Amazon Kindle Fire Hands-On: A Killer 7-Inch Android Tablet

This is incredible. The new Amazon Kindle Fire will cost only $US199! This is a killer price for a colour tablet. Even while it doesn't match the iPad's features, there's going to be some fierce competition this year.

Note: US only for now. No surprise really, given the tight integration with Amazon's App Store, cloud, and entertainment services. But with the Kindle 3 now available from Woolworths, Dick Smith and Big W and Amazon itself readying a local data centre targeting biz cloud computing — hopefully the Fire won't be extinguished before Aussies get to try it, though it looks messy in the short term! Of course, Giz will keep you posted.

The Right (Basic) Stuff

As the rumours pointed out, Amazon's colour tablet has a 7-inch 16-million colour display. Like the iPad, it's an IPS panel, which means it has a wide viewing angle and great colour saturation. The resolution is pretty dense: 169 pixels per inch. It's not comparable to the 326 pixels per inch of the small iPhone 4's display, but it's better than the iPad's 132 pixels per inch. The screen is protected by Gorilla glass. The back is rubberised. It only weighs 414g, and has only one port for charging.

The Amazon Kindle Fire is powered by a dual-core CPU and, of course, it has Wi-Fi. All syncing is invisible, wireless and in the background. Users don't have to do updates of any kind. The viewing of content is seamless, meaning that if you are watching a movie on the train through Amazon's cloud, it will pick it where you left it when you arrive home and turn on the TV.

It doesn't have cameras or microphone — so no video conferencing — and no 3G connectivity. Personally, I never cared for those secondary features. It also only has 8GB of memory, but think of those gigabytes more as cache memory than anything else. This is a true cloud device, where your content lives on the web, and we already know that Amazon has that the cloud nailed. They are probably the best in that business at this point.

Great User Experience

Learning from Apple, Amazon has put a lot of care in the user experience. When you first open your Kindle Fire, it greets you by your name. It's personalised for you at the factory, and it's ready to use with no setup.

The interface is ultra-simple, instead of having the horrible Frankenstein that Google and other Android tablet manufacturers insist on getting down consumers' throats. Just a screen to flip through your content — books, movies, music albums and apps — and a simple icon tray for your favourite stuff.

The performance is amazing, superfast in every regard. The web browser too. They call it Amazon Silk. It is a split browser, using Amazon's EC2 engine for pre-processing and optimizing web pages in the cloud. The EC2 engine takes out any superflous information, optimises all the media for the Kindle Fire's display, and sends it to the tablet. This keeps memory usage tight.

It also features "predictive rendering", which detects browsing patterns and pre-renders the most used pages. It's clever, transparent to the user, and looking at Bezos' demo on stage, it's extremely fast too.

Killer Price Tag

But those shortcomings don't seem to me like major show stoppers with this price tag. Even the most optimistic analysts pegged the price at $US250. Keeping the price tag below the $US200 psychological mark is going to have a big effect in the mind of consumers. Unlike other tablet competitors, Amazon will use its powerful store to sell this tablet. More importantly, it will be deeply integrated with Amazon's cloud services and all its content. It will offer as many books, songs and movies as Apple does.

In fact, the Kindle Fire is strongly rooted in all those services. According to Stone's experience, it's a carefully crafted experience, a "meticulously constructed world of content, commerce and cloud computing". That sounds like a winner to me, but we will see how it really behaves when we try it later today. From what we have read, however, this little device can be a perfect home tablet for consumers at a very low price.

The Kindle Fire basically splits the market in two. I can see the low end belonging to Amazon and the high end belonging to Apple. The rest of the players, at least until the Windows 8 Tablets arrive, are basically screwed by Amazon and Apple's combined power.

You can pre-order it now for $US199, and it will ship on November 15. To top it all, Amazon has dropped the black-and-white kindle price to just $US79.

Impressions

The first thing that hit us when trying it in the flesh? This thing is really fast. Flipping through the media carousel (your movies, TV shows, magazines, etc) was smooth as gravy. There's nothing worse in a tablet than a choppy interface, and the Fire seems to be completely chop-free. Swapping between apps — say, going from reading a magazine back to the home menu, or firing up a movie — was very, very impressively fast. Near-instant.

It's also worth noting how completely un-Android this Android tablet looks — in the best possible way. Amazon's not exactly a company with a keen design eye; their homepage still looks like it has one leg stretched into the '90s. But the Fire's home screen and sub-menus are detailed without being overwhelming, and simply pretty. For its purposes, Amazon's cooked up something better than Honeycomb.

The Fire's screen is terrific as well. It's a far cry from Retina Display, but the Fire still beats the iPad in pixel density, and it shows. Text is wonderfully crisp, and colours look fantastic as well — plenty of contrast, very bright, and easy to read at wide angles. It'll only work with two fingers at a time, as opposed to the impressive 11 touch points on the iPad — which is kind of a bummer from an app standpoint. But watching all that beautiful content whiz by will still make this a heavyweight iPad opponent, by any technical comparison.

Amazon tells us the Fire will have a native email client soon — and it'll support Office docs. So, hey! This thing's a real tablet. [Amazon Kindle Fire]

More: - This Is Amazon’s New $US99 Kindle Touch - There’s A New Basic Kindle Too!

And here's Amazon's official video:


Comments

    Nicely written article, completely agree those features (lack of) are made up for the price tag. How often do I use the microphone, camera (rear and front) on my iPad? Very rarely.

    Looking like a good device so far.

      FaceTime? I use that on almost a daily basis.

        Then I suppose it's good that you're not Jubbin.

        I mean, what's your point? He's saying that he wouldn't use it, so this product is good for him.

        Probably the only person I've heard of who does. I used Face Time the first time I opened my IP4, checked it out and never bothered again. The front-facing camera is used more often than not just as a mirror for last minute touch-ups.

    VERY interesting. I really like the feel of the Playbook, I hope this thing does well so we can get similar devices running Windows 8.

    I'll be keen to see what the battery life is like. I like my kindle e-ink screen because the battery lasts for weeks!

      First thing I thought of too.
      Will be very interested in the battery life.
      Also when it will be released here of course. :) Even though I only bought my Kindle a couple of months ago.
      Still it can go to the miss's as a present. :D

        That'll be "missus".

    Your table shows HP Touchpad as having no camera. Wrong.

      Yup. +1

        ^
        has one front camera

          Hmm, it's a picture and it's not even their picture.... it's not gonna get fixed :P
          http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/4/2011/09/screen_shot_2011-09-28_at_2.53.00_pm.png

    Looks like a interesting device. Funny, though, how when iPad didn't have cameras Gizmodo was most vocal in saying how backwards it was. Now we don't need them?

      I've always been of the opinion that the rear facing camera is a waste of everybody's time. I think Apple got sucked into a spec war on that one. The front facing camera is arguable tho.

        I'm the opposite. The only camera I own is in my phone, so I use it fairly regularly. I would never want a front-facing one because it serves no purpose whatsoever. (Nobody needs to see someone's face when they are talking to them on the phone, it's sheer wankery.)

          You don't use Skype or have family living overseas?

          A rear camera on a phone makes sense, but have you ever seen someone holding up an iPad to take a photo? It looks ridiculous.

    Hopefully it will also be available for international purchases from the U.S. Amazon site as for the Kindle 3. Always a better option than buying it from a reseller in Australia at an inflated price.

    Just hope the dollar heads back to parity +.

      It won't be released here until the Amazon Appstore + Prime goes international, which will take a LONG time because it has to cut through all the publishing red-tape for each individual region. Same reason why Netflix/Spotify/Hulu are still unavaible in Aus.

      I don't think they'll release this earlier, because the integrated Amazon ecosystem is half the product.

    Can media be loaded onto the device from the PC or does it all come from the cloud (being purchased from Amazon)?

      Yah, I was thinking about that earlier.. It's going to need to be tricky without ports.

      I figure it'll require a custom ROM flashed via WiFi, that won't be simple.. and then it will only be able to access your content via WiFi at first. Expect an app to copy stuff from your network to local storage soon after the ROM is sorted tho. On the bright side, at least that's no more painful than getting content onto an iPad.

      From the Amazon website:
      Q: Can I transfer my Kindle content via USB?
      A: Both Mac and Windows users can manage Kindle content through a USB connection. When your Kindle is plugged into your computer it appears as a removable mass storage device.

      Just like the older version kindles; I imagine that something like calibre's ebook management will appear before too long to make it even easier (and avoid paying Amazon for everything you wish to use)

    Looks great i may bite at the lower price point. I still think Apple will sue these guys into the stone age tho. They have the precedent now with the samsung ruling.

    Someone has to say it, and I guess it's gonna be me. "This with stock ICS will be pure win."

    No mic, no skype. How often do I use skype, often.

    Looks interesting.

    Like Chris I would like to know if media (mp3's avi's, etc) can be loaded onto the device.

    Also any idea when it will be available in OZ and the price point?

      Me too. Any idea if media can be loaded onto the device. Also, can you download apps from the Android market place?

      Me too, unfortunately most of the cooler services MP3 and Movies are not available in Australia.

      So will need to load our own and hopefully onto the Cloud - actually this is maybe how you can do it - through your PC or Mac onto the Cloud and then access the Cloud with the Kindle Fire.

      Big W are currently selling the Kindle Keyboard (I guess we need to call it that now) for a price comparable to the US Kindle price + shipping (this was before the $A dollar went south).

      My gut feel is that it will be same if and when Kindle Fire hits stores in Australia - US price + shipping - otherwise why not get it direct from Amazon. Shipping is fast.

      I notice that Amazon are going to offer the Fire in stores (Best Buy and Staples in the US) so maybe it will be the same here in Australia.

      The $199 price is attractive despite the lack of features - although I am not sure I would use a camera in a tablet anyway. As for 3G - I use a portable WiFi device.

    ... you can't be serious... I just spent a week tracking down a Nook Color that was actually being sold in Australia and finally got it yesterday for $220...

      I lol'd myself

      Which is why it's good to be updated. The last few months (sometimes earlier) pretty much confirmed that Amazon was releasing a 7 inch tablet. This past week nailed the announcement date as the 28th.

    Good chance I will purchase this.

    Finally something worth buying for the kids to play with!

    I had a ZTE V9 7 inch tablet which is running the same 2.3 (custom rom) as the Kindle fire. It was overclocked to 724 MHz and is quite responsive 90% of the time. Once selling for $99 with all features of the Kindle fire plus 3G, GPS, (so so camera which does barcode reading without problems). So it does Skype, ebook reading, games, playing video and road navigation. I don't mind to pay extra $100 for features from the Kindle like capacitive screen, 1.2GHz CPUs. Certainly it is achievable from thes tablet manufacturers , right? Kindle Fire will fit into certain audiences's demands. Hope they will have a Fire 2 that will fulfil my requirements.

    Interestingly, no-one has mentioned that it is a 7" device. For me, that would be it's biggest advantage over an ipad - the ability to hold it in one hand and type with the other. Still, I have no idea what I might use it for. OTOH, the new Kindle Touch looks great and I will probably update my current Kindle to that later in the year.

      The playbook is a fantastic size/weight. If this is basically the same then it'll be fantastic.

      I'm hoping for Win 8 7" tabs personally. I like my iPad and all but for what I use it for a lighter/smaller tab might be the way to go.

    Don't like the stab at Android that Giz seems to make somewhere in every article.

    No matter how subtle, it's always there. Why?

      maybe because even years after it's been built, it's still not as polished as iOS or WP7 which has only been out for a year.

        poor troll

        Hahaha. It took WP7 a year to get copy and paste and multitasking. Yeah, real polished.

        I guess if you only care about the looks, then maybe that argument would hold water.

      I dunno, maybe it's a reaction to hearing for the last decade-and-a-half how Linux would take over the desktop OS market in the next few years? i.e Open source software is not for average users and the guys at the Giz understand this.

        But how is this related at all to Android. Google has never trumpeted this debate and Android's not pretending to revolutionise desktop PCs. The issues are completely unrelated and even a glance at the mobile sector, it shows that open source does work.

    If there's no 3G, then can you only watch Videos when you have WiFi access?

      This fact puts the 'all in the cloud' idea somewhat out of reach. Unless Amazon is also planning a sneaky global wireless network, using the earths core as an antennae

    no one seems to be talking about the autonomy of the beast. I am wondering if this is another gadget you have to plug in the wall every night ...

    who the hell took those photos?

    cbr/cbz support? please? pretty please?

    the one feature that seems like the most nonsensical omission in this product is the lack of 3g.
    i know the reason they probably did it was to reduce cost (we can see the price difference 3g makes in the ipad) but for a device that grounds its core functionality in web connectivity, this seems idiotic
    what they are basically saying here is that i have 3 choices:
    1. preload everything i want before i leave the house (not really going to happen since i am barely organised enough to think about where i am going, let alone what i will want when i get there)
    2. carry around some sort of wifi hotspot device/rely on public wifi. Neither of these options are particularly attractive, as i either need to add an extra device to my already massive arsenal of things i carry around, or, i need to rely on there being a mcdonalds close by, that will limit me to maybe 10 songs (not even an album) or a 30 second movie clip. no thanks
    3. use my phone as a hotspot and completely ruin my battery. I struggle as it is to keep my iphone going all day, and from previous experience, wifi sharing is an incredible drain on the battery, so if i want to use my kindle fire on the move i would have to sacrifice my phone, again, no thanks
    if amazon could (i still hold out hope that they could shove a chip in there) add a 3g option to this for $50-$100, i would be in line with everyone else, but sadly, they have just missed the mark on what was otherwise looking like an awesome device

    it is good for customers, bringing price down and make it affordable.

    Great article, convinced me to consider buying it. Love the Honeycomb reference haha!

    I wonder how functional this would be without all the amazon stuff working (I live in Australia and thinking of trying to get one imported when it's released). I just want a tablet to watch videos/web browsing at home and for US$200 this would be perfect.

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