The Kindle Fire HDX Hardware
At times, last year’s Fire felt like it was a mix of boutique and bargain bin parts. Not this time. This time around, there’s very little by way of hardware to knock the Fire HDX on.
Before we get into the under-the-hood improvements, though, let’s take a minute to appreciate the sitting-on-the-hood-wearing-a-speedo remodel of the tablets themselves. They’re, erm, trapezoidal. It’s probably a stretch to call them beautiful, but they are pleasant enough to look at, and feel absolutely solid.
And they are—they’re made from a molded magnesium body, which Amazon tweaked this year to get rid of the midframe, which makes the HDX (especially the 13.2-ounce 8.9-inch version) feel incredibly light. For reference, a 9.7-inch iPad 4 weighs 23.04oz—almost twice as much. The 8.9-inch HDX might be the most surprisingly lightweight tablet I’ve ever held (non-junk-plastic division). In fact, “light” might be wrong—the weight was shaved to the point that it feels balanced. Meaning, holding it, you don’t feel really any uncomfortable pressure on your fingers as the tablet’s weight groans on them. It’s something you’ll enjoy holding one-handed, and that’s enough, sort of, to shrug off the ugly shock of plastic along the top of the rear panel.
The biggest weak point of the HD was probably the TI OMAP processors found in both models. They were just too slow. So for the HDX went with a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800. It (and the move to Jelly Bean 4.2.2) has Fire OS positively flying compared to the at-times sluggish performance from a year ago. It needed the boost, especially since the deceptively graphics-intensive carousel UI is still in place, only now with a bunch more pixels to push. To that end, it’s also upgraded to 2GB of RAM, up from 1GB.
The other massive, massive improvement is the buttons. You can actually find them now. Instead of the completely-flush buttons of the Fire HD, the HDX now has a circular power button on the left, and a volume rocker on the right They’re still recessed, but not in a way that makes them impossible to find in the dark, or even in the light if you don’t know where to look.
The screens are both improved as well. The 7-inch version got a boost from 1280x800 to 1920x1200, and the 8.9-inch edition went all the way to 2560x1600. That’s 323 and 339 pixels per inch, respectively, up from 216 and 254 PPI last year. (The iPad is 264, and the Nexus 10 300). They’re bright, too—both have 400-nit light sources, which is good since some pixel-dense screens can be dimmer than you’d like. The viewing angles on the tablet seemed impressive at a glance, but the color performance was the standout. Amazon claims it’s 100 percent color accurate (based on sRGB), and it’s kind of easy to believe. We really liked the colors on last year’s HD, but this year’s screens seem geniunely great.
For battery life, Amazon’s claiming 11 hours (up from 10 last year). That’s interesting given the upgraded screen resolutions and the accompanying brighter, 400-nit light (brighter light, more battery drain). Amazon says the efficiency comes from the efficient new panel it’s using—not unlike Sharp’s Igzo displays—that lets more light through the pixels, even at high densities. Reading mode uses even less power, and Amazon claims 17-hours of reading time thanks to optimized power states for the processor and memory.