Kindle Fire Review: Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times tech reporter Nathan Olivarez-Giles offers his take on the Kindle Fire

 (written version below!)

There’s a lot of hype around the Kindle Fire because it’s $199. A lot of analysts say that Amazon will sell as many as five million Kindle Fires before the year is done. Now on the hardware side, honestly, the Kindle Fire is a bit of a disappointment. It looks a lot like the Blackberry Playbook but it’s not as nice as the Playbook. You have the same rubberized coating on the back which feels good in the hand, but the speakers aren’t that loud. There’s no volume rocker on the outside. I often hit the power button by mistake and the screen turns off in the middle of reading a book, looking at a website or watching a movie.

Of course this Amazon’s first device so hopefully they’ll get that better on round two. So as far as specs go, you have the 7 inch screen, a 1024 by 600 pixel resolution, but you have no camera, no 3G, no blue tooth, and no location anything. But you do have 8 gigabytes of storage on the device and only 6 gigabytes is usable. That would seem like a complete and total joke to me except that Amazon has a fantastic cloud drive service where you store all your files and digital media in the cloud and stream it to the device.

The Kindle Fire has a 1GHz dual core processor and 512 MB of RAM. This is on the low end of the tablet spectrum so don’t expect a whole lot of fast speedy anything going on here. That’s the hardware side of things, let’s look at the operating system. It’s actually based on Android Gingerbread which means that this is a phone operating system that’s highly modified for a tablet. When you’re navigating around it actually works pretty well on the Fire tablet. It has a cover flow look and all of the items you’ve used most recently are called a carousel: apps, books, websites, anything.

And below that you have a couple of little shelves that look a lot like a bookshelf. And you have your favourite apps pin down there and you can pin anything you want. You try and move those apps around and the operating system doesn’t quite keep up with your fingers probably because of hardware limitations. A little disappointing. At the top you have newsstand, books, music, video, docs, apps and the web. Anytime that you look at any of those sections, you’ll see what you have downloaded on the device, what you have stored in the cloud. And of course the store, because Amazon sells books, music, movies, apps, and all that.

Another big feature of the fire is the Silk web Browser, Amazon’s brand new web browser. They built it themselves. They said they would use their cloud services to make web pages load faster. I haven’t seen that happen yet. Honestly, it’s not a bad browser but it’s just as quick as anything else I’ve used on a tablet.

A lot of people have been asking me, is the Kindle Fire an iPad killer. And I would say no. There isn’t a single thing this tablet does better than the iPad. And on the hardware side, there’s a ton of tablets out there that can beat it. But, the Fire can match iTunes and the app store because of what Amazon is and all of the stuff they sell, and all of the stuff we’re probably already buying from Amazon. That’s something that no other tablet outside of the iPad can offer. And for that reason, despite the hardware shortcomings, that’s why this tablet could still be a blockbuster.

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