Mobility

Kindle Fire HD teardown reveals repair-ready tablet with minor annoyances

Bill Detwiler disassembles the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and shows you why it's easy to crack open and how it compares to the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab 2 7.0.

With a base price of $199 (US), Amazon's Kindle Fire HD gives you a lot for your money. And while it's just as easy to crack open as the original Fire, it has better hardware and a completely redesigned interior.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Amazon Kindle Fire HD

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD has a 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460 system on a chip (SoC), 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, a 7-inch IPS LCD (1280x800), and Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (MIMO) support. The base model has 16GB of storage, but a 32GB version is also available. The Fire HD measures 5.4" (W) x 7.6 (T) x 0.4" (D) and weighs 13.9 ounces.

Cracking Open Observations

  • Easy to open: Like the original Fire, the Kindle Fire HD is a snap to crack open. With the help of a thin metal blade or plastic case opening tool, you can pop off the back cover. No tamper resistant screws here.
  • Easy to disassemble: Once inside, removing the internal components is also a straightforward process. Other than a single Torx T5 screw on the battery, you can remove all the interior screws with a Phillips #00 bit. After disconnecting a few cables, the battery, motherboard, speakers, headphone jack board, and internal frame should all come out without much fuss.
  • Minor complaints: Despite, the Fire HD's easy-open case, I have a few complaints about the tablet's internal design. First, the copper tape covering the processor and RAM packages is a pain to remove. Second, you must remove the motherboard before removing the right speaker. And last, one of the Wi-Fi antennas is held to the internal frame and front panel with adhesive and must be detached to remove either part.
  • Fused front panel and display: I usually criticize manufactures for fusing a tablet's display and front panel. But, not this time. The Fire HD's display and touch sensor are laminated together into a single layer of glass. This construction technique eliminates the air gap that forms when a traditional glass touch sensor is mounted over a separate LCD panel. According to Amazon, by removing this gap, they made the screen easier to read and reduced glare.

Kindle Fire HD vs. Nexus 7 vs. Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

So how does the Fire HD stack up against other low-cost, 7-inch tablets, such as Google's Nexus 7 and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 7.0?

The Fire HD Fire has a 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460 system on a chip (SoC) and the Nexus 7 has 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3 SoC. Despite the 4460's support for dual-channel memory, the Tegra 3's higher clock speed, four cores, and better GPU give the Nexus a slight edge. The Galaxy Tab trails both the other tablets with its 1GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4430 SoC.

As for RAM, all three tablets have 1GB of memory, but the Nexus 7 uses DDR3 SDRAM compared to the other tablets' DDR2.

When comparing storage, the base model Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab 2 have 8GB, while the entry-level Fire HD has 16GB. The Galaxy however, does have microSD card slot.

All three have 7-inch displays, but the Fire HD and Nexus 7's screens operate at a resolution of 1280x800 with the Galaxy Tab at 1024x600.

Don't judge a tablet by hardware alone

When it comes to hardware, all three tablets have their pros and cons. If you want two cameras and expandable storage, the Galaxy Tab 2 is the way to go. If you want NFC and a Tegra 3 processor, it's the Nexus 7. And if you want MIMO support, right and left speakers, and a base model with 16GB of storage, then the Fire HD is the one.

But honestly, you can't judge these tablets on hardware alone. As CNET's Eric Franklin wrote in his review, "It's not a question of which is better. It's more a question of which is better for you."

Like its predecessor, the Kindle Fire HD is really designed for heavy Amazon users and Amazon Prime subscribers.

Internal hardware

Unfortunately, many of the Kindle Fire HD's ICs are covered by EMI/RFI shields, which are soldered to the motherboard. I wanted to reassemble this tablet in working order, so I didn't remove the shields. Luckily, our friends at iFixit did detach the shields and gave us a look at the chips underneath. Our Kindle Fire HD test unit had the following hardware:

  • 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460 SoC (includes Power VRSGX 540 GPU)
  • 1GB Samsung K3PE7E700M-XGC(2) LPDDR2 SDRAM
  • 16GB Samsung KLMAG2Ge4A-A001 moviNAND (eMMC)
  • Wolfson WM8962E ultra-low power audio CODEC
  • Atmel mXT768E mutual capacitance touchscreen controller
  • Invensense MPU-6050 Six-Axis (Gyro + Accelerometer) MEMS MotionTracking Device
  • Broadcom BCM2076 Multifunction Monolithic IC with GPS and GLONASS AGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and FM Receiver/Transmitter
  • Unknown Wi-Fi package

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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