Prime: Streaming Video And HDMI Output
Amazon's Prime service provides access to Instant Video titles, videos available for instant streaming at no additional change with your Prime membership ($79 annually).
There is a catch with Amazon's Prime service, though: these videos cannot be downloaded. Other videos listed with the "rent" or "buy" options can be downloaded and viewed offline without a Wi-Fi connection.
All streaming videos are displayed within the same horizontally-oriented interface featuring controls for volume, track position, play/pause, quick rewind (10 seconds), and general navigation. Other than repositioned controls, it is a near duplicate of what we saw a year ago on the first-generation Kindle Fire. The interface is designed to give you access to more information and control, but it can also be a distraction. Tapping on the screen lets you toggle the controls on and off (including the top status bar).
A new feature is X-Ray, which displays a quick link to the IMDb bio information of actors on-screen at any given time.
If the screenshots look a little dark, that's because the controls are overlaid on top of the video image. Any rotation from landscape to portrait mode is automatically detected, and the controls automatically reorient themselves. This was lacking in the past.
As we'd expect, video is mirrored when you hook the Kindle Fire HD up to an external display. This isn't a bug or anything, but the fact that we're not able to extend the tablet's display to the second screen is an annoyance we can trace all of the way back to Motorola's Xoom.
Apple's iPads only output video to the external monitor, and that approach makes more sense. If you're going to the trouble of connecting a screen to your tablet for movie playback, you don't want the image playing back on the smaller device simultaneously. We'd like to see the behavior of Android-based devices change, if only to preserve battery life.