As the name suggests, the Fire HD 6 is a 6in tablet and the smallest Fire tablet Amazon has produced. Its design takes a lot of cues from Amazon’s 2014 Kindle eReaders, such as the angular back. At a fraction shy of 11mm thick, the Fire HD 6 is surprisingly hefty for such a small device. It also weighs 290g, which is a substantial amount for something so diminutive. However, the device is nicely balanced due to its small size and you can comfortably hold it one-handed.
The HD 6 comes in an assortment of colours including Black, Citron (yellow), Cobalt (blue), Magenta and White, so you’ll be able to choose a model to suit your taste. The tablet’s hard plastic rear makes the tablet feel at least as cheap as it is. This thick, heavy, plastic slate isn’t something to provoke desire, even for £80.
The Fire HD 6 has a 6in IPS panel with a 1,280×800 resolution, which equates to a pixels-per-inch figure of 252ppi. The screen was perfectly fine for reading eBooks from Amazon’s Kindle library. Text was perfectly sharp and we didn’t strain our eyes reading for long periods. E-Ink screens will always be preferable for reading, but the HD 6 works well as a device you can also use to browse the web.
The display doesn’t make a brilliant first impression, as there’s a huge air gap between the screen and the digitiser. This lends the tablet a distinctly retro look, robbing you of the feeling that the operating system is just below your finger, as well as making the display highly prone to reflections.
Using our calibrator, we measured the screen’s black levels at 0.42cd/m2, isn’t as deep as we’d like but fair considering the cost of the tablet. The Fire HD 6’s 82.8% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut was far more impressive, and compares favourably with that of the Tesco Hudl2. Similarly, the Fire HD 6’s 1,139:1 contrast ratio is great for a cheap tablet.
The display’s vertical viewing angles are fairly narrow, though, so you really need to use the HD 6 straight on. You’ll have to adjust the screen’s brightness manually as there’s no built-in ambient light sensor, but at maximum brightness the screen is just about legible outdoors.
Inside the tablet is a quad-core 1.5GHz processor paired with 1GB of RAM. In our SunSpider browser benchmark the Fire HD 6 managed a score of 788.3ms, which is very respectable for a low-cost tablet. Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets come pre-installed with Amazon’s own Silk browser that uses Amazon Cloud to handle some of the processing to improve web page loading performance.
In testing, we found enabling this technology gave us a marginal improvement in page loading speeds when loading the Guardian website. Gaming performance was strong, too, with a score of 6,240 in our Ice Storm Extreme test and 10,305 in Ice Storm Unlimited, which renders the 3D tests at a set resolution for comparison between tablets. You’ll get better performance from the more expensive Tesco Hudl2, but we were still impressed with the HD 6’s power. Bear in mind that the choice of games from Amazon’s ‘Appstore’ is more limited than on Google Play – see below.
Amazon has had to compromise on the Fire HD 6’s cameras, equipping it with only a VGA (640×480) front camera and 2-megapixel rear camera. Even in outdoor shots with good lighting the camera performed poorly with lots of noise and a lack of detail and sharpness. Colour saturation and accuracy were also very poor. It’s a shame as due to the tablet’s small size we felt slightly less ridiculous using it as a camera than we normally do with tablets.
Amazon has also cut costs on the tablet’s single, mono rear-facing speaker, which sounds poor. It also wasn’t very loud even at maximum volume, so expect to have to use headphones while watching films or playing games.