Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which we dismissed as a tablet with no 3G, no camera, no nothing on its announcement, will be ready to ship starting November 24th and technology blogs in US (where it is available) have started reviewing the tablet and we see pretty mixed opinions about the device.
CNET’s Donald Bell says that Reviewing Kindle Fire was not an easy task and was probably his toughest assignment in 2011. Though the tablet is missing a lot of things like 3G, camera etc., Bell says that this is a tablet that wears its price tag like a bulletproof vest. At $199, it is bound to keep many people interested.
Kindle Fire: Hardware
(Image credit: Zdnet)
Android devices have traditionally taken pride in their hardware specs. And this is where Amazon’s Kindle Fire strikes the first blow. As Verge’s Joshua Topolsky points out, Kindle Fire is heavily inspired from BlackBerry’s Playbook. The PlayBook is bulkier, but the (glossy) screen and profile is almost identical to the Kindle Fire. Check out the comparison image to see how similar the two devices are.
It is powered by 1GHz TI OMAP processor much like Playbook, but has just 512MB of RAM and mere 8GB of storage. We already knew that it doesn’t come with 3G and WiFi is the only connectivity option, but its a shame that it even lacks Bluetooth.
The Fire also has no “home” button, and comes with just one button for powering it on/off. Topolsky find this approach a little too annoying
… Amazon had to create software navigation for getting around the tablet, which would be fine… if the home button wasn’t always disappearing into a hidden menu. Also, I found myself accidentally pressing the power button when I was typing or holding the tablet in certain positions, causing the Fire to think I wanted to shut it down.
But most of the reviewers felt that the size and shape of Kindle Fire is a big plus as it feels just like holding a note book.
Kindle Fire: Display
Just like the Playbook, Kindle Fire sports a 7-inch, 1024 x 600 IPS LCD panel with optimum brightness, good color reproduction and decent viewing angles. Engagdet’s Tim Stevens wasn’t particularly happy about Kindle Fire’s 169ppi pixel density. He also pointed out about how different Kindle Fire’s glossy display feels when compared to other Kindle’s E-ink display. As for the capacitive touch screen, Topolsky says that the touch response felt relatively good as compared to similar panels on other devices.
Shockingly, according to CNET’s Donald Bell, Kindle Fire supports just two-finger multitouch. Ouch!
Kindle Fire: Battery & Performance
Both Tim & Joshua pointed out about honest advertising of Amazon when it came to battery performance. Kindle Fire managed almost 8 hours of usage before the battery was drained out. But that is still way lesser as compared to Apple iPad 2, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and other tablets.
As for the performance, the heavily customized Android 2.3 felt a little too sluggish when compared to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. Verge says, in Linpack, the Fire scored a respectable average of about 34 MFLOPS. In the browser, the Fire returned a SunSpider result of 2541.9ms – not too shabby.
Kindle Fire: Software
Most of the reviewers were of the opinion that Kindle Fire is more about the software and the eco-system than the hardware. It would be easily dismissed if users simply look at the hardware, but the software and services pack the punch.
MSNBC’s Wilson Rothman says Kindle Fire is an amazing device for reading, watching video, listening to music, checking email, even playing some games.
Turn it on and you know what to do, like with an Apple product. So much like an Apple product that Apple should be scared.
The top of the home screen has labeled categories: Newsstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps and Web. Any Kindle e-books you ever bought show up in the library archive, any music you bought or uploaded to Amazon’s Cloud Player shows up in music, and any video in your locker is there, too.
As you would expect, Kindle Fire comes with Amazon’s own android appstore and you won’t be able to access the android market. But the advantage of amazon appstore is that it makes getting to your stuff quick and easy, and also blends well with the store options Amazon provides.
Amazon made a lot of noise about its new browser, SILK, at the launch event for the Fire. Silk is a WebKit-based browser that relies on server-side elements and more persistent connections to supposedly speed up site load times. Though it sounds good on paper, Joshua Topolsky didn’t notice any page load times that he would consider noticeably speedier.
In fact, the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 had much faster load times on most sites I tested side-by-side.
Now, if you find that shocking, there is more to gobble up. Topolsky says, Fire suffers from laggy scrolling and imprecise, clunky pinch-to-zoom behavior. Next to the iOS browser or Honeycomb tablets, it just seems less capable.
We knew all this while that Kindle Fire is more about Software and services than a heavily specced tablet. Amazon’s intent is crystal clear – they want to sell a decently performing device at a highly competitive price, hoping to entice users to use their primary services like Amazon Cloud, Shopping, Amazon Prime etc more and more.
As Topolsky says, Kindle Fire isn’t an iPad-killer, but it is a really terrific tablet for its price. Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color tablet will be out later this week and carries an impressive spec. But will it have a polished software like Kindle Fire remains to be seen. For now, as Tim Stevens says, Kindle Fire is a perfectly usable tablet that feels good in the hand and has a respectably good looking display up front.
- Incredible Price ($199)
- Solid build and form factor
- Access to lots and lots of premium media
- User friendly, consistent UI
- Weak hardware specs: no 3G, no Bluetooth, no camera
- Just 8GB storage
- No Android market
- Buggy Software