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.
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...
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.