fire hd 6 tabletI received a Fire HD 6 tablet last week as a gift, and I’ve been happily using it for several days now. I plan a series of articles about my new device as I use it over the next few weeks, but I wanted to start with some initial impressions.

Considering its size and the limitations of the Amazon app store, I doubt it will replace my iPad as my work device, but as an entertainment device, it has lots going for it. I intend to take it with me to meetings for the next few weeks instead of my iPad to see if it can also be my go-to device at least most of the time. I love my iPad, but it’s awkward to carry around all day.

I have been impressed at the quality of this tablet. It doesn’t feel or perform like a sub-$100 device (okay, it’s just barely under $100). Amazon won’t win any design awards for it, but it’s solidly built and feels good to use. I do prefer the design of my iPad, but that’s to be expected in a device that costs so much more. Performance has been snappy. It has a quad-core processor, and I’ve experienced little to no lag. I think the Scribd app actually works better on my Fire than on my phone or iPad.

I assumed I would hate the stock launcher, but I’m finding it does the job. No widgets, of course, and I can’t find a way to use a custom wallpaper, without rooting, but I can live with that. This is an ad-supported unit, and I haven’t decided whether I will pay to have them removed. I turned off promoted content on my Home page, so the only ads I’m seeing are on the lock screen. They are annoying (more so than they were on my Paperwhite), but so far they haven’t annoyed me enough to remove them. I kind of enjoyed the Avengers Age of Ulton ads on Friday. All day, it was the only ad I saw.

I was able to install most of my non-Google must-have apps, like Evernote, Instapaper, Feedly and Pocket. Oh, and Scribd. It was the second app I installed, right after Feedly. Since I make almost all my ebook purchases from Amazon, I’m not concerned about installing third-party reader apps. I do wish I could have Inbox by Gmail. I had to turn off email notifications. With my settings in Inbox, I get a dump of certain types of emails in the morning, which reduces the number of notifications I receive throughout the day. On the Fire, however, I get them all. The Fire calendar app is functional, although limited after Sunrise, but again, I can live with it since this will never be my sole device.

I’m going to miss having the Play Music app. A few months ago, I uploaded my entire music collection to Play Music. Google allows, I think, 4000 uploaded tracks for free, which was far more than I needed. Amazon allows something like 200. 🙁 I’ve been using Play Music ever since, which means I won’t be using the Fire much, if at all, for music. I do now purchase most of my music from Amazon, so there will be enough there for the rare “music emergency.”

Yes, the Fire is great for reading. Since it runs Scribd, I have all my reading in one place. The size is perfect for me, much better than my iPad. My only gripe is finding someplace to put my page-turn thumb. The Fire has a tiny lip around the device, and that hurts my thumb after a while. Screen resolution is on par with my Nook HD and just a tiny bit worse than my iPad. By tiny I mean that I don’t even notice it. I’m glad I received the HD 6. The Fire 7 is currently the same price, but that larger screen significantly reduces pixel density. Since I noticed the difference between my Nook HD and my old Nexus 7 (2012), I’m glad I have the smaller device. Of course the Fire 7 HD is even better, but it’s also more expensive…

One gripe related to reading. The Goodreads for Kindle app is crippled. I can only manage the three standard shelves, and I can’t update progress on books through the app, which means I can’t use it for progress updates for Scribd or audio books. It needs to have the same features as the Android app, and I don’t see why it doesn’t. Amazon owns Goodreads after all.

The only video I’ve watched so far has been Amazon Instant. I’ll have to track down a video player for the Fire to try out other video. I’ve been watching Amazon Instant video on my iPad, and it’s a better experience on the Fire than on my iPad, even though the screen is smaller. X-Ray for video is totally cool, and the Fire handles older videos, like The X-Files, which have a different aspect ratio better than either Instant Video app. The X-Files actually looks much sharper and is easier to watch on my Fire than on my iPad. (Yes, I’m rewatching the series in preparation for the reboot next year.)

I purchased the Amazon cover for it, and I’ll write a complete review of it later, but I’ll say now that I really like it. Between the cover and the tablet, the device feels solid, sturdy and well-protected. The cover has some features I haven’t seen on other covers, so look for that review soon.

So far I’m loving the Fire, which surprised me. I was glad to have one so I could test apps and write how-to Fire articles, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do. Except for work, and a game I can only play on my iPad, I’ve been using the Fire as my sole tablet, and it’s been a much better experience than I had expected. More soon!


  1. Thanks for the review. Like you, I find having an iPad negates almost all the reasons I can come up with for owning a Kindle Fire. As a writer, the iPad has a most serious advantage. “Any day now” there’ll be Scrivener for iOS. That’s the key reason I’ve not upgraded my ancient MacBook.

    That said, I keep hoping Amazon will join the the other ebook retailers and go epub, both reflowable and fixed layout. Then I’d have a excuse to get a refurb Kindle Fire to check how well my ebooks are formatted. But since Amazon stubbornly sticks with a proprietary format unsupported by InDesign, I say, “a pox on you” and send them epubs for conversion. Any issues that result from that are their problems rather than mine.

    Those with young children and any device that runs the Audible app, including Kindle Fires, might want to hurry over the Audible store and pick up Kenneth Graham’s marvelous The Wind in the Willows. Normally almost $20, for today only (Thursday, May 7), it’s the daily deal at only $2.95. Heck, I’m not even a kid and I’m getting it. They’re fun stories.

    Just be advised that the narrator has an old-fashioned, educated British way of speaking that’s probably not very different from how the author himself spoke. Among the reviews are a few grouches who complain about that. I think its good for kids to hear people who speak a bit differently.

    –Mike Perry

  2. Oh, I should add, you don’t need to be a monthly Audible member to download The Wind in the Willows. An Amazon account is sufficient.

    If you miss this special offer, check out iTunes. Apple has a number of audiobook versions of the book starting at $2.95. I’m sure their quality varies, but Apple doesn’t seem to be playing what I suspect is Audible’s game of keeping the normal price of audiobooks high to push people toward that monthly membership. Here’s the link to a well-rated version that’s $4.95.

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