio jack. Unfortunately, the network chip doesn't support 802.11ac, so you won't be able to connect to 5GHz wireless networks.
If you live in the United States, Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7 is sold in two variants when it comes to its connectivity options. You can get the base model that we got, or you can get a 4G model that works both with AT&T and Verizon. The base model can connect to the Internet only on Wifi and has no GPS chip, while the 4G model includes A-GPS.
You can find the full list of specifications, on Amazon's official page, here: Kindle Fire HDX 7" - Technical details.
Using The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7
When it comes to its design and build quality, we are more than happy with the Kindle Fire HDX 7. On its front side you get nothing more than the screen: no logo, no buttons, no… nothing. While some may find this as too blunt, we like it when things are done with a minimalistic philosophy in mind.
However, the same can't be said about the back of the Kindle Fire HDX 7. The backplate looks like a 3D trapezoid with angular edges and is made of black matte - soft touch plastic that feels really nice and makes it very easy to hold the tablet in your hands. The center area on the back of the Kindle Fire HDX 7 is dominated by Amazon's logo.
The top side of the back of this tablet (if you look at it in landscape mode) is also the place where you find the speakers, positioned on both ends of a black, glossy plastic rim. Placing the speaker to the top of the device is a really good thing, as it stops you from accidentally blocking the sound with your hands while using the tablet.
An interesting design choice on Amazon's part is that the power button and the volume rocker are also placed on the back of the Kindle Fire HDX 7. At first, we found this positioning to be a little bizarre, but after a short while, you get used to it and even enjoy it. It feels very natural and easy to turn the volume up or down when watching a movie, for example.
Going back to the front of the Kindle Fire HDX 7, the screen is really impressive. The Full HD, 1920 x 1200 pixels resolution, screen uses an IPS LCD display that offers wide viewing angles, good color reproduction, great contrast and very high brightness levels. The Kindle Fire HDX 7 is a great tablet for watching movies, reading books or newspapers, or simply browsing the Internet, even in bright light conditions, like when you are outdoors. From this point of view, this is a much better tablet than most of those we have tested in the past.
The Kindle Fire HDX 7 also has a good set of speakers. The audio quality is really good and, even if the speakers are not very loud, they don't distort any sound coming out. However, if you want to enjoy its full audio power, you should use a good set of headphones.
The biggest drawback of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 tablet we reviewed is the storage space available. We had the less potent model, with only 16GB of internal storage space. Out of that, only 10.79GB are available to the user, the rest being used by the operating system and the default apps bundled with it. As we mentioned before, the tablet doesn't include any SD slot, so you can't extend your storage space by adding an SD card either. If you think about the fact that the tablet itself offers a Full HD screen and hardware to match it, it's obvious that you'll want to use it for watching media files in 1080p resolution. Such HD files tend to be very big: we're speaking about more than a few GBs for each file. Having only 10GB of free space means you might be able to store only one or two movies on the tablet's internal space, besides the basic apps you'll want to install. As such, if you intend on buying the Kindle Fire HDX 7, we strongly recommend you to choose one of the 32GB or even the 64GB variants.
The Kindle Fire HDX 7 offers a front facing camera, but no rear one. The camera is capable of shooting pictures and capturing videos at 720p, and it's clear that it was designed only for video calls. If you want to take selfies, we don't recommend you do that, unless you're going to be satisfied by pictures with a noisy look and with somewhat dull colors.
In terms of performance, Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7 simply rocks. The powerful quad-core 2.2 GHz CPU combined with the 2GB of RAM memory and the fast Adreno 330 video chip are unstoppable. Everything runs smoothly: the tablet itself boots in no time, the apps load instantly, watching Full HD videos is a stutter free experience, browsing the web is a real pleasure and multi-tasking is something that feels natural on this tablet. There are no lags whatsoever. We were very happy with the performance the Kindle Fire HDX 7 offers.
When it comes to its battery life, the Kindle Fire HDX 7 doesn't have any problem lasting for a day under normal use. If you're a light user, you might even charge it every couple of days or so. However, in intensive processing tasks like watching movies or playing games, we managed to use it only for 4 to 5 hours, which is still enough for you to watch an entire movie, check your email and browse a few pages on the Internet before actually charging the tablet.
What we loved mostly about Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7 tablet is the strong hardware it packs and the beautiful display. The tablet is fast and responsive no matter what you ask it to do. However, there are two things that would have made us like the tablet even more: a rear camera and a GPS sensor on the WiFi only model.
Fire OS 4.5.4 & Bundled Apps
The Kindle Fire HDX 7 we reviewed used Amazon's Fire OS 4.5.4, an operating system forked from Android. However, the original Android went through so many customizations that it's no longer recognizable.
Fire OS offers a user interface designed to be as simple as possible. This is a good thing, and we must admit we like it. However, Amazon also stripped the original Android of all the customization options. You can't customize your device, even if you wanted to. You're stuck with what Amazon had in mind to give you and that's pretty much it.
The interface used by Fire OS is created by Amazon, for Amazon users. It promotes content available through the Amazon Appstore, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon Bookstore and so on. The home screen features a carousel with the apps (or other content) you recently accessed, and a grid of your favorite apps pinned under it.
On the top of the interface you have a toolbar that offers links for Search, Shop, Games, Apps, Books, Music, Videos, Newsstand, Audiobooks, Web, Photos and Docs. Also, similarly to Android, if you slide from the top of the screen you can access some quick settings and your notifications.
When it comes to the apps bundled with the Kindle Fire HDX 7, Amazon followed the same minimalist philosophy and didn't preinstall many apps. By default, you get the following apps:
- Calculator - a simple calculator app.
- Calendar - a calendar & agenda app.
- Camera - lets you take photos or capture videos with the front facing camera. Interestingly enough, it also offers plenty of editing options for the photos you take.
- Clock - a minimalistic clock & alarm app.
- Contacts - lists all your contacts.
- Email - an email app that works well and looks quite nice.
- FreeTime - is in fact a "parent controls" feature. You can use this app to create profiles for your kids. Then, you can select the content that they will be able to use on your Kindle Fire HDX 7 tablet.
- Goodreads on Kindle - lets you connect with the Goodreads community, follow friends and see what they are reading. You can also share and rate books you read on your Kindle Fire HDX 7.
- Help - offers help and guides for your Kindle Fire HDX 7 tablet. You can also use this app in order to contact Amazon for support.
- Instant Video - gives you access to Amazon's Instant Video services. You can buy and watch tons of movies and TV shows.
- Maps - a map viewer similar to Google Maps. However, we found this app to be rather useless as it only works if you are online. The Kindle Fire HDX 7 we reviewed has no 4G connectivity and no GPS sensors, so we really couldn't use Maps except when we had a working wireless connection.
- My Music - lets you browse and play your music.
- My Videos - lets you you browse and play videos.
- Shop Amazon - takes you to the Amazon website, where you can search for and buy almost anything you can think of.
- Silk Browser - is Amazon's browser app. We mostly liked this web browser: it runs well and it's pretty fast, probably also because of the powerful hardware inside the tablet. However, there is one thing we'd like improved in the future: the address bar and the tabs at the top are pretty large and are always taking space. These bars could be automatically hidden when you scroll on a website so that more space is left for the actual content.
- The Washington Post - is a newsreader for the renowned Washington Post daily newspaper.
- Weather - a simple app that offers weather predictions in an elegant manner.
- Wish List - takes you to your Wish List from your Amazon account.
We generally liked Fire OS, but it could be much better if Amazon would add at least some of the original Android customization options. We appreciate the simplicity of the user interface, but the carousel for example is taking too much space on the home screen - we would be better without it.
Performance In Benchmarks
With its 2.2GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM, Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7 is a powerful tablet. Knowing the specs is good, but it doesn't compare to seeing how the hardware fares in benchmarks. Because the Kindle Fire HDX 7 runs on Fire OS, which is in fact an Android at heart, we used the same benchmarking apps as we would have on any other Android device. So let's go see how it did:
The first thing we measure on any computing device is the CPU performance offered. To do that, we use Vellamo, one of the most popular benchmarking apps.
The first test is Vellamo Multicore, a benchmark that aims to measure the CPU performance when running multiple tasks simultaneously. The Kindle Fire HDX 7 managed to get 1873 points, which is a very high score.
Then, we moved on to measuring how well the CPU fares in single task operations. The Vellamo Metal test shows how a device will handle apps that don't know how to use more than one CPU core. Considering that many apps fall into this category, this is a very important test. Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7 got 1428 points. This score tells us that the tablet offers high levels of performance even when using a single CPU core.
A very important test when assessing a device, is its gaming performance. To measure it, we use GFXBench GL Benchmark. The tests we consider relevant in order to be able to correctly rank a device, are the Manhattan and T-Rex tests. We only take into consideration their offscreen versions, as that means they are run at a 1080p resolution, regardless of the native resolution of the tested device.
In the Manhattan test, the Kindle Fire HDX 7 managed to render 603 frames, which is a good result.
In the T-Rex test, Kindle Fire HDX 7 rendered 1267 frames. This score shows that the gaming performance offered by this tablet is good and you will be able to play any game available in the Amazon Appstore without issues.
The final thing we tested was the autonomy offered by the battery. As we already know, the Kindle Fire HDX 7 features a 4550 mAh lithium polymer battery. In normal use, the tablet managed to last us for a day and even more. But in order to get a more "scientific" result, we also used the Work battery life test offered by PCMark. The result Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7 got in this benchmark was a running time of about 7 hours and a half, which is decent but not astounding.
Where To Buy
Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7 is a great little tablet. We loved how fast it responds in whatever task you throw at it. The hardware is more than capable of sustaining any app or game in the Appstore. The design might not appeal to some, but if you like simplicity, you embrace the minimalist philosophy and you like angular designs, you'll also love this tablet. On the other hand, the user interface is not very friendly when it comes to offering you customization options and Amazon should add more apps to their Appstore. In the end, we believe the Kindle Fire HDX 7 is a good buy for anyone interested in Amazon and their services, and a really great buy if you are an Amazon Prime member.