Kindle Fire Review


Over the past years, hand-held gadgets have become extremely popular among the available communication devices. This can be credited to the convenience, speed and many other admirable features that always come with these devices. Tablets for instance have become a first choice gadget despite being introduced just three years back. After enjoying enviable success in the e-book reader market, Amazon has moved to throw the dice in the tablet market by releasing the Kindle Fire Tablet. Whether or not it has a chance against market kingpins such as the iPad and Galaxy Tab tablets still remains to be seen. If you are planning on buying the gadget, this guide will help you find out whether or not you are making the right decision.

kindle fire

The Kindle Fire is the first tablet to be released by Amazon. Just like the Kindle e-readers in the market such as the Kindle 3 and Kindle 4, the gadget displays e-books from the extensive Amazon database. The only difference is that it also doubles as a multimedia device with support for videos, music, web browsing, e-mail services and plenty of other multimedia features. In addition, the tablet’s functionality is practically limitless thanks to the infinite array of Android applications which can be downloaded from the Amazon appstore and several other application markets. If you are an Android enthusiast, this could just be the tablet you have been waiting for. This tablet is Amazon's attempt to go toe to toe with the Nook Color and the Apple Ipad.

Kindle Fire Specifications

kindle fire body

However much a gadget has been hyped, you should never purchase it without going through the specifications. What works for one user is not necessarily what will suit all others. By going through the specifications, you will be able to gauge whether or not the Kindle Fire is the tablet you have been waiting for. In addition, you will check if you are getting value for the amount of money you are paying. Here are the Kindle fire specs:

  • 1024 x 600 pixels in resolution with 169 ppi, letting you enjoy 16 million different colors
  • A 7 inch ISP display
  • Gorilla glass
  • A dual-core 1GHz OMAP4 processor
  • The Android 2.3 operating system
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 8 GB in internal memory
  • Stereo speakers and a headphone jack
  • Amazon appstore plus side-loaded apps
  • A free full month of Amazon Prime
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • USB 2.0 Port
  • Amazon Silk web browser
  • Battery life of 7-8 hours under ordinary use
  • 14.6 ounces in weight
  • Dimensions of 7.5 x 4.7 x 0.45 inches
  • Whipersync

All these features are supported by an infinite collection of applications in the Amazon appstore. The good news is that you only get to pay $ 199 for all these features. Of course, being a tablet from Amazon, the main question of concern for the majority who purchase it will be "how does the Kindle Fire function as an ebook reader." The quick answer is, "pretty good", though we feel the screen can't match digital e-ink for pure reading.

The Device

The Screen

kindle fire screenkindle fire screen pic

When you are shopping for an e-book reader or any other hand-held communication device, very few things matter as much as the screen quality does. This is because your reading is definitely going to be centered right on the display. If you had any doubts regarding the screen, this is a good time to clear them. One of the best attributes of the Kindle Fire happens to be its supreme quality ISP display. The 7 inch screen boats a resolution of 1024 x 600 with 169 ppi. According to the manufacturer, this display supports up to 16 million different colors. This makes sure that the colors are not only very bright but also highly detailed.

The high resolution display of this device will see to it that the text appears crisp and solid without any excessive pixilation around the edges. In terms of text clarity, it is way better than many of the seven inch tablets that ship with resolutions to the tune of 800 x 480 or 800 x 600. You will also be glad to learn that unlike the Kindle 4 for instance, the Kindle Fire offers backlight lighting for reading in dimly-lit or dark rooms. There have been a number of concerns about backlit displays being harsher on the eyes during reading than their E-Ink counterparts. Such a matter can only be left to personal preference. In any case, you can always reduce the brightness when it becomes too much. In total darkness, the lowest brightness level will probably still be too much for some readers. 

Note that we feel digital e-ink screens are better suited for pure reading, so if you want a straight out ebook reader ONLY, and read novels regularly, you may be better off looking at the Kindle 4, which features an e-ink screen, minus the tablet functionality of the Fire.

The Feel

It is very easy to concentrate on the technological details and leave out some issues that really matter. However advanced any device may be, you want to feel comfortable holding and handling it every time you are using it, especially if it is for reading purposes. The good news is that the Kindle Fire feels very comfortable to hold both with one and two hands. In addition, the small size of the device makes it easy to hold in addition to enhancing portability. Because of this, you can always hold the Kindle with one hand while at the same time scribbling notes with the other hand.

The one concern many users will have about the feel has to do with the power button located on the bottom edge. The button needs very little pressure to activate it meaning that you can easily turn the device off accidentally when using it. This is however a very small issue to work around. All you will need is to purchase the cover that is sold alongside other Kindle accessories. Once you put the gadget in its cover, the protruding power button will no longer be exposed to your finger. The cover also guarantees you better grip and protects the tablet from mechanical damage just in case you happen to drop it.

Ebook Reader Features

Kindle Fire as an Ebook Reader

kindle fire ebook reader

The success that Amazon has registered in the e-book readers market is one that needs no introduction. With state of the art gadgets such as the Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 4), not many other devices could match up to the competition. The leading manufacturer will still persist with the Kindle line of readers. However, with the kind of reception the Nook Color enjoyed a while back, Amazon couldn’t just sit back and watch. The Kindle Fire is a clear attempt to kill two birds with one stone by tapping into the color e-book reader cum tablet market. If you have been faithful to the Kindle readers but you always wished for some color to be added to your reading experience, the Kindle Fire will be a great buy.

Outdoor Reading

There have been many features that have earned Kindle readers quite a reputation among users. However, you can’t help but feel that outdoor reading is perhaps one of the two or three things Amazon couldn’t have done better with. E-Ink displays in particular have been more than impressive even under direct sunlight. However, the screen of the Kindle Fire gets too reflective under direct sunlight. To make it even worse, you will be able to spot every single scratch or speck of dust on your screen. This shouldn’t be a very big price to pay for the supreme quality text you will enjoy reading. Furthermore, you can avoid those distractions by preferring to read under a shade instead of direct sunlight.

Kindle Fire Reading App

It is quite disappointing that the Kindle Fire does not provide some of the attractive e-reading features that other Kindle gadgets are jammed with. However, the e-reading application for this gadget is none other than the usual Kindle for Android application, which has features similar to other Android applications. Some of the features provided in the Kindle Fire for e-reading purposes include:

    • Ordinary notes
    • Bookmarks
    • Highlights
    • Synching the last read page and annotations across different apps and devices
    • Dictionary look-up
    • Search
    • Automatic rotation of the screen that can always be turned off

The only difference between the reading application of the Kindle Fire and the Kindle for Android is the addition of adjusting options and font choices.

Users will be glad with the fact that they get to choose from three line-spacing as well as margin settings. Eight font sizes and eight font styles – Georgia, Trebuchet, Arial, Courier, Caecilia, Verdana, Lucida and Times New Roman – complete what should be a satisfactory set of formatting options. Just like the other Kindle gadgets, the Kindle Fire Tablet will not generate any table of contents for e-books that do not have their own. With a section for “device” and another for “cloud”, keeping track of the e-books you have loaded onto your device and those you have archived will be easy. This application will also offer you a pair of viewing options namely cover and list.

Just in case you needed to know, there are quite a number of features that are lacking here. Text-to-speech and a number of collection or organization options are just some of the conspicuously absent features. In addition, you will not be able to view files you have downloaded using the browser. The worst part of this is that choosing a book to read from the hundreds of options is more than just tedious. You have to constantly switch from the library to the Kindle store and manually search for a book. It even takes more time to read through the reviews to see if the book is worth your time. If you are an extensive reader, you are bound to be disappointed. .

The Kindle Fire Newsstand

kindle fire newstand

One of the motivations behind the inception of hand-held devices is the fact that the modern generation needs to get information as and when it happens. The Kindle Fire Newsstand is one of the best efforts hitherto made to satisfy this need. This section of the Kindle Fire is strictly dedicated to newspapers and magazines. What you need to note is that these are somehow different from the subscriptions offered by other Kindle devices. Instead of directly selling the publications to the user, a number of applications have been provided. As a user, this makes it much easier for you to limit your attention to those that interest you.

The magazines in the Kindle Fire Newsstand are laid out in exactly the same way as the print versions in “Page View”. Whenever you want to read, you can always view your magazines in “Text View”. You will also be aided by a table of contents that list all the articles along with their related pictures. Under “Page View”, you can zoom in for better reading by pinching or tapping the screen. When you tap the center of the screen, thumbnails are brought up to help readers scan through the many pages. Under “Text View”, the articles will appear just like e-books, with a picture at the start of every article. You will also be able to make use of features such as search and dictionary. The only features you won’t be able to use in this view are highlights and notes.

Article-oriented magazines and newspapers have a very different layout to that of magazines. The only view here is “Article View”, which offers just about the same flexibility as magazines enjoy. The table of contents is split into separate news categories that help you navigate easily through the sections. Any hyperlinks that have been included within the articles will also be very much operational. Whenever a new issue has been released, periodicals will be automatically delivered. Each periodical has a 14 day trial period to help you assess if it is the right one for you. With such a rich source of information, you can’t have an excuse to left behind by the fast-moving world.

Comics and Manga

kindle fire comics big

The Kindle Fire does not come pre-installed with any comic application. However, this shouldn’t trouble you the least. There are more than enough comic applications that you can download at your discretion from the Amazon store. The Comixology application for comics from Marvel and The Walking Dead are good examples of these applications. The text balloons that come with these apps are huge enough on the Kindle screen so you won’t require any zooming. For a closer look, there is a guided view mode to zoom in on every single frame.

Other e-Reading Applications

Just in case the Kindle e-reading app isn’t your thing, the open source nature of the Android market will leave you spoilt for choice with options. Having more than one e-book reading application will make sure you use the best app for every file format. Some of the applications you can download include Aldiko and Nook for Android. As expected, Amazon has hidden some of these applications from the Kindle Fire appstore. However, this does not mean that you can’t install them on your gadget. You can always get around this hurdle by side-loading these apps from other appstores and websites.

Just from the Amazon appstore, you can also download a newspaper application known as newsreader. This is very surprising especially because Amazon sells its own magazine and newspaper subscriptions. This is one amazing news application that displays a scan of the entire newspaper. It also offers many other additional features such as text-to-speech and article view. Pre-installed in the Kindle Fire is an application known as Pulse. This is nothing but a visually-oriented RSS application that will help you read RSS feeds from around the web. It also enables you to read your Google reader feeds. Clearly, this leaves very little to be desires as far as getting news feeds are concerned.

Conclusion on the Kindle Fire as an Ebook Reader

After reading through the several sub-sections on the e-reader, you are probably confused whether it’s worth its salt. As an ebook reader, there is hardly any difference between the Kindle Fire tablet and any other Android tablet with the Kindle for Android application installed. To be fair, the Kindle Fire is awesome at what it does as an e-reader. However, do not expect too much distinction from the rest of its competition. With a few features missing here and there, you always feel Amazon can do better in their next addition to the started tablet collection. If you are not that extensive a reader and want the versatility of a tablet on top of an ebook reader, it should meet most if not all of your e-reading needs.

Tablet Features

The Kindle Fire being a Tablet, you can expect the regular tablet features.

Audio and Music

There are many factors that set the Kindle Fire apart from several other Android tablets in the market. One of these factors is the fact that it is directly integrated with the Amazon music store. This opens a door to an inexhaustible collection of music and other audio files to serve as your entertainment. These songs can always be stored right on your tablet. However, when running short of storage space, it is advisable to move them in the cloud. The best part of this is that the Amazon Cloud Player allows users to upload their own music collections. The player offers you 5 GB of free space after which you pay $ 20 annually for an additional 20 GB of storage space. This should be more than enough for many tablet users.

Just as is the case with applications, you can side-load AAC and mp3 songs in the traditional way using the USB cable provided. You can also add extra music applications from the Amazon appstore. These include Pandora Internet Radio, Slacker Radio and Tune-In radio, which help you listen to the local radio station. For purposes of audio output, the Kindle Fire comes with a headphone jack and a pair of stereo speakers towards the top edge. There isn’t much more to write home about these speakers though they are just as good as those on any other tablet. At least you won’t have to struggle to listen to the projected sound.

Movies

You can stream movies to the device or you can watch movies (device supports a number of movie formats) you load directly onto the device. Standard tablet functionality here.

Web Browsing

kindle fire web browser

A few years back, the Internet was nothing but a luxury reserved for the noble and techies in society. However, it has evolved to become more or less a basic need to just about everybody. This is why top notch communication gadgets such as the Kindle Fire always provide an option for browsing the web. For a web browser, Amazon developed a special browser called the Amazon Silk. Unlike other web browsers, the Amazon Silk takes advantage of the Amazon servers to speed up loading time. This will help a lot in making pages load slightly faster. However, a number of pages will still seem to take forever to load.

As a browser, there isn’t much difference between the Amazon Silk and other Android browsers. It boasts tabbed browsing that lets you open up to ten tabs at the same time. You can always pinch or double-tap the screen every time you need to zoom in. Holding down a link will open up the usual Android functions for purposes of manipulation. Furthermore, you can select a portion of text if you need to copy and paste it somewhere else. This will be tricky at first but it won’t take long for you to master how to do it. This is very handy when you need to copy content from the web to a text document for instance.

Just like the famed Honeycomb browser, the Amazon Silk browser uses thumbnails as bookmarks. These will get added to your homescreen carrousel, after which you can move them to your favorite’s shelf. With this browser, you will be able to download not only files but also applications from non-Amazon sources. In addition to remembering passwords, Silk also supports cookies, Adobe Flash and JavaScript.

Games

kindle fire games

If you have owned a tablet or any other hand-held gadget, you will agree that you can’t work all day. Amazon realized that you equally need to play and that is why they designed a decent gaming tablet in the Kindle Fire. With the free daily app, you will enjoy as many games as any other tablet user. Whether it’s Paper Plane 2, Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies or Zombie Raider, every single game works perfectly on this gadget. It might lag here and there but this will be anything but annoying. Even with Pandora music playing in the background, you can still enjoy your games comfortably.

The Kindle Fire Pros

When purchasing a gadget, you need to find out what advantages it offers that you might nit easily find from among its competition. This is one place Amazon got things right by making sure their premier tablet comes with plenty of pros. Here are some of the reasons the Kindle Fire deserves more than just a second glance:

  • Its operation is not only smooth but extremely fast. This means that you can get your tasks done within the shortest time possible. Furthermore, the touchscreen is as slick as it’s responsive.
  • The gadget comes with a compact design and solid build quality that adapts it to harsh treatment. Despite this, it is more than comfortable to handle, even with just one hand.
  • Thanks to the open-source nature of the Android system, the device also supports third-party applications in addition to those in the Amazon market. You can even route the device to install applications from the Android market.
  • The Kindle Fire boasts supreme display quality with very brilliant colors.  You will also get to savor crisp text quality and wide viewing angles.

With these and many other advantages, there is no doubting that the Kindle Fire Tablet is poised to cause a ripple in the tablet market.

The Cons

However much time manufacturers dedicate to a gadget, it is impossible to come up with a flawless gadget. Like any other tablet there is, the Kindle Fire has its own fair share of shortcomings. Here are some of the disadvantages you will have to put up with when you choose to buy the Kindle Fire Tablet:

  • The first thing you will agree after you start using the Kindle Fire is that Amazon could have done better with the user interface. Unlike other Android devices, there is no shortcut for switching quickly between applications. Furthermore, the images from side-loaded applications look terrible and the carousel is quite ungainly for a large library.
  • If you are an avid reader of e-books, the features offered by Amazon are quite limited. Many features such as collections, text-to-speech and book descriptions that Kindle gadgets are known for are conspicuously absent for in the Kindle Fire.
  • You usable storage space will be limited to just about 6 GB. Unfortunately, there is no memory card slot to expand this storage. This will force many users to rely heavily on cloud and Wi-Fi storage.
  • If you are keen, you will notice that Amazon has intentionally removed a number of applications including some e-reading applications from their appstore. The good news is that if you really need them you can always side-load them.

There might be other shortcomings depending on the user needs but the above must be the key ones. If you are really serious on storage space, this gadget might really disappoint. However, for a price shy of the two hundred dollar mark, there is very little worth complaining about.

The Verdict

In all honesty, the Kindle Fire lacks a number of key features that are availed by higher end tablets in the market. For instance, there is a clear disparity when it comes to the user interface and storage capacity, just to mention a few. However, it is obvious that these advanced features will not cost you pocket change. This is probably why many prospective users have been locked out by the repulsive price tags attached to such gadgets. Despite offering competitive features to the market, calling the Kindle Fire affordable is an overstatement of its price. There is no doubting that it is by some margin the best deal one can get for a budget tablet. 

Just in case you are wondering, there is more to the Kindle 4 other than just its affordable price of $ 199. Over and above every advantage, the gadget boats heavy integration with Amazon. This is what sets it apart from the rest of the Android tablets in the market. If Amazon is one of your favorite online shopping websites, this is going to be a wonderful buy for you. This will help you experience priority level service every time you set out to shop online. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. If you are not so attached to Amazon, you are probably better off with another tablet. Many users who are obsessed with large scale storage will more likely prefer to pay a little more for a tablet that offers way more storage capacity than the paltry 6 GB.

The Bottom Line

There is no denying that Amazon has thrust into the tablet market a little bit late. However, this does not mean that anything is going to stand in between them and seven figure sales in the market. This is not to say that the Kindle Fire can thump its chest before some of the veteran gadgets currently on sale. It is quite ambitious to expect the tablet to match up to its more advanced counterparts in the market. However, the Kindle Fire comes with many interesting features that any prospective tablet user will love. If you are already using a more powerful gadget, there isn’t any reason to turn back. However, if you are looking to make an appearance into the client base, then this is a good place to start.

Manufacturers will always have a certain class of users in mind when coming up with a gadget. Amazon had noted that many prospective users have been shut out of the market by the elephantine prices many tablets come with. This is why they designed a gadget that will offer a smooth transition to the tablet world, at a more affordable price. The Kindle Fire is a dream tablet for those new to tablets rather than avid users. The impressive set of features attached to the device clearly mocks its $ 199 price. The absence of a memory card slot makes the Kindle so dependent on Wi-Fi and cloud storage. This is perhaps too much to handle if you are used to the gigantic storage capacities of higher-end tablets.

 

More Information

Amazon Kindle Fire

Price: $199

Buy on Amazon.com