AmazonPrice: $199 (16GB), $249 (32GB)Pros: Excellent integration with Amazon's content ecosystem; vivid, low-glare screen; high-quality stereo speakers; X-Ray for Movies and X-Ray for Books add valueCons: Limited app choice; occasionally sluggish performance; no GPS or wall charger; Amazon-customized interface not as good as Android 4.01 (Jelly Bean)
Even more annoying is the "Special Offers" advertising that greets you every time you turn on the device. One would expect that if you spend $199 for a piece of hardware you wouldn't have to deal with targeted ads. But that's exactly what happens every time you turn it on. Soon after announcing the Kindle Fire HD, Amazon decided to allow users to turn the ads off permanently -- for a $15 fee.
Curiously, there's no wall charger included with the device, just a USB cable. Worse yet, the Fire HD won't charge while it's in use. You can, if you want, pay extra for a wall charger: $10 if you buy it when you purchase the device, and $20 if you purchase it after that.
So that $199 purchase price is a bit misleading: If you want to avoid ads and charge your device from a wall socket, it can really cost up to $234.
The bottom line
The Kindle Fire HD is not a general-purpose tablet, despite Amazon's claims that it's "the best tablet at any price." It's not.
Instead, despite some shortcomings, the device is a simple, elegant way to tap into the vast Amazon ecosystem of books, media, movies, music and video, and it does a superb job of it.
If you're looking for a true general-purpose tablet in the smaller 7-in. size, you should look elsewhere, especially to the Google Nexus 7, which takes full advantage of the latest Android iteration, Jelly Bean. But if you're a fan of Amazon and its entertainment services, buying this tablet is a no-brainer. Even if you already have a first-generation Kindle Fire, you may want to try it out. Once you see the improved screen and new features such as X-Ray for Movies and X-Ray for Books, you may well decide it's time for an upgrade.
Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for Computerworld.com and the author of more than 35 books, including How the Internet Works (Que, 2006).