Amazon Fire HD 6 Initial Review

The HD 7 (internally the same machine) is on sale today only for $79 for the 8 GB or $99 for the 16 GB (configure the size in the checkout page). That is a very good price, but it is still a weak machine. If you are considering I would recommend the 16 GB.

Note: after several months, I really cannot recommend this tablet. It crashes almost daily. The storage amount is so small it is almost unusable because I can only keep about 6 to 8 apps loaded at a time. And it is frustrating that Amazon blocks the standard Google App store (I know you can get around it, but I should not need to do that). So good apps like the Kids YouTube app are not accessible. If I had it to do over again, I would buy an iPad mini, even an older refurbished version would be better than this. If I only used it for Scribd or video streaming, which still works fine, I would probably be happy.

However, if I had the option to return for a full refund at this point, I would.

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Original Review

Summary: If your expectations are not an iPad, this is an acceptable tablet, especially when you find it on sale.

A couple weeks ago when the Amazon Fire HD 6 (Kids Edition) was on sale for $119 I picked one up.

I had a couple of use cases that I was interested in. Primarily, I wanted to use it for myself with Scribd (review) for audio and ebooks. But I also was interested in the Kids Edition because I have a one year old. (And frequently visiting nieces that are 6 and 7).

After almost 2 week’s use, I am mixed on the Tablet as a whole, but less negative about it than I was initially.

Pros:

I really like the size. It is roughly the size of my Kindle Paperwhite, and fairly light. My 13 month old daughter has no problem at all carrying it around. The case that comes with the Kids Edition seems like it is a bit cheap but it really is really protective. It is made of foam and stands up to the one year old frequently throwing it on the floor. And because the Kids Edition includes 2 years of accidental damage warranty, I really don’t have to worry about it. The cases only come in Green, Pink or Blue, the Fire HD 6 Kids Edition itself only comes in Black (the standard HD 6 comes in Black, White, Pink, Blue and Green). The one negative of the cover is that it can get a little warm if used for a long time.

The HD 6 works well as an ereader using both the Kindle and Scribd apps. It is comfortable to hold and there is no delay on any screen changes when reading.

Amazon Freetime has a curated library of unlimited use apps, books and a ton of videos for kids. One year of membership is included with the Kids Edition of the HD 6. Somewhat older kids (4 to 8) can really scroll through and pick things on their own. But as I say below, the biggest problem is the small storage size.

A pro that I didn’t realize I had until I started writing is that the Kids Edition is automatically without ’The Sponsored Screensavers’. That is $15 if you were buying the non-kid version.

Cons:

The user accessible storage is small. The only option for the Kids Edition is 8 GB, with only 4.5 GB of user accessible storage. The standard HD 6 and 7 have a 16 GB option for only $20 more, but that is not an option for the Kids Edition and it is a real reason to think about not getting the Kids Edition. (16 GB now available on Kids Edition). I spent the weekend with my nieces and several times a day I had to clear out previously used apps in order for them to download a new app to play with. I don’t think this will be as big of a deal with my daughter, because the infant apps are fewer and smaller. But several of the Lego apps were close to a GB for a single app.

One of the reasons I have not been a fan of Amazon Fire Tablets in the past is the User Interface. The UI needs some real work. There is not an option that I have found to be able to delete apps in bulk when I am logged into Freetime, until you are down to less than 10% and a pop-up comes and suggests that you delete apps. You can delete apps individually from the home page, but that does not always seem to work, and it can be tedious if there are a lot of small apps. I can delete apps from my account in bulk, but not from her account unless the Fire is full. The adult login should be able to access all the settings for the kids login. Also for some dumb reason the tablet turns wifi off when the storage is full.

It is also not a high powered tablet. Playing some of the more graphics intensive games, and switching between apps, there can be a noticeable delay. It is made worse by fairly frequent crashes. Most days I have had to force a restart on the HD 6 several times a day.

The battery is also fairly small (although sufficient if you are just occasionally using it). But it takes six hours to fully charge the device when it is empty. Which is fine if you are charging at night, but a problem if you need to charge during the day.

There is also a lot of complaints about Freetime in the Amazon reviews. I think some are warranted and some are just expecting too much. There is not fine control over different apps and videos and books that some would like. So if you don’t want your kids to watch SpongeBob SquarePants, but you do want them to be able to watch Mr Roger’s Neighborhood, you can’t restrict individual apps or books or videos, just the category. (For instance you can require kids to read 30 minutes of books before they are allowed to play a game or watch a video.)

Similarly, you can restrict app access to specific times or only so much a day, but that is only all apps. So if you have an educational app or a book app that you want to allow, but you want to restrict games, you are out of luck. Also the downloading of apps seems very slow regardless of internet speed. And it would be helpful to have better age-appropriate sorting of games, apps and videos, since the creation of the user account includes a birthday.

I also would love to see a button instead of all screen control. Especially with kids’ use, it is easy to accidentally change the app through screen controls in a way that would be at least lessened with a main button. (But that is probably my experience with an iPad speaking.)

Conclusion:

I am happy enough with the tablet to keep it, but not happy enough to strongly recommend it. There should be a 16 GB option for storage on the Kids Version and if it becomes available you should definitely get the 16 GB (16 GB option is now available on the Kids Edition). You can work around the battery with planning most of the time, but that recharge time is long. I like the idea of Freetime, but the reality of it is not nearly as useful as I would like. If you have a child between 3 and 6 there are a lot more games, videos and apps that are available for that age child.

Reading works fine, and that is my main desire for it. But basic web browsing and app switching make this feel more underpowered than the specs suggest it should be. I would not have purchased the tablet at full price, but at the discounted price, with the year of Freetime and the two year accidental damage warranty, even with the problems it is a serviceable small tablet.

Note: Right now the standard HD 7 is on sale for $79. If you are interested, I would get the standard HD7 with 16 GB (+20) and depending on the user, a 2 year warranty (+25). That makes the HD 7 with 16 GB and 2 year warranty $123.99 only $4 more than I spent on the sale Kids Edition. What you don’t have with the standard HD 6 is a year of Freetime (that is $2.99 a month if you are a prime member or $4.99 a month if you are not) or the foam case ($19). The current non-sale price of the HD 7 Kids Edition is $189, so the standard edition on sale is the better deal, especially since you really should have 16 GB in this tablet and you can have a color option.

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