Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 (2014) Tablet Review

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Introduction & Specifications

We're willing to concede that size matters, but too often in tech manufacturers take advantage of that notion by offering multiple size options of the same product without upping the ante in any other way. Without shaming specific manufacturers by pointing out some examples, let's just say that we've seen both knock-off and name-brand laptop and tablet makers offer bigger size versions of the same product without even bumping up the resolution, let alone upgrading the hardware inside. Bah, humbug!

That's not a concern with Amazon has refreshed Fire HDX 8.9 tablet. It's not simply a bigger version of the Fire HD 7, a more affordable and rather underwhelming alternative (see our review), and is instead a much better product in almost every way. Not only is it physically bigger with an 8.9-inch IPS display, but it boasts a much higher resolution at 2560x1600 (339 ppi), faster hardware, and more tricks up its sleeve.

Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 Stock

The tradeoff for all these upgrades and added features is price -- starting at $379 for a base model with 16GB of built-in storage and Special Offers (Amazon's fancy-pants name for ads), it's more than twice as expensive as the Fire HD 7 (starts at $139) and a full $200 pricier than the Fire HDX. That's a tough ask when you've groomed your customers to expect low pricing at every turn, but if you want to go big in Amazon's ecosystem, that's the cost of entry.

By the same token, the price gap isn't an arbitrary one. This is Amazon's flagship tablet, after all, and in addition to a display resolution that's higher than your 1080p HDTV, the Fire HDX 8.9 is packing some serious arsenal, like a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor clocked at 2.5GHz, Adreno 420 graphics running at 600MHz, and 2GB of RAM. Clearly this is a tablet that's built to handle more than just online shopping chores and e-reading duties.

Here's a rundown of the full spec sheet before we dive into the nitty-gritty.

Amazon Fire HD 7 (2014) Specifications
Specifications & Features
  • Fire OS 4.5.1 "Sangria"
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 Quad-Core Krait (MSM8084), 2.5GHz
  • Qualcomm Adreno 420, 600MHz
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB internal storage storage + free unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content
  • 802.11b/g/ac Wi-Fi (MIMO + HT80); Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • 8.9-inch 2560x1600 IPS display, 339 ppi
  • Capacitive multi-touch
  • Up to 12 hours of reading, surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, and listening to music
  • Supported Formats: Kindle (AZW), KF8, TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, Audible Enhanced format (AAX), DOC, DOCX, Dolby Digital (AC-3), Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC-3), AAC, MP3, MIDI, PCM/WAVE, OGG, WAV, M4V, MP4, AAC LC/LTP, MKV, AMR, HTML5, CSS3, 3GP, VP8 (WEBM)
  • 3.5mm Audio Jack
  • USB 2.0 (micro-B connector)
  • Cameras: 720p HD front-facing camera; 8MP rear-facing camera w/ LED flash, electronic image stabilization, and wide-aperture 5P f/2.2 lens
  • Sensors: Ambient light sensor, acceleromoter, gyroscope, GPS (4G)
  • Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
 Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 Stock

      Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 Stock

      We were pretty critical of Amazon's barebones approach to its Fire HD 7, and while some of that has spilled over onto its flagship tablet -- there's no expandable storage, for example -- there are certain amenities worth pointing out.

      For one, there's the 802.11ac Wi-Fi. This is Amazon's only tablet to support the newer Wireless-AC standard, something we can appreciate as we become increasingly connected at home.

      There's also the longer battery life. Amazon rates the Fire HDX 8.9 at up to 12 hours versus 8 hours for the Fire HD 7. Typically you sacrifice battery life when going to a bigger screen with more pixels to push around, but in this case, Amazon took advantage of the Fire HDX 8.9's physical size by implementing a larger battery inside.
       

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