At a price that starts at $99 for solid performance and access to ample content, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD is one of the best values in tablets this holiday season – maybe ever. It’s an ideal, budget-friendly gift for someone who isn’t yet a tablet owner, especially if they’re attracted by the free videos, music and eBooks of Amazon’s $99-a-year Prime membership.
Given its pricing, the Fire HD understandably has limitations, including screen sizes and capacities that are modest. It comes in 6- and 8-inch versions, each with the option for either 8GB or 16GB of storage. That means you can download fewer of those Prime movies to the devices for later viewing than with larger Amazon Fire tablets, whose storage capacities begin at 16GB. And these entry-level models can’t quite match those fine larger Fire models in thinness or most aspects of performance.
However, the tablet is fast enough to support streaming video and casual gaming without significant hiccups, and such content – and the likes of eBooks and photos – looks sufficiently sharp and accurate in color on the small screen. The tablet's battery life is decent; in tests from our colleagues at Laptop magazine, the Fire HD lasted for a lengthy 8 hours and 27 minutes – not much shorter than the 9 to 10 hours that’s typical of top-performing models. During our hands-on evaluations, the Fire HD was on the heavier and thicker side for a small tablet. It measures 0.4 inch thick, and the tablet weighs only 0.63 pound and 0.74 pound respectively for the 6- and 8-inch versions. We like its durable-looking construction and appreciate the option to choose alternative finishes, including magenta and cobalt.
There’s also a Fire HD Kids Edition that offers a number of attractive options in a first tablet for a child. Starting at $99, the kids version comes in a child-proof case and is packaged with a year’s access to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, which Amazon describes as a “hand-curated subscription of over 10,000 kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games.” And where the regular Fire HD comes with a one-year warranty troubleshooting or major operating issues, the kids version comes with two years of protection, including replacement if it breaks for any reason.