Amazon's Kindle Fire HD: Better; Can It Compete With The Nexus 7?

Storage Performance: Amazon Fixes A Big Weakness

Although cables are inconvenient, plugging your tablet into your PC or Mac should be the quickest and easiest way to get content on it. Unfortunately, our experience with the first-gen Kindle was downright terrible. Transferring data was "excruciatingly slow," to quote our original review, requiring more than 17 minutes to copy a 2.8 GB movie. Those are nearly USB 1.1-class speeds.

Fortunately, this problem is fixed in the new tablets.

USB File Transfer
2.8 GB H.264-Encoded MP4 Movie

Avg. Transfer Rate
Time
Amazon Kindle Fire, First-Gen (OS-Level File Transfer)
2.76 MB/s
17:14.615
Amazon Kindle Fire, Second-Gen (OS-Level File Transfer)
7.58 MB/s
06:17.324
Amazon Kindle Fire HD (OS-Level File Transfer)11.13 MB/s
04:17.435
Apple iPad 2 (iTunes)
19.19 MB/s
02:29.090
Google Nexus 7 (OS-Level File Transfer)
10.07 MB/s
04:44.235


It appears that Amazon resolved its storage performance issues, seeing that the second-generation Kindle Fire requires just over six minutes to transfer our 2.8 GB file. That's roughly one-third of the time it took on the first-gen Fire. The Fire HD is actually the fastest Android-based tablet, averaging 11.13 MB/s. The iPad 2 outperforms them all, though, nearly halving the time taken by Amazon's Kindle Fire HD.


Amazon Kindle Fire (First- and Second-Gen)
Amazon Kindle Fire HD
Apple iPad 2
NAND Chip
Samsung KLM8G2FEJA
Samsung KLMAC2GE4AToshiba TH58NVG7D2FLA89
NAND Bus
eMMC v4.41
eMMC v4.45
Toggle 1.0
NAND Bus Speed
104 Mb/s
200 Mb/s
133 Mb/s


Why is there a discrepancy between the first- and second-generation Kindle Fires, and why does the iPad 2 perform so well?

Kindle Fire: Samsung KLMAC2GE4AKindle Fire: Samsung KLMAC2GE4A

Almost every Android-based tablet we have ever tested employs eMMC NAND, whereas Apple is the only major tablet manufacturer to use vanilla MLC NAND (the same stuff found in our favorite SSDs). Apple's SoCs contain extra logic to add block management and ECC. In contrast, MMC-based solutions handle management at the NAND level, so the operating system doesn't have to bother issuing commands. This also means that eMMC NAND is blind to most operating system functions, resulting in a significant amount of performance overhead.

USB MSC: First-Gen Kindle FireUSB MSC: First-Gen Kindle Fire

MTP: Second-Gen Kindle Fire & Kindle Fire HDMTP: Second-Gen Kindle Fire & Kindle Fire HD

Also, on its first-gen Kindle Fire, Amazon implemented a generic USB Mass Storage Class (MSC) driver. It is a detriment to performance, but a boon for system compatibility, since the tablet appears as a removable drive under Windows 7 and Mac OS X.

Mac OS X: Sideloading Onto MTP TabletMac OS X: Sideloading Onto MTP Tablet

Like most other Android-based tablets, the second-generation Kindle Fire and Fire HD employ Microsoft's Media Transfer Protocol, which yields a significant storage performance bump. The tablets show up as plug-and-play media devices in Windows 7, but require Android File Transfer for compatibility in Mac OS X.

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    Top Comments
  • Anonymous
    Another great article, as usual, from this site. However this statement in inaccurate:

    "Buying a Nexus 7 locks you into Google's Play store and its movies, newspapers, magazines, and music."

    I have BOTH the Kinda Fire app and Barnes and Noble app installed on my Nexus 7. And that is one of the things I love most about Google's tablet: the ability to get content from any provider I want. I would also like to point out that my gf has the B&N tablet, and it is much better than the Kindle Fire for several reasons: 1) you can sideload your own content through a removable memory card, 2) it has a better screen, and 3) the build quality seems much better after holding both in your hand. It's a shame the Kindle get's more attention, the power of advertising I guess....
    11
  • Other Comments
  • joepaiii
    Why not normalize to a constant brightness level on all tablets rather than max for the battery rundown tests? Since they all have different max brightness, your tests aren't that reliable for judging true battery life.
    6
  • Anonymous
    Another great article, as usual, from this site. However this statement in inaccurate:

    "Buying a Nexus 7 locks you into Google's Play store and its movies, newspapers, magazines, and music."

    I have BOTH the Kinda Fire app and Barnes and Noble app installed on my Nexus 7. And that is one of the things I love most about Google's tablet: the ability to get content from any provider I want. I would also like to point out that my gf has the B&N tablet, and it is much better than the Kindle Fire for several reasons: 1) you can sideload your own content through a removable memory card, 2) it has a better screen, and 3) the build quality seems much better after holding both in your hand. It's a shame the Kindle get's more attention, the power of advertising I guess....
    11
  • nitrium
    Given these devices are also intended to be used as eBooks, why won't anyone test battery life reading an actual eBook - i.e. Wifi/Bluetooth off, screen on (probably at ~50% brightness), no background tasks, just the occasional page flip every 30 secs or whatever the average reading rate is. Is that too much to ask? I tried to find this info with Google, but apparently no one but me cares.
    8
  • freggo
    What turns be away from Amazon and on to the Nexus is, among other things, the multiple reports I ran into about Amazon messing with the content of the device.
    I don't care for a manufacturer remotely deleting things without my permission.
    -4
  • mrmike_49
    no mention of printing - is it possible to print from ANY of these tablets to a net worked printer???
    0
  • acku
    joepaiiiWhy not normalize to a constant brightness level on all tablets rather than max for the battery rundown tests? Since they all have different max brightness, your tests aren't that reliable for judging true battery life.


    There was an interesting case study a while back by AMD that pointed out most people use their devices at maximum brightness, and we've always strove to lean more toward real-world conditions. Having said that, a while back, we also started to standardize our battery life tests to a fixed brightness setting. While not real-world, it does provide a window into how devices compare to one another in that specific scenario. Bear in mind that a fixed brightness on one display may look different on another because of gamut differences. Often times you'll push the brightness up on a low gamut LCD to improve readability or visibility. The article has been updated to include those results. We always intended to do so but this understandably doubles our benchmarking workload and battery life tests take a lot of time. Thanks for being patient.
    3
  • acku
    ryedawgAnother great article, as usual, from this site. However this statement in inaccurate:"Buying a Nexus 7 locks you into Google's Play store and its movies, newspapers, magazines, and music."I have BOTH the Kinda Fire app and Barnes and Noble app installed on my Nexus 7. And that is one of the things I love most about Google's tablet: the ability to get content from any provider I want. I would also like to point out that my gf has the B&N tablet, and it is much better than the Kindle Fire for several reasons: 1) you can sideload your own content through a removable memory card, 2) it has a better screen, and 3) the build quality seems much better after holding both in your hand. It's a shame the Kindle get's more attention, the power of advertising I guess....


    Yes and no. You can use the Kindle Android app to view ebooks from Amazon. That's the case with Android, iOS, and Windows. However, this is not the integrated interface that the Nexus 7 provides. It's a little different for viewing ebooks and magazines.

    More importantly is the difference in movie support. You cannot use the Nexus 7 to view Amazon Prime movies the same way on the Kindle Fire HD. H.264 streaming works when you're on an Amazon tablet, plain and simple. If you want to watch those same movies on the Nexus 7, you need to install Firefox and Flash. But that's still Flash, not the streaming H.264.
    2
  • acku
    nitriumGiven these devices are also intended to be used as eBooks, why won't anyone test battery life reading an actual eBook - i.e. Wifi/Bluetooth off, screen on (probably at ~50% brightness), no background tasks, just the occasional page flip every 30 secs or whatever the average reading rate is. Is that too much to ask? I tried to find this info with Google, but apparently no one but me cares.


    That's a great idea! Unfortunately it's very difficult to implement from a programming perspective to keep consistent across all devices and platforms.
    3
  • nitrium
    Quote:
    That's a great idea! Unfortunately it's very difficult to implement from a programming perspective to keep consistent across all devices and platforms.

    I'd actually settle for "idle" battery life, since reading an eBook is effectively utilizing nothing but the screen. So Wifi/bluetooth/GPS/camera off (not just unused, but literally disabled in settings), screen on (at ~50% brightness). Do these things last for days under these conditions? I can't find data for that anywhere. My primary use for a tablet would be eBooks, but I have no idea which reader (except the original Kindles) actually gives the best battery life for that specific purpose.
    0
  • andrys1
    Re the Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet HD that someone mentioned... A problem for marketing is that, despite the competition, it has NO cameras, not even one for Skype (important for family & friends who like to communicate via video chat), and, more important for many of us, B&N will not allow owners to enable installation of apps from non-B&N sources.

    Amazon does allow installation of apps from "unknown sources," so I have (from places like getjar.com or 1mobile.com) apps like Google Maps in satellite mode, Mantano and also Aldiko to read DRM'd ePub books legally. I also have the B&N Nook app, since I have the NookColor but prefer to just read on the Kindle Fire HD now.

    Very accurate article. As for the Kindle Fire HD, I love the stereo speakers with Dolby and good separation because they're relatively strong and very clear. I hate using headphones or earbuds as a rule (unless in public but I don't usually listen to anything while around other people) unless I'm wanting best sound in music. For me, although my hearing is not ideal, dialog is MUCH better on these than on laptop units I've tried.
    0
  • LordConrad
    mrmike_49no mention of printing - is it possible to print from ANY of these tablets to a net worked printer???

    Printbot and Printer Share work great on the Nexus 7.
    0
  • Anonymous
    I constantly get solid 4.5MBytes/sec using my Nexus7 with my Asus N56U router. Thats 36Mbps.
    0
  • rockstar_7
    Take that Kindle!
    0
  • InvalidError
    Something puzzles me about battery life: the Nexus 7 lasts 9h40 playing h264 video but only 7h30 playing MP3 audio and most other tablets also show this very odd characteristic. In principle, h264 playback even with GPU acceleration should still be far more resource-intensive than MP3.
    2
  • spookyman
    The problem I have with Amazon is that they have a tendency to delete things from your device without your permission.
    0
  • burnley14
    Excellent article as usual, Mr. Ku. Please do another when the 8.9" Fire comes out, I'd like to see how it stacks up against the competition.
    1
  • bmyton
    ackuThat's a great idea! Unfortunately it's very difficult to implement from a programming perspective to keep consistent across all devices and platforms.


    From an owner of both an Android tablet (10" galaxy tab) and an e-Reader (nook) I can say that the book reading experience on the e-Reader is VASTLY superior, even with the smaller screen and horrible resolution. The e-Ink display is much easier on the eyes, and the reduced weight is a huge factor.

    I would only recommend a tablet to a person looking for the multi-media and browsing experience, and so I appreciate that Tom's focuses on those aspects in the review.
    0
  • amdwilliam1985
    nitriumI'd actually settle for "idle" battery life, since reading an eBook is effectively utilizing nothing but the screen. So Wifi/bluetooth/GPS/camera off (not just unused, but literally disabled in settings), screen on (at ~50% brightness). Do these things last for days under these conditions? I can't find data for that anywhere. My primary use for a tablet would be eBooks, but I have no idea which reader (except the original Kindles) actually gives the best battery life for that specific purpose.


    If your primary usage for a tablet is eBook then I would strongly suggest you to consider a Kindle, the eBook reader, it will benefit your eyes so much. We already stare at so many screens(at work, at home with tv), why stare at another screen to read books? Just a suggestion though. Your money your choice.
    0
  • nitrium
    Quote:
    If your primary usage for a tablet is eBook then I would strongly suggest you to consider a Kindle, the eBook reader, it will benefit your eyes so much.

    Except that I would occasionally like to do other things with my device (web browsing or watching a youtube clip, for example). Sure, it would be great if I had unlimited funds to spend on different gadgets for different purposes, but (unfortunately) we don't all have loads of cash to blow on tech gadgets that are primarily (solely) used for entertainment (e.g. reading a book, browsing Tom's, watching youtube clips, listening to music, playing a game etc - it's ALL entertainment, not life or death - I just can't justify blowing wads of cash on more than one gadget used for this purpose).
    -2
  • dvanburen
    MicroSD or Bust!
    0