Amazon Kindle Fire Review
Ever since the release of Apple’s iPad, manufacturers have turned up with clones of iPad with slight aberration to compete with the Tablet king. Despite every attempt, even the tech titans have failed to dethrone Apple, at large.
There are two reasons for the consistent dominance of Apple on the Tablet market. Firstly, Apples’ iPad is ‘best device of its kind— it’s a whole new kind of device’. Tablets following iPad did not dare to be different and came with a price tag approximating that of iPad! If you are going to purchase a device like iPad at the same price, then why not buy an iPad?
Secondly, Apple has rendered significant effort in fostering its ecosystem. Each device that Apple manufacturers, has a defined role to play in that ecosystem. With your idevices you have access to millions of books, movies, songs and apps via iTunes, while iCloud seeks to further extend and strengthen the ecosystem. On the contrary, Google the most obvious contender falls short in competition owing to its far smaller industrial ecosystem.
Having said that, we see, Amazon’s Kindle Fire has both the above stated factors that are suffice to pique great attention. Amazon Kindle is not intended to be an iPad clone, it is indeed a different device, targeted on a different audience. Additionally, Amazon has a fine ecosystem aided with gigantic cloud-based-network, massive kindle book store, selected Android apps, music store and movie streaming. With Amazon’s mobile device you will be able to consume all the Amazon content and cloud-services on the go.
And last but not the least it is the unbelievable price of Kindle Fire. With the price tag as low as 200 USD, Fire claims to be the most affordable Tablet in the shelf.
Amazon multinational electronic commerce company was already expected to launch a Tablet to heat up the on-going Tablet war. Just recently Amazon announced the Kindle Fire, the new Tablet and the most capable contender of Apple’s iPad, due to be released on 15th November to U.S clients. Kindle Fire is not an upgraded e-reader as you might expect it to be. Rather Kindle Fire is strictly a multimedia Tablet for Amazon content consumption. Kindle Fire is available at the price tag of $199- but 199 USD might be a bit more for what you are getting. Let us investigate the device critically-
When staking up the specs we see that Amazon has compromised on hardware excluding camera, Bluetooth, GPS, microphone, 3G connectivity to offer a competitive price half of that of the cheapest iPad . This might not seem to be a deal breaker for some consumers but it can have some serious repercussions on the way you seek to use a Tablet. Let’s have a look-
PROCESSOR & PERFORMANCE
When compared to any notable Tablets in market, Kindle fire comes out to be lacking in hardware with quiet a margin. Kindle Fire is powered by a lesser known Dual Core ARM-based 1GHz OMAP 4 processor. The RAM of the Tablet is only 512 MB (like the iPad 2), particularly deficient in contrast to Tablets today that commonly feature 1 GB RAM.
Despite the mediocre processor and RAM the Tablet performs just great with the tasks it is meant to do. For instance, multi-tasking is smooth and the touch-screen is responsive. The Tablet runs fast and boots up almost instantly.
INTERNAL MEMORY AND CLOUD STORAGE
The internal storage of the Tablet is mere 8 GB. Further the device does not have a Micro SD therefore you won’t be able to extend the memory of the device. On the upside, Amazon will offer free cloud storage- this intern means virtually unlimited storage for Amazon content. Also you get a hefty 5 GB storage for your personal content that may not necessarily be bought from Amazon.
So is 8 GB enough storage?
8 GB, as Amazon claims is large enough to store up to 6000 eBooks or 10 movies or 80 apps. The 8 GB internal storage is simply to act as a buffer to store the content you require right away. Whilst with the Whispersync technology you can move your content to and from the cloud as you desire.
For me, a mobile device such as a Tablet, on which you desire to store your documents, music, videos, bunch of ebooks etc. to enjoy on the go, you need rather a large memory. When it comes to consuming memory, you will find even the 16 or 32 GBs of iPad a limited space and then Fire just offers half of 16 GB. The Tablet relies on the Amazon’s Cloud storage, where we will be able to store your music and videos along with the other multi-media content. But the apps will still reside on the Tablet.
Cloud-storage may not be a very persuasive replacement of internal storage. The concerns regarding cloud storage security are still wide-spread. Cloud storage might be good for entertainment related files, but most of the consumers won’t like to upload their documents. Moreover, there is an inherent latency while reaching the content in the cloud.
The Tablet does not offer 3g connectivity. It has only 1, Wi-Fi model. Being completely dependent on Wi-Fi to access your content in the cloud is pitiable and can be problematic sometimes. For instance, if you are out for fishing or visiting – a no Wi-Fi zone- you will be limited to the undersized internal memory. Even today, unfortunately, only a handful of places offer unrestricted Wi-Fi. Therefore in my view, for a device that greatly relies on cloud storage, absence of 3g connectivity is a disappointing. Perhaps even if the Tablet had 3G connectivity it would be a choppy and expensive option to play a movie saved in the cloud on your 3G connection.
Personally, I would have preferred inclusion of SD Card Slot than the free space in cloud.
Kindle Fire does not include any camera neither rear nor the front-facing for video conferencing. This might be a shortcoming for some potential buyers who can now choose from bunch of Tablet that come with 5MP rear and 2MP front cameras.
Shooting from the rear camera is generally thought of as absurd therefore absence of a rear camera does not really devalue the device. Nevertheless, a front-facing camera for video chat would have been an attractive feature. However I feel instead of adding cheap quality cameras (like the xxx MP found on iPad2) it is better to exclude them altogether.
Amazon claims the Battery life of the Tablet to be up to 8 hours with Wi-Fi on. This might not really please most as iPad 1, a device with a larger display delivers upto 10 hours of playback.
Unlike the traditional Kindle e-reader the Kindle Fire Tablet has a 7 inch IPS LCD panel. The viewing area of the Tablet is half of the viewing area of the 9.7 inch iPad 2. The screen size is significantly smaller for a Tablet that is strictly a multimedia device, meant to watch movies and TV shows. Naturally if you are to get a Tablet that can be used for nothing more than for streaming movies and videos, you would prefer a larger screen than a smaller one.
The viewing angles are wide, thanks to the IPS display. The screen is 2 point multi-touch screen but the apps with which the multi-touch works is yet unspecified. Remember iPad has a 10 point multi-touch screen.
On the up size, the resolution of the screen is 1024 x 600 that is 169 ppi (pixels per inch), in contrast to iPad’s 132 ppi, this means a crisp and relatively clear picture. The screen is supposed to be scratch less as made of Corning’s Gorilla Glass.
The Tablet looks sturdy and is well-built. The hardware is reported to be made by Research In Motion [RIM] – probably that is the reason why Fire resembles Blackberry’s Playbook. Nevertheless, Playbook is a device of extended abilities.
THE READING EXPERIENCE
When launched, Kindle was aimed to be dedicated e-reader with e-ink screen facilitating comfortable prolonged reading sessions. Amazon had enthusiastically touted the e-ink screen to be suitable for reading in all light conditions. Also, the e-ink screen did not pose any eye-constraint, like the LCD screen did when reading. Unfortunately Kindle Fire does not have the signature e-ink display. This is certainly unacceptable for readers who have always favored e-ink over LCD. Reading might not be very comfortable on this new Tablet as compared to dedicated e-readers. Yes, but you won’t experience the annoying pauses i.e. the refresh time. Flipping from page to page will be smooth and you might be able to play animations too.
There is no text to speech. A feature that was present in the Kindle 3rd generation. There is still no ePub support.
Deeming on the above arguments, it is clearly evident that the Kindle Fire is not meant to be a good e-reader. I had been long anticipating a device that bridges the gap between Tablets and the e-readers. Kindle Fire, is not that device. It is meant to be a Tablet, not e-reader.
For the audience who had been eagerly waiting for an upgraded e-reader, Amazon has announced traditional e-readers Kindle Touch and Kindle touch 3G.
DESIGN & WEIGHT
The Tablet is 0.45 inches, slightly thicker than its design twin (the playbook that is 0.4 inches thick). The Tablet weighs just about 14.6 ounces, lighter than BnN’s Nook that is 15.8 ounces. In comparison to other 7 inch Tablets, Fire is a bit heavier than the IdeaPad A1 that weighs just 14.08 ounces.
The Tablet has just one physical button! And that is the power button! Now are you wondering where the volume up & down button is? Actually there is actually no such button on the device. This is ludicrous for a multimedia device. So whenever you need to adjust the volume you will have to pause your movie and adjust it via the status bar on the interface. This is sheer annoyance for me.
Kindle Fire has only 1 model that supports Wi-Fi. The new Tablet does not support 3G connectivity. This is unreasonable as the Kindle 2, the e-reader, has a 3G support. Lack of 3G will limit the utility of Fire and Tablet will sit mostly in home. There is no telephony on the Tablet.
There is no Bluetooth in the Tablet. This means you won’t be able to use Bluetooth handset or Bluetooth speakers. This is again an uncanny deficiency for a multimedia device. Kindle Fire also does not have a GPS and neither can you connect it with your smart-phone via Bluetooth to use Fire as a navigation device.
The Kindle Fire lacks HDMI. HDMI is again one of my favorite features that I consider a must for a multimedia device!
Kindle Fire has a USB port for transferring files to and from your desktop.
Kindle Fire runs a highly customized version of Android Gingerbread. But you won’t for a single second have the awesome Android experience- that may be pleasant for some users. The user interface is much simplified. Therefore all the consumers who had chosen iOS over Android because of its simplicity can enjoy highly-specialized-version of Android on Kindle. And just like Apple, Amazon also puts barriers to your thinking and imagination! You cannot alter the interface much.
The OS is largely center on the Cloud Player and Cloud Drive.
Like on every Android device, you can multi-task with ease on the Tablet.
The so-called-multi-media Tablet lacks the HD video playback. The Tablet only supports the playback o SD videos. Just in case if you purchase an HD video from Amazon you will only be able to play the SD version on Tablet and switch to TV/HD playing device to view the HD version.
Amazon has introduced a brand new browser-cloud-accelerated-browser, in the tech world already populated with browsers- called the Silk browser. The fundamental principle on which the browser works is to split the tasks the browser has to perform. Most of the tasks such as fetching and rendering a webpage will be performed in the cloud while rest half of the task will be accomplished by the Kindle Fire. This will result in reducing the loading time of a webpage upto1/6th. Also this mechanism promises to reduce the system resources in turn increasing the battery life and reducing the latency you might face in accessing the content saved in the cloud.
The browser will also be able to use the predictive technology and will be able to efficiently guess what you intend to surf over the internet.
Though the mechanism yields the web-pages faster, it also raises a serious question on your privacy. Would you want that your private credentials are first stored and processed in a cloud and then delivered to your required source (mostly your bank website)? Another consequence of cloud-in-between-you-and-internet is that your every move over the internet will be tracked by the tech-titan. This might not be very desirable for some consumers.
Amazon assures that all the information stored in the cloud would be kept confidential and the privacy of web-surfer will be respected, Nevertheless the apprehensions of consumers cannot be shrugged off easily.
A complete review of the new browser it’s working and prospective advantages and disadvantages is on its way!
There are no Google services such as Maps, Gmail, Places etc, like you would expect in an Android powered Tablet. Amazon has completely revamped the OS to remove them.
On your Fire Tablet you will be able to install all the supported apps from the Amazon store which contains the selected apps from the Android market. That means you are left with 10,000 apps than 200,000 apps in the Android market. Well, for some reviewers this is something very limiting, but I feel this is a blessing to have some decent selection out of the over-popular market where thousands of apps are nothing more than crap. In fact I feel that Google, should, itself clean the market very soon.
Of course you won’t have apps that work with cameras, GPS or Bluetooth. The app store features some most-wanted apps like Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Pandora etc. Till yet in the Amazon market you will not find Skype too, but other Voice-over-IP services are available. Don’t dream of video calling!
Kindle Fire has a built-in email client that will let you read mails from different servers say Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail etc. in one place.
Kindle fire will limit you another way. On Kindle fire, you won’t be able to edit or create word documents spreadsheets etc. The concerned app only allows you to view the files. Don’t compare it with your iPad’s iWorks or ASUS Transformer’s Office application—something even your Nokia smart phone has!
Kindle’s most impressive feature is the Whispersync technology. On the earlier models of Kindle you were able to automatically synchronize the last page read and bookmark with all the devices having the kindle app. Now the technology is further extended to your movies and TV shows, music etc. As they say, you will be able to pick your TV show tight away on your home cinema where you left while watching on your Fire in the local bus!—Does your bus-station have any Wi-fi hostspot?
As we started off, Amazon has the potential to be the most capable contender of Apple owing to its huge ecosystem. The iPad’s contender have come up with better and better hardware to compete with iPad but here, Amazon comes up with a different strategy. A hardware that is far poor but with a price tag that is extremely compelling.
Amazon’s device is not a replacement to the iPad. iPad is a much capable device, equally good for entertainment and work. On the contrary, Fire fails to qualify even as a multimedia Tablet. It doesn’t have camera for shooting videos, and consequently does not have video editing software. (Well, you would say you seldom use iPad or any other Tablet for video editing, but having a feature is better than not having it at all) Lacks a big screen. It does not have HDMI. Lacks Bluetooth for wireless headphones. Doesn’t have built in app for viewing your pictures, videos etc. Not very great battery life, lacks 3G… Lack of all these features reduces Fire as your personal portal for Amazon content.
The best thing in the Tablet is the price tag it comes with – and this is certainly big advantage that would overshadow most of the limitations of the device. But with the compelling and cheapest price there is a different trick up the sleeves of Amazon. You buy this gadget, that Amazon calls a Tablet and you will spend more and more on Amazon’s products, whether it be Android apps, music videos or books.