Kindle HDX Aims At iPad Air

Amazon's 8.9-inch tablet has already garnered early praise from critics as a worthy iPad Air competitor.
20 Great Ideas To Steal In 2013
20 Great Ideas To Steal In 2013
(click image for larger view) has started shipping the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9. The tablet, which Amazon bills as a device custom-built for entertainment, goes head-to-head with Apple's iPad Air. It breaks new ground for tablets with its "Mayday" help-desk function, which should result in fewer people providing IT support services for their family and friends this holiday season.

Amazon's tablet doesn't shirk on specs or features. The tablet has an 8.9-inch screen with 2560 by 1600 pixels, giving it a pixel density of 339 ppi. That's nearly unparalleled for a tablet of this size. It has more than 4 million pixels. It goes far beyond the full HD spec, which has just over 2 million pixels. The Apple iPad Air has a 9.7-inch screen with 2048 x 1536 pixels. According to Amazon, the HDX screen features dynamic image contrast, which optimizes the color of each pixel based on the amount of surrounding light. The result is better outdoor viewing.

The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 "has leapfrogged into the best performing tablet display that we have ever tested, significantly out-performing the iPad Air in brightness, screen reflectance, and high ambient light contrast, plus a first place finish in the very challenging category of absolute color accuracy," said DisplayMate Technologies' Raymond Soneira.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processor powers the HDX. It has four cores rated at 2.2 GHz each and is paired with 2 GB of RAM and an Adreno 330 GPU for improved gaming. Apple's A7/M7 processor combo runs two cores at 1.4 GHz each and it has 1 GB of RAM. Though the HDX has a pixel-rich screen and fast processor, the device offers 12 hours of battery life when surfing the Web, about two hours longer than the battery life offered by most competing tablets, including the iPad Air.

As far as content is concerned, Amazon's tablets go toe-to-toe with Apple. Amazon has a huge cloud-based content library, including music, movies, television shows, books and magazines. The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is able to access all this, in addition to Android applications.

One place the HDX has a significant advantage over the iPad Air is price. It costs $379. It jumps up to $479 if you add LTE 4G or more storage. The iPad Air starts at $499. Adding storage costs extra, as does LTE. The HDX costs less than the iPad Mini with Retina Display, too, which starts at $399 (on sale later this month).

Another advantage is the Mayday function. With Mayday, a help desk is never more than a screen press away. Amazon is offering free, 24/7 video chats with support personnel, who will help users troubleshoot problems or explain how things work. Apple of course has the Genius Bar at its retail stores, but they require appointments and people have to actually leave their house to get the help they need.

Early reviews of the HDX praised its great screen, epic battery life and light-and-comfortable design. The iPad Air is no slouch, but Amazon has fielded a worthy competitor in the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing