Yes, it is an expensive tablet, on paper. Yes, it has a very sleek form factor. Yes, the UI looks brilliant. But, this is essentially a U.S. only device at the moment, and you can't even download basic stuff like apps without a valid credit card from a financial establishment in the U.S. We don't think this device makes sense to buy in India.
While it is a part of the Kindle family of ebook readers, the Fire isn't really like any one of the siblings. This is a full-fledged tablet, a budget one at that, aimed at the user who wants an ebook reader, and a lot more.
Look & Feel
The Kindle Fire is the first Kindle with a colour touchscreen. The look is very similar to that of the BlackBerry PlayBook, but the Fire is slightly thicker. For the same reason, you will get a lot of comparisons with BlackBerry’s tablet throughout this review! The bezel around the display is quite thick, but does not support touch gestures like the Playbook. Absolutely no hardware buttons on the front.
Flip over the Kindle Fire, and the rubberized back catches your attention. While it is good for the grip under most usage scenarios, this type of finish does become quite annoying to use during the summers. Sweat becomes profound, and the tablet then tends to slip around more than what the ones with a plastic or aluminum back would. When kept face down on a desk, you immediately know what device it is, with Kindle clearly engraved on it, and the Amazon logo highlighted as well.
True to the Kindle tradition, the power key, micro USB port and the 3.5mm headphone jack are all tightly packed on the bottom spine. On the top are the stereo speakers. Side spines are completely clean.
In totality, the build quality of this device is very good. It has a premium feel to it, of a device lot more expensive than what it actually costs. One look at the budget tablets we have around, and you will understand the build quality difference immediately. It is immense, and for the better.
Visit next page to read Amazon Kindle Fire's Features & Performance and our final verdict...
Features & Performance
The Kindle Fire is powered by the same power package as the BlackBerry PlayBook - the 1GHz Cortex A9 on the TI OMAP 4430 chipset and the Power VR SGX540 graphics. As we had remarked in the review of the Blackberry Playbook, the multi-tasking capabilities of that device are unmatched, to a certain extent. With the same power package, we expect the Fire to do as well. However, it doesn’t feel as zippy though. The primary reason is the operating system. What the Fire carries is a customized version of Android 2.3, heavily skinned, some things thrown out of the window and Amazon’s services integrated into the package. Second reason is the lesser RAM that the Fire sports - 512MB as compared to 1GB on the Playbook.
What you get in the end is a very unique and eye catching user interface. There is the shelf design - the bigger middle shelf is the recent items and the one below that are the favourites. The recent items will list every app that you may have used recently, every book you may have opened or even a bookmark you may have saved on the web browser. Flicking through it reminds us of the Album Cover experience on the iOS devices. At the top is the search bar, and just below it are the tabs - Newsstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps and Web. Selecting any one of these takes you into a separate layer of screens.
All this is helped by the fact that the 7-inch IPS display is extremely good. Vivid colours and a nice dollop of crispness is immensely important with text and multimedia alike. The web browsing experience on this tablet is quite pleasing - the web browser is neat with not too many elements distracting you. The latest update brings full screen browsing as well.
The device comes with 8GB of internal storage. However, there is no slot for memory expansion.
While the Kindle Fire seems like a very competent device, there is a bit of an issue - the geographical location bit. Sign in with your Amazon account, and all the ebooks that you may have purchased immediately sync. Go to the Amazon app store (Yes, Android Market has been removed from this device) and search for apps. Like one? Ready to download? Here is the problem. If you do not have a U.S. credit card linked to the account, you will not be able to download apps. Or anything else for that matter! We tried two different credit cards, both International ones in their own right - one MasterCard and one Visa, but none worked.
We cannot really give a “under daily usage conditions” account of the battery life, considering we were really not able to use it everyday like any other tablet we have tested. However, we fully charged it 3 days back, and it has been connected on the Wi-Fi ever since - web browsing and a bit of online gaming, some You Tube videos and a lot of ebook reading, and it is only down to 85%. Under the tests, the battery on this one lasted 9 hours. Enough to get you through most flights, while watching a movie!
Clearly, the Kindle Fire is restricted to the U.S. for most of its services. What you get here is a device that has a whole lot of potential, but has been restricted from delivering on it. If you happen to have a credit card from one of the financial institutions in the States, then you can definitely consider this device. For the lesser mortals among us, this is essentially a web browsing and ebook reader device, which will taunt us everyday!
Price: Rs. 13,699