Kindle Fire HD Australian Review: Not Fit To Travel

Kindle has been a by-word for "top notch e-reader" for as long as the devices have been shipping internationally from US mega-retailer Amazon. When it comes to the Kindle Fire — Amazon's discount 7-inch tablet — the tune changes into something drastically different. We've been living with the Kindle Fire HD and we can confidently tell you that you should avoid this beautiful piece of hardware at all costs.

What Is It?

A 7-inch Kindle tablet that will give you access to all of Amazon's music, movie, TV, book and magazine content, provided you live in the USA or can trick the tablet to think that you do. You can snag it from Amazon for $US199 — provided you can use a third-party shipping service to get it here, or you can get it (like we did, ours) from Readershop.com.au for $329.


It runs a dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex A9 processor with 1GB of RAM and packs a forked (read: heavily modified) version of Android. It's also worth noting that it's Wi-Fi-only, not like the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 which supports LTE...in America.

What's Good?

Make no mistake: the Kindle Fire HD is a terrific piece of hardware. It's a sleek, black unit with a rubber-finished back, a beautifully vibrant 7-inch, 1280x800 screen and a weight that won't tire out your arm when you're reading on the couch, the beach or by the pool. The screen still works in direct sunlight and reading books on the device is a pleasure thanks to the great design and direct links into arguably the best ebook store ever.

You'll be reading until the cows come home too with the Fire HD's massive battery. Standby time is just as impressive. We've been reviewing this thing for about a month and only now is it crying out for a charge.

Sadly, reading books is probably the only thing you'll be doing on the Kindle Fire HD in Australia...

What's Bad?

Lots.

Because Amazon isn't offering most of the content you buy the Kindle Fire HD to enjoy in Australia, you're not going to get a lot out of it beyond reading books. That makes it a super-expensive e-reader. Movies, videos, TV shows, magazines and music from Amazon? None of them work.


Out of the box, the Kindle Fire HD will serve you US ads (sorry, "Special Offers") telling you how good AT&T is or inviting you to sign up for a Discover card. You can turn it off for a fee, but it's another sign that this device isn't meant for you.

Also, because the Kindle Fire is running a forked version of Android, it doesn't come with the Google Play store out of the box. You'll have to side-load the store if you want access to it, and if you don't, you're out of luck for apps altogether because the Amazon App Store doesn't work in Australia. What a mess.

Finally, the gorgeous design of the device is let down by the gargantuan bezel surrounding the 7-inch screen. Pants to that.

Should You Buy It?

Haven't you been listening? Absolutely not.

Yes, it's a beautiful piece of hardware. It's light, functional and brighter than the competition, but there are too many things on it that are rendered unusable due to geography. It's not that Amazon hates Australia, it's just tough to get cross-border licensing agreements sorted out, so it's easier not to offer content here, rather than get sued for doing so.

The only way this tablet makes sense is if you travel between Australia and the US constantly, or find a way to make the tablet think you're in the US, which takes some doing (including having a valid US address and US bank account).

For the cash you'll spend importing the Kindle Fire HD or buying it from a place like Readershop, you can get yourself a Nexus 7 or even an iPad mini with change to spare for content that actually works in Australia. If you're desperate to give Amazon your money for books, though, go buy the Kindle Paperwhite. It's a pure e-reader from Amazon, rather than a device loaded with stuff you can't use.


Comments

    What I find most depressing about this is that there really is no Australian alternative to Amazon's content platform.

    There are a few that come close, but I want one that provides all the media I need and does it well.

      Maybe for books, but Amazon doesn't touch the amount of music and apps on iTunes.

        The issue with iTunes is that it is locked to Apple devices and PCs. A good content platform should be ubiquitous.

        You can get Amazon Instant Video for your iPhone, Kindle Fire and even Xbox.

          You're kidding yourself if you think ANY company will allow cross platform ubiquity. Its business. No device allows that, not even a kindle. iTunes/iDevices. Google play, locked to Android devices. Amazon locked to kindle devices. On a computer you can access almost everything.

            Not even a kindle? I disagree...

            For Windows 8: http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-us/app/kindle/1d7e4396-0143-4aed-8892-84eb75e799f3
            Mac App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/kindle/id405399194?mt=12
            For iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kindle-read-books-ebooks-magazines/id302584613?mt=8
            For Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.amazon.kindle&hl=en
            For Windows Phone: http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/amazon-kindle/48195fb4-ee0e-e011-9264-00237de2db9e

            That is the kind of ubiquity that I want, but I want it to extend beyond books. Amazon can do it because they aren't primarily a hardware company.

      I'm new to the pros and cons of various e-readers. What is the issue with amazon as a content provider in Australia? does it rule out buying a kindle in favour of another e-reader?

        Amazon in Australia just does books (unless they added more since I last checked)

      Android, itunes, isyncr, spotify, kindle and Nook apps = Awesome. I was an apple hardware user and now i have the best of everything.

    If you’re desperate to give Amazon your money for books, though, go buy the Kindle Paperwhite.
    Which is also not available in Australia I thought?
    Although I suppose the issues the Fire has with that are not the same as the Paperwhite.

    "What a mess". Why is it a mess? Amazon doesn't make it any of the content available in Australia, so that's the only reason it's "a mess". Fair enough, you can criticise it for that - although you go on to explain why it doesn't make anything available for us.

    If it were selling the device in Australia, then I'd agree with you. But it not only doesn't Amazon sell it here, it actively tries to stop you from buying it, so it's not a particularly fair criticism.

    So...

    "Australian reporter surprised that device not made for Australia and not officially sold in Australia and not recommended by its manufacturers for use in Australia doesn't work well in Australia."

    ZOMG WFT STOP THE PRESSES!

    Last edited 23/11/12 3:24 pm

    I thought Kogan was selling this?..

    Yup.. right here:
    http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/amazon-kindle-fire-hd-7-16gb-android-tablet/

    For a lot less than you guys apparently paid for it.

    Also.. wasn't one of Amazon's press releases saying that they don't mind if you root the device and turn it into a standard tablet? So taking that into account, would it be worth getting for $229 (Kogan price) and just rooting it?

    So if I am interested in simply buying an e-reader for the sole purpose of reading e-books, what model/brand would people suggest for Australia?

      This article is based on the Kindle Fire range, which has a colour screen and is more like a tablet. The key issue is that most of the content you would want this device for isn't available in Australia.
      The Kindle (not the Fire) is actually quite a capable e-reader wherever you live. You can still buy e-books from the Amazon store, but you can also easily sideload your own books from your computer onto the device.
      The new Kindle Paperwhite has a high resolution screen and an innovative lighting system, but the standard Kindle is cheaper and has buttons rather than a touchscreen input. Personally, I prefer the side buttons for turning pages on an e-reader, so I would recommend a standard kindle. You can pick them up fairly easily in Australia.

      Seems people here are more interested in sniping and bitchin' rather than answer a noobs question. Anyways, Gavin: I have never owned one and am probably going to get one today - thus the research I am trying to do. I'm getting the impression that a good basic unit is the Kindle 6" with WiFi. Price is about $120 from various stores (Dick Smith, Big W).

    I like seeing Luke's mug being reflected off the Kindle in the first picture.

    Thanks to the internet, jpg's, 2 downloadable algorithms and Autocad, i've managed to generate a rough 3 dimensional map of Luke Hopewell's house XD

    Apparently it's the same technique Navy Seals used to find Bin Laden.

    Last edited 23/11/12 9:56 pm

    I believe there is one thing the Kindle Fire can do here in Australia that no other Android device can: read 'Print Replica' Kindle ebooks. These are available only on Kindle Fire, iPad, Windows PC and Mac - which is incredibly frustrating for me as I'm a Linux user (who uses the Google Chrome Kindle Cloud reader to read the text books I've purchased on my PC) and an Android tablet owner. What this boils down to is that there are textbooks I can't actually display while I'm in the OS I work in and my tablet which is otherwise wonderful is no help. I don't really want to buy a second tablet purely to display ebooks so I can refer to them while I'm working but equally I don't want to accumulate a library of paper books as I travel and will likely relocated a few times in the next few years.

    Last edited 24/11/12 9:55 pm

    This review says that if you have a valid US address and bank account you can trick the device to think its in the US. I have both an address and bank account, but would I incur roaming fees by using the content in Australia?

    I'm living in the US and about to return permanently to Australia and researching Kindle Fire vs mini iPad vs PaperWhite. I'll keep a US bank account and can keep a US address. I'm now confused about how I'd access books, apps etc from Australia in my scenario. Can someone explain or outline best choice of the three? I don't need music, movies but would like books and magazines in colour. I've also heard that hidemyass.com is good for getting a US proxy to fool amazon - does this work?

    If I have an address in America and an American bank account., can I buy this and I can use all the features in Australia? ...

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