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As tablets become more a part of our daily lives, being able to use them anywhere is increasingly important. Amazon figured out a way to make the display on its new Kindle Fire HDX stand up to bright light, so you don't have to worry about a terribly washed-out screen when you take it outside.
When I tried a press sample of the 7-inch version of the company's latest tablet line, it looked better to me than an Apple iPad in a similar setting. When you turn on the auto-brightness setting on the Kindle HDX, it not only adjusts the brightness, but it also makes the dark areas of images lighter so they're not lost in the glare of bright light, including sunshine.
Here's what else I found after taking the Kindle Fire HDX for a test drive.
The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX has a screen resolution of 1920x1200, with 323 pixels per inch, so I expected a great picture. I wasn’t disappointed. When I watched a video, I found the picture smooth, pretty much glitch-free, and sharp.
The HDX also produces accurate color, covering the full range (sRGB) you’d expect on a digital device. Colors on the HDX appeared as good as those on the iPad, accurately represented, neutral, and well saturated.
The screen was also bright, with reduced glare that made text as easy to read as on the most-readable tablet we’ve tested.
The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX has stereo speakers, but they sounded tinny and were not loud enough for enjoying music. You'll want to use headphones for that.
This new tech-support service from Amazon is available free, 24/7. According to Amazon the support service isn't fully staffed yet, because the tablet hasn't started shipping to consumers. Still, I gave it a try and found the response to be fast and helpful. The agents were able to quickly answer my questions.
When I needed to, I could move the Mayday box (with video of the live agent) around the display to get it out of the way of something onscreen. The agent also used drawings to point things out to me on the screen. If Amazon can keep up with demand once the tablet is shipping, Mayday will be a much-appreciated service.
For more info, take a look at our tablet buying guide and Ratings.
Members of Amazon Prime ($80 a year) can now download some videos to the tablet for offline watching, at no extra cost—a handy perk for travelers. Additions to Amazon’s X-Ray feature make the content really shine on the Kindle Fire HDX. I especially enjoyed keeping track of the songs that played as I watched videos. From the list that shows up in X-Ray, you can jump to the spot in an episode where a particular song begins and buy the song from there.
Also fun: Reading about the goofs in a video and jumping to the scene to watch the mistake as it happens. (For example, during a scene in the TV show "Grimm," a ring is tossed overhand to one character, but when the camera shifts, it's clear the ring was tossed underhand.) With X-Ray you can also read detailed backstories on a show’s or movie's characters, or jump to other videos that star the same actors.
Notifications can be really distracting, but the Kindle lets you turn them on and off with great precision. You can schedule "quiet time" for a specific time of day, for example at night when you know you’ll be reading a book. Or you can set the Kindle to turn notifications off whenever you’re watching a movie, listening to music, reading, or browsing. You can also turn notifications off within a specific app. So if you don't want Facebook notifications to show up at all, for example, you can tell the Kindle not to display them in a notification tray.
Kindle's parental controls let you set up individual profiles for your kids, and control what they do with the tablet. You can place time limits on their use and choose the content from your device that they can see. Amazon also offers a subscription service called Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, which provides access to books, apps, movies, and TV shows. It costs $3 monthly for one child or $7 monthly for a family plan.
The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX weighs about 0.65 pounds, and with the Origami cover ($50) it weighs 1.05 pounds. It costs $230 for a 16GB model, but that’s with "special offers" that show up on the tablet's lock screen. Without special offers, the same model costs $244. Versions with 32GB and 64GB are also available.
By the way, unlike previous Kindle tablets, this line comes with the power adapter in the box, so you don’t have to purchase it separately.