Amazon has refreshed its 2015 Fire HD tablet range, and has improved screen quality, durability, and value for money. But, perhaps the most interesting is how thin the new tablets are at under 7.7mm thin and running the latest Android spin-off, Fire OS 5, the new Fire HD kicks off at under $150 way down to $50.
The 2015 Fire HD comes in two sizes, the HD 8 with an 8-inch panel, and the HD 10 with a 10.1-inch panel. Unusually for a tablet these days, Amazon has stuck with 16:9 aspect screens: it argues that makes the most sense for how Fire tablet owners actually use their slates, predominantly for watching video in landscape orientation and reading in portrait.
Inside, there’s a 1.5GHz quad core processor along with 8GB or 16GB of storage in the HD 8, and 16GB or 32GB in the HD 10. Both get a microSD slot content with up to 128GB cards (and, notably, Fire OS now supports downloading offline Prime Video to memory card, not just internal memory).
Dolby Audio for the speakers – and Dolby virtual surround when you plug in headphones – uses software to boost volume by a claimed 50-percent over rival tables, without distortion. It’s not quite the hand-shaker of the iPad Pro, but the Fire HD does get loud.
On the back, there’s a 5-megapixel camera, while on the from there’s a 720p webcam. As before, photos can be automatically uploaded to Amazon’s free cloud storage for Fire tablet owners.
The New Fire OS
Hardware is only half of the story, mind. Fire OS 5 is new too, based on Android Lollipop but giving it the Bezos treatment. So, there’s a new home screen layout, with the default screen showing both new and recently-accessed media on the top half, and apps on the bottom. Swipe left and right, meanwhile, and you go to dedicated media pages – books, music, video, apps, etc. – in what Amazon says was inspired by the pages of a magazine.
On each, your own content is blended in with what’s new. On the books page, for instance, your library is at the top, but as you scroll down you find new titles to download underneath, recommendations, and store categories. It’s obviously intended to get you to buy more, but Amazon says it should also help with content discovery.
Several colorful cases will be offered for both tablets. Meanwhile, the 2015 Fire HD 10 gets an optional Keyboard Case, with a QWERTY layout of keys with surprisingly good travel, and a trackpad that moves an onscreen cursor. When closed up it’s a fairly bulky bundle, mind.