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Kindle Fire Review

Posted on Saturday, December 24th, 2011 in Uncategorized by Nick

I managed to pickup an Amazon Kindle Fire and I’ve finally come around to writing a review about it (bare with me, first ever review of something not software related, so I’m learning as I go). The small, Android tablet brings a very unique tablet experience different from the traditional iPad type tablet (software and size wise).

Hardware and Design

At first glance, the Fire reminds me of the BlackBerry Playbook. The design of the tablet is not ground breaking in any manner with it’s black plastic casing surrounding the 1024 x 600, 7-inch display. Honestly its a big screen with a black border.

One of the nice things however with this uninspired design is the weight. At 0.9 pounds, it’s considerably lighter than the iPad and other rival tablets like the Acer Iconia Tab (which we’ll have a review of soon). You can hold it with one hand and not have strain that comes with a heavier device.

The screen is covered with Gorilla Glass and the device has a 3.5mm audio output, micro-USB port, but has no HDMI port.


Compared to an iPad 2              Thinness compared to a book

Internals

The Kindle Fire has a dual-core 1GHz TI OMAP processor, 8GB of on device storage, and 512MB of RAM. The 8GB of storage is all you’ll be able to have on the Fire with the lack of removable storage (Amazon says though that 8GBs is enough for 80 apps, plus 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 book). The Fire also lacks Bluetooth, 3G, and GPS options.

However Amazon does have a free, 5GB plan for their cloud storage, so that’s always an option for space needs.

Software

The Fire runs a heavily re-skinned and modified version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Instead of homescreens you have bookshelves for each category (newsstand, books, music, video, docs, apps, and web). On the main bookshelve, your latest action, like the last app you used or book read, is displayed in a carousel that you can flick through. My gripe with this is that it also displays websites you’ve visited recently. I really do not want that shown upon turning on my Fire. Also, the carousel is a bit too sensitive.

Below the carosel is a favorite app area where you can have icons to apps. Think of this area as a makeshift dock.

Each bookshelve is populated by said items, so the app bookshelve is populated by your apps. The listings can be sorted by recent and by title. In cases such as music and books, the listings can also be filtered by whats in the cloud and whats on the actual device. Also a link to the Amazon App Store is located in the right-hand corner.

Navigating between screens is a bit of a hassle though with no physical buttons for doing so on the device. A bar with a button to take you back to the homescreen, a back button, and a search button are the tools given to you to navigate. The bar is not always there though so you don’t get a feel for it.

The notification bar is an improved version of the normal Android notification bar. If you slide down on the right-hand side a widget bar will slide down with volume, brightness, wifi, sync, and unlocking toggles. Notifications work like normal Android notifications other than the widget tweak however.

A weird bug with the software is that the lockscreen turns on at random times. I’m not sure if it is made to do that, but I found it odd.

Other than the mentioned bug and gripe, the OS is very simple and easy to use. It is very straight to the point, whether that be a bad thing or not.

Silk Browser

Amazon made a big deal about the Fire’s internet browser, Silk. According to Amazon, the browser loads pages faster, uses less power, and learns your viewing habits. To quote Amazon, the browser is “Revolutionary Cloud-Accelerated”.

In my usage, I did not find that the browser was any faster than that of my HTC Incredible, iPad 2, or laptop. In fact, the browser was laggy and did not handle pinch to zoom very well.

Media

Video and music playback does not differ much from the normal playback on Android devices. Video playback is stuck in horizontal mode and has the normal playback controls at the bottom of the screen. Music playback is handled normally, but the Fire’s speakers are average and nothing to brag about.

Reading newspapers and magazines is nothing exciting, but at the same time it’s not bad. Reading books is just like you’d think it is (swipe to go to the next page). Basically the wow factor of media is not the Fire’s talking points.

Wrap Up

The Amazon Kindle Fire is well worth the $199. The tablet is a sturdy little thing that does it job well. The OS is simple and easy to use, but sluggish at times. The Fire has a dual core processor and 8GB of on device storage, but has no HDMI output and removable storage. In once sentences, the Fire is best described as an cheap, smaller iPad alternative.

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