Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 (review)

KindleHDX89_08The holidays are just around the corner, and you’re either an avid book reader or know someone who is. I mean, c’mon, nerds read! Why else would you be on a site like Nerd Reactor? Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure elaboration! Take a look and you’ll see into my Kindle Fire elation.

KindleHDX89_00The original Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 was released in the latter part of 2013. Offering an 8.9 inch (diagonal measured) compared to the previous HDX at 7 inches, this 2013 release was discontinued in lieu of an improved model in October 2014. Putting the 2014 Amazon Fire HDX 8.9″ through testing, I learned that one of my colleagues recently bought a refurbished 2013 model which allowed me to do a comparison between all the Kindles in the studio. One of the interesting things about the 2013 model is that the corners of the chassis are more rounded, while the 2014 model is edgier.

KindleHDX89_07My previous experience with a Kindle is the Kindle Fire at work (I personally own the E-Ink model of the Kindle Touch). When it comes to books, I do prefer E-Ink versus the LCD format of the Fire, since eyestrain is not a friend of mine. However, I have found that the detail and intensity of the Amazon Fire HDX was comfortable and what surprised me was one particular detail…

KindleHDX89_06The Amazon Fire HDX 8.9″ is equipped with a Dolby Atmos sound system. Embedded within this small, flat device, is the power to make you go “WTF?!” as its clarity and power seem strange in today’s audioscape. Technology has created vast wonders and I never figured an Amazon tablet could possess this marvel. When I was told to check out the audio, I threw on Netflix and tried out Doctor Who and Archer. With the easy-access volume controls at the back, you won’t realize what kind of sound quality this tablet has until it’s at 100% volume. This tablet’s sound goes from silent, low, high, then EPIC! Without looking into the design architecture, the speaker slits on the back edges seemed like the place where the sound was coming from, so I figured putting it flat on a surface would help the sound. I was wrong. The entire tablet is emanating the audio experience.
KindleHDX89_05Before I get to the utility of possessing an Amazon Fire (yes, its distinguishing itself from the Kindle line), I wanted to point out that with Netflix alone, there is something special about this device that sets it apart from other tablets. No, not just the fact that it’s a true handheld theater experience, but if you plug in some headphones (not earphones), it gives you that valuable directional experience in audio. With the spatial audio information stored in cinema, the Amazon Fire is able to understand and translate this information to your ears. Did something travel overhead in the movie? It renders that experience to give you a further blast of Keanu-style “Whoa!” Audio engineering and physics are an insane technology! And it’s all right here in the Amazon Fire 8.9″!

KindleHDX89_01TV shows and movies are great, but does it convey the complexities of music? Yes, this is covered and explored. Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Lorde, Dragonforce, Martin Garrix, and Tim McGraw…as crisp as a recording studio.

To note, while the Amazon platform is Android-based, it does not utilize Google Play access. Where a normal Google system is linked to your Google account, Amazon’s Kindle/Fire are linked to your Amazon account. There are third-party ways to get Google Play onto the Fire system, but it can be buggy and is not formally supported. This also means that there are separate stores for Amazon and Google Play for apps, which I’ve known because I’ve helped publish apps onto both platforms. However, if you somehow gain access to apps native to Google Play, these are compatible on the Kindle— because it’s Android.

KindleHDX89_02Here some of the points which you can also find on the Amazon website:

  • Exclusive 8.9″ HDX display—With 30% more pixels than the iPad Air 2 Retina display, Amazon’s exclusive HDX display (2560×1600) features exceptional pixel density (over 4 million pixels, 339 ppi) for vivid, lifelike images
  • Incredibly light design—Weighing just 13.2 ounces, Fire HDX 8.9 is lighter than iPad Air 2
  • Ultrafast 2.5 GHz quad-core processor—70% faster graphics performance with 2GB of RAM and Adreno 420 GPU for quicker gaming and smoother video
  • Rich, multi-dimensional audio with crisp, clear sound and no distortion. Plus, the first tablet with Dolby Atmos for a new headphone experience
In addition, I'd like to point out that the camera equipped onto this tablet clears up much of the exposure that another camera can pick-up from a photo.

In addition, I’d like to point out that the camera equipped onto this tablet clears up much of the exposure that another camera can pick-up from a photo.

With Amazon being a great source for consumers, one of the cherished aspects of being their customer is the wide range of media available from them. Whether it’s the fashion magazines I use for character concepting, streaming movies through Amazon Prime or Netflix, or reading PDFs I’ve pulled from the internet (like Dungeons & Dragons or World of Darkness). For the investment made, the tech is right on the money! When speaking about the product with a colleague, he showed me that he’s been using it to display his digital portfolio. Win-Win!

KindleHDX89_09And for ease of access, the tech specs which can also be found on the website:

  • Screen – 8.9″ HDX touchscreen display, with 2560×1600 resolution at 339 ppi, 100% sRGB color accuracy, video playback up to 1080p, max brightness over 400 nits, Dynamic Image Contrast, reduced glare and advanced polarizing filter
  • Processor – 2.5 Ghz Quad-core Snapdragon 8084, with Adreno 420 GPU and 2 GB of RAM
  • Memory – 16 GB (9.9 GB available to user) or 32 GB (24.3 GB available to user) or 64 GB (52.9 GB available to user) of internal storage
  • Camera – Front-facing 720p HD Camera. 8MP rear-facing camera with LED flash, Electronic Image Stabilization, and a wide-aperture 5P f/2.2 lens
  • Wi-Fi – 13.2 ounces (375 grams). 4G LTE + Wi-Fi – 13.7 ounces (389 grams)
  • Power – Up to 12 hours of reading, surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, and listening to music. Battery life will vary based on device settings, usage, and other factors such as web browsing and downloading content.
  • Dimensions – 9.1″ x 6.2″ x 0.3″ (231 mm x 158 mm x 7.8 mm)
  • Compatible Media Formats – Kindle (AZW), KF8, TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, Audible Enhanced format (AAX), DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, Dolby Digital (AC-3), Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC-3), non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, PCM/WAVE, OGG, WAV, M4V, MP4, AAC LC/LTP, HE-AACv1, HE-AACv2, MKV, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, HTML5, CSS3, 3GP, VP8 (WEBM)
  • Included – Fire HDX 8.9 tablet, USB 2.0 cable, 9W Amazon PowerFast charger, and Quick Start Guide

KindleHDX89_04A reminder, many of the features noted in this review are for the $379 model. So if you get a different model than the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9″, you won’t get the mind-blowing Dolby Atmos sound quality… which you should spare no expense. Don’t worry, this Amazon Fire won’t eat you!

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Jaynesis Ong
Jaynesis Ong 162 posts

He is currently a graphics designer by trade, illustrator for indie games, fashionisto, film production assistant, socialite, sampler of fine music, and taster of various new MMO games. JB likes destructive walks on the beach, visceral plot points, maniacal villains, and collapsing galactic empires.