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Amazon Kindle Fire Review: Can $200 Buy a Great Tablet?

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Amazon

Introduction, Design and Ergonomics

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The tablet market is starting to heat up. After a long period of dominance by the iPad and its long line of Android imitators, we have new competitors looking to spoil the tablet world order. On the high-end we have the incoming volley of buff Tegra 3 based products, and on the low end with have the Kindle Fire, a simple $199 tablet that seems to prefer that its users don’t think for a second about the hardware inside. 

That’s actually a bit odd, because the hardware inside is at least competitive. Though priced $300 less than the cheapest iPad 2, the Fire offers a dual core processor at the same clock speed of 1 GHz. It also provides 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage, neither of which will blow away competitors, but all of which is competitive. While the 7” size of the Fire means there is simply less tablet to build, it’s impressive that Amazon has managed to cram reasonably impressive hardware into one of the cheapest Android tablets on the market today.

Hardware is only a small part of equation, however. Amazon really intends the Fire to be a portal to its world of services, which includes ebooks, streaming video, apps and much more. This is very much a walled garden, even more so than Apple’s iPad, and for it to work the spoils of the garden need to be damn good. Let’s see if $200 is really a good value given that users must buy into Amazon’s services as well. 

Continue reading our review of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet!!

Design and Ergonomics

The Kindle Fire’s exterior couldn’t be simpler. It’s available only in black, and the soft-touch rear panel is broken up only by a small “kindle” label. There’s also only one button on the device, a power/sleep switch, and only two ports - a mini-USB port, and a headphone jack. Yes that’s it. You’ll find no HDMI here. 

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Indeed, it’s as if Amazon did nothing but order up about 7 inches of tablet. Even the BlackBerry PlayBook, another 7 inch black-clad tablet we reviewed some time ago, was far more styled than this product. As a result, the Fire looks like what it is - a budget tablet. It’s clear that there wasn’t any money in the device’s budget for touches like aluminum trim or a colored Kindle Fire label along the front bezel.

Weighing in at 14.6 ounces, the Fire is one of the lighter tablets on the market today, thanks no doubt to its 7” size. However, because that weight is packed in to a smaller frame, there’s an impression of excessive heft that is deceiving. It’s only after using the device for several minutes that the light weight becomes both noticeable and a significant boon. A Kindle Fire can be held for long periods of time without becoming a burden, an important trait in a tablet that places a focus on media consumption. This is no e-reader, however; while easy enough to handle, a normal Kindle has about half the heft. 

Being small also means that the Fire is an easy tablet to handle. People with large hands can palm the device, or swing it from portrait to landscape mode with a twirl of the fingers. Reading a magazine or book easily leaves a hand free to sip the morning coffee. Landscape mode use while web-browsing is ergonomically sound, as well, as the keys on the virtual keyboard can be reached by the thumbs of most users.

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If there’s any ergonomic issue to comment on, it’s the thickness of the device. At .45 inches, the Fire isn’t the thickest tablet, but it’s far from the thinnest as well. The relatively thick size of the tablet makes handling it more difficult than it could be. Still, in comparison to an average 10” Android tablet, the Fire isn’t hard to manage. 

 

November 25, 2011 | 10:49 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Strange review.

The Kindle plays Android games just fine, allows free internet access to all kinds of non-Amazon content, and the aps also do the same. Sounds like a review from a reviewer who read a bunch of reviews but did not do one on his/her own.

November 25, 2011 | 10:52 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I think the main drawback point is that, unless you expect a user to hack and root their device, they don't get access to the Google Marketplace.

November 25, 2011 | 12:02 PM - Posted by Sizeth (not verified)

I had my first opportunity to go hands on with the Kindle Fire a few days ago, and had very low expectations due to the number of underwhelming reviews there were floating around the internet at the time.

There are other, cheaper Android tablets out there such as the Velocity Micro Cruz, etc. The Kindle Fire, in my opinion, is far from an entry level tablet as it has a fantastic display, a real marketplace to access, it is fast, and has a capacitive touch screen. That right there sets it apart from the $100-$200 "budget" Android tablets that have no marketplace access.

The fact that Amazon loses about $5 on each fire it sells, is proof to me that at this point in time, the Fire is the best tablet out there at this price point. I think what will make the fire a winner will be a large adoption rate, which I think they have the price point to achieve. If there are lots of Kindle Fire users out there, developers will be anxious to port their apps in the Amazon App store for them.

November 25, 2011 | 02:46 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

As mentioned, I think a user's perspective on this device will vary drastically based on where you're coming from.

The Fire has received a lot of so-so reviews because it is so restricted and because it breaks no new hardware ground. I generally agree with that view. Okay, so a Eee Pad Transformer is twice as much. But is it more than twice as good? Frankly, I think so.

But with that said, the Fire might become very popular with consumers. It does offer a lot of content at a low price and consumers will probably put up with the interface quibbles, and they certainly won't care about the hardware.

Still, PC Perspective has an enthusiast audience, so I feel it appropriate to approach it from that view. And I think if you're a geek who is familiar with the hardware and the software available in other tablets, you will be disappointed by some of the Fire's shortcomings.

November 25, 2011 | 12:16 PM - Posted by gigi (not verified)

Good tablet!excellent price! I love it!

November 25, 2011 | 12:26 PM - Posted by Ken F. (not verified)

I have a 12 year old that loves to read. We were thinking about getting him the regular Kindle, but we are also looking at the Fire. So he can play games and stream movies. The regular Kindle uses an e-ink screen? I guess that's what they call it. Could he use this to read books? Or is the screen not good for that?

November 25, 2011 | 02:15 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

In my personal opinion (I have a Kindle Fire and previous Kindles as well), I still think the eInk is better for long term reading, but so far, after a handful of 30-45 minute reading sessions on the Fire, I haven't had any complaints.

November 29, 2011 | 01:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If you have both the Kindle Fire & the original Kindle can you share books previously purchased between both devices?

December 5, 2011 | 04:37 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

In general, yes you can. The exception to this is that some publishers restrict how many copies you can have authorized at a time.

November 25, 2011 | 02:47 PM - Posted by Kenley Wellman (not verified)

i think the kindel looks so cool and if i get it 4 christmas i will coment a whole lot more!!!

November 25, 2011 | 02:48 PM - Posted by Kenley Wellman (not verified)

hopefully u can do the same things on it like an ipad but more fun stuff!!!

November 25, 2011 | 03:01 PM - Posted by nancy (not verified)

If they added a webcam, it would blow IPAD out of the water!

November 26, 2011 | 02:46 AM - Posted by Jason (not verified)

You mention that price can't explain everything away then you go to mention competitors that in some cases cost 65% more. Even the next cheapest option is still 25% more than the Fire, and it was priced mainly in response to Amazon. Something that costs 25% more is not in the same class.

November 26, 2011 | 07:54 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

A 25% price difference is nothing to laugh at, but when we're talking about devices between $200 and $600 dollars, its also not budget-breaking. This is not a car or a house - even doubling the price results in a mere $200 increase.

November 26, 2011 | 09:14 AM - Posted by PaulDriver

The Blackberry Playbook at $200 Kicks Kindle Fire's butt.

The Playbook's price will probably go back to $300/$350 after the holidays, and even at that price point it's a better tool.

Dual Cameras, Microphone, and HDMI are a start.

Buying into a walled garden, anyone's, is ultimately a failure. Playbook may not be as wide open as GNU/Linux/Android but it is based on QNX ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QNX ), and is the foundation for the next gen Blackberry Phones. So even though they're having a Playbook fire sale, I don't think it's going to completely vanish in less then two years.

Heck, Compared to the development history of Android, I think RIM has done a stunning job with the Playbook, it is the only FIPS 140-2 certified tablet, a security requirement necessary for use by U.S. federal government agencies, and historically, RIM has a better track record of OS updates for it's older devices then any manufacturer of "Android" devices.

Have a security flaw on your android device? Buy a new one with a newer OS, the one you bought isn't likely to be updated.

In my experience, Blackberry has always rolled security updates and sometimes even functional updates back into it's older devices (with-in reason)

I've used Windows Phone(Win CE/Mobile/whatevera), IOS and Android devices, and I keep returning to Blackberry phones because they work as a phone first, and are hard for me to crash, I've not managed to crash my Playbook either.

Yes, RIM is in trouble, mostly though, it's just PR. They are engineers right down to their DNA, and have never been able to market their tech well. RIM has pretty solid engineering, but it's not flashy, no manic Svengali's with reality distortion fields whipping that masses (sadly) at RIM, just stodgy old engineers hacking away at problems.

In FY 2010-2011 RIM recorded a revenue of $19.9 billion and net income of $3.4 billion (EPS = $6.34). Currently RIM has a market cap of about $9.6 billion, trades at 3.4x trailing earnings, and is priced below its book value of $18.92 per share.

In FY 2011-2012 the first half revenue and net income for the company is $9.1 billion and $1.02 billion respectively. Even with the current run rate the company should achieve a net income of at least $ 2 billion in the current fiscal. At $18.92 the stock price is discounting fiscal 2012 EPS by better then 6.25 times.

Ugggh, what I was trying to say, the Playbook is still a competitive device, that is, in reality, from conception to now, what 2 years old? That's a stunning achievement, by a solid, reliable and tested vendor.

November 26, 2011 | 07:57 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

The PlayBook is not a better buy for most consumers. It has a substantially worse display and a much slimmer catalog of apps. Those two factors alone disqualify it from competition even when the PlayBook is priced at the same, and they're much more relevant than the inclusion of cameras, microphones, or even HDMI.

November 26, 2011 | 06:19 PM - Posted by Laura Rosas (not verified)

I LOVE this device - it has exceeded all my expectations and I can clearly see where Amazon will take the next generation of Fires - larger and with 3G and still likely less than the IPad

November 27, 2011 | 03:46 PM - Posted by LiVECrys

The Fire looks to be perfect for our family. I want a tablet for the couch and on the road, this is perfect for what I need, especially at the price.

My wife is a fb nut, loves being able to watch tv and browse fb. Meets that need.

And our second one is for our daughter to play games, watch the movies we buy on amazon and take in the car on trips.

The only question I have is do I need 2 or 3? lol

I can buy 2.5 of these for the cost of an iPad. Couple it with my or my wifes iphone hotspot and its exactly what we need. And this review makes me want to pick it up more.

November 28, 2011 | 12:19 AM - Posted by Eric (not verified)

I think the best reviews should come from the owners of the fire. I have an iPhone 4s, and love to surf the web and use apps on it, but I hate how small it is. My friend has an iPad 2, and it is awesome, but I just can't justify spending $600. I purchased the fire yesterday and love it. I have no need for a camera or microphone, my phone goes with me everywhere and does that job nicely. The fire is fast, surfs the Internet just fine, plays movies and games with no problem. Plus it actually plays flash, which as an apple user is very nice and refreshing. Interface isn't as easy as apple, but it's still smooth and manageable. For the price it was a great buy, and I have no complaints.

November 28, 2011 | 05:55 PM - Posted by perfectshot (not verified)

Ordered two units when they were announced. I thought one would be a great present but now I'm already considering of returning both units. The battery life is poor and I don't want to buy electronic version of books that cost more than discounted or used paperbacks.

It's a really nice looking device though. Just wish they actually carried magazines I read and wouldn't charge so much for books.

I also can't believe that the charging cable can't be used on a PC. It's a single fixed unit. This device would have been great for a 24 hour flight...

For now my old iPad will do. Can't say no to gifted tablets!

November 28, 2011 | 07:57 PM - Posted by TeslaMan (not verified)

I have had the Kindle Fire from day one and I have not regretted my purchase one bit!
I did a good deal of research before I made the choice to get the Kindle Fire, saw the positive and negatives of the hardware, interface, style and price point.
When you look at all the 10" tablets, the size was not what I was looking for, too much bulk for me. I did not need or want cameras, I have the cameras I want on my Motorola DX2 in a smaller, easier to handle package.
Comparing to the other 7" tablets, and my voracity for reading and viewing movies from netflix, the Kindle Fire won all around.

I held off buying until I saw for sure it would have NetFlix, and Hulu Plus. Now if they can just port Vudu to it as well...

Oh.. and the $200 price point was a big deciding factor as well.

So , go ahead, compare for yourself, then choose!

July 6, 2012 | 03:45 AM - Posted by Reginald (not verified)

Why pay $200 for a Kindle? You can get a certified Amazon Kindle that is refurbished for $20-$60 cheaper.
http://www.squidoo.com/refurbished-amazon-kindle

October 13, 2012 | 06:10 PM - Posted by missed (not verified)

"Weighing in at 14.6 ounces, the Fire is one of the lighter tablets on the market today, thanks no doubt to its 7” size"
It is really very easy to handle and deal with, you may like to take a look over some of technologies used in it
kindle fire 2012

November 15, 2012 | 03:23 PM - Posted by omar (not verified)

The kindle has withstood all the criticism it got since the first kindle and has proven to be a great tablet. Good for you. http://www.gadgetstron.com/kindle-fire-hd-8-9/

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