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Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch review: Third time's the charm

Andy Ihnatko | Oct. 3, 2013
Considerable hardware and software improvements make Amazon's third attempt one of the best content-consumption tablets around.

If you have Amazon Instant Video on a compatible TV or game console, you can "flick" the movie to the TV, and then the two devices will work together. The TV will take up the streaming duties from that point in the movie, and the screen of the HDX will become dedicated to displaying X-Ray content.

The list of compatible hardware is sparse at this writing (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and certain Samsung sets), but as Amazon surely planned, X-Ray-enhanced video encourages me to buy more movies from the Amazon store.

Next-generation support at the touch of a button
The HDX has another cool trick: a Genius Bar in every device. If you need some coaching on the use of your Fire HDX or if you can't get something to work, just tap the Mayday button in the Fire HDX's systemwide status bar. Within 14 seconds (Amazon's target), a floating window pops up and connects you to live one-way video chat with an Amazon advisor.

You can see and hear the representative. They can hear you and see your screen. Ask any question, and they'll walk you through the answer, either by "telestrating" your screen or by taking over your device and doing the job directly.

This is an exceptional feature, once you get past certain instinctive "ick" privacy concerns. The advisor can't see you. The feature can be initiated only by you, and you can terminate the connection at any time.

But what if you need help attaching a photo to an email message? Must the advisor see those bathtime photos of your kids? No; you can ask the representative to cut the video and then wait for acknowledgment inside the chat window. Okay, but why should the user have to ask? The chat window ought to have a button that shutters the screencast portion of the chat instantly, on demand.

Mayday seems to work well, though obviously I'm using the system before it's available to millions of consumers worldwide. Amazon already has an international support network in place (if you don't speak English, they've got you covered), and it already has huge network capacity.

Amazon's unique value proposition
As an abstract piece of hardware, the Kindle Fire HDX is impressive, particularly at the prices Amazon is charging. The version I used is just $229 for a 7-inch screen and 16GB of storage. The 8.9-inch version is a tasty $379 in the same configuration. Adding storage (up to 64GB) and LTE (through AT&T or Verizon in the United States) costs extra, of course. Both are available for preorder today; the 7-inch will ship October 18 and the 8.9-inch on November 7.

 

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