Kindle Fire HD Review: For Kids As Well As Adults?
Tablets for kids might have sounded like a crazy expense a few years back, but now they can do a lot, and while there's plenty out there in a fast filling market, only a few rise to the top for price and quality. How does Amazon's Kindle Fire HD stack up for children?
We've been covering all the major tablets, and while it's been aimed mainly at our readers, we thought it might be wise to think about their kids as they are using them just as much as their parents. Since Amazon's Kindle Fire HD is such a hot item, it might be good to look into as something that might serve well for your entire family. It's hard to share I know, so maybe it might be time to get the kids one of their own. Check out our kids review to see what you think.
So you’ve decided you want to get a tablet for your kids. You’ve looked at your options, and you’re not sure-do you want a something that’s really geared towards kids, like the Tabeo or the LeapPad 2? Or do you want something that could be more of a family tablet, something that would work for older kids as well? Today we’ll be taking an up close look at the Kindle Fire HD so you can get the details that will help you along the way to making your decision.
This is a lengthy review, so please utilize the headers to skip to what you want to know if you don’t wish to read the whole thing. To find out how the Kindle Fire HD is accommodating a younger user base, skip to “FreeTime” under “Extra Features.”
So far we’ve also reviewed the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, Kindle Fire HD, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and the Sony Reader. We also did a side by side comparison of the Kindle Fire HD versus the Apple iPad to give you an idea of the choices you have. It’s a big market out there for buyers now…just choose wisely and figure out exactly what you want your tablet to do for you. We also pulled together a kid approved Top 30 Hottest Toys for the 2012 Christmas Holiday.
What Is the Kindle HD Tablet?
The Kindle Fire HD is a 7” touchscreen tablet that provides an alternative to a pricier iPad. It’s great for family use because kids can enjoy it as much as adults-so you’re not left spending extra money on separate tablets. It features an incredibly rich HD experience as well as apps, games, Wi-Fi, video chat, movies, and of course, books. Coming sometime this month (October) is a free app/ upgrade called FreeTime, which customizes the tablet for kids and allows for parents to have more control over content.
Design & Durability
I am embarrassed to admit that it took me at least a minute before I figured out how to turn the Kindle Fire on-that’s how sleek the design was. The volume and power buttons are slender and black and lie flush with the rest of the tablet, and the ports are inconspicuous as well. The whole thing presents a very appealing picture to people of all ages. Its weight is nice, as is the matte finish on the back (I am a fan of matte for some reason.)
Now in terms of durability…if you’re at this site you are probably considering this for a kid or a teen, so how tough this tablet is is important. It is durable, and withstands a fair share of drops and bumps just fine. It’s certainly not designed to be banged around like a tablet such as the LeapPad 2 is though, so if you’re considering it for a younger child be mindful of that. I would suggest a case for it-one that protects it from spills and water as well as tumbles is never a bad choice.
Here we break down the Kindle Fire HD tablet and examine its basic functions, such as the sound quality and graphics.
The 7” LCD touchscreen is quite unlike any other-it is the definition of HD. The images, videos, text, everything, is superb. The colors are rich, everything is crisp, and you can lose yourself in a vibrantly detailed world that envelopes you entirely-regardless of if you’re reading a deeply moving book or simply enjoying a round of Fruit Ninja.
You can enjoy the HD from truly just about any angle as well. A random bit of info-most tablets have 2 pieces of glass that make up their screens, an LCD on bottom and a touch sensor on top. This results in an air bubble between the two layers, which in turn results in annoying reflections and glares as light passes through. The Kindle Fire HD has melded a touch sensor and LCD into a single layer of glass, making viewing substantially more pleasant.
It’s music to my ears, the sounds that come from this little device. “Dolby Digital Plus” are the dual speakers they use in the Kindle Fire, and honestly, I don’t know enough about different stereo systems to know if that’s a big deal or not. What I do know is that no matter what it’s called, the sound quality is fantastic. Even when it’s loud, there are no noise distortions. I think this is the only tablet that can get away with having their speakers located in back.
The slowest thing to load was the app store. The internet was quite quick most of the time-granted it still had its sluggish moments- and downloading was breezy. I did not experience any freeze-ups. They throw a bunch of language at you like “dual bandwidth antenna increases transmission and reception 40 % faster with 2.4 GhZ that can switch to 5 GhZ frequencies that increases capacity capabilities by blah blah blah” and so on and so forth. Ok they put it more cohesively than that, the point is it sounds impressive, but is it? I will translate and say yes, it is quite quick, and for the most part I was impressed. Again there are things (namely the store) that are somewhat sub-par in terms of speed.
For me, HD = batteries drained faster than anything, I still believe that that is true for the most part, but I was impressed yet again by how long the battery lasted under such graphically intense conditions. Supposedly it has over 11 hours of battery life, but I say that can vary quite a bit depending on what you’re doing. Either way, it lasts a good while, particularly for something in HD.
You can get the Kindle Fire HD tablet with either 16GB or 32GB of memory. A good amount, but remember HD content takes up more memory than regular. I was very disappointed that it doesn’t have an SD slot to expand memory-even 32GB can be filled fast with everything we are using and enjoying nowadays. The unlimited Cloud Storage that comes with the Kindle is nice, but note that it can only be used for content purchased on Amazon.
It took me a bit to get used to the interface. Certainly it’s geared more towards adults than kids. Everything you can do is listed across the top of the screen, with the home screen being mainly books as well as shortcuts to places you have visited recently. It’s organized, but it’s not my favorite layout. Whenever ‘FreeTime’ comes out, the tablet will have different fonts and layouts that make it more kid friendly. The ‘Web’ felt a little cluttered to me, and I was not a fan of the fact that the lock screen is always an advertisement banner for one thing or another.
Note: The ads are technically ‘special offers’ from Amazon to their customers. Originally, there was no way to get rid of them for the lock screen. Recently Amazon switched its policy, saying that people could now pay an extra $15.00 to turn off advertisements built in to the device.
Extra features include apps, games, books, movies, music, photos, skype, basicallyyourwholelife.
The front facing camera is for video chat, not so much taking pictures, and the quality isn’t bad. If you want pictures on your Kindle to show off or enjoy, it’s not terribly hard to get them on. The USB port allows you to transfer individual pictures and things like Facebook albums to your Kindle Fire. Of course, they show up crisp thanks to the HD.
The Amazon App Store is where you can get a good chunk of the most popular games and apps, and a number of random ones as well. Plenty are free, but of course you have to pay for some. There is a motion/tilt sensor built in to the device to accommodate certain kinds of games.
The Amazon Music Store has a boatload of songs for you to download (over 20 million and counting, to be exact) and enjoy. Anything purchased there is stored on Cloud for free. Your first 250 imported songs are stored for free as well, but after that there is an annual fee that you have to pay-I believe it is $25.00 dollars-so not too bad for storing your entire music collection. You can also play whatever you have stored on the cloud from any device.
Books, glorious books! I am a book worm, and while I think I will always prefer the experience of having an actual book in my hands to reading it from a tablet, I enjoyed the experience of reading from the Kindle Fire HD quite a bit. The text is sharp and clear, and looking at the screen did not hurt or strain my eyes. I also adore that you can get the book you want in an instant-nothing kills me more than finishing one book and not having the time to go to the bookstore for a few days to get the next one! The selection is vast, and the prices are much better than what you would pay at a store.
And now, what about kids? Can they use it? Will they enjoy it? Is it only for teens and up? As of right now, there is some parental control available, but past that, it isn’t really that set up for kids under the age of 13 or 14. This doesn’t mean little ones wouldn’t like it, but it’s just not aimed at them.
Sometime this month (October) there is a new free app/upgrade coming out called “FreeTime,” which essentially turns the Kindle Fire kid-friendly. The text, colors, and layout will be catered towards younger kids, and parents can set up profiles for their different kids and choose what they want each child to have access to. Parents will also be able to limit screen time, either daily or on a case by case basis. For example if you don’t want your child reading past a certain bedtime, or they are only allowed to watch an hour of TV a day, you can set it so the Kindle turns off after a set amount of time. You can also restrict certain categories-like games-but leave reading unlimited.
Note: This app/upgrade has NOT been released yet, so we have not had a chance to test it. Once it is out, we will update this page. It has only been announced that it would come out in October, but a date was not given.
Does The ‘HD’ Make A Difference?
If you want a Kindle Fire, and you see that there is an approximately $50.00 dollar difference between a regular one and an HD, you might be quick to shrug off the HD part and go for the less expensive one-it doesn’t seem like a terrible sacrifice really, and it’s not. If you don’t care all that much about HD, then so be it.
I will say that I thought it made quite a difference in user experience-it’s not just an added on term to make the product more expensive without having much affect. The sharpness of the image, the clarity, the rich colors, and the ability to view it from virtually any angle in any kind of light made it a joy to use-whether it was for watching movies, playing games, showing off pictures, or reading books.
You know when you want to lie down and read but you can’t get comfy? Then when you finally do, your screen is at a wonky angle that makes it impossible to read? You want to lie on your stomach and have the screen flat in front of you while you enjoy your book by gosh, and you deserve it! Well with the Kindle Fire tablet, you get it, and this situation is all but eliminated. Being a book lover, that was one of my favorite perks…
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this tablet to both adults and older children. When the “FreeTime” is released, I think it will be wonderful for youngsters as well. The biggest issues for me were the facts that the store and occasionally the internet were slow, the memory was not expandable, and the interface-while organized-was not the most intuitive. It was a pleasure to use, and while it may not be an iPad, I think it is a great, less expensive, alternative to one. Overall, it is a very nice tablet.
If you’re still trying to figure out what kid-friendly tablet to get, consider this:
- The Kindle Fire HD costs as much as a ‘kids tablet’ like the Nabi 2.
- It is durable, but perhaps not quite as durable as tablets geared specifically for younger children.
- If you don’t want to be buying separate tablets, the Kindle Fire HD can suit a range of ages and act as a family tablet.
- The Kindle Fire’s strength lies partly in media consumption-books, movies, music, games, etc. For those uses, it is superb.
- The Kindle Fire HD is probably the least ‘kiddy’ tablet appropriate for kids-it sounds ironic, but we all know how kids seem to prefer things that weren’t obviously made for them.
Ultimately, it comes down to what you value the most in a tablet for your child. Is it sheer durability? Total parental control? Access to entertainment? Like with anything, do the research and see exactly what your children could use it for. There's plenty of great education and fun things for the entire family. Plus with Black Friday, Amazon's doing major sales on them.