Kindle Fire HD 8.9 Review – Great If You’re 6 And Happen To Love SpongeBob Squarepants

So If you read my last post, you know this isn’t a complete coincidence, but I thought today would be a good time to review a product I picked up about a month ago…the Kindle Fire HD 8.9. I have an original Kindle Fire from when they were first released, and I have to admit, I have yet to read a whole book on it yet….most of them I simply gave up around 6% or so. After about 15 months, I have no real complaints about the original Kindle, which has been used primarily as a child’s toy. My older kids (4&6) use it primarily to watch Netflix and play games (some learning…some not so much). For that, it works fine.  Occasionally I will use it for light web browsing, but honestly prefer a laptop, or better yet, a laptop plugged unto a couple 27” monitors. But in a pinch, it will work.
I had been thinking about getting another Kindle for a few months…sharing was becoming a chore as the kids get older, but was having a hard time justifying dropping $300 on a kids toy. After all, that was more than the Windows 8 laptop I am writing this on cost, which has a way bigger screen, a real keyboard, and it can run excel pivot tables linked to an access database with millions of records….none of which the Kindle was going to be able to do.
Two things changed my mind. First, they dropped the price to $269. Second, and more influential, a co-worker told me about Kindle FreeTime Unlimited. For $3 a month, if you are a prime member, you get unlimited access to a ton of kid friendly books and movies, plus a handful of kid friendly aps. Books was the biggest thing that interested me. Every night, I read the kids books, and after 6 years, I have become sick of reading the same books over and over (and over). New books are expensive…easily $5-$10 a pop…no thanks!! The library is like 10 miles from the house, through town, which makes it a couple hour round trip, and at least a couple bucks of gas. Late fees and lost books are always a possibility. So for $3 a month (plus a $269 Kindle), there are at least hundreds of new books to read, I’d guess around a thousand,  though half of them seem to be Sponge Bob Squarepants 🙂
The other good thing about Freetime is that once you put it on Freetime “mode”, the kids are locked into the freetime selection of Books/aps/movies and can’t get out without a password. On the original Kindle Fire, some of the games always end up sending them to a web page to buy more things….they can’t without a password, and they aren’t old enough to get into anything on the internet they shouldn’t (yet) but Freetime provides a mechanism to essentially lock them out of everything they don’t need access too anyway, while maintaining access to everything they want.
I had originally planned to get either the regular Fire (159) or the Fire HD (199), both with 7” screens. I am glad I spent the extra $70…it makes the 7” screen look puny, and makes reading books easier on my aging eyes. Sound is definitely improved….I am constantly having the kids turn it down because I can hear it loud and clear from across the house.
There are a few quirks I should mention. When I am done reading a book for the kids, to get out of the book and back to freetime, you need to touch the screen, which brings up the menu button. Unfortunately, over half the time, it just changes the page for me. Maybe there is a magic swipe pattern I haven’t mastered?? Oddly, my son does not have this problem…he tells me “it only works for kids”. Hmmm.
Finally, some petty complaints. It does kind of suck that Freetime unlimited is somehow not compatible with the original Kindle Fire.. “How Convenient…. riight” Oh well…hard to increase GDP without a little planned obsolescence. Second, it didn’t come with a wall charger, just a USB charger…as if you had time to plug it into your computer to charge? Of course, for $10-20 they will send you one. No thanks. It so happens that between phones and the old Kindle I have about a half dozen compatable chargers…come on Amazon….you are already losing money on every sale…what’s another $0.43?
So in conclusion, if you are sick of reading your kids the same 50 year old books your parents read to you when you were a kid, and you don’t live close to the library, and your kids aren’t starving, and you don’t think it is utterly ridiculous to spend $269 for a children’s toy, then the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 might just be what you are looking for.  For what it’s worth, and these may be famous last words of a curmudgeon/accountant, but in my opinion, no tablet will ever be capable of doing “real work”…. though I am fully aware that plenty of people don’t consider accounting or blogging real work anyway…they are probably right. Whether I am crunching numbers, pivoting tables, or writing a blog post about how I think bicycling is the stupidest form of exercise known to man, I want two 27” monitors, a keyboard that I can bang on without breaking, and a mouse with the precision to perform open heart surgery…on a real mouse. Also, I want it all to be cheap (so no apple products please).
Just one warning…my 4 year old daughter stumbled upon the original Power Ranger’s series (mid 90’s???) in the Freetime video library and quickly became hooked. Now she wants to be a pink Power Ranger when she grows up and has a hard time resisting the urge to practice karate on her big brother….who isn’t all that amused… Don’t say I didn’t warn you!!