Years have passed since Amazon made the first step off the Internet into the real world and introduced its first ever eBook reader, the Kindle – back in November 2007. Since then, Amazon released several devices for this platform, such as the Kindle line and a Kindle DX line with larger screen. However, none of these devices have strayed away from the original model too much, in fact they all feature e-Ink displays. Flash forward to today, Amazon has just launched its first full-color, touch-screen device – Kindle Fire – to offer a great means of entertainment for those who enjoy ebooks, magazines, newspapers and media, or to purchase from Amazon hassle-free.
First and foremost let’s talk about the operating system and the user interface. Amazon’s Kindle Fire technically runs a customized version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS, however, it is not the user-customizable home screens you might expect on a Android-powered devices. Instead, the main interface is very simplistic and offers a virtual bookshelf that has two specific places for your content. The upper level is a sweepable list (a carousel) which shows the most recently used items such as your virtual books, magazines, videos, music, websites and apps all together.
The second place – the favorites bar – it is a user-configurable list of shortcuts of the items (app, websites, books, etc.) that you use the most – for quick access. By default, the Kindle Fire has four shortcut buttons pre-installed: the Amazon Store, Pulse (news reading application), and browser shortcuts to IMDb and Facebook. You can rearrange these shortcuts, delete them or add new items – the list grows downward as you add more items.
Along the top of your home-screen, there is a list of content shortcuts which offer a quick jump into Amazon’s store to browse and purchase new apps, movies, music, books, and magazines. If you’re looking to lock and unlock screen rotation, adjust volume, change display brightness, access Wi-Fi settings, syncing, and controlling the playback of music (if a song is currently playing), you can simply tap the gear-like icon in the upper-right corner.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire was designed to be very easy to use and to reach as many consumers as possible. Its operations are very simple and natural, however, taps sometimes don’t register and there is no progress bar to let you know that the device actually registered your action. This is quite annoying, especially when you’re typing. Hopefully, this will be fixed with future software updates. Many other functions like playing games or playback videos are fluid, but you will often encounter stutters while opening or closing certain apps while everything takes a moment to react. Not long, but long enough to notice it.
Hardware-wise, the tablet is powered by a 1 gigahertz dual-core processor and it has has 512 megabytes of RAM – quite a bit, if you ask me. The 1024 x 600 resolution display is bright and colorful, a pleasure to read and play, and the device size makes it easier to carry around. In fact, it fits in big pockets. About the features used on other tablets as a standard these days, the Kindle Fire doesn’t have a few of these. To be more accurate, there is no camera, microphone, bluetooth, 3G or GPS. So, all those who were planning to use the tablet for Skype talks, car navigation, or to take pictures and videos – consider buying some other tablet.
- Integration with the (outstanding) Amazon ecosystem of ebooks, magazines, newspapers and media.
- Good quality, re-purposed plastic tablet with good quality display that is bright and colorful.
- The feel of the tablet is pretty nice and the rubber back makes it easy to grip.
- Easy to carry around considering that it fits in big pockets.
- Battery life runs for about seven to eight hours.
- No Camera, Microphone, Bluetooth or GPS.
- Not “open” as you may expect from an Android powered tablet, neither customizable.
- Taps sometimes don’t register so you have to re-tap.
- The power button is on the bottom, making it easy to turn off the tablet accidentally.
- There are often stutters while opening or closing certain apps.
- No hardware volume controls; you have to use a software slider.
- Only 8 GB of storage space included on the Fire and there is no SD card slot to expand that storage.
Bottom line, Amazon’s Kindle Fire is a decently designed tablet at a unbeatable price ($199) that is awesome for those who enjoy ebooks, magazines, newspapers and media, from a particular ecosystem…Amazon. However, if you’re looking to get a complete satisfying tablet experience, you should search further for a tablet which is smooth, open, and it has a build-in Camera – to video chat, take photos and film your fun moments; Microphone – to talk to your friends via Skype, ooVoo, etc.; Bluetooth - to connect your headset; GPS – to get directions and maybe HDMI – to play games or view your media on external screens.