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Reviews: Kindle Fire HD good, but not quite an iPad

Doug Gross, CNN
Amazon's new 7-inch Kindle Fire HD will cost $199 and ship September 14. A bigger, 8.9-inch version, ships in November.
Amazon's new 7-inch Kindle Fire HD will cost $199 and ship September 14. A bigger, 8.9-inch version, ships in November.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Reviews: The Kindle Fire HD is a good tablet but not the "best at any price"
  • Consumer Reports gave it a thumbs-up, citing improvements on the original
  • Reviewers like screen and physical improvements, such as camera and volume button
  • Still, compared to an iPad, the Fire HD is "not there yet," some say

(CNN) -- The reviews of the new Kindle Fire HD are in and many, including one from widely respected Consumer Reports, sound a similar theme: The tablet is quite good -- better than the original Kindle Fire -- but still no iPad.

Consumer Reports tested the 7-inch Fire HD, which is the same size as the current Kindle Fire and is scheduled to ship on Friday. They didn't get their hands on the bigger, 8.9-inch version that ships on November 20.

"The Amazon Kindle Fire HD may not meet the company's goal of creating 'the best tablet at any price,' our tests suggest. But it's a fine performer that improves markedly on the first-generation Fire," reads the site's review.

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Leading the CR review was a positive take on the tablet's new screen.

"In particular, glare is reduced over the HD's predecessor, creating a screen that's among the easiest to read in bright light among tablets we've tested. Color fidelity is also a step up on the old Fire, though it's still a little behind the third-generation iPad screen, which has the highest color accuracy we've measured on a tablet," it read.

Also earning high marks were its 8 hours of battery life, improved access to cloud storage, and the addition of a physical volume button and camera -- two knocks against the original Fire. Like its predecessor, the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD sells for $199; the bigger version will go for $299. That's $200 less than the similarly sized iPad and $100 less than Apple is currently asking for a version of the iPad 2.

Consumer Reports said it found "no major flaws" with the new Kindle tablet. But what it called "quibbles" included the lack of a fully stocked app store, lack of a memory card to add to its 16GB or 32GB of memory and the fact that the advertised prices are for a "special offers" version that includes ads. (Ad-free versions are available for $15 more).

"While our tests continue, the Kindle Fire HD shows every sign of being a very worthy tablet. It's also attractively priced (despite our quibbles), costing less, for example, than a 16GB Google Nexus 7, even if you add the cost of a charger and the no-Special-Offers upgrade," CR said.

Hands-on with the new Kindles

The Consumer Reports review is in line with many others published since Amazon introduced the device last week.

Joshua Topolsky of The Verge called the tablet a definite step forward from the original Fire.

"The original Kindle Fire felt like an experiment, a 'can we do this?' moment for Amazon," he wrote. "The new, $199 Fire HD feels like something very different. A product with an attitude, a directive, a plan. And that plan seems to be something like this: hit them on price, hit them on ecosystem, and hit them where it hurts the most -- product design."

But like others, he notes that, when stacked up against the iPad and Google's Nexus 7, the device "still has a long way to go."

"I think it can get there, but it isn't there yet," he wrote.

At Mashable, Lance Ulanoff called the Fire HD "a great tablet and a great value" while David Pogue of the New York Times said the device is "not a disappointment" but falls well short of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' lofty goal of creating "the best tablet at any price."

"The Kindle Fire HD models are attractive, confident viewers of movies, TV shows, Web pages and books. They tap into Amazon's increasingly appealing online world of entertainment and information stores. And above all, they make the Kindle Fire's industry-leading features-per-dollar ratio even more top-heavy," he wrote.

"But 'the best tablet at any price? Hmmm. Somebody should put a call in to the Seattle water inspectors."

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