The original Kindle Fire is available for £129, but £30 more buys you the Fire HD.
The key difference is, as you’d expect, the screen: the original Fire relies on a very low resolution display, poorer than that of the original iPad, while this HD model has a resolution of 1280×800 pixels.
Compared to the iPad Mini’s 8in screen, the Fire’s display is smaller at 7in but sharper.
However, its colours don’t look as accurate so white areas look slightly yellow.
The tablet itself initially compares poorly to its Apple rival, but over time we became more forgiving.
Where the iPad Mini is amazingly light and thin, the Fire is almost 100g heavier and feels chunky but solid.
The iPad’s screen fills nearly the entire tablet, where the Fire has thick black bezels at the sides. This looks ugly at first but actually helps when you’re holding it up to read, keeping your thumbs off the page.
Where the iPad relies on the proprietary Lightning cable, the Fire has a standard micro USB socket for charging and a small HDMI output for hooking it up to a TV.
You don’t need any special software to copy photos or videos onto the Fire to view later. There’s no rear camera, but that’s no real loss.
Where the Fire really shines, though, is in its operating system.
Although based on Android, the Kindle has been customised beyond recognition, replacing the highly customisable but clunky apps and widgets of the standard Android interface with a series of carousels and virtual shelves for Apps, Books, Music, Videos and of course buying more stuff from Amazon.
The Battery Life of the Amazon Kindle
The battery runs for over 11 hours – almost as long as the Mini.
The Kindle ebook reading software is built in and works beautifully, although the Amazon app store is smaller but more policed than Android’s Google Play.
The range of software is smaller, but certain key apps such as Netflix and, yes, Angry Birds are present and correct – buy one and it’s billed directly to your Amazon account.
The Fire HD isn’t quite perfect, of course. We wish the screen’s colours were more accurate and the web browser feels clunky and slow compared to the iPad’s Safari.
It does, however, get you a quality tablet experience that feels more polished than many standard Android tablets and at a great price.
The iPad Mini is arguably better and is the standard by which all other small tablets will be judged, but at £100 less the Kindle Fire HD is a great alternative, especially for anyone who already has a Kindle ereader.