Android can be a scary place.

It’s why Amazon’s Kindle Fire range of tablets has been such a huge success - it offers a safe and cosy walled garden designed to protect tablet newcomers from the big, bad, confusing world of Android, and it really works.

And with the Mayday button on the new HDX it’s going even further by offering 24/7 help with any Kindle Fire confusion. Amazon staff answer HDX-related questions for free at any hour via video call, popping up on your screen in less than 15 seconds. Seriously.

But this isn’t just about wrapping cotton wool around everything, and spec-wise the Kindle Fire HDX is serious competition for the strongest tablets out there. We’re looking at the 7in version, which runs on this year's superstar processor, the 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800, with a new 1080p screen, dual-band Wi-Fi and optional 4G. And if that’s not enough Amazon's also launching a more expensive, 2560x1600 8.9in version, a review of which will follow post-haste.

So the Kindle Fire HDX appears to be both kick-ass and cuddly, but is it the fairy tale device it at first seems?


Design and build: awesome angles

The HDX certainly doesn't look or feel like the safer option. It's a wonderfully neat, compact and sturdy build made up of a soft-touch, matte back and strip of glossy plastic running along the top, housing the two speaker grilles.

Wider and squatter than the Nexus 7, it's a more angular, masculine design than last year's curvy Kindle Fire HD, and this time it looks like it means business, with a front facing camera up top in landscape and just a microUSB port and headphone jack at symmetrical heights up each edge.


Small, round buttons for power and volume sit around the back on either side, just inside from each edge in landscape. This is how you'll tend to use the Fire HDX as it can't really be held in one hand in portrait as the Nexus 7 can, especially if Amazon's excellent magnetic case is attached. It's an unusual placement but it's where our fingers rest so the buttons work well.

The Nexus is a touch lighter than the 303g HDX (313g with 3G or 4G) and it's easier to grab one handed but both tabs fare very well in pockets-about-town. And the HDX does have a bit more personality to its design.


Screen: Eye-popping with a hint of blue

Amazon might not offer the same amount of eye-widening app treats as the full Google Play store but everything looks just as exciting on the Fire HDX's screen as it does on the stock Android champ, the Google Nexus 7, the PPI of which it matches with 323 pixels per inch.

It's no surprise that Amazon prioritises picture quality, because that's what Kindle tablets are all about: watching stuff. From HD Lovefilm streams of Looper to hi-res images loaded onto the HDX, everything looks clear and clean from every angle. Skintones look natural and vivid colours dazzle in the best possible way.

The better-than-full HD screen on the HDX is gorgeous, then, with one small niggle: white webpages can nudge towards the creamier end of the spectrum and when using apps or browsing pages with a white background, you occasionally encounter a blue tint, especially in the corners. It's minimal, barely noticeable when watching movies, but once you spot it you won't be able to stop your eyes travelling back to it. If films are your bag, clap your hands over your ears and pretend you never heard us say anything about the HDX's slightly blue LED tendency.

Dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus audio sound nice and punchy, too, and the placement at the top of the HDX's back mean you're unlikely to accidentally cover one up. Even the virtual 5.1 surround sound does a decent job - we actually paused a Netflix stream to check if some background jazz was coming from the tab or another room.


Battery Life: A Fire that won’t go out

With a battery life of nine-and-a-half to ten hours of constant games, Lovefilm, emails and browsing, that's just below Amazon's eleven hour boast but still incredible for a tablet with such a high resolution and such an affordable price.

Standby stamina is pretty handy, too – after a couple of days of light use the HDX was still hanging on at around 30%. The Nexus does have a slightly brighter screen, but with both set to halfway we found the Nexus 7 needed charging slightly more often over the course of a week.


Storage: All hail the 64GB model

Price and storage are going to be huge factors in any HDX vs Nexus 7 decision. And at 16GB, we'd choose the Nexus – the HDX costs £10 more (without the ads) and uses up more space on Fire 3.0 than the Nexus does on stock Jelly Bean. For 32GB, the prices stay roughly the same, too, at a reasonable £240.

But if you're serious about an HD movie collection stored locally on a Wi-Fi tablet, the HDX comes in a £329 64GB version that the Nexus just doesn't offer yet. Want to feel even more smug? A 64GB iPad Mini with Retina costs £480. If you're going for a 3G/4G model (starting at £270), chances are you're a streaming baby and won't worry about loading up the HDX with your music and movie library, in which case you may as well keep it small.



This is a real Nexus 7 alternative. As long as standing at the cutting edge of new apps isn’t a big priority the HDX  has you well and truly covered, from browsing to cloud storage to buying books, music and magazines. Bringing a new, pepped up Fire OS, zinging along on a Snapdragon 800 and with a crisp, dazzling screen, this 7in Kindle Fire is even up there with the iPad Mini for the best hardware we’ve seen on a small tablet.

It’s the friendliest, most iOS-like version of Android we’ve seen, too. But for us, despite the cool points from the HDX’s build, the sensible 64GB option and the genius Mayday button, Google’s Nexus 7 remains our top small slate. Amazon offers a huge variety of download treats, but without the smartphone hardware, app ecosystem and spit and polish of iOS or the openness and customisability of the Nexus, it’s still got a little bit of work to do. That's why it earns a spot in our list of the best tablets money can buy, below Google's finest. 

But in a world that already includes the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini it takes something special to standout, and the Kindle Fire HDX certainly does that. That's thanks in no small part to the genius Mayday button, which is probably what every other Android tablet manufacturer is hitting right about now.
Stuff says... 

Kindle Fire HDX 7 review

A stunning tablet at a tasty price, if you’re happy to trade app quantity for quality of experience this is a dream device
Good Stuff 
Superb spec and screen for the price
Great Amazon stores for movies, music, books
Mayday is unreal, priceless for tablet beginners
Bad Stuff 
We want all of Google Play, please
Lovefilm is stream-only
Android is more customisable, iOS prettier