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Amazon Fire HD 6 review: Has Fire OS finally come of age?

The most affordable Kindle Fire yet looks to compete against the mighty Nexus brand

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What is the perfect size for a tablet? Some would say 7-inches, while others would 10-inches is best for them. Amazon’s latest budget tablet, the Fire HD 6 is just 6-inches, which for a tablet is certainly on the small side. Although the small size of the tablet will please some users, the Fire HD 6 is surprisingly chunky and still not quite small enough for one-handed use. The largely plastic exterior does feel well made and robust, but adds some considerable weight to the frame of the device.

Look around the device and you’ll only find a few ports available to users. At the top of the tablet lies both the 3.5mm audio jack and microUSB, but there are noticeable omissions of a microSD and micro-HDMI port here. The sole speaker on the Fire HD 6 sits at the bottom of the tablet and offers great clarity for songs, when you’re not covering it up with your fingers that is and a miniscule camera sensors on the front and back are the other noticeable additions.

Amazon’s latest version of the Fire OS, Sangria, is in full force on the Fire HD 6, and is a noticeable improvement over previous versions. The smaller frame of the tablet helps keep Sangria running nicely throughout, although we would have liked to see a beefier processor than the dual-core offering used here. However, for the £79 price tag Amazon has set for the Fire HD 6, it’s a fairly standard cutback to make. If you’re an avid user of all things Amazon, then you’ll find the Fire HD 6 a pleasure to use. Every form of media is covered here and while the Amazon App Store is still light years behind that of the Google Play store, most of the essential apps are present. If you’ve not previously invested heavily in Amazon’s ecosystem before, however, then the Fire HD 6 is going to be a device that frustrates. The lack of any real third-support is disappointing, but something that Amazon is keen to fix.

For a media-orientated device, the display of the Fire HD 6 is fairly impressive. There’s no noticeable pixilation while consuming media, and while some may worry that the smaller size won’t lend itself well to reading and watching movies, we found no such issues during our time with it.

The review unit we tested came with 8GB of storage and with no expandable memory option; you’ll be relying heavy on the cloud. Thankfully, every Fire HD 6 owner will have a large amount of cloud space readily available to them, with more available for a competitive price. What we especially liked was being able to switch between the apps stored on our device’s internal storage and cloud account with a simple toggle within the app drawer.

Photography fans might be persuaded to check out the Fire HD 6 for its more portable frame than bigger tablets, but we’ll firmly say that this isn’t a device for taking photos with. Images are grainy no matter where and when you take the photo and apart from a HDR option, there’s a real lack of shooting options. Even though taking photos on a tablet is a debatable subject, the fact that both the original Hudl and Nexus 7 tablets included numerous options, means there’s little excuse for Amazon to offer such lackluster options in today’s tablet market.

The Fire HD 6 is a tablet that will undoubtedly split public opinion. On one hand, you have a device that offers a small form factor perfect for consuming media on a good display for just £79, which is even more impressive if you’re tied into Amazon’s ecosystem. On the other side, you’ve got a rather chunky tablet that offers a somewhat-inferior OS, a lack of third-party options and an awful camera. We appreciate the smaller size, but this is a device that could have been so much more than what’s on offer here.

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For further reviews on the latest Android handsets, make sure to check out the newest issue of Android Magazine.

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