Amazon Kindle Fire: Insight and How Not To Get Burned

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The Kindle Fire is Amazon's attempt to blaze a trail in the low cost Android tablet market, and if doing so ends up applying a bit of competitive heat to Apple and its dominating iPad line, then so be it. To be clear, Amazon isn't pitching the Kindle Fire as an "iPad killer" nor will you find any veiled marketing attempts to cast this as Amazon's David to Apple's Goliath. The Kindle Fire is a different type of device aimed at a different type of buyer, namely anyone who can't afford a full-sized slate or simply isn't willing to fill a fruit basket full of cash and hand it over to Apple. At the same time, comparisons are inevitable because let's face it, outside of enthusiast circles, apparently hardly anyone wants anything but an iPad, or so say the market share numbers.

At $199 for the Kindle Fire, Amazon's venturing into a massive untapped market, one that's made up of consumers salivating for an affordable slate that, plain and simple, doesn't suck. If you go back to when the first iPad came out, everyone assumed once Android made an appearance, there would soon follow a cornucopia of lower priced alternatives just as capable as the iPad, but for much less coin. Instead, manufacturers pumped out a handful of $500+ Android tablets, some of which were technically superior to the iPad, but just as expensive and, for the most part, not as polished. That situation is slowly turning around as Android 4.0 approaches but the untapped market we're speaking of, is made up of the same buyers who pounced on Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad after it was marked down to $99.

But before we dig into the nitty-gritty on the Fire, let's digress a bit and give you some quick hands-on time with Amazon's new slate, to show you what a $199 tablet and eReader (without the need of a "fire sale" to get the price down) is capable of.

Unlike the TouchPad, Amazon's Kindle Fire has a future and is poised to be the game changer every mainstream shopper has been waiting for, albeit in a smaller form factor. By all means, the Kindle Fire is fairly well spec'd --  it has a dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM, and even an In-Plane Switching (IPS) display instead of an inferior TFT panel. In fact, the sum of its parts combined with manufacturing costs are believed to add up to more than what Amazon's selling each Kindle Fire for. The reason Amazon can sell the Kindle Fire for a loss is because of the content delivery system it's built around. From app purchases to eBook sales and Amazon Prime subscriptions, Amazon plans to more than make up the difference, and it's part of the reason why Amazon can afford to price the Kindle Fire at $199 when other tablet makers are charging twice that much. It's a brilliant strategy, and also a gamble because if the Kindle Fire is flawed, Amazon's plan will go up in flames.

Amazon Kindle Fire Specifications
Android 2.3 Heavily Modified and Hooked into Amazon
  • Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" (heavily modified)
  • 1GHz Dual-Core TI OMAP 4430 CPU
  • PowerVR SGX540 GPU
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 8GB internal storage storage + free cloud storage
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • 7-inch 1024x600 IPS display
  • Capacitive multi-touch
  • Non-replaceable 16.28W-hour Lithium-Ion battery
  • Up to 8 hours continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback with Wi-Fi turned off
  • Charging via power adapter
  • Supported Formats: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, Audible (Audible Enhanced [AA, AAX]), DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV, MP4, VP8
    3.5mm Audio Jack
  • USB 2.0 (micro-B Connector)
  • Access to Amazon App Store
  • 7.5" x 4.7" x 0.45" (190mm x 120mm x 11.4mm)
  • 14.6 ounces (413 grams)
  • 1 year warranty

Is the Kindle Fire a fully fledged tablet or a glorified eBook reader with tablet-like qualities? Looking over the system specs, it appears to be somewhere in the middle. It's only 7 inches, it doesn't have any built-in cameras, and there's no 3G radio, which is particularly surprising for a Kindle. But there is a dual-core processor with a capable GPU, half a gigabyte of RAM, Wireless-N connectivity, 8GB of internal storage, an IPS screen, and Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), albeit the operating system is heavily modified to the point where it hardly resembles anything Android.

If you're comparing these specs to the iPad, the Kindle Fire falls short in almost every category. It's also less than half the price and is capable of playing games, watching movies, listening to music with or without headphones, sending emails, surfing the Web, reading books and magazines, and editing documents. But can the Kindle Fire do all of these things well, or at least well enough to warrant a $199 investment? Let's find out.

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AKwyn 3 years ago

Nice review Lilly. My only complaint would be that you were sort of getting close to worshiping the price of the thing but you backed away from that. It's also nice that you gave your fair opinions without letting the Amazon hype machine affect you (the LCD screen daylight brightness and the Sikk browser, I mean I haven't been following the Amazon Hype Machine for a long time but you have, and that makes your efforts more admirable... The other stuff you did was good, you went in detail with the design and the user experience; glad to know our neighborhood reviewer is still doing his job well.

Even though it's disappointing, I still think it's a gamechanger mainly because of the stuff Amazon was able to do for a tablet for the price offered. I mean really, it's time we had tablets with cheaper prices with the quality Amazon was able to put into the Kindle fire.

JKatt 3 years ago

It is a NO BRAINER why Amazon doesn't allows downloads from Google's Android Market: Amazon has to LICENSE AND PAY Google for that privilege.

Obviously, Amazon - which is giving the Kindle Fire away at a loss - doesn't want to incur losses to Google nor be limited by Google.

The point of the Kindle Fire is that it is completely independent of Google. It doesn't owe anything to Google.

And Amazon wants to make money on the Kindle Fire by selling you content - including Apps.

Thus: No Android Market. Welcome to the Amazon Market.

Dave_HH 3 years ago

Clearly, that's the case. The question is, how much more attractive would the device be if they offered both? Their search menus could all point to Amazon Market but they could just have the Android Market in there as a standalone app. Then the question is, how much does it cost per device to offer this and can they keep their pricing this aggressive as a result?

94_xj 3 years ago

Amazon hit the mark they were aiming for. They brought the world an eReader that doubles as a tablet that will do what 90% of tablet users do with them anyway: browse the internet, check facebook and play Angry Birds. While the lack of the Google Market is a (slight) negative this is an Amazon device so of course they want you to use their own marketplace especially since they need to make up for the money they are losing just by selling these things at their price point.

I'm curious to see when they start giving these things away banking on your future market purchases much like cell phones are offered for "free".

JRobert 3 years ago

Personally, I'd like to see a bit more user options in terms of expansion, but at the end of the day it meets my primary requirement:  it isn't made by Apple.

gloriad1 3 years ago

Well I think people will try it, because they wil be more interested in staying with the pc type of thing, because they are used to Android and thus will stay with pc ideas. So Amazon Kindle fire is just another pc idea.Wink I do not think that anyone will leave apple though, they seem to be fairly loyal.No  So it will just be the other pc type of companies that will be losing some sales, but apple will most probably not lose any sales.No

OptimusPrimetime 3 years ago

"It's a good tablet with nice little power under the hood and ample content support and features. Would make a nice gift for anyone. It mores than fulfills the basics. Excellent review."

"Have to wonder if the Nvidia Kal-el architecture is tied up to 4+1 cores. I would be wise to have a dual core+1 version for budget tablets like this and offer a little more feature for the price."

chondro 3 years ago

As long as it does everything it advertises, i think its great.

anything to get away from apple is a plus in my book!

omegadraco 3 years ago

Very nice review of this tablet Paul. This certainly has made up my mind that I will be purchasing an e-ink slate for my wife and not the Kindle fire. I guess Amazon's browser certainly does not deserve the name silk... more like the ocean browser.

@Dave/Paul/Marco do you think it will take very long for modders to get their hands on these and side load the Android Market on the thing? Or do you think Amazon has put some type of security measure in place to prevent this type of hack. Either that or someone is going to flash a stock Android rom and deal with the slightly less functional Amazon reader app.

paul_lilly 3 years ago

Hey omegadraco, you can actually sideload Android apps onto the Kindle Fire straight away using a file manager, or even just by emailing the APKs to yourself. There's the familiar option in settings to "Allow Installation of Applications From Unknown Sources."

Inspector 3 years ago

dam, sucks that it doesn't have android market access. But if you need it for the simple stuff, go for it. looks great for that.

AKnudson 3 years ago

I personally love this. I like this a lot better than the iPad because it has a lot of features I like and doesn't have a lot of the features I don't like and wouldn't use on an iPad, that combined with the lowered price makes this a much better option for people like me but I'm sure there are people out there with different opinions.

MCook 3 years ago

I love mine too Aknudson, and that's coming from a former Toshiba Thrive and Asus Transformer owner, I agree with you on all of those points. To those who say it won't access the market, all you have to do is root it, and other than a lack of custom rom's at the moment, that opens up a world of things, like navigation (via TetherGPS, a free program) and custom launchers. Amazon by the way did not lock the bootloader on this, like B&N did on their Kindle, and has made it VERY easy to root, in fact, they even seem to be encouraging it.

bry2k2 3 years ago

It should be mentioned if your willing to do some research and play a little, you can easily root the device and install the Android Market on your Kindle Fire giving you access to "all" android apps.

Dave_HH 3 years ago

Understood and agreed bry2k2. However, only enthusiasts like us will be interested in rooting the device. The average mainstream Kindler isn't going to want to muck with it. Still, it obviously can be done fairly easily.

AKnudson 3 years ago

you really have to hand it to amazon, going after a tablet market that is going to be huge, they have now introduced thousands more people who could'nt afford a tablet into a market that needs more buyers, thie is potentially the spawn point of a new generation of tablet loving society.

omegadoom13 3 years ago

Excellent review! I love your direct and honest opinions about the Fire. You're right. It's not fair comparing the Fire with the iPad. I really do hope Amazon ups the memory size and fix the choppy web surfing. I'm holding out for the Amazon Fire 2 when the bugs have been resolved.

Samar 3 years ago

Lets see the sales figures, and not shipments :-), for Amazon at the end of the day.

Vixencode 3 years ago

Thanks for the review. It looks good but i was hoping the sound would be a bit on the loud side. Bt its ok

WWendlandt 3 years ago

Wish it was 10" tablet, hopefully a new one will be released early 2012! Great to see Amazon in the tablet market!

Bigloser99 3 years ago

First thing I suggest is to buy a Targus stylus from Walmart. Second thing is to side load opera mobile or dolphin browser from Handango or four shared. The silk browser is horrible.

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