The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 inch tablet is set to ship on Friday, and the first reviews are in. Long story short? The Kindle Fire HD has a slightly faster processor and a higher resolution display than Amazon’s first 7 inch tablet. It also gets better battery life.

But it’s not perfect.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7

The tablet also has volume buttons, HDMI output, and more storage than the original, as well as an updated software interface based on Android 4.0. But there’s still no rear camera, and no GPS.

Reviewers report that the best thing about Amazon’s tablets continues to be their tight integration with Amazon’s digital book, music, video, and app stores. While there aren’t as many apps available from the Amazon Appstore as the Google Play store, Google’s music and movie catalogs pale by comparison.

Amazon Prime subscribers also get access to a huge range of streaming videos and eBook loans at no additional cost.

But because Amazon’s user interface is basically a big bookshelf, and thanks to the ads on the lock screen and home screen, Amazon’s tablet sort of screams content consumption rather than creation, which makes it feel like less of a tablet than, say, the iPad or other Android tablets — even though there’s not that much different in the hardware.

Of course, I suspect it’s just a matter of time before hackers figure out how to root the new Kindle Fire HD, install the Google Play Store, or even load custom ROMs such as CyanogenMod.

While apps run smoothly once their up and running, many reviewers noted that the home screen animations and some other features feel sluggish. Maybe the move from a 1 GHz to a 1.2 GHz TI OMAP 4 processor wasn’t enough to handle Amazon’s new software.

Or maybe we’ll see a software update soon that will address performance issues. Amazon has released a couple of updates for the original Fire over the past year, improving performance and adding new features.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon released a software update for the original Kindle Fire soon, adding many of the new features available in the Kindle Fire HD — so you might want to hold onto your older tablet unless you need more space, more screen resolution, or more buttons.

Or you could wait for the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 which is due to ship in late November. That model will have a 1.5 GHz OMAP 4 CPU, and an 8.9 inch, 1920 x 1200 pixel display.

Here are some of the first Kindle Fire HD 7 reviews:

You can buy the Kindle Fire HD 7 from Amazon for $199 and up.

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