We review Amazon’s Fire HD 6 tablet, a small-but-chunky 6-incher that’s deeply embedded in Amazon’s ecosystem, but also a bargain at £79.
Amazon Fire HD 6 design: Pocket pal
In this world of ridiculously massive smartphones, the Fire HD 6 is something of an unusual beast. It’s technically a tablet, but it’s only a touch bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which is technically a phone.
With its dinky 6-inch screen, the Fire HD 6 definitely isn’t a good match for anyone with myopia. However, if your phone’s not quite good enough for watching video and piddling about on apps, but you want a compact device that can easily slip into a large pocket or small bag, this is a good shout. It’s a chunky mother, but we still found that we could shove it in our jeans when we were done playing, something few tablets can boast.
The Fire HD 6 is surprisingly weighty at 290g, but that’s still lighter than the iPad Mini 3 and it’s comfortable to clutch over the most delayed and horrific of commutes. Kids should have no problem either. Even better, the matt plastic shell repels dirty fingerprints and other scuffs. You can pick it up in a variety of colours too, giving it an extra bit of family appeal.
Amazon Fire HD 6 screen and media: Small but sharp
So, that 6-inch screen may not offer much more viewing space than your average palm-filling smartphone (and in some phablets’ case, even less room), but we still found it perfectly fine for streaming movies and messing around with apps.
For a start, it’s nicely crisp thanks to the 1280×800 pixel resolution. That gives you 252 pixels-per-inch, almost on par with tablets twice the price such as the Google Nexus 7. On top brightness, it can just about repel harsh glare, so it’s suitable for outdoor use. However, the touchscreen isn’t as responsive as we’d like. Occasionally we had to tap a menu setting or web link three or four times to get it to register.
Thankfully there’s also a 7-inch version of the Fire HD, if 6-inches just isn’t satisfying enough.
But what if your whole family wants to watch something together? Well, rather than cramming your heads around the dinky display, you can just use Amazon’s Second Screen feature to stream wirelessly from the Fire HD 6 to your telly box. Sadly, the compatibility list is rather short – Sony’s PS3 and PS4 consoles, Amazon’s Fire TV or select Samsung smart TVs are needed to get streaming working. And unlike Tesco’s Hudl 2, there’s no HDMI port to hook up with cables to pretty much any TV going.
Sadly there’s no memory card slot to expand the meagre storage, and the base model has just 8GB of space – or rather, just over 5GB after the likes of the OS are accounted for. You can pay an extra £20 for 16GB of storage, but even that will fill up fast when you’re sticking movies and games on the thing.
Amazon Fire HD 6 features: Kiddie friendly
Although the Fire HD 6 runs Android, you won’t even recognise it under Amazon’s Fire OS 4 interface. It’s been completely redesigned from top to bottom, with a strong emphasis on fast access to your Amazon content.
So, instead of your desktop being a collection of apps and widgets, you instead have a scrolling carousel with all of your recently-viewed books, movies and apps. The idea being that, you can jump straight back into that book you were reading or game you were playing when you pick up the tablet. It’s a great idea that works really well in practice.
Below that you can arrange your favourite apps, and along the very top there’s a menu bar that divides your content up: games, music, audiobooks and so on.
Unsurprisingly, you also get full and easy access to the Amazon store, where you can search for and buy all kinds of content and immediately download your purchases to the Fire HD 6. Sadly there’s no Google Play store – you have to use Amazon’s own app store instead, which can’t boast the same range but at least offers a free app every day.
Like Tesco’s Hudl 2, you can register up to six separate profiles, so family members can keep their emails and personal preferences separate, while accessing the same Amazon account. Setting up a new profile is quick and easy and parents can also set restrictions for their kids, again like the Hudl 2. For instance, wee Jimmy could find the tablet turning off at 8pm sharp, or after he’s been using the thing for three full hours in a single day. You can also restrict access to certain apps.
It’s not all restrictions and finger-wagging though: you can also set daily goals for your offspring, such as an hour of reading each day, to encourage them to get all educated and stuff.
Some of Amazon’s more premium tablets come with a built-in ‘Mayday’ feature, which hook you up to a live assistant to solve any problems you might have. Sadly, this feature is missing from the Fire HD 6. Instead you get given Amazon’s customer service email and phone deets, to get in touch via more old-school methods.
Amazon Fire HD 6 performance and battery life: little nippy
If you’re into games then you’ll get on well with the Fire HD 6. The quad-core processor easily handles fast-paced titles, as well as HD movie streaming and everything else you might need.
Battery life is also strong. We managed to stream Instant Prime movies for almost seven hours before the Fire HD 6 died, which isn’t too far off the iPad Mini 3’s record-breaking ten hours, and well above the five hour average we expect.
Amazon Fire HD 6 cameras: If you must
Skype fans will be pleased to hear that the VGA front-facing camera is a perfectly fine way to videochat. The lens can even detect your face and change focus to keep you sharp if you’re bobbing about like a mentalist.
You also get a simple 2-megapixel rear-facing camera, which packs tap-to-focus controls and an HDR mode. At least the Fire HD 6 is easy to handle as a camera-type device, thanks to its compact build, and the resulting shots are fine for sharing online in a pinch, but tend to be a little hazy and over-exposed. We’d recommend looking elsewhere if you want something to shoot long-lasting memories.
Amazon Fire HD 6 verdict
The Amazon Fire HD 6 is a niche tablet, with a seriously compact screen that makes it almost as small as some smartphones (along it’s a bit of a chunky beast). However, if your priority is affordable portability or you’re just after something your kids can mess around on, there’s plenty of value packed in – assuming you’re an Amazon advocate, of course.