What is the Fire HDX?
Design & Connections
Origami Case for Kindle Fire mini Review
Fire HDX 8.9 16GB WiFi Specification
Fire OS 4 Sangria
Fire HDX Sideload Apps
In all honesty, however, this doesn’t give us anything like the level of customisability we’re used to with the Android OS. Sangria is a forked version of Android 4.4.2 so shares lots of what’s good about the OS while, with the other hand, strangling its diverse capabilities because of the lack of available apps. There are perfectly legitimate ways to get apps outside of the scope of the Amazon store, however, with the caveat that we’re only talking about free ones! There are a number of third party app stores you can put on the HDX and there are plenty of organisations who make their .apk’s freely available to download through a browser so you might just find all your key apps are available. Out of my twenty, or so, most used Android apps, there was only one that wouldn’t run. You can also use something like Airdroid to extract apps from your other Android devices and plonk them on the Fire HDX or hook up directly to a PC, via USB, for any you have stored on there. We’ll not get in to pushing apps using ADB from terminal commands as there should be enough there for you!
Freetime, Firefly & Silk Browser
For me, these are the three standout features of Fire OS 4. Freetime is an excellent way to personalise the HDX for all the family – in particular the kids. You can allocate which apps, and what content, is available to each user very easily and it works far better than Android’s native profiles features in keeping things water tight. Firefly is something totally different and, actually its capabilities took us by something of a surprise. It basically will listen to music, TV shows and movies and then attempt to identify the content but it does so with an uncanny accuracy. We first tested it out watching Charlie Brookers’ Weeklywipe on BBC 2 and Firefly identified it within a matter of five seconds, or so, and so the pattern followed with pretty much everything else we tried. With movies and TV, a link to the IMDb webpage is also provided and, in all cases, if the content is available to buy through Amazon, you can bet Firefly will let you know. The Silk Browser is a definite rival to Apple’s Safari, too, in how it’s been optimised for the Fire HDX. It really is silky smooth and, for the most part, incredibly quick to load web pages whilst also featuring an easy-on-the eye reading mode and several other genuinely useful, if not unique, features. We certainly favoured the Silk experience over our usual preference to Chrome on Android so it has to be doing something right.
Can you Root the Fire HDX 8.9?
This is not something we would do with a review sample, in any case, but for those looking to harness the power and finesse of the HDX whilst obtaining a less Amazon-centric environment, the answer is, ‘it depends.’ Amazon clearly isn’t keen on the idea of the end-user escaping their clutches and the latest software update - 4.5.3 - has no exploit at the moment. Even if you are in a software version that can be rooted, developer support is lacking and there’s not much in the way of Custom ROMs, and the like, available but it might be worth it for some to change the launcher alone. I’m an Amazon Prime customer, at present, and even for me the pushing of Amazon content is too much so it’s something I would definitely consider if were my money on the line. Just a tweak here and there would be enough. The usual warnings that rooting your device will invalidate warranty and may leave you with a bricked unit apply, of course!
Fire HDX 8.9 Video Review
Fire HDX 8.9 4th Gen Display & Camera
Audio & Bluetooth
Bluetooth performance was also impressive, with support for 4.0 so energy consumption was very low when streaming audio and we had no trouble getting the HDX 8.9 to deliver FLAC content to a media renderer using a UPnP app. Unfortunately, there’s no aptX support so it didn’t sound as good as might have but it was very good, nonetheless. For those interested, we were able to sideload Bubble UPnP without any issues but unfortunately we can’t say the same for Tidal which crashed once it went past the intro screens. Still, for those with a lot of lossless audio stored locally, or on networked devices, the news is good. We might just contact Tidal to see if they have plans to get it up on the Amazon App store! One thing we don’t like is the fact that there is no dedicated shortcut to the Bluetooth settings from the drag-down settings menu so you’re forced to navigate to the Wireless & VPN settings when you need to pair/un-pair a device; Amazon should really look at that
Fire HDX 8.9 Battery Life
Benchmarking tests aren’t the be-all and end-all, of course, but we can report that the impressive scores achieved by the Fire HDX were reflected in day to day performance. Switching between apps was generally an instantaneous process and scrolling through screens was fluid, with little to no screen tearing or judder. The Fire HDX 8.9 is also a great choice for tablet gamers and putting it through its paces with the likes of Beach Buggy Racing and Minion Rush proved it was well able to handle fast paced action whilst maintaining framerates without tearing or slowdown.
- Superb screen
- So light to handle
- Extremely snappy processing
- Solid audio output
- Great battery life
- Too Amazon content heavy
- Mediocre camera
- No expandable storage
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Tablet Review
Should I buy the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9
The more I’ve used the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9, the more I’ve grown to appreciate it. If you can get over the Amazon content heavy interface and work around its apparent limitations on the Android operating system, you’ll be rewarded with high-grade performance, based on premium specifications backed up by an OS that has some genuinely useful unique features. The design is mostly great – save for some awkward side-mounted buttons – and incredibly light in the hand(s), whilst the screen is fairly glorious, in terms of colour, contrast and clarity.
The audio output is also impressive, via both the headphone jack and Bluetooth, while the stereo speakers are decent enough, if naturally lacking in low end extension. You can even listen to Dolby Atmos encoded content via your headphones, thanks to built-in spatial audio processing. Battery life is also excellent and it recharges pretty quickly as well. Aside from our gripes over the Amazon-centric UI, the only other real weak point would be in the camera performance, especially the 8MP rear facing option, which lack quality sensors and can really only be effective in (near) perfect light.
Personally, I would have absolutely no issues in the Fire HDX 8.9 being my everyday tablet but then I am an Amazon Prime customer, which certainly helps with the overall experience, but I would still certainly countenance it, if I weren’t. At £329, we would definitely consider it good value for what’s on offer but you would need to weigh up how it would suit your needs before committing. In any event, the Fire HDX definitely merits an AVForums Recommended Award and higher if you’re in the Prime gang!
What Else could I Consider?
For these kind of premium specifications, you’re going to need to look up the foodchains of the various tablet manufacturers out there. In terms of display and lightness, the obvious alternative would be the Apple iPad Air or Air 2, with the outgoing model still available at comparable prices to the Fire HDX, whilst the 16GB Air 2 WiFi is priced around £400 – still it does have a bigger display and lots more easily available apps to choose from. For the Android experience, we would suggest perhaps looking at the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 which, again, carries a similar price to the HDX 8.9 but brings the goodness of OLED to the table.
You can buy the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 here.
Email, Browsing, Calendar, Contacts
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.