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Amazon Kindle Fire review

 Review: September 2012  
 

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The Kindle Fire is a stunningly cheap 7 inch tablet. Built around Amazon's huge library of movies, TV shows, songs, books, magazines and apps, the Kindle Fire is a great value, compact tablet that has a lot to offer. It may not have a camera, GPS or 3G, but what it does have is very good indeed.



 

Coming to the UK

The Kindle Fire is Amazon's number-one bestselling product. Now it's been updated and more importantly, it's available here in the UK. The Kindle Fire will be released in the UK on 25 October 2012.

Yes, a tablet for £129

We normally talk about the price of a product at the end of the review, but let's make an exception here, because the Kindle Fire is mouth-wateringly, gob-smackingly cheap. That's why it's been so popular in the States, of course. And that's why it deserves your full attention.

A good first impression

First impressions of the Kindle Fire are good. It doesn't feel at all like a budget product. It's a compact tablet with a 7 inch screen. That makes it a lot more portable than a big tablet like the iPad, so you can take it more places. And for many applications like reading books, listening to music, web browsing, etc, it's big enough. But from time to time you'll wish you had a bigger screen. Nevertheless, it's a good screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. It's not quite HD, but not far off. Like the iPad, the Kindle Fire uses in-plane switching (IPS) technology for a bright display with a wide viewing angle.

Content is king

In the tablet world, content is king. That's why Apple, with iTunes and its domination of music downloads has beaten off previous Android contenders. But the Kindle Fire is different. It's backed by Amazon, with its huge muscle power when it comes to ebooks, movies and other digital content. Amazon currently claims to offer over 22 million movies, TV shows, songs, books, and magazines. Add to that tens of thousands of Android apps and you begin to have a rival that must leave Apple feeling nervous. At best.

It's very easy to find content for your Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire is integrated with Amazon's online shopping system, so you can easily browse and buy books, movies, games, and apps directly from your Kindle with 1-click shopping. Some of the content is free. For example there are over a million free classic e-books on Amazon. Many apps are also free. Amazon's recommendation engine helps you to find new things you may like, based on your own purchasing history, and that of others.

Amazon is also throwing in a one month free trial of LOVEFiLM Instant video streaming for unlimited access to thousands of movies and TV series.

Add to that the fact that this is an Android tablet with a wealth of apps already on tap, you'll see that content is perhaps the key selling point of the Kindle Fire, along with its low price.

Amazon has significantly altered the user interface from the usual Android approach. The interface is built around the content. Take note however, that you cannot access Google Play with your Kindle Fire. Instead you must get your apps from the Amazon Appstore.

8GB memory & cloud storage

The Kindle Fire comes with 8GB of built-in memory. This isn't a huge amount by modern tablet standards, but fear not, because you also have unlimited cloud storage for all your Amazon content. That means you can download what you need and leave the rest up in the cloud for future access. You can access this cloud-based data on other devices too, such as a smartphone or a Kindle e-reader.

Conveniently, when you receive your Kindle Fire, it comes pre-registered to your Amazon account, so you can instantly access any content you've already purchased. This pre-registering makes it very easy to get started.

Gaming

Gaming is fun on a Kindle Fire. It may not have the monstrous processing power of the Google Nexus 7, but it can easily handle bestselling games like Angry Birds Space, Cut the Rope and Fruit Ninja. The tilt, turn and multi-touch controls help make these titles fun. Amazon's Whispersync feature automatically stores your progress in the cloud, so you can pick up games where you left off. You can also compare scores with GameCircle and Facebook friends.

Silky smooth web browsing

As an example of Amazon's confidence as a tablet manufacturer, it's developed its own entirely new web browser, Silk. Silk is designed to be fast. And it does this by making use of Amazon's cloud-based server network to pre-load popular content, perform computing-intensive tasks and reduce network latency. The result: significantly faster web browsing, especially of popular, complex websites.

Now, all this fine if you're connected to the internet. But there's a problem: just like Google's Nexus 7 tablet, the Kindle Fire relies on a Wi-Fi connection to talk to the big wide world. If you're away from Wi-Fi, you're stuck with whatever you've downloaded. And remember that there's only 8GB of memory, and no memory card. We wish it could have the option of a 3G HSPA connection as an alternative to Wi-Fi.

Camera - what camera?

While we're talking about what's missing, we've got to mention the camera. There isn't one. While you've probably got a camera tucked away somewhere that you can use instead, it does mean that you won't be doing any video calls with your Fire like you can with other tablets.

Battery life

The battery is a substantial 4400mAh. Battery life is rated at 9 hours of continuous use. That compares well with rivals like the iPad.

Conclusion - great content, great price

Don't kid yourself that the Kindle Fire is the best tablet around. It's not. It lacks a HD display, a camera of any kind, a 3G connection and GPS. It only has 8GB of memory without a memory card option. But. It's a great little tablet - nice and compact and lightweight. It's got a sharp, bright display, a good user interface and absolutely tons of content with Amazon's infrastructure of ebooks, music, movies and apps to support it. It's been beta-tested by the Americans. And most of all it's cheap. It's easily the cheapest of all the mainstream tablets. And for these reasons, we think it's great. The new Kindle Fire HD is slightly more expensive, but offers some significant improvements.


Amazon Kindle Fire features include:

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