Amazon Kindle Fire Review

Introduction and Design

As nostalgia sets in, we can only think back to the day when the Apple iPad was first unveiled, seeing that it was a groundbreaking moment in time for general computing. Besides witnessing an intuitive experience on a tablet level, which wasn’t necessarily seen before its time, the one thing that impressed people most about it was its highly competitive $500 starting price point. Today, it seems that many companies strive to achieve that figure with their alternatives – thus, bringing us into the constantly shifting price wars.

So when Amazon finally dropped the news regarding its Kindle Fire tablet a few weeks ago, many were enamored to find out its price, yet somehow, it was all too expected. Nevertheless, the easy-to-swallow $200 Amazon Kindle Fire is here itching to ignite itself into stardom – thanks to its combined functionality of being an eReader first, with some light tablet-ing  sprinkled on. There’s no arguing that it’s priced remarkably on so many levels, but will it contest to replace the titans in the tablet landscape? Or will it merely prove to be nothing more than a laughable tablet wannabe?

The package contains:

  • Amazon Kindle Fire
  • Wall Charger
  • Quick Start Guide


When you’re priced so affordably out the door, it’s hard to expect a design that’s going to exhibit the traits of being stylish or chic. Let’s be for real with ourselves, we can’t knock on the Amazon Kindle Fire for its spot-on conventional tablet design, but there are still people that take pride in materialistic possessions.

Fortunately, the Kindle Fire is one solidly built tablet that enables it to stray from the perception of something being on the cheap side – thanks to its soft touch back cover and accompanying weight (413 g) that combined together give off that sensible feel in the hand. Even though it doesn’t attempt to be the thinnest or most compact 7” tablet out there, we’re still able to comfortably hold it with one hand. Interestingly, its overall design very much looks like the BlackBerry PlayBook, and honestly, if you remove their brandings, it’d be nearly impossible to tell the two apart. Overall, it’s no looker that’ll attract people from afar, but rather, we have to give kudos to Amazon for at least coming up with something that’s exceptionally solid feeling for its price.

For its display, Amazon decided to outfit the Kindle Fire with a 7” IPS LCD panel, and when you combine that with its resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels, it’s fairly standard amongst the spectrum of  7” tablets. Reading shouldn’t be much of an issue, because you can always adjust the font size to your liking. Furthermore, like other IPS displays we’ve seen, color production is very neutral with its tones, which essentially provides for some realistic looking colors – as opposed to oversaturated ones we tend to see with AMOLED displays. Viewing angles are broad to maintain its visibility, but it doesn’t quite have the strongest brightness output we’ve seen on a tablet, which proves to be a challenge when trying to use it outdoors with the sun present.

Considering that the Amazon Kindle Fire is one clean and minimalistic looking tablet, there are barely any noticeable buttons or ports protruding from its side. However, taking a quick peek on the bottom edge, we do find a 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB port, and dedicated power button. With the latter, it might be on the small size, but luckily, its response is springy enough when pressed. Meanwhile, on the top edge, the only items that are present are the left and right speakers. Finally, flipping it over to the rear, there’s nothing of particular interest except for the prominent Kindle branding embossed into the soft touch rear cover.

So what’s missing you ask? Well, it omits a volume rocker to quickly modify its level, though, it is controlled via the software. Secondly, there are no cameras whatsoever to give us the ability to shoot photos/videos, and at the same time, that means there isn’t going to be any video chat functionality. Next, it lacks a microSD card slot for additional storage, which might handicap some people because of the paltry 8GB of internal storage it’s packing – albeit, Amazon does stress the cloud storage you gain. And lastly, there is no video-out functionality of any kind, meaning, you’ll be strictly relying on the tablet's screen.


The Amazon Kindle Fire is an Android 2.3 Gingerbread based tablet, but does it really matter? It is not a “with Google” device, so it doesn't feature Google apps like Gmail, YouTube, Calendar, Contacts and most importantly – Android Market. This means that at its core, it is Android, but what the user really has is an “Amazon OS”, relying on the Amazon Appstore and ecosystem. It has its apps, but it is not on par with the original Andorid Market. It is, however, curated, listing mostly quality apps compared to all the riff-raff available in Android Market. So, while you might only have a few options, they are usually good ones - like the Meridian Player we found - and that was Amazon's idea from the start. You can check the available apps on the Amazon Appstore site or download it on your standard Android device.

From a cursory look, some are probably going to be surprised that the Kindle Fire is an Android based device, but it’s hardly evident due to the extensive skin that Amazon has running on top of the usual experience. It minutely shows itself in some aspects of the experience – like the notification panel that’s accessed by tapping on the left side of the main bar. 

Amazon’s approach with the whole thing is merely straightforward and uncomplicated. Right away, we find the 3D carousel of giant sized icons that show what has been accessed most recently – thus, allowing us to quickly move in and out of various apps. Swiping up and getting access to the area below the carousel, there is a bookshelf that displays some of the favorite content specifically tagged by us.  And to show off its ties to its Kindle lineage, there are accessible categories on the homescreen that break down to the newsstand, books, music, video, docs, apps, and web. When you select any one of them, we’re transported to yet another bookshelf-like layout where we can see items that are stored on the tablet locally or in the cloud.

As a whole, its functionality barely grazes what we find with full-feature Android tablets, but to tell you the truth, it’s an appropriate one to differentiate itself from the competition. Needless to say, power users will probably steer clear with this one, though, it’s suitable for those who don’t necessarily want to be bogged down by something too cumbersome to operate out of the box.

Amazon could’ve easily gone the very inexpensive route to power the Kindle Fire, instead, they decided to give it a modern processor to really substantiate its already stellar pricing. Hanging tightly with the big boys on the block, it employs a 1GHz dual-core TI OMAP4 processor coupled with 512MB of RAM, and honestly, it’s sufficient to handle most tasks with ease. However, we do notice that its performance is rather inconsistent at times, though, it’s never to the point stagnant or sluggish.

Specifically, it exhibits some fluid movements when scrolling through the recently accessed content list on the homesceeen, which adds some visual appeal with its 3D like carousel effect. But with other things such as web browsing or flipping through pages on an eBook, its execution can be choppy at times – thus, losing out in tightly tracking our movements. As we’ve stated already, it’s fast for the most part, and its consistencies are never downright to the point making it unusable.

Organizer and Messaging:

Unfortunately, there are zero organizer apps preloaded with the Kindle Fire, but thankfully enough, you can quickly remedy that situation by visiting Amazon’s very own dedicated Android app store. So whether you’re looking for a calculator or calendar app, there is a variety of alternative solutions to choose from – albeit, veteran Android users will probably miss the qualities found with Android’s native apps.

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Good thing that typing isn’t a function we find ourselves doing a whole lot on the Kindle Fire, well, that’s because its on-screen keyboard can be rather challenging to use. Visually, it bears some resemblance to the stock keyboard we find in use by many Android smartphones, but even in landscape, its layout is on the cramped side – resulting in a reduced rate of input. In addition, its inconsistent performance results in smooth responses one moment, then moderate lag other times. However, things are slightly more manageable with the portrait option for the single reason that our thumbs are able to encompass the entire layout without much stress.

Aiding its potential, the Amazon Kindle Fire manages to tag along a very basic native email client – and by basic, we mean the bare essentials. First of all, this isn’t your typical Gmail experience that we’re all too spoiled with on other Android tablets, instead, it’s simply there to get you to quickly compose and reply to messages. Fortunately, the setup process is all too familiar, since it’s fairly straightforward by providing our email addresses and passwords. Of course, it’s able to set up almost all popular email services with no aid on our part. Besides having a universal inbox, it breaks it down to each particular account. Yes, it’s definitely an appreciable offering, but don’t expect its breath of functionality to be on the same level we expect on other tablets.

Internet and Connectivity:

The Webkit-based Silk browser does some magic in the cloud, where it processes things to offer a better rendering performance. However, it is far from being the smoothest thing we’ve seen. Not surprisingly, it’s able to load complex web sites like ours in around 30 seconds – even with Flash content and all! However, kinetic scrolling and pinch gestures don’t exhibit the most fluid responses, although it is more than tolerable enough to accept. 

As it stands, the only connectivity item featured on the tablet is 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi – and nothing more! So that means you won’t find GPS, Bluetooth, or any 3G cellular connection with it. Though, we’re not all that taken back by it seeing that it was something expected from the very beginning – especially at its price point.


Expecting to see something here? Well, you’re not going to because the Amazon Kindle Fire omits a camera from its arsenal. Meaning, you won’t be able to snap any candid moments or have some video chat conversation with a friend.


If you’ve purchased songs from the Amazon MP3 Store previously, you’ll naturally see all your purchased content under the cloud section when you select the ‘music’ header on the homescreen. Since it’s all stored in the clouds, you’ll need an active Wi-Fi connection to begin streaming, and at the same time, if you want to store them locally on the tablet, you have the option to do that as well. In terms of its presentation, there’s nothing out of the ordinary with its conventional approach, as it’s able to display the album cover and on-screen controls – also, we can quickly jump back to it by selecting it in the notifications panel. With its two speakers, it’s blessed with some profound tones that exhibit plenty of volume at the loudest setting without experiencing any hint of crackling or distortion.

Purchasing the Amazon Kindle Fire, owners are treated to a free 30-day membership with Amazon Prime, which allows you to stream unlimited videos for free from its catalog. Even though the selection of movies and television shows aren’t as comprehensive as what’s offering by Netflix, it’s just nice having access to them in the first place for free. In terms of quality over a Wi-Fi connection, it’s surprisingly decent with minimal artifacting or noise – plus, there’s even an option to resume a video at the point where you last left off on. Of course, you can always resort to purchasing newer videos for a certain price, but the free streaming option isn’t shabby at all. And if you have a Netflix account, you can take advantage of the app that’s available for the Kindle Fire ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the Kindle Fire wouldn’t recognize any of our test videos, which are encoded in DivX, H.264, MPEG-4, and Xvid. However, we managed to get our 1080p MPEG-4 test video to work after downloading the Meridian Player from the Amazon Kindle Fire app store. Thankfully, its playback performance is consistent with some good detail, smooth frame rate, and natural looking colors. All in all, it’s undoubtedly a suitable option for watching videos on the road.

Reading is undeniably one of the major reasons why some people would purchase the Kindle Fire, and just like other Kindle products before it, the experience is more than fitting now that color is part of the mix. Making it very easy on the eyes, there are a variety of options that we can fine tune to better enhance the reading experience – like changing the font, text size, margins, line spacing, and color mode. If you happen to select a word by long pressing it, you’re given its detailed definition, plus the option to search it on Wikipedia or Google. Flipping through pages is accomplished by executing swipe gestures, but it’s not the smoothest that we’ve seen – albeit, it’s not much of a distraction.

Out of the box, we’re only offered 6.54GB of internal storage, which is quaint by today’s standards. Even worse, there’s no way to actually expand that amount locally since there is not microSD card slot. Still, Amazon is banking on having owners rely on its cloud services to better manage storage, which obviously works just as long there’s an active data connection.


Internally, the Kindle Fire is packing a 4,400 mAh battery that’s able to supply enough juice to last us more than a single day of normal usage. In fact, it was only at the 50% mark by the end of the day before we called it in for the night, which is pretty good by today’s standards. Its battery life is more than optimal to appease a wide array of users – even power ones!


In a nutshell, if you currently own an iPad or Android tablet, you’re not missing anything. However, if you are on the market, looking for a tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire has something to offer, thanks to its killer pricing.

When compared to the better 7-inch tablets, it is rather limited – the Amazon Appstore is not as rich as the Android Market (or Apple's iOS App Store), but still has lots to offer. The interface is not as polished and misses the Google Services (like Gmail, YouTube, etc) but hopefully additional software will compensate for this.

The Kindle Fire is, however, definitely affordable, with a price tag that puts it in a class without rivals , except the Barnes & Noble Tablet or promotional sales. And you still get decent screen, hardware, internet browsing and multimedia experience and so on and so on.

Amazon Kindle Fire Video Review:


  • Very affordable
  • Solid construction


  • Amazon Appstore is very limited compared to the Android Market
  • Inconsistent performance
  • No video chat camera

PhoneArena Rating:


User Rating:

5 Reviews

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