Kindle Fire HDX.

Amazon's third try at a tablet takes things to the next level — provided you're an Amazon customer or want to be one

Amazon has a long history with Android, delivering a Kindle tablet that mostly runs it for the last three years. Now we're not going to pretend that the Kindle Fire line is yet another Android tablet — either good or bad — because Amazon takes things to the extreme when it comes to making Android into something we never thought it would be.

We know that it's not cool to appreciate what Amazon is doing here, but we can't help that we do. Amazon has taken the open-source component called Android, added in many hours of work and love, and delivered a set of devices that fit perfectly into their ecosystem.

If you're looking for an Android tablet, go read the Nexus 7 review, or the new Tegra Note may be more your style. But if you want a device that works as a portal to a ton of great content from a name you already know, keep reading. 

Buy the Kindle Fire HDX 7

Buy the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9

Some quick talk about the devices 

Kindle Fire HDX.

We're not going to spend a lot of time here. In a nutshell, either of the new Kindle Fire tablets will do anything and everything available for them to do from Amazon with ease, and you'll enjoy doing it because it's done so well. They excel at consuming the content Amazon has to offer, and do it better than any other tablet out there. If you're an Amazon customer for music, video, books or even just a Prime member, this tablet is for you. Forget an iPad, or a Nexus, or a Galaxy, or whatever Nokia is pushing out. For an Amazon customer, the Kindle Fire line is the bomb. 

Kindle Fire HDX.  Kindle Fire HDX

They can do the things they do so well because Amazon has packed some pretty high-end components into them. A quad-core 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, Dolby audio, dual-band MIMO Wifi and a complete array of sensors running a fully optimized custom build of Android make them some of the highest specified tablets available. Paired with the best screens we've seen on a tablet — a 1920 x 1200 323ppi screen on the 7-inch version and a 2560 x 1600 339ppi screen on the 8.9-inch version; and both are spectacularly bright and vivid — make both Kindle Fire HDX tablets perfect for watching video, listening to music, and reading eBooks — as long as they're from Amazon.

Kindle Fire HDX.  Kindle Fire HDX.

Kindle Fire HDX.  Kindle Fire HDX.

Regular readers will know, but neither of these tablets have any Google services on-board. Amazon has a budding app store for any Android device, and the apps offered for the new Kindles are fully optimized and vetted for proper performance, but the quantity, and sometimes quality, pales when compared to Google Play.

If you're looking for a "regular" Android tablet, with full access to all of Google's services and apps, you should look elsewhere. If you're entrenched in the Amazon world of books, movies, music and apps, you're in for a treat.

Video review

The Fires are built really nicely. A mix of glass, soft-touch plastic and glossy piano-black plastic combine with well-engineered fine lines to make the tablets comfortable to hold and use. Extremely light — 303g for the 7-inch and 374g for the 8.9-inch — and well balanced, both devices are easy to hold while watching a long movie or reading a few hundred pages of a novel. Being very thin and very light makes quite a bit of difference, and both models are suitable for one-hand holding.

Kindle Fire HDX.

The only real issue I have with the way they are designed and put together is the fact that there is no oleophobic coating of any kind on any of the surfaces. Every time you touch them, whether it be on the front or on the back, you'll leave smears, smudges, and fingerprints. They seem easy to wipe away, but unless you're using your new Kindle with cotton gloves you'll need to get used to seeing the greasy smear that nobody wants to see when the screen is off or showing something predominately black. We expected this from the soft-touch coating on the rear — it's the same material used on the 2013 Nexus 7 or the Nexus 5, but the glass also seems to be a bit of what we call a fingerprint magnet.

We can get past that. You probably can, too. The good news is that you can use your new Kindle to hit up Amazon for a nice micro-fiber cleaning cloth or mitt. In fact, Amazon would love nothing more than just that.

Kindle Fire HDX.

No conspiracy theories here. These tablets are made of the finest components money can buy, and are dirt cheap. They're basically locked into Amazon's ecosystem unless you want to fool with custom firmware (I would point you towards the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 for that instead), so the whole goal of the Kindle line is to get you to spend money at Amazon. In fact, unless you want to spend an extra few dollars to remove them, each device comes with "special offers" displayed on the lock screen and they will be the first thing you see every time you pick your tablet up.

This causes more than a little bit of outrage. As someone who already spends way too much money at Amazon, and always interested in a special deal or savings, they don't bother me. In fact, I find them useful because I would have looked at Amazon's deal pages anyway. More is better in my book. But you may feel differently, and I get it. Spend the extra $15 and have them removed instead of screaming at an Internet that can't do anything about it. Amazon isn't going to change it, and it's easy for you to do yourself.

Kindle Fire HDX.

Spending your money on Amazon content isn't a bad thing. Neither is it being easy, though your wallet may not agree. Amazon has included a suite of easy to use one-click portals to get the content you need pushed right to your Kindle. Full access to the complete Kindle store, the Amazon app store, the Amazon music store, and Amazon instant video are great ways to entice us to click and add it to the plastic. Instant gratification is a big draw, and this is another thing Amazon has figured out how to do better than anyone else. Using Google Play or iTunes was never this easy, and the individual stores are well laid out, filled with enticing graphics, and just beg to be clicked.

Kindle Fire HDX.  Kindle Fire HDX.

Kindle Fire HDX.  Kindle Fire HDX.

Another great feature that Amazon has included is called Mayday. With one-click, you can summon a specially trained Amazon customer service representative who will appear in a small window to chat with you and help answer any questions you have about your new Kindle. I've done it three times, with easy questions about setting up a new Wifi AP, changing the screen timeout, and checking the app store for application updates, but the reps asked not to be on camera each time. They can't see you or what you're doing (especially with a bit of duct tape over the cameras — something that turned out to be completely unnecessary) but I respected their wishes. They have a hard enough job without goofy bloggers filming them when they don't want to be filmed. 

Kindle Fire HDX.

Each time, the representatives were polite, helpful and friendly. It's clearly something geared towards users who aren't savvy about tablets or Android in general, and it's important for the folks at Amazon doing it to be kind and helpful. Mayday turns the Kindle into a device you can wrap up and give to your mom on Christmas, without worrying that you'll get a phone call on New Year's with problems. I fully expect other tablet manufacturers to pick up on this, and if they don't, shame on them.

Should I buy one?

Kindle Fire HDX.

That's going to depend on what you're looking for in a tablet. If you want something that has access to all the cool apps and Android features we talk about here at AC daily, then no — the Kindle Fire HDX is not for you. On the other hand, if you want a simple, yet elegant portal to a rich content library — and don't mind that it's Amazons — then you should definitely grab one. 

Chances are you fall somewhere in the middle. 

You can use one of the new Kindles to do your reading if you don't mind Amazon's DRM on Kindle books (get the 8.9-inch model, because the screen displays text extra-sharp). If you're a Prime member or like to rent video from Amazon, the new Fires are a great way to see everything Amazon has to offer. Likewise with music or Audible books. I'm not kidding when I say Amazon does it better. 

What you probably won't like as much is the app store. Action and 3D games in particular are few and far between, and Amazon doesn't seem to attract the great indie developers that Google Play does. 

Finally, if you have a special someone who just wants a great tablet to get online and isn't a technology buff, Amazon's MayDay feature makes this a compelling idea for a gift. 

In my house, we're Amazon customers. We have had every iteration of the Kindle Fire, and my wife and I think these are the best ones yet.


Reader comments

Kindle Fire HDX review


I am pretty sure u can hack it to run Android like u could on the other ones before. And the mayday button is probably great but only if the mayday person on the other end is AMY.

Posted via Android Central App

why would u do that when u can buy a Nexus and install amazon apps without hacking...

one thing i learn about custom rom is you are always on beta testing unless u have Nexus,

Nexus is the only device which get stable custom rom quicker than any device out there..

thanks to my old hp touchpad i learned my lesson

They don't have root much less a KitKat ROM. That makes any hardware advantage mute imo. There are three total threads in Dev section on XDA and a root rumor in General lol

Well honestly now. That hardware beats nexus and honestly kit kat isn't such a big software upgrade. Ever since ice cream sandwich all the software isn't so much different. Yes a few things but it isn't really like dos to windows xp or xp to windows 7 or windows 7 to 8. Just nothing that of a jump. So yeah getting a much better hardware device and putting any kinda ROM from android 4. And up is pretty much a no brainer.

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4.4 is actually a pretty big update. Most of it is behind the scenes updates and optimizations, but it really does seem to breathe new life into my older devices which have it installed. Not to mention, that unless you root the Kindle, you can't install Google apps. (Including YouTube, which is a huge negative not to have for me)

Posted from the awesome new Nexus 7

Yes but I mentioned if u root it u get much better hardware then any nexus and in fact almost every other tablet for the price of a nexus.

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The problem is: The developers have not found a security hole to gain root access. As of this morning, there IS NO ROOT for the HDX.

Android 4.4 is a huge improvement. its all under the hood. and even with those rom, hardware acceleration and camera wont work. what good is hardware when hardware acceleration wont work

Well what good it is? If everything would work "Perfect" then ppl wouldn't have anything to complain about. And we don't won't that to ever happen. Lol. Bitching and complaining is just what it is all about. Lol without it ppl wouldn't be happy.

Posted via Android Central App

it may not look much different, but it run so much smoother. my battery last 4 times long and my device isn't freezing up. I have 200+ apps, and my nexus 7 is the middle man between all of my devices. It is always running multiple tasks. With KitKat it manages multitasking so much better.

If you are an Amazon Prime customer, having one of the Kindle family gets you the Kindle Lending Library which is only available on Kindle devices. For those who read alot, that is a big plus.

Any app that is not in Amazons app store, I sideload from the Bluestack's program I run just for that purpose. It gives me access to Google Play with a minimum of steps and works fine.

Kindle Fire is a great device for those already using the digital services on Amazon. It's kind of like a walled garden with an open gate.

For those who read a lot - you might as well skip this motivation. You get one lousy book a month...

So does pressing Mayday give you face time with a hot redhead?

Posted via Android Central App and Droid Mini

This is my question, exactly.

Knowing my luck, I'll end up chatting with a hot blonde named Bob, lol.

Posted via Android Central App

You act like that is a bad thing.

I knew a decent looking blonde, Roberta was worth some facetime

Don't forget about kindle freetime. It's a monthly subscription plan that let's your kids have access to whatever games and books you let them have access to.

Posted via Android Central App

That's the thing, it is like ios in one respect to me, sure great tablet screen, processor.... But then ur still stuck with a horrible disgusting operating system called ios or mojito or whatever its called. I'm a pirate and these OS could never do what I need!

Posted via Android Central App

"We know that it's not cool to appreciate what Amazon is doing here..."

Jerry, I'm not a fan of Amazon (long story short, had a bad customer service experience, choose not to shop there anymore) but I'm not going to hate on the Kindle Fire. For Amazon fans, it provides a pretty incredible value!

I love Amazon, but I have almost no integration with their services, so I've always shied from Kindles.

Decisions, decisions. I love Amazon's products and services, but I'm also, for a person who's never rooted before, an Android power user and fanboy.

I've always liked the Fire, but the N7 is calling my name, so eyeballing my first future tablet is no easy task.

Posted via Android Central App and Droid Mini

My wife went out and bought the original Kindle fire for herself after playing with one her friend received as a gift.
She Loved it, Great battery life. Good performance, but occasionally froze.
The device was starting to fall behind in specs, and she was having trouble playing games that advanced beyond the KF capabilities.
I pre-ordered the new HDX for her because I knew she is happy with the platform.
Total surprise, I didn't tell her. She got the mail, thought it was a DVD!
Yes she is very happy with the device. Nice Upgrade.

I was able to get my wife to switch to the prior Fire model this past summer. (I grew tired of dealing with the paperback books piling up around the house). I do find the screen freeze-up to be annoying and wonder if the new hardware has fixed that. Oh, and how about a decent 3rd party browser option? (Her 2 biggest complaints) She won't let me side load anything so that isn't an option.

Amazon should send us a new Kindle gratis. Good Heavens this woman buys a lot of books now. I'm sure Amazon loves her. LOL

she has had it for several weeks now. Hasn't froze.
Instead, the app just "Force closes "Not a frequent occurrence.
She has the 7" HDX device.
Micro USB port it tricky. Hopefully durable.

Jerry, it has been for the past two years not three. This is the third iteration of the Fire, but the first one was released exactly two years ago.

Why bother locking yourself into a single brand for all your content? It doesn't make any sense and you shouldn't be recommending these devices to anyone. Even if you have plenty of Amazon content, you'd still be better of getting a Nexus tablet and just downloading the Kindle app.

I bought the nexus 7 wifi version and have been waiting *ages* for the lte version (on verizon)....side by side this device is as good if not better than the nexus, and it works on all the carriers.......only drawback for me is the app store, but i really am very ready to buy one anyway. Thanks for the great review

Because you can't use Amazon Prime on any Android devices, that's why. For pure media/content consumption, the combination of a Kindle and Amazon Prime membership can't be beat. Period.

I'll buy one if I get to chat with Amy all the time. Other than that, no, I would never buy one. I don't like the idea of being stuck with all things Amazon.


I'm almost certain I'm going to grab one of these for Christmas but I'm torn on screen size. I already have a Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Keyboard, and Amazon Prime, so I don't think I'll be doing much reading on a Fire, save for maybe magazines and graphic novels/comics. Having used both, which size would you recommend?

Why even do a review on this thing? This is an Android device forum. I say if Amazon wants to lock down their device to the point it is only useful on the Amazon ecosystem then they should not get any review/advertising. Leave that crap for Engadget. That whole concept of "special offers" is the most bullshit idea I have seen yet.

Posted via Android Central App

Can you use the chromecast with any of the amazon products?

Prime video or music?

I'm all in with Kindle eBooks and Amazon video, so I've been curious if it integrates with other Google products.

Posted via Android Central App

its not possible with kindle. and there is no google google product on kindle. not even youtube

You can easily browse to the youtube website on a kindle. Just because there is no app doesn't mean you can't access youtube.

I had a kindle 8.9 2gen, but returned it last week because it kept freezing up. How is this new one and freezing?

Posted via Android Central App

My wife loves her hdx..reads like a book a day and its a great tablet if your main kicks are reading, facebook and general surfing... I'll back Jerry up and reiterate how smooth everything ties together...yes you can just get a nexus 7 and use the app (its what I do). But the Fire interface really is tight..I never get can questions or complaints that she's stuck or can't figure something the saying goes happy wife .....
I'll also say after seeing the hdx screen I HAD to update to the 2013 Nexus :)

(Posted on my Nexus 7 2013 that I would recommend beyond anything)

All I have to say is Amazon better let me watch my TV purchases through my Nexus 7 soon without jumping through hoops or I will stop buying from them. Google play is getting more and more content every day. So at this point when it comes to buying from the play store or Amazon the choice will be the play store unless Amazon pulls their head out.

That would be a negative. That's what has kept me from buying a Nexus 7. There's no access to Amazon's video store and Amazon refuses to release a standalone app like they've done on iOS. That's exactly why I'm looking at buying a Fire.

Posted via Android Central App

This is long, but hear me out please.
I felt compelled to comment. With all due respect (see what I did there?) it's disappointing that it seems I'm starting to see so much negative...shall we say, passionate, comments to all things not "stock" Android, similar to how we used to criticize users of another popular OS. I know I'm not the only one. But listen, here's what I feel is a real-world breakdown:
If you're a coder, great, stick w/"stock"
Everyone else screaming "stock or die!" type things, here's something to think about: What do you tell someone asking you what they do if they have "stock"/Nexus hardware, but don't like something about it? Say, the calendar, gmail, text app, launcher, etc.? "Oh, that's easy, just download a different app from Play..." You're not "locked" to Play, of course, but many users will warn against anything other than Play for fear of the malware monster (somewhat justified I guess), so even though one is not "locked" to Play, there is a mindset that effectively locks users to Play.
In the case of the HDX (and any other Fire, for that matter), guess what? You're not locked to Amazon's ecosystem...and you don't have to root. I downloaded an alternate app store, directly from my HDX (respected alt app store and they have good customer support, a ton of YouTube review vids, etc.). Now that I have that, guess what? I have (and use) Chrome, Android YouTube app (but I prefer the web interface from Silk or Chrome actually; I've never been fond of any YouTube apps), BN Nook app, Business Calendar (that was from Amazon actually). So, you say get "stock" Android and just get an app for anything you don't like, but that's just what I did. Not EVERYTHING you can do w/stock Android, of course, but pretty much anything one would want to change (save for the launcher, but I've never tried). I also have some pretty great hardware in the HDX 8.9.
Now, how is this different from what one is advised to do when wanting to change something about "stock" Android?
For the record, I switch between my LG Optimus G Pro and Lumia 920 about every 2 weeks (I like them both), In my house, we have a Nexus 7 (1st ed), an iPad Mini, OG Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD 8.9, Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, an old Droid Bionic, and have had many many Android phones and tablets, starting w/the G1 (G1, OG Droid, Vibrant, Droid Incredible 2, LG Escape, Samsung Tab 8.9, Samsung Tab 7.0 Plus, rooted Nook Color, etc. etc.)
If you like "stock" Android, great...seriously, there's nothing wrong with that, but to think that everyone else is somehow "locked" to another ecosystem, and the product is not worthy of mention, etc. is simply ignorant to the facts of real-world use outside of the possibly mentally-walled garden of those who have not ventured outside.
It was Google's/Play's lack of specific content and inability to come to market with a quality product to integrate with my TV that forced me to look outside, actually (Workaholics, anyone? Love that show). Amazon has their larger catalog of content available through normal blu-ray players, PS3, XBOX, etc. etc. Where was Google/Play?

Base OS is Android (4.2.2?), but you wouldn't really know it, they've "customized" it so much. Most manufacturers "customize" the OS (i.e. "skins" was the old term) to a certain extent, but Amazon really changed it more than anyone else so far. Amazon calls this iteration of the OS Fire OS 3.0 (code name: "mojito")

You need to root. On top of that they actively push out updates that break root.

Posted via Android Central App

A not-at-all-tech-savvy relative kept going on and on about how they want us to get them an iPad for Christmas. Not because they want an iPad - they just want a tablet. Clearly I was thinking Android, but I don't trust this relative not to install a rogue app by accident. The Kindle sounds like the perfect halfway point between the walled garden of iOS and the "I don't need a second mortgage to pay for it" benefits of Android.

For me it's never been about how the fire isn't pure android, it's always been about how Amazon locks you to their services.

If I was OK with vendor locked in devices I'd would chose Apple over Amazon.

What Amazon did with the Kindle was superb and a pleasure to use. But they have not done the same with tablets, their UI is clunky buggy and difficult to use.

Posted via Android Central App

The argument that the Kindle Fire is such a "locked down" device is kind of a misconception. Yes, it is designed with Amazon's services front and center, just like the Nexus devices (and other "official" Android devices) generally have the Google Play services front and center.

If you want to use other services, they are available. Directly from the Amazon App Store, you can download Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Flixter, HBO GO, numerous TV network apps (including ABC, ESPN, Showtime, etc.), Pandora, Slacker, Sirius/XM, etc. No, you can't easily get the Google services, but that is mainly because Google simply hasn't offered them. In other words, the same reason that you can't get iTunes services on non-Apple devices and you can't get Amazon's Video services on stock Android.

Sideloading applications on the Kindle Fire is also very easy and fully supported. The "Allow installation of applications from unknown sources" check-box is present in the settings, so there is no need for rooting or otherwise hacking the device to get other app stores on there. With that option, you can easily use app stores like 1Mobile or GetJar or download apps from other sources. For instance, Amazon has decided not to make Zinio available from the app store (probably due to the competition with their own newsstand), but you can directly download a Fire-customized APK from Zinio's site. Similarly, you can easily grab the Nook or Kobo readers from other app stores.

Yes, it is true that the Amazon App Store has a smaller selection than Google Play and there are some apps out there (particularly a few from Google) that are still difficult, or even impossible, to load onto the Fire. The selection on Amazon's store has been improving all the time, though, and it isn't difficult to get many more apps from other stores. While the Fire is highly customized to Amazon's services and stores, it really isn't all that locked down.

Correct...this is what I've tried to convey as well. Being "locked" to Amazon's app store is definitely a very big misconception, at best. No, you don't need root to load non-Amazon app store I said: I downloaded and loaded them directly from my stock HDX. I did not DL them to a PC, and then transfer them to my HDX via USB or anything.
Also, that "allow installation of applications from unknown sources" is the same thing as what's already on all your other Android devices. If one were to say they don't feel comfortable having (or giving someone else) the ability to allow installation of apps from unknown sources, then they probably should be "locked" into one of the app ecosystems, whether it's Play, Amazon App Store, or iTunes/Appstore, and that's perfectly fine. I'm just saying, you're not really any more "locked" into a specific store than any other device.

You're kidding yourself if you call that open. You can get around all ecosystem through back door methods. Being open mean allowing anybody to compete and that is not the case with Amazon. The solution you mention opens you up to all sorts of potential malware since you don't know how secure the source you are download from is. And a pain to keep apps up to date

Tell me can you buy books from nook, or Google play and read them on the Kindle. Can you buy magazines. You can't even buy good e-reader apps like Moon. We

Posted via Android Central App

This will be my last post about this, because I feel like I'm becoming too much of a fanboi, which is a bit hypocritical (LOL, however, I'm not discounting others and/or their devices if they don't match my opinions/devices, nor would I...well, maybe iOS; ha ha), but I just used the Mayday tech support feature to help me get the second screen option working through my PS3, and wow. Mayday (40 seconds until connected to rep) was pretty good (she was initially misinformed about whether or not this feature has been enabled yet, but then clearly found the support pages once I advised I'd installed the update and Amazon's page explains that this feature is enabled now), and second screen is pretty awesome. I had originally confused second screen w/the separate screen mirroring option (which needs Miracast and mirrors the kindle much like other devices/apps). Typically, I don't need much tech support, or I will trudge through until I find what I need through various sources (trial and error, Googling, etc.), but thought I'd try their Mayday feature.
Thanks for everyone's discussion w/me on this thing. In short, this HDX is not any more "locked down" than most devices, and you don't have to use Amazon's own apps, magazines, books, etc. It's just great hardware with some really compelling features.
Over and out :-)

Yeah your boarding fanboyism, but you're doing it in good taste I'm enjoying some of your posts so don't stop

Posted via Android Central App

Well I wasn't planning on buying this tablet but I just got an offer from Amazon to try it for free for 30 days with shipping both ways paid if I don't like it. I figured why not? It should get here on Thursday. 7" HDX wifi only because the 4g LTE models aren't available yet.

Posted via Android Central App

I got the same email. So why not try it free. I also got the 7 inch version. However, it will need to blow me away in order for me to keep it. I have a nexus 7 and my job just gave me an iPad .

I have an HDX and I love it. The only Google app I use besides Maps is the Play Store, but you can sideload any Android app on this tablet, so it's all cool :)