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Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch is a good buy for avid readers

When the OS comes to life, the tweaks become so obvious. There are no grids here to navigate, just a carousel to flip through the apps and books.

Nandagopal Rajan | July 11, 2013 | Updated 16:27 IST

Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch
Rating: 4/5
Price: Rs 21,999

I have been a dedicated iPad user for a few years now. Though I have used Android tablets on and off, the operating systems never gives me the sense of security that iOS does. I have used Windows 8 on a tablet, but that experience is not differentiated from that of my regular Ultrabook.

So when Amazon finally decided to launch its Kindle Fire in India, I was desperate to try out the operating system which, though based on Android, is supposed to be very different.

My first takeaway of the Kindle Fire 8.9-incher was that it is a bit heavy. But it is a weight you can get used to. The device is also very minimal in design with just power and volume buttons on the device. The rear has a very rubbery matt feel that makes it very easy to handle. There is also a glossy band that cuts the rear, flanked by two speakers. On the front, the bezel is very prominent. Actually a bit too prominent.

One drawback of this this device is that fact that it does not have a rear camera. You feel this more when you are using apps that need you to take a picture. Try clicking a picture with the front camera and with just the screen to click. The front camera is good enough for Skype chats and there is nothing much you can and do with it beyond video chat.

Switch on the device and the screen clarity hits you. This is a HD screen (1920x1200p) and that is something hard to find in this price range. The sound quality is good and loud, especially in comparison to other tablets. But you will be able to appreciate the Dolby sound quality better with headphones.

It is a very easy tablet to set up and you just need an Amazon ID to tap into the many stores on offer. You will, however, need to link a credit card so that you can become the impulsive buyer that Amazon so likes.  

When the OS comes to life, the tweaks become so obvious. There are no grids here to navigate, just a carousel to flip through the apps and books you have downloaded. This is a welcome change from all the other operating systems, but I can't come to think of the predicament when you have accumulated hundreds of apps and books on this 32GB device.

The app shelf on Kindle Fire

But then the carousel is a fluid interface and you can just flip through the apps. The last app you used is always the first on the list and you have the option of pinning apps as favourites as well. In vertical orientation, under each app appears a list of apps that are similar. On top of the carousel is a strip of tabs that give one click access to a host of things from apps to photos and music. This is also where you find the Web tab, which opens up the browser to offer a tabbed browsing experience that is really fast.

Click the apps and it shows the app shelf. On the top right is the access to the Amazon app store. This is the really good thing about Kindle. After a lot of disappointing apps store, Amazon's comes across as one that has all the best apps around. This could be because this is one of the most monetised app stores and every developer worth his money has his app here. Except for a bunch of apps that are exclusive to iOS, there is hardly anything you can't find here. But we also failed to find apps that are exclusive to this store.

The carousel view of Kindle Fire

The real USP of this, and any, Kindle device has to be the access to the largest collection of books in the world. The Kindle Fire too syncs with you books almost as soon as you log in. You have the option of downloading only those books, and apps, that you need on the device from the cloud.

The books also sync between multiple devices. So Dan Brown's 'Inferno' showed the same page on this tablet as well as the Kindle Paperwhite. The Kindle apps on my iPhone and iPad too have the same page. It is this seamless ability to read books that sets Kindle apart. Plus, the tablet offers you much more features that the e-reader the most significant being colour.

There are those who say it is tough to read books with the 16:9 screen ratio and I have to agree. It is even tougher to hold a tablet that weighs over half a kilogram for long hours. Another small issue is that the battery takes ages to charge - in fact, almost four hours for a full charge. On the flip side, it easily gives you over 10 hours of juice.

The book view on Kindle Fire

So, who would want to buy it? I guess it would make sense for those who need a curated Android experience.

The apps are all Android, but a lot of the unwanted stuff has been kept out of the Amazon store. Plus, it also gives you a very different experience compared to the other operating systems. Then, if you are an avid reader, maybe already a Kindle user, then this tablet will make good sense for you.

It is worth buying, provided you are okay with standing away from the pack.

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