Amazon’s 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX tablet delivers great bang for business users’ buck — if they can live with a few major drawbacks. The device packs most of what the average user could want in a flagship tablet, including an attractive, high-quality build, a large, supersharp display and a zippy processor, plus best-in-class battery life. But make no mistake: the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is a device built around Amazon’s Web ecosystem — a platform fine-tuned for content consumption, not productivity.
Power users might feel hemmed in by Amazon’s Fire OS, the custom Android-based operating system that powers the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, but most business users will find a lot to like in the device. That includes the terrific value Amazon has packed in; the Kindle Fire HDX goes toe-to-toe with top-tier tablets in the 9-inches-and-up category, and at a significantly lower price point. For small business owners on a budget, that’s a real selling point.
One thing’s for sure: The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 won’t be a burden on a business trip or your daily commute. The tablet is remarkably thin and light; lighter even than Apple’s iPad Air, though that tablet boasts a slightly larger display. Still, the HDX 8.9 is a featherweight at just 0.8 lbs., making it a good pick for business users who value portability but don’t want to sacrifice screen size.
This version of the Kindle Fire HDX boasts an 8.9-inch display; Amazon also sells a 7-inch model, but business users might prefer the superior multitasking capabilities of the tablet with the bigger screen. And a remarkably sharp screen it is; its 2560 x 1600 resolution surpasses the resolution of the iPad Air’s larger Retina display. The HDX 8.9 has the brighter screen, too.
Under the hood, the tablet packs a quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM. It can’t go head-to-head with the fastest tablets on the market, but the HDX 8.9 is a smooth performer all around. Business users can expect apps to launch quickly, and jumping between two or more apps is quick and responsive.
For business users who need to get real work done, a variety of Bluetooth-enabled keyboard accessories are available for the HDX 8.9, including variants that prop the tablet up with a kickstand and protect the display.
The software on the HDX 8.9 could either be a deal-breaker or a nonissue for business users. The tablet runs on Fire OS, Amazon’s customized version of the Android Operating system that scarcely resembles stock Android. Apps are still laid out in a familiar grid, however, and a persistent navigation menu offers quick access to your music, books, videos and more.
The biggest difference between Amazon’s tablet and other Android devices is the app ecosystem. Kindle Fire users can’t access the Google Play app store; instead, they must select new apps the Amazon Appstore. Here’s the rub: Amazon’s platform boasts about 100,000 apps, about 75,000 of which are free to download. That’s far fewer than the more than 1 million apps available for other Android devices.
For the most part, business users will find that Amazon’s selection has all the bases covered. OfficeSuite, for example, offers competent word processing and spreadsheet editing on the go, but QuickOffice — not available through Amazon — offers tighter integration with Google’s Web services. Many popular apps, such as Dropbox, SkyDrive and Google Maps are no-shows here, though Amazon’s own services help fill the void. Ultimately, you’ll find plenty of productivity, accounting and note-taking applications in the Amazon Appstore, but you might not find your favorites.
Amazon has made some progress toward creating a business-ready tablet. The recent Fire OS 3.1 update added native Virtual Private Networking capabilities, as well as native wireless printing, improved voice dictation and other productivity tools.
Finally, small business owners without an IT department might appreciate the built-in “Mayday” button. The button, accessed via the HDX 8.9’s main drop-down settings menu, quickly connects you or your employee to Amazon’s 24/7 tech support. The feature includes the ability to video-chat directly on your tablet with an Amazon representative, who can remotely access your device to walk you through the fix you need. That means you can get back to work instead of wasting valuable time tussling with technical difficulties.
For business users, poor battery life is more than just a nuisance. A dead device means you can’t work when you need to. What the HDX 8.9 lacks in app selection, it makes up for in longevity. Amazon promises 11 to 12 hours on a charge, but the tablet lasted 13 hours or more in some tests, making it easily one of the longest-lasting tablets on the market. That means you can work all day long without stressing over battery life.
The HDX 8.9 is a lot of tablet for a low price. It offers a brilliant display and specs that approach top-tier tablets for just $379; by locking users into its own ecosystem of Web products and services, Amazon has kept the cost of its Kindle Fire devices down. Most comparable slates start at around $500, and if you want to find a device that rivals the HDX 8.9 in price, you’ll need to sacrifice on specs, resolution or battery life.
The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is a powerhouse tablet, but it isn’t a device that was made for business. Its Fire OS operating system was built from the ground up to make it easy to purchase and stream music, video and other multimedia content — not to do work. Still, the tablet boasts a fast processor, a sharp screen and a tempting price point. Business users may be let down by the relatively limited app selection found in the Amazon Appstore, however. Before you buy, make sure the HDX 8.9 can adapt to your workflow.