The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is here, which is the Kindle Fire HDX 7's bigger brother, and it's going to be your portal into all things Amazon if you want it to be.
After all, if you're looking at buying this thing, it's because you're either already invested in Amazon's ecosystem, or you're prepared to dive in.
For pricing, you can get several models between 16GB, 32GB and 64GB, with or without ads, and with Wi-Fi only or with 4G LTE. It starts at £329 (around AU$555) and goes all the way up to £419 (around AU$752) depending on your configuration.
What's nice about the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is that if you're just looking to consume movies, books and music - which is what most of us use tablets for - it's all quite literally at your fingertips.
However, if you're looking for a tablet for more serious productivity, you might want to try an iPad Air or Microsoft Surface 2.
This iteration of the Kindle Fire HD is quite beautiful. It's slim and lightweight at just 13.2 ounces, and the display is an 8.9-inch, 2560 x 1600 resolution screen. That gives you 339 PPI in what Amazon says is 100% sRGB color accurate.
The display makes photos, videos and gaming a real pleasure. This is even made sweeter by the fact that you'll have access to so many TV shows and movies if you're an Amazon Prime member.
Speaking of Amazon Prime, you've gotta be careful with your impulsiveness with this tablet, as it's so easy to get carried away and shop for everything you don't need.
Amazon's tablet features Fire OS 3.0, which is based on Android, though you won't find Android mentioned on the box or on much literature.
You also won't find the Google Play Store here, either. Instead, you'll see Appstore for Android, which might offer just enough apps and games to keep you satiated, but will skew heavily toward making sure you're an Amazon-first customer.
This tablet's experience is pretty immersive in Amazon, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're looking for a number of your favorite Android apps here, you might be disappointed.
The first thing you'll notice about the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 - say that 10 times fast - is how thin and light it is. For its size, we expected to be a little heftier, but we're glad that's not the case. It makes holding the device for extended periods of time, like when you're watching a movie, pretty easy.
Around the edges are contours and bevels that make the tablet feel even slimmer than it is, and it also gives a nice look to the device. It definitely helps make it stand out from other flat slabs out there.
As mentioned before, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 has a 2560 x 1600 display with 339 PPI and 100% sRGB color accuracy. If that all sounds fancy to you, it's because it is, but all you need to know is that the display is sharp, colorful and has good contrast. We like it.
There is a front-facing 720p HD camera, and an 8MP rear camera with an f/2.2 aperture and electronic image stabilization. You can also record 1080p HD videos with the rear camera, but for courtesy's sake, we rarely ever recommend anyone use the camera to shoot photos or video.
The backside has two speakers up top, which aren't as loud as we'd like, but they sound very clear and actually offers good stereo sound. The rear camera is in the top middle along with an LED flash. On one side you have volume controls on the bezel, and opposite that is the power button. These buttons are placed nicely where the device contours and where your fingers naturally rest.
Smack in the middle of the soft-touch back cover is the Amazon logo. The left edge of the device, if you're looking directly at the display, has a micro-USB port for charging and syncing, and the opposite edge has a 3.5mm headset jack.
Overall, the in-hand feel and weight of the device gives it a very premium feel. Compared to other Android offerings out there, though this isn't truly an Android tablet, it's one of the best built tablets.
We can't stress enough the light weight of the device, which really helps in portability and sustained holding/viewing.
Placement of the micro-USB and 3.5mm headset jacks are nicely done, as they're mostly out of the way if you have to have either plugged in while watching videos. The only improvement would've been to place the headset jack on the bottom so that it's completely out of the way when viewing the screen, but that's a minor gripe.
The speakers are also nicely placed because they are completely out of the way of your hands when you're holding the tablet to watch videos. This helps because they're not the loudest speakers, so being free from any obstruction is a huge help.
Amazon has improved on the Kindle Fire's design tremendously since the first version, which in itself wasn't all that bad. The soft touch edges and back, the contours and placement of ports, buttons and more is nicely executed.
You can really tell a nicely designed device when things are there when you need them, and out of the way when you don't. The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 pulls this off well, so you'll rarely ever find yourself becoming frustrated saying, "Why on earth did they do that or put this here?"
As far as accessories go, there is simply a charging brick and USB cable for charging the device and connecting it to a computer if you like. It's pretty minimal, but we wouldn't expect much else for a device of this caliber at this price point.
Interface and performance
The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 runs Fire OS 3.0, which is built using Android. However, for those familiar with Android, you'll notice that in terms of appearances, it is very much customized by and for Amazon, with little to no traces of Android on the device at all.
This implementation is definitely not a bad thing, and we find it more intuitive and thorough than, for example, Lenovo's Yoga Tablet 10 UI. When you first power on the device and get to the lock screen, you'll find colorful lock screen wallpapers that change every time you put the device to sleep and wake it up. It's a nice visual touch and shows off the device's brilliant display.
The home screen will show you a carousel of apps, where it will populate with new apps as you use them. This makes it convenient to jump into your recent apps, but you'll also have the option to get rid of them if you like simply by pressing and holding them, then clicking on the option to remove them.
At the bottom of the home screen is dock with apps you might find yourself using often, such as Amazon's Silk Browser, e-mail client, camera, calendar and more.
The top bar has quick shortcuts to games, apps, music, videos, shopping, photos and more. It's very handy when you want to jump straight to a particular feature or Amazon service.
Swipe down from the top and you'll find the Android-style notification panel, along with quick toggles for brightness, auto rotation, Wi-Fi, settings and Amazon's Mayday help service, which we'll get to later.
Whenever you're not at the home screen, there will be either a permanent or disappearing toolbar to the right where you'll have search, back, menu and home options depending on where you are. This is also reminiscent of Android, yet feels very much in line with the rest of Amazon's UI.
It's quite easy to navigate around the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, and getting it set up to your liking shouldn't take more than a handful of minutes out of the box. And again, if you ever have any trouble with using the tablet, Amazon's Mayday is there to help with live, 24-hour video help.
The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 features Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 chipset, with its CPU clocked at 2.2GHz. It also has an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB RAM, so this thing will handle nearly everything you could possibly throw at it.
In terms of real-world experience, it doesn't fail to deliver. We downloaded and played Asphalt 8, a graphically intensive racing game, and it didn't stutter, lag or crash once during our embarrassingly lengthy time playing the game.
Videos streaming from Amazon Prime also performed great. Over our office Wi-Fi connection, which is just as speedy as what you'd find in most homes today, videos loaded up quickly and played without pause every single time.
Obviously, your experiences will vary depending on your connection speeds, but if you've got solid Internet service, the device will just fly.
Opening and closing and switching between apps was smooth as we expected, and every other task in between. Given this thing's Snapdragon 800, there wasn't really anything we could think of that would slow it down. In terms of modern-day tablets and mobile devices, this is as good as it gets.
Because of recent benchmark controversy and certain OEMs gaming benchmark results, we've decided to pass on benchmarking this tablet. After all, it's meant to consume media like books, TV shows, movies and games. What you need to know is that the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 handles all those things with ease.
Silk Browser is what you'll find on the Amazon Kindle HDX 8.9. It was initially launched in 2011 with the first Kindle Fire, and Amazon explained at its launch event that Silk was made specifically for the new tablet and optimized for performance.
Basically, many tasks are performed on Amazon's incredible servers, which helps improve overall performance and load times.
The name ends up working out in two ways: Silk runs as smooth as it sounds, and yet it binds the connection between the tablet and Amazon's servers with strength. It's cheesy, for sure, but that's how Amazon describes it, and all you need to know is that it works.
We opened 12 tabs in the browser to see just how far we could push it. In normal use, we'd imagine it would be rare for most people to have 12 browser tabs open on a tablet, some heavy with animated ads.
We weren't able to cause the Silk browser to crash. However, we did find that playing YouTube and other embedded videos from within web pages didn't work, and would ask us to download the latest version of Flash Player. Unfortunately, Silk doesn't support Flash, so this is where things get tricky.
Your options are limited when it comes to viewing embedded videos, and we found ourselves frustrated enough with this that when we did find a video we really wanted to see, we'd end up getting on our computers or other mobile devices to search and watch.
While we did feel that the Silk browser can look too busy when we reviewed the 7-inch version, you get used to it after a while, and suddenly it's not so bad.
As far as browsers go, Silk isn't terrible, but it is lacking, especially in the embedded video department. We wish that it would handle embedded video like Chrome for Android does: when you click on a YouTube video, for example, it opens up in the YouTube app for viewing. You can simply click back to be taken back to the browser. That's not the case here, but we've learned to live with it.
Media, apps, books and X-Ray
This is why you buy the the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 - for the media. Whether you're into movies, TV shows, apps, games or books, you'll find that this tablet is your one-stop shop for all those things. Well, if you're doing it within Amazon's ecosystem, that is.
Movies and TV
Like Netflix, you can stream movies on demand here, and like iTunes, you can rent or buy them, too. The same goes with TV shows.
However in the UK you'll not be able to repeat the trick that Prime members in the US can, as access to all the movies and TV shows you'd be after simply isn't on British shores as yet.
When you purchase a movie, you can also play them on your TV via a gaming console or set-top box, and your computer and iOS devices. Much like Google Play, when you buy it, you can pretty much consider ownership of that content as long as the device you're using supports it.
X-Ray for movies and TV
One interesting add-on is X-Ray, which gives you the ability to spot actors and actresses as they appear on screen. You'll also get casting info and other trivia, and it all comes from IMDb. All you have to do is tap the display while you're watching a movie or TV show, and the player controls pop up along with a sidebar to the left with the relevant info.
A neat trick is the changing information in X-Ray that follows who's on screen at the moment. It's accurate and timely the majority of the time, and a little impressive. For example, if you're watching a scene and George Clooney suddenly pops up, his name will appear in X-Ray.
Amazon has a fine selection of music, and you can buy or stream songs just like you would with other media on the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9.
If you've purchased CDs from Amazon in the past, you'll get digital access to that music, too. Any music you've purchased through Amazon will be accessible to you via the cloud.
We mentioned before that the speakers aren't the best on a tablet, and so it goes with music. Music played through the speakers lack depth and bass, so you'll want to use headsets when listening to music or any other media.
The music player is fine and intuitive enough, though the lack of lock screen controls is a bummer because you'll have to unlock your display and go to the music player or notification panel every time you want to skip songs or adjust volume.
X-Ray for music
Like X-Ray for movies and TV, X-Ray for music gives you a bit of info for the songs you're listening to - namely lyrics. You'll also find album art and a few bits of information here and there, and not much else. Still, it's a nice feature to have.
When it comes to the Kindle brand, books are its bread and butter. Amazon has a tremendous selection of books for purchase, so there may never be a need to go to a bookstore again.
The reading experience on the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is quite good, and text is sharp as you'd expect on a device with 339 PPI. Screen brightness is dim enough not to hurt your eyes if you're reading in the dark, and certainly bright enough when you're reading where there is ample ambient light.
If you're thinking of buying a tablet just for reading, you may want to consider the Kindle Paperwhite since it's cheaper and easier on the eyes. However, if you like graphic novels and comic books, they'll really shine on the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9.
X-Ray for Books
For some books, you'll get X-Ray, which gives you information on characters and other tidbits on the books. It's really helpful if you're the type to lose track of characters in books where there are, well, lots of characters.
It's a nice feature to have, especially if you read with huge gaps in between your reading sessions. If you have only have time to read a few days out of the week or less, it'll be helpful to use X-Ray to keep track of who's who in your stories.
Apps and Mayday
We've always said that when you're buying a device that's essentially just a display, apps is where it counts. While Amazon does offer tons of TV shows, movies, books and music, it also has quite a selection of apps.
However, don't expect something with the depth or breadth of Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store. Although it's called Appstore for Android, you won't find many of your favorite Android apps here.
Big name apps, for the most part, are here. After all, who can live without Facebook? But other big-name apps are nowhere to be found, like Netflix, but that's for obvious reasons. Less obvious are other apps that you'd think should be on every platform, but not here.
If you're looking to load up a tablet with tons of apps you've come to love from Android, you're better off going with a Nexus 7. Remember, Amazon doesn't make money selling these tablets - it makes money by selling its services and products with these tablets acting as a portal to those things.
Still, you'll find a number of great apps and games via the Appstore for Android, or at least enough to satiate your most basic of needs when it comes to mobile devices (games, social networking, productivity, etc.).
Amazon's brilliant Mayday service will be great for people who might not be as technologically adept as those of us who spend all our days tinkering with these devices.
Mayday is live video technical help for the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 (heavens that is painfully long to type every single time).
If you're running into issues with your tablet, or you have questions and need help, a customer service agent is just one tap away.
You may be thinking that it's a strange service, and that there's no way Amazon can deliver on this promise, but it does. Amazon promises that when summoned, an agent will be ready within 15 seconds of initiating a Mayday call. That is impressive.
What's great about having Mayday besides the obvious is that it eliminates the need for having to make a phone call or sending an email to get help, wondering if or when anyone will ever get back to you.
The only catch, and we'd hope this is obvious by now, is that you'll need to have an active Internet connection to access Mayday. So if you're not near Wi-Fi and you're having trouble with your tablet, you'll have to wait until you do have some way to connect to the Internet.
Battery life and camera
Battery life on the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is excellent. Amazon promises up to 10 hours of mixed use, but that figure is really meaningless because mixed use is different for everyone.
In our testing, it averaged anywhere between 7-10 hours of use, which included some games, streaming TV shows, checking e-mail and browsing the web. By today's standards, we'd say the battery held up rather well.
If you plan on giving this thing extensive use on a daily basis, which is a little hard to imagine, you may need to charge it every day. Otherwise, every other day will be just fine.
What the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 has over the 7-inch model is a rear camera. It's OK, but not great. In low-light situations, instead of increasing ISO or sensor sensitivity, the shutter speed drops rather dramatically. This results in more blurry images.
Color reproduction is also OK, but not the greatest, and images tend to look noisy and oversharpened, too. We'd compare the images produced by the 8MP rear camera to those being taken by smartphones about three or four years ago.
Surprisingly, if you can hold it perfectly still, HDR works nicely. Light and dark areas of your scene will have good detail, and there is little to no halo effect on edges, which is nice.
In the end, we wouldn't run around with the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 taking pictures all day, but we suppose it's nice to have in a pinch or if you're using it to record or broadcast video.
The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is an excellent tablet, with the huge caveat that it's intended to be a money-making machine for Amazon products and services.
Buying this tablet means buying into Amazon's ecosystem, whether you're going to dive into movies, TV shows, books, apps or music, it's all going to be through Amazon.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's a huge thing when considering a tablet. Some of you might want a tablet to consume media, download tons of apps and games and maybe use some productivity tools here and there. If you can live without Amazon's products and services, you're better off with a new Nexus 7 or iPad Air.
But if you're already invested in Amazon's ecosystem, or you're prepared to do just that, you can't go wrong with the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9.
What's great is Mayday, which is Amazon's live assist feature. It's great to think that any time of day, you can simply tap on Mayday and you'll get connected to a real human being within seconds, ready to help you with any problem your tablet might be giving you.
Mayday is great because it offers live assistance in real time - no need for phone calls or e-mails. We also like the form factor and the display, with a 339 PPI screen and a slim and light profile at just under a pound.
We also liked the design of the device, and the layout of all the ports and buttons, too.
Amazon's integration of its products and services here is excellent, and we wouldn't expect anything less from a tablet that is basically a tool for Amazon to sell those services.
We weren't particularly fond of the camera, but again this thing wasn't meant to really take pictures. It's just a bonus on a tablet meant for consuming media.
Another thing we aren't pleased with is the lack of more Android apps. Fire OS is built on Android, and Amazon even calls it Appstore for Android, yet you can't find many of the apps that you'd find on Google Play.
Instead, everything here is geared to pushing you through Amazon's gate so that you'll buy its stuff.
If you want a solid and powerful multimedia tablet that is essentially a gateway to all things Amazon, this is your tablet. But if you're looking for something with more flexibility and better hardware, you're better off buying an iPad Air. The only thing you'll have to consider is whether you can justify the extra cost.
On the other hand, if you just want to watch TV and movies, read books and listen to music, and you already have an Amazon Prime account and are into Amazon's ecosystem, we have no doubt that you'll love this tablet.