Design & Hardware
| Amazon Kindle Fire
| Amazon Kindle eBook Reader (3rd Generation)
| Apple iPad 2
| Barnes & Noble Nook Color
| Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet
On a related note, the next thing I noticed about the Kindle Fire was how sturdy it felt. That's always a good sign when you're dealing with lower priced hardware, and though $199 isn't exactly chump change, it's far less expensive than all those $400 and $500 Android tablets.
One of the highlights of the Kindle Fire is the In-Plane Switching (IPS) display. IPS panels are typically reserved for higher end devices and can drive up the price. You're obviously sacrificing battery life with an LCD panel of any kind versus an E-Ink display, but by going with an IPS panel, Amazon delivers a high brow viewing experience on a blue collar budget.
Underneath the shell is a non-removable battery rated for up to 8 hours of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback, both with wireless turned off and presumably with the brightness not cranked all the way up. The battery is non-removable because you can't take the back cover off, not without ripping into it and nullifying the warranty.
The dimensions measure 7.5 inches long by 4.7 inches wide. It's 0.45 inches thick, which is ever-so-slightly slimmer than a Nook Tablet (0.48 inches) or Nook Color (also 0.48 inches), but chunkier than an iPad 2 (0.34 inches). Overall it feels similar to a PlayBook, and if the Internet rumors are true, both devices are built by the same manufacturer.
Call it simplicity or just plain lazy, but either way, Amazon took a no-frills approach to hardware design. There's but a single physical button on the Kindle Fire -- a lonely power button on the bottom of the device next to the mini-USB port and 3.5mm audio jack. It's odd having the power button on the bottom, but a non-issue from a usability standpoint. The headphone jack, however, would have been better served on top. Whenever I plugged headphones in, I found myself flipping the Kindle Fire upside down to avoid bending the connector.
For whatever reason, Amazon opted not to include a volume rocker on the Kindle Fire. Whoever thought it was a good idea to omit this on a content consumption device was simply wrong. This isn't a dedicated eReader, after all, it's a fully fledged tablet. Nevertheless, if you want to adjust the volume, you have to do so within the software.
You won't find any other buttons or ports on the Kindle Fire. There's no home button or microSD card slot, the latter of which wouldn't be such a big deal if Amazon sold models with varying amounts of internal storage. Every Kindle Fire device ships with 8GB of internal storage, which translates to a little more than 6GB of usable space. Amazon says that's enough for 80 apps, plus 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books. No matter how Amazon trumps it up, 8GB (6GB+ usable) of local storage is a little skimpy.