Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch tablet
Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch tablet

Tech Review | Here come the Kindles

Amazon.in, live for just under a month, has officially begun selling its Android-based tablets and e-book readers in India

After Amazon.in launched in the first week of June, the e-commerce company started sales of its Kindle e-book readers from the website in India; and from 27 June, the company’s tablets, the Kindle Fire HD line and the Kindle Paperwhite eBook reader, will also be available for Indian buyers, at www.amazon.in

While the tablets were launched internationally in September, and the Paperwhite followed in October, it’s only now that they are available in India. And aside from hardware, the tablets also offer Amazon’s reinterpretation of Android, which is geared towards content instead of apps; putting your books, music and videos front and centre, instead of the apps with which you’d normally access them.

The tablets are also geared towards selling you content, which makes them stand out from most other similar devices; and it’s here that the experience in India gets a little compromised, as Amazon isn’t selling music or movies via Kindle Fires yet.

We spent a week with both the Kindle Paperwhite 3G and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch tablet— here are our impressions of both:

Kindle Paperwhite

Sign in with your Amazon ID (or create one if you haven’t already) and all the books and magazines you have saved will show up on a cloud menu, and can be downloaded with simple taps. If you’ve saved a lot of PDF files and Word documents, then those are also easy to get, and the Kindle is definitely one of the best choices for proofreading because, unlike a tablet, there’s very little eye strain with an e-ink screen.

The Paperwhite is so called because of changes to the screen; it’s still easy on the eyes, but comes with a light that can be adjusted easily with an on-screen control. With older Kindles, reading in dim light is difficult; the Paperwhite has no such issues. On the other hand, the e-ink remains incredibly clear; reading a sample issue of Lone Wolf And Cub on the Paperwhite felt more like reading it in print than on a tablet.

With medium levels of brightness, the Paperwhite battery is supposed to last eight weeks when used for half an hour every day; in one week, it certainly seemed like a believable claim. The sleek design of the Paperwhite is stunning as well, and if you’re an avid reader, then owning one is a must.

Price: 10,999 (Wi-Fi), 13,999 (3G)

Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch tablet

The Fire is a good-looking, wide-screen tablet, and the 1,920x1,200 display on the 8.9-inch screen is sure to win over a lot of people. Amazon’s roots lie in books, and reading is a particularly good experience on the device, whether you’re using the browser or reading books or magazines.

The Fire uses a dual-core 1.5 Ghz CPU and has 1 GB of RAM, and again, while these are not the best specs on the market any more, Amazon has been able to get a great deal of performance out of them. It does away with a rear camera and gives you only a front-facing camera for Skype, and has a battery life of around 7 hours of use, which includes gaming and watching movies, Web browsing and reading.

What’s really notable, of course, is the interface. Instead of the Android grid, you get a carousel showing the books, games, music and movies you accessed last, so you can pick up easily from where you left off. The prioritization of content over apps makes it easier for Amazon to sell you things; but it also makes the tablet much easier to use. Amazon also has a service called FreeTime, which is another great idea; it lets you set up guest or children’s profiles so that people other than you can use the tablet without having access to your data.

That said, Amazon’s greatest strength also becomes a weakness here; while books, magazines and apps are populated with things to explore from the moment you start the tablet, music and movies are empty, and you can either transfer your personal content using your computer or wait for Amazon to get involved in those categories in India. The company has stated in earlier interviews that it intends to bring all the Amazon products to India, including music, TV shows and movies; once this happens, the Kindle Fire will easily be your entertainment hub. As it is, it is already one of the most polished and interesting takes on Android yet.

There are some shortcomings with the tablet’s design too. The power button is fully in line with the body of the device and doesn’t stick out, making it hard to find and press. This is a button you will have to use frequently, so it’s a little surprising that it has these issues.

Given the slightly steep price tag for the Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch tablet, there are definitely other options that give you a more powerful machine for less, but this is a simple, easy-to-use machine that has an excellent screen and premium design with just a few drawbacks, so it’s definitely worth considering.

Price: 21,999 (16 GB), 25,999 (32 GB)

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