Review – Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 & 7 in India

Amazon has listed its six-month old Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch tablet for sale on its Indian website on Thursday, and we do a hands-on review of the product.

First things first – Amazon Kindle HD has been unofficially available in the Indian market for about three months now. However that came with a U.S. warranty, and cost about Rs 24,000 for the 8.9 inch version.

With Amazon launching its services in India through the portal, the Kindle Fire HD is now officially available in India with an Indian warranty.

The 8.9 inch version has been priced at Rs 21,999 and the 7 inch Kindle Fire HD has been priced at Rs 15,999. Both will start shipping on June 27 for Indian users. The tablets were launched during last year’s holiday season (Christmas season) in the U.S..

The tablets are not really top of class in India. They were more than decent when they were launched last year. But six months on, it’s a different tale.

About a month ago, iBall, for example, launched India’s first quad-core processor powered 10-inch processor priced at just Rs 16,000.

The Amazon models are powered by PowerVR graphics and TI OMAP 4470 and 4460 processors. Though better than the RK3066 processors that power most of the dual-core tablets in India, the TI chips are about 25-30% less powerful compared to the quad-core chip on the iBall model. The Kindles also have only 1 GB of RAM, compared to 2 GB on the iBall Q9703.

Another key advantage of the Amazon Kindle Fire HD model — the superbly high resolution displays — have also been matched or exceeded by other models over the past six months.

For example, the larger 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD has 2.3 million pixels on its display — considered extremely high when it was launched — but the iBall model has 3 million pixels on its.

Another big let down, as far as the Amazon model is considered, is that it is constrained by the software that it comes with. Both versions come with Amazon’s in-house operating system. Though based on Google Android ICS 4.0, Amazon’s tablets don’t support core Google services like Gmail, Google Play app-store, Youtube app (in the signed in mode), Google Maps, Docs etc..

The biggest let-down is the app-store. Without access to the Google Play store, users are forced to depend on third-party app-stores like 1mobile etc., or Amazon’s own app-store. Not only do these app-stores not have many key apps compared to Google Play, third party stores often contain dangerous, virus-infected software as well.

Another downside to the Kindle Fire HD operating system is that it is based on the older Android 4 base. Android 4.2, the latest, is considered more user friendly, with better animations and transitions.

While the models sold well in the United States thanks to their prices ($200-$300) and early launch, they are likely to be really difficult to sell in the Indian market which has many more compelling and value-for-money alternatives to offer.

Another key drawback is the lack of power. When using apps like the Dolphin browser, a rendering lag was easily visible when scrolling pages. The machine also tended to slow down on heavy webpages.

On the positive side, the models are well made, and stronger than the likes of iBall and Micromax. The quality of the display is excellent, and the individual pixels are too small to be seen, even when held close to the face for reading.

Another advantage of the tablet is the huge Amazon bookstore. Though Amazon India does not yet have video-subscription services like the Amazon Prime yet, Amazon offers thousands of books through the Kindle tablets to its Indian users. A large chunk, running into hundreds if not thousands, of these books are free, though they are mostly the classics and older titles.

As such, the tablets make a lot of sense as readers, but less sense as a media-consumption oriented tablet. Amazon fans — those who read a lot of books — can consider buying the Kindle Fire HD, but others may prefer to look elsewhere.