Thursday, February 12, 2015

Amazon Fire HD6 Tablet: Review

My wife bought one last autumn so she could read the New Yorker easily and check e-mail and browse the web on the road more easily than on her iPhone 4. I have had a Kindle Touch for a while, and I liked the font and layout on her Fire HD 6 far better. We found ourselves competing to share it. So, I got my own when it went on sale, adding a gift certificate we had. I never used an iPad or tablet gadget before then. [But, I had a chance for an early Valentine's Day present to myself, discounted.]

For the price, sure, it's a bargain at even the retail rate. 8GB admittedly is a low storage when the "real" capacity is 4.5GB, but of course, Amazon expects you will be downloading fv/rom their cloud much more. Still, the functionality that integrates Audible audiobooks or one's carousel of titles purchased from Amazon is appealing to the eye. That is why I got it. I doubt I will watch movies on it and I will not be playing games. For an e-reader plus a web browser and e-mail connection, the keyboard and the predictive word completion are easier to use than my smartphone, and the typefaces and layouts are more user-friendly. The ability to alter page backgrounds more as well as fonts is a great option. Additionally, the enhanced note-taking, color-coding, and organization of notes for e-reading is fantastic. E-Books are much more enjoyable compared to a Kindle.

One downside I found comes with the new software update (soon after I fired it up, it installed). The Family Library is a nice touch, allowing my wife and me to share the books and audiobooks we have bought, as payment merges. But the limits of the personal documents uploaded to one Kindle e-mail account mean that my sign-in as a different Fire user prohibit me from viewing the docs I had sent originally to her Amazon account for my old Touch. I thought the Family Library would allow seamless integration, but apparently this is stymied by the account restrictions for documents uploaded that are not purchased from Amazon and downloaded directly, rather than e-mailed by an account user. The predicament with Prime being limited to one user in a family under that sign-in (far as I can tell) also continues despite the Library.

Another helpful feature lacking is that on a Fire the "look inside" or book preview feature available on a PC or a Touch is missing. Apparently Amazon is not installing that on any Fire. Strange decision and a sad one.

It does deplete its battery rapidly. You can almost watch the percentage decrease. But the wireless-disabling feature is smart, and I tend to turn off the wi-fi as much as I can to save power, and to reduce the brightness contrast too. This takes a while to charge, but as in many devices now, batteries work overtime.

The colors are appealing and the feel makes it easy to hold if in my large palm. Some complain about the plastic rather than more grip-worthy finish of the Fire HD 6. But since I put it in a case and have a screen protector (even if the Gorilla Glass may make these superfluous), the model's build itself is less important.

I tried to download MP3 files and (legal) torrents but neither connected with the network. Not sure what is the flaw here as my wi-fi is fine and non-sonic text files went to this download file. Streaming succeeds, but the transfer of sound files from the Net does not work at least so far. Also, Fire seems to block the downloading of text and mobi.files to itself from non-Amazon sources, the only exception so far that I have found being Project Gutenberg's free e-books, to the web download file if not the cloud. While a workaround can be found via a PC or USB, this does frustrate any easy file transfers.

Finally, the microphone does not seem to pick up my voice enough for it to work with apps I use for a vocal input. A minor point but one maybe others need to know. The speaker does not sound that impressive, and it is mono. Even with in-ear monitors, it still did not match my smartphone. It sounded tinny and transistor-like, to my surprise, and the volume was lacking.

But, overall, for an e-book reader, browser, and portable entertainment device, this meets the needs and certainly the price point. While designed to channel you to Amazon to buy, no surprise, it can be used for those of us who also get our reading and listening material from other places, as many if not all Android apps are duplicated in Amazon's app store lately. (2-7-15 to Amazon US a bit edited.)

No comments: