For the longest time in Australia, the Amazon Kindle Fire has been the best content tablet you could never have. Amazon has figured out that there's a giant island on the bottom of the world, and will now start selling the Fire range of tablets online and in retail stores, and much more.
Kindle Fire HDX
The Kindle Fire range is pretty broad, but that's awesome, because it means we finally have great choices for really cheap tablets from the largest bookseller in the world. Amazon calls the new Fires HDX because the screens produce a higher resolution than that of HD. The screen on the 8.9-inch HDX for example is a whopping 2560x1600, with a pixel density of 339ppi. That's pretty crazy for a tablet. If you compare it to the 9.7-inch iPad Air where you get 264 pixels per inch, you start to see why it's impressive.
The Fire HDX models are made from a moulded magnesium body, which Amazon tweaked this year to get rid of the midframe, which makes the HDX (especially the 374-gram 8.9-inch version) feel incredibly light. For reference, a 10.1-inch iPad 4 weighs 653 grams — almost twice as much. The 8.9-inch HDX might be the most surprisingly lightweight tablet we've ever held (non-junk-plastic division).
In fact, “light” might be wrong — the weight was shaved to the point that it feels balanced. Meaning, holding it, you don’t feel really any uncomfortable pressure on your fingers as the tablet’s weight groans on them. It’s something you’ll enjoy holding one-handed, and that’s enough, sort of, to shrug off the ugly shock of plastic along the top of the rear panel.
The biggest weak point of the HD was probably the TI OMAP processors found in both models. They were just too slow. So for the HDX went with a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800. It, and the move to Jelly Bean 4.2.2, has Fire OS positively flying compared to the at-times sluggish performance from a year ago. It needed the boost, especially since the deceptively graphics-intensive carousel UI is still in place, only now with a bunch more pixels to push. To that end, it’s also upgraded to 2GB of RAM, up from 1GB.
The other massive, massive improvement is the buttons. You can actually find them now. Instead of the completely-flush buttons of the Fire HD, the HDX now has a circular power button on the left, and a volume rocker on the right They’re still recessed, but not in a way that makes them impossible to find in the dark, or even in the light if you don’t know where to look.
They’re bright, too — both have 400-nit light sources, which is good since some pixel-dense screens can be dimmer than you’d like. The viewing angles on the tablet seemed impressive at a glance, but the colour performance was the standout. Amazon claims it’s 100 per cent colour accurate (based on sRGB), and it’s kind of easy to believe. We really liked the colours on last year’s HD, but this year’s screens seem geniunely great.
For battery life, Amazon’s claiming 11 hours (up from 10 last year). That’s interesting given the upgraded screen resolutions and the accompanying brighter, 400-nit light (brighter light, more battery drain). Amazon says the efficiency comes from the efficient new panel it’s using — not unlike Sharp’s Igzo displays — that lets more light through the pixels, even at high densities. Reading mode uses even less power, and Amazon claims 17-hours of reading time thanks to optimised power states for the processor and memory.
The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX will set you back $479, while the 7-inch HDX will cost an impressive $329. That's pretty spectacular.
Both will be available from Big W and Dick Smith from December 10.
The retail stores will also sell the awesome Origami Covers, too.
Amazon will also trot out last-generation's Kindle Fire HD to the Australian market, making it $189 with a dual-core 1.5GHz processor under the hood to cater to the lower end of the market.
Australian Book Store
Amazon will also be opening an Australian Kindle e-book store, which is great for a bunch of reasons.
The Australian e-book store means Aussies will now be able to pay in Australian dollars for their titles, and also means that credit cards won't charge you international transaction fees for buying stuff from an overseas store.
There are 400,000 Kindle exclusive titles in the store, 700,000 titles under $3.99 and 1.4 million titles under $1.99. The store is now curated for great Australian content, too, so all your favourite Aussie authors should be there.
Amazon will also open up the Kindle Direct Publishing platform to Australians so that local authors can be paid in Australian dollars. Their titles can be listed on both Australian and international stores.
The only way this kind of sucks for you is if you're subscribed to international publications like newspapers or magazines in the Kindle International Stores. There are only a few thousand of those in the country, according to Amazon, but if you're one of them you'll have to weigh up which you prefer: Australian books or international subscriptions. Pro-tip: Go download Zinio on a tablet or smartphone if you have magazines you just can't let go of. It's a great app with awesome magazine subscription prices.
The big drawcard of the Kindle Fire range comes from the ability to hook into Amazon Instant Video and stream movies and TV shows on demand. It'd be a huge boon to content consumers if it landed here, but unfortunately, Amazon is still working on it.
That means the only thing you'll really be able to do on the Kindle Fire in Australia is read books, magazines and download apps from either the Amazon App Store or Google Play (provided you side-load the Play APK).
Will you be buying a Kindle Fire?
Eric Limer also contributed to this piece