Not since free shipping has there been a better reason to become an Amazon Prime member than the Kindle Fire HDX 7. The new tablet is affordable, powerful, comfortable, and it boasts enough new and refined features to more than earn its $229 (starting) asking price.
With prices like that it’s no wonder that as PC sales decline tablets have been on the rise. However, tablets are just as commoditized now as PCs were in their heyday. Apple arguably created the tablet market, and the iPad still rules the high end; an endless array of Android clones fight it out at the low end, with both sides squeezing the middle.
Enter Amazon and its new Kindle Fire HDX tablets. The new HDX tablets — the third generation of the Kindle Fire brand — shoot toward the top of the tablet hierarchy thanks to three notable features: excellent pricing that’s competitive with the best premium tablets on the market; an awesome content ecosystem (especially for Amazon Prime members) that goes toe-to-toe with iTunes; and real-time customer service with the new Mayday button, which brings a live Amazon rep on a video screen within seconds — for free.
Unfortunately, the video sling feature — you can “kick” video from your HDX to a compatible device or Smart TV — isn’t ready at launch. And neither is Goodreads integration. Also, 16GB is fast becoming too small to store HD content, and without access to the Google Play store, HDX owners are still missing out on plenty of Android apps.
Still, the HDX is the strongest evolution of the Kindle Fire brand yet; however, you’ll want make sure you’re a card-carrying citizen of the Amazon Prime eco-verse to get the most out of the tablet’s offerings.
The messaging experience on Samsung smartphones has never been the strongest, and thankfully it’s getting better and better with each iteration. We’d go as far as saying that it’s actually GOOD on the Samsung Galaxy S4, and that’s coming from a place of wanting to throw the Galaxy S3 out a window once or twice when the email client doesn’t connect properly.
Let’s start with one of the most important points: the keyboard. The previous Samsung versions have been woeful, with bouncy word prediction, inaccurate typing and cramped conditions.
Thankfully with the S4 Samsung appears to have realised this and made a larger option, and thanks to the larger screen you’ve even got a row of numbers on the top so you don’t constantly have to keep pressing ‘Shift’ to get them up each time. We did a lot, though. Just to let you know.
There’s also a Swype-a-like option on board, and while the jury is still out on whether this is more efficient that tapping away, we found it to be more accurate thanks to the larger amount of space afforded by the 5-inch screen.
We still instantly downloaded another option (SwiftKey might be underpinning a lot of what this keyboard is about, but the native option is still preferable in our eyes, as it takes less customisation at the start.)
Text messaging is still a key part of the Samsung Galaxy S4, and has been slightly upgraded; where there was just a conversation view with bubbles before, you now get little contact pictures next to each person, which adds a touch of personality to an SMS conversation. Yes, again it’s not a new experience, but it works well on the phone.
You’ve also got a larger capacity for text messaging than before - where you could only write a missive that was 480 characters or less before converting to a (costly) MMS in previous versions, now you can have over 5 messages’ worth before such a function kicks in.
The email client on the Galaxy S2 and Galaxy S3 was rubbish, and we’ve mentioned that already. However Samsung has taken something of a mallet to that functionality and interface with the S4 and significantly upgraded it. While the S3 came close to working as it was supposed to after nearly a year on the market, the S4 comes out of the gate swinging, if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor.
This means a much cleaner UI that makes it much easier to quickly glance and see who sent each message, a slide-across bar that takes you to your inboxes (should you have multiple accounts on the phone) and even the chance to have priority senders and a combined inbox.
So far, so very similar to the recent iOS update (which was similar to the HTC option before it, it should be noted).
But the key thing is here that the client, which was built to be powerful but ended up flawed, now works as it should.
We can easily set out of office messages, set priority accounts that we need to panic about (although the process there is a little convoluted and won’t let you search an Exchange server to get the addresses you need - nobody should have their CEO’s email saved as a contact, but if they email you then you would listen).
There are other options for messaging of course: for instance, ChatON is present once more (Samsung’s attempt to bring a WhatsApp/BBM/iMessage rival) and brings functionality like being able to send walkie-talkie voice messages to one another as well as pictures and messages, but there are so few people using it regularly that it won’t be long before you hide it from the menu screen unless you happen to have a lot of chatty Samsung friends.
This is something of a shame actually, as it’s a decent platform. You can add a profile pic, send files and the like over a data connection without having to faff with email, and the range of customisation options and UI both work very well for the most part.
Once again, Samsung has shown that it has seen a problem in its older phones and corrected it accordingly - it might not be market leading but there wasn’t a point where we felt that communication was harder with the Galaxy S 4, and that’s all we’re looking for in this scenario.
As a frugal mom of 4 with over 20 years of experience shopping on a budget, I have tested just about every level of grocery coupon use that a person can do; from all, to some, to none, and back again! Coupon use will vary depending on people’s circumstances. I know many people who refuse to use them because they say they just don’t have time, and as a working mom myself, who barely has time to shop for groceries—let alone clip grocery coupons each week, I truly do understand. Yet, not using a grocery coupon on an item that you’re going to purchase anyways is just like throwing money away. And yes, it does take a little time each week to clip the coupons and take them to the store, but just like earning money takes time, so does saving money!
Tip # 1 - Be careful when shopping at grocery stores that require a membership card to get items for their special ‘SALE’ price, which is just about most of them these days. Especially when new cashiers are in training, they just simply forget to run it through. I’ve never had a problem before now but twice in the last 6 weeks I’ve had to ask the cashier to refigure my bill because the card didn’t go through and they charged me full price for everything! (This was especially bad since 75% or more of everything in my cart is usually on sale, not just one or two items.) And yes, it is inconvenient to ask for the refunds and wait for the total to be figured, but both trips resulted in a membership card credit of about $17.00 each! On the second trip, I had even asked the clerk to check the receipt because I saw an item wring up at full price, she checked it and said, “yes it’s there.” But when I got home (always check your receipt before leaving the store, which I usually do!), I put the groceries away and was looking at the receipt and saw I had been charged full price for everything. Back to the store I went (don’t worry, it’s very close to my house!). I tried to be really nice and so did the store manager but I could tell she was not thrilled at having to refigure the bill and give me a cash credit. I’ll do whatever I can to make sure this doesn’t happen again, and will never leave this particular grocery store without checking my receipt first, but good grief! Super Wal-mart is looking better and better to me all the time, and they not only take coupons, they price match too!!!
Tip # 2 - This may be a surprise to you (it certainly was to me), but grocery clerks do not always know their own store’s coupon guidelines! Recently, I had some special store coupons I wanted to use with matching manufacturer’s coupons. Since I was fairly new to this store I stopped by the customer service desk first to make sure it was okay to do this. With no employees attending the desk, a cashier happened to be walking by and asked if I needed assistance. I asked her about the coupons and she said “No, you can only use one coupon per item!” Later, as another cashier was ringing up my groceries I mentioned it to her and told her I thought it was okay to use a store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon, and she said “Yes, it is!” And, I would say in MOST cases it’s going to be okay… a store coupon is not the same as a manufacturer’s coupon, it’s really just their own sale price! However, if you want to make sure your store will honor both coupons at the same time before you try it, just be sure you speak directly to the manager!
Tip # 3 - If you have time (or even if you don’t) you can also create a price log in a small notebook to record the best price of your favorite products at each store, as well as the coupons you receive throughout the year. This will help you learn the sale trends and know what the best grocery bargains really are. Here’s our FREE Printable Price Log to help you get started!
Visit our coupon site http://isaving.net/ to find the best coupons for you.
TheHD 8.9 isn’t much different than the 7-inch model that launched a few months ago. It runs the same operating system, a heavily modified version of Google’s that locks you into Amazon’s ecosystem of apps, movies, music, and books. So I’m not going to spend too much time picking through all the nuances and quirks of the software. You can get all that in my review of the smaller Kindle Fire HD.
Instead, I think it’s more important to look at what sets the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 apart from the rest of the Kindle family and how it compares to other full-sized tablets. Most importantly, there’s the price. This tablet starts at just $299, a steal compared to the $499 full-sized and the $399 Nexus 10 from Google.
But in many respects, you get what you pay for. When I see a full-sized tablet nowadays, I expect the full package of productivity features like email, calendar, web browsing, and multitasking. But the Kindle Fire HD either doesn’t do those things very well or doesn’t have them at all. At its core, the Kindle Fire HD is still just a screen for gobbling up movies, books, and magazines. And that’s not going to cut it for people expecting “the best tablet at any price,” as Jeff Bezos claims the Kindle Fire is.
Amazon’s largest Kindle Fire is also its best one to hold. It looks nearly identical to the 7-inch version, but it’s been stretched out so the bezel around the screen doesn’t seem as thick. There’s also that same rubbery backing that makes the tablet easier to hold. My only gripe with the design are the power/volume buttons on the edge. They’re nearly flush with the device, making them difficult to locate without flipping the device over.
The Kindle Fire HD also includes an optionalLTE connection from AT&T if you’re willing to shell out an extra $200 for the device. I didn’t get to test that model, but $499 brings the Kindle Fire to iPad-level pricing, and it’s simply not as good as Apple’s tablet. (Yes, you get a nice data plan option, $50 for 200 MB per month for a year, but most people will want to use more data than that.)
I also enjoyed the stereo speakers, which are louder than any other tablet I’ve used. The only caveat is I’d sometimes get a buzzing noise if I cranked the volume all the way up. But even at half volume, the Kindle Fire HD is plenty loud, a nice change from the quiet mono speaker on the full-sized iPad.
The screen is great too. As the “HD” name implies, Amazon added a sharper screen to the Kindle Fire, and the one on the 8.9-inch model is almost as good as the one on the iPad. I didn’t even notice a difference, so it’s not a bad deal to get such an incredible display for $200 less.
Despite a few bug fixes and additional features since the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD launched, there are still a lot of annoying quirks with the operating system. There’s a noticeable lag any time you try open a new app, movie, book, or navigate to a new section of the menu. The lag isn’t as egregious as it was when I tested the 7-inch model, but it’s still there.
And when it comes to other basic tablet functions like email, calendar, and multitasking, the Kindle Fire is still way behind other Android tablets and the iPad. The email and calendar apps are pretty bare and don’t take full advantage of the larger display. Multitasking doesn’t even exist; you can only “star” items and keep them in a shortcuts menu for quick access.
Finally, Amazon’s app selection isn’t as good as what you’ll find on the iPad or other Android tablets. Amazon stripped out all things, so you can’t access the official Google Play store for Android apps. Instead, you’re stuck with Amazon’s store, which often takes a bit longer to get the newest apps.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, but with a few caveats.
In short, the Kindle Fire HD doesn’t feel like a device that’s good for anything but watching movies, reading books, or playing games. (But it is really good at those things.) If that’s all you want to do, then you’re getting a great value out of big-screen model.
I’d also skip the $499 4G LTE version and go with the WiFi-only $299 model instead. Once you start getting into the ~$500 range, you’re better off with an iPad.
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