There are three versions of the Fire HD currently available: the Fire HD 7, the Fire HD 8 and the Fire HD 10. The Fire HD 10 is the best option for partially sighted users: it has the best display and fastest processor and offers more storage.
Even though it is better in comparison to the other tablets, it still has limitations. The front facing camera is not very good for video conferencing, and its battery lasts two hours’ less than that of the Fire HD 8.
All three Fire tablets are restricted to accessing the Amazon app store, though there are ways to access Google’s Play Store which offers far more accessible apps for blind and partially sighted users.
The good news is that all three Fire HDs can be used as word processors and in the creation of spreadsheets. The down side is that you might have to familiarize yourself with new software that might not be accessible for everyone. The reason for this is that Fire HDs are designed to be used with apps from the Amazon app store, which has a limited selection in comparison to the choice available on Google’s Play Store.
For example, you won’t be able to get Microsoft Word app or Google Docs, unless you’re willing to change the device’s settings to allowing apps from unknown sources enabling you to get apps at Google’s Play Store, but at the same time you’ll be opening the device up to potential security risks.
Of those available from the Amazon app store, the most popular option currently available is the OfficeSuite app from Mobisystems. There are three versions, only one of which is free. User experience may vary depending on your vision.
While the free version contains a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation-creation software, you’ll have to upgrade if you want to do things like printing or converting PDF to Word.
Keep in mind that trying to create and edit documents on the smaller Fire HD 7 and 8 can strain your eyes after extended periods of time. It’s not just their screen size, but the resolution too. The Fire HD 10 is the only one of the three with full-HD resolution, offering 224ppi compared with the 171ppi and 189ppi of the Fire HD 7 and 8.
Navigation is easy enough on all three devices, for example, the entertainment tabs on the home page there is a ‘For You’ option, which is handy in that it contains all of your recently used apps.
Among the pre-installed apps, there are only a few that are of use in terms of productivity: a calendar, an email client and an organizational docs folder. The latter shows you if your documents are stored on the device itself or in the cloud.
You also have the option of sending documents remotely to the Fire by emailing them to an @kindle.com address.
As these various apps are fairly low demand, all three Fire HDs are fast enough running them simultaneously.
The Fire HD 10 is the best out of the three, and is powered by a 1.8GHz, quad-core MediaTek processor with 2GB of RAM. This is more than enough to switch between apps and documents without any frustrating pauses.
The Fire HD 7 and 8, by contrast, are slower, with 1.3GHz processors, and 1GB and 1.5GB of RAM. Expect some lag when moving between several active apps, particularly with the Fire HD 7.
Video conferencing with Skype
Skype is available for free from the Amazon app store, and all three Fire HDs have a VGA front-facing camera with which to use it.
Skype is available for the Fire HD, but the front-facing camera is limited to 0.3MP
Unfortunately, the front-facing camera has a low resolution of 0.3MP, which means its’ difficult for the person calling you to see exactly who they’re speaking to.
The rear-facing camera is just 2MP, and struggles in low lighting. While the other specs have improved with each generation, the cameras in the 2017 Fire HDs are the same low quality as those found in the 2014 Fire HD 7.
Trying to find a charging port during the working day is a pain, so it’s nice to know that even the lower spec Fire HD 7 can last up to eight hours on a single charge. The larger Fire HD 10 lasts longer, with up to 10 hours’ use. The Fire HD 8, however, is the best of the three, going for up to 12 hours before needing to be charged.
While these numbers are fairly impressive, the major downside is that it takes between five and six hours to charge the devices back up again.
If you do plan on using a Fire HD outside, then you’re most likely going to need the brightness on at one hundred percent to overcome the reflective screen. There is no oleophobic coating, which results in the screen getting rapidly covered in fingerprints making it more difficult to view the screen.
For their relative prices, all three Fire HDs are capable devices in that you can use them to work on documents, connecting with Skype contacts and check your emails.
Depending on how much you are willing to spend, the best option is the Fire HD 10. At $149 US ($199 CAD), it’s still a good value and your eyes will appreciate its larger screen and higher resolution, particularly towards the end of the working day.
Whichever device you choose, it’ll take a little while to customize it to your particular needs. After all, it’s designed to be a portal into the world of Amazon paid-for entertainment services as a consumer device, not so much a productivity device.