Review of Kindle Fire
The Kindle Fire, a tablet computer version of Amazon.com’s Kindle e-book reader has an external dimension of 7.5″ by 4.7″. It is priced at $200. It was impressive to note that it provides, movies, apps, games, music, reading, fast web browsing with Amazon Silk, free cloud storage for all Amazon content. But how many of these are accessible out side United State was a question in my mind. A review about Kindle Fire answered several question. Read on to see the full review.
Amazon’s Kindle has met with its fair share of popularity in India despite not having a dedicated Indian website. Users are able to download books from Amazon’s US website with a credit card, so the experience until now has been pretty much the same. The Kindle Fire, launched in November internationally, created a huge stir among tech enthusiasts and Kindle loyalists – the 7-inch touchscreen colour device was not only priced at an incredibly affordable rate of just $200, but also let users have a complete tablet experience in addition to being an e-Reader. Unfortunately, the Kindle Fire offers a bunch of features that are right now only available to US users. Naturally, when I lay my hands on one, I wasn’t able to access these, but if you’re planning to buy a Kindle Fire or already own one outside the US, here’s the lowdown on what you can expect.
The latest generation Kindles are ultra-thin and sport a savvy design and the Kindle Fire in comparison is quite tame. At first sight it looked almost exactly like the BlackBerry Playbook – with a plain black bezel, 7-inch screen and no capacitive buttons.
The only thing that distinguishes the two is that the top strip of the bezel is slightly narrower than the bottom. The back panel is rubberised with ‘Kindle’ embossed in the centre, and overall the body feels quite tough and the finish doesn’t feel cheap. The bottom edge of the Fire holds the power button – an unlikely location because it switches off the screen if held vertically on a flat surface – and a 3.5mm headphone jack and mini USB port. A pair of stereo speakers adorn the top, and the rest of the tablet is completely bare. No front or rear cameras here either.
Although it doesn’t look it, the Fire actually runs Android Gingerbread, an operating system used by more smartphones than tablets. You can’t really tell though, because Amazon has done a complete overlay of the operating system. You don’t even get the Android Market – just the Amazon App store that has a much smaller selection of apps.
When you turn on the Kindle (and just so you know it takes about 30 seconds to boot), you’ll be faced with a swipe-open lock screen with funky backgrounds that change every time you power on. Swipe open and you’re faced with an interface that’s distinctly e-Reader – a bookshelf. It looks quite neat actually. The top of the bookshelf holds all your recent activity – books, applications and websites. You can swipe through these in a similar fashion to iTunes’ Genius application. Amazon calls this the Carousel. Long pressing any of the items in the Carousel will give you an option to remove it from the Carousel or from the device itself or add to Favourites. All of your favourite apps will appear in the smaller shelves below, which continues downwards like a never-ending bookshelf.
On top is a Search button which gives you the option to look for something on the Fire or on the web. Below that are a list of options – Newsstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps and Web. Clicking on any of these will take you to the relevant function.
The only Android-ish feature is the notification bar on top from which you can also access your settings. Other on-screen controls like the Home and Return button are located at the bottom.
If you were a Kindle Fire user in the US, here’s what you could have expected. In addition to books, you can purchase magazines, graphic novels, music from the MP3 store, movies and TV shows. All digital content purchased from Amazon gets free cloud storage – so you can stream it from Amazon Cloud drive at your convenience or download it to your device for anytime use. Amazon Prime users get instant streaming of video content as well as discounts and freebies. There’s also a Kindle Owner’s Lending Library that Prime members can access which lets you borrow digital books for free with no due dates.
Now if you’re a Kindle user outside the US, your features are very limited. Basically all you can do is download books onto your Fire. You could transfer photos and videos to the Fire, but it supports only a limited number of codecs so you’ll have to download an external app for non-supported formats. The catch here is that the Amazon App store is also unavailable outside the US currently, so you’re pretty much stuck. XDA forums do give you a detailed guide on how to install the Android Market on the Fire, but not all apps are supported so it’s limiting again.
Other functions you could use outside the US are Email and the Browser. Email is easy to set up and works well, although the interface is a bit drab. Amazon’s much hyped Silk browser is supposed to deliver blazing speeds because it redirects information to the Cloud. It opened pages fast but took the usual amount of time to completely load websites. However, it does resize websites to fit the dimensions of the screen perfectly and supports pinch to zoom. The Kindle Fire works really well as an e-Reader, despite my apprehensions about a backlit display. For books, instead of pinching or tapping to zoom, you can adjust font size, spacing, page colours and the font itself from an easy menu. You can scroll through the book with a smooth scroll bar or look for specific words or page numbers. The backlit LCD is surprisingly gentle on the eyes and because you don’t need an external light source, you can read in the dark as well.
The Fire runs on a 1GHZ dual core TI OMAP 4430 processor with 512MB RAM and 8GB internal storage. I wasn’t able to run my regular benchmarking tests because I couldn’t access the Android market. Amazon claims the Fire offers 7.5 hours of battery life, but I got close to 8. It’s pretty decent for a tablet and if you’re using it just for eBooks you might eke out a bit more juice.
The Fire is a neat little device and offers amazing value for money. If international users can access all the features it would be a tablet well worth investing in. Until then, you’re better off holding your horses and waiting. Don’t replace your old Kindle yet.
Love: Solid build, nice U1
Hate: Limited codec support, no Android Market