Review: Kindle Fire HD screen is a big improvement

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Some aspects about the Kindle Fire HD sounded great but couldn’t be tested in the short time that Amazon gave reporters to try out the devices Thursday.

For instance, it was impossible to tell whether Kindle Fire HD’s two antennas made its performance in Wi-Fi noticeably faster than the latest iPad or Google’s Nexus 7. Also unknown was whether its promised 11-hour battery life held up for real.

In handling the device, though, I found that video played well and images looked sharp. But it was not as responsive as I would have liked. It seemed to lag when swiping through pictures or through the news feed on the custom-built Facebook app.

There was no app that independently controlled the front-facing camera, which is new to the Kindle Fire HD. The Facebook picture I took with the device turned out upside down, even though the camera was clearly meant to be at the top of the device when held in landscape mode. Amazon’s representatives said the camera was mainly for use with a Skype app made for the device.

People looking to buy a new tablet might be able to overlook these minor annoyances because of the sharper screen.

Ultimately, the decision to buy a Kindle Fire HD could be determined by the array of content that comes with the device if you join the $79 annual free-shipping program known as Amazon Prime.

Amazon has made plenty of big investments lately that make Prime a more compelling offer. On Tuesday, it announced a deal with the Epix pay TV channel that allows Prime members to watch 2,000 movies like “The Avengers” and “The Hunger Games” for free, on top of some 23,000 movies and TV shows it had already.

Prime members can also “borrow” books from the Kindle Owners Lending Library, including all seven “Harry Potter” books, for no extra charge.

Backstage at Thursday’s news conference, CEO Jeff Bezos said in an interview that the company has been investing hundreds of millions of dollars in digital content for Amazon Prime.

“Licensing `Harry Potter’? Not inexpensive,” he said with a belly laugh.

It’s that kind of investment in content, paired with a device that can show video in HD, that I think could open a lot of wallets this holiday season.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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