Kindle Fire review: A solution to the tablet gap

Since Amazon launched the original Kindle in 2007, its e-reader has caused quite a stir, followed by astounding global sales. Amazon has since released its first tablet, the Kindle Fire, in late 2011 to compete with Samsung Galaxy, Motorola Xoom and RIM's BlackBerry Playbook, not to mention Apple's iPad, which dominates the market. So, does it offer you the features of your competitors?

First, I'd like to point out that this device is overall a fantastic product considering all of its features and its incredible price of $199. For example, the iPad 2, which starts at $430, immediately stands out from the crowd. However, it doesn't have all the features of a high-end tablet. Now let's take a look at the Kindle Fire's specs and see how it performs.

Cosmetics:

The Kindle Fire looks and feels great! Despite being cheap, it defies expectations of looking or feeling cheap. It's not the lightest tablet out there, but I certainly wouldn't say it's heavy and it's easy to hold in one hand for long periods of time. It has a high-resolution 7-inch multi-touch screen with wide viewing angles. Given its size, it's great for reading, browsing, and a few apps, but movies and games can be more exciting on the larger device.

Performance:

The Kindle Fire uses a TI OMAP 4 dual-core processor and therefore runs at a very competent speed (1 GHz). It runs on a customized version of the Android 2.3 operating system that many of us are already familiar with. Put these two together and you have a very efficient machine. And if that wasn't fast enough, Amazon has ingeniously designed a new web browser just for the Kindle Fire that allows for seamless browsing on the Internet. They call it Amazon silk. With built-in Wi-Fi, Silk does all the uploading to Amazon's remote servers so your device doesn't have to. This not only means blazing-fast browsing speeds, but it also means longer battery life.

On this note, it's worth mentioning that Amazon says you can expect 8 hours of continuous reading and 7.5 hours of video before the battery charges. I found this to be very accurate. By comparison, that's 2 hours less than iPad battery life. The Kindle Fire also falls short when it comes to memory. There's only one option for the series, and with 8GB of storage, 6GB of which is usable, there's not much room to hold tons of movies and songs etc. With competing 16, 32, and 64GB iPad options, this may be something we can hope to address in later versions of the Fire. The only other issue I have with its performance is that apps aren't as fast on the Fire as they are on other devices in the higher value range on the market. However, for the fee, the internet browsing experience is more than adequate.

Additional Features and Benefits:

While iTunes is hard to beat, the Kindle Fire has a few tricks. Since Kindle products run on the Android system, users can access Google's Android application market. They also get access to the Amazon App Store, which offers more than 20 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines and books, as well as thousands of popular apps and games, including Netflix, HBO GO, Hulu Plus, Pandora and further.

Most importantly, I covered Amazon Prime. A new platform that runs on Kindle products, members receive benefits like one free eBook loan per month and free unlimited streaming of over 10,000 movies and TV shows. It also has a feature called Amazon Whispersync that allows you to start a movie on the Kindle Fire and pick up where you left off on the TV. New Kindle Fire buyers get a free 1-month Amazon Prime membership.

What the tablet lacks compared to its competitors is the ability to connect to 3G networks. The Kindle Fire only supports Wi-Fi, which can be a pain if you don't have a good connection. It also lacks a camera; However, the Fire wasn't designed to work like other tablets, so I think it could be a harsh criticism.

In conclusion, Amazon has no intention of outperforming other tablets on the market with its Kindle Fire, far from it. Instead, they came up with a nifty alternative for those who need something between a basic e-reader and an iPad. They have been very successful in creating a middle ground for those on a budget or those looking for a simple device that can meet their basic needs efficiently. All of this is available for a generous $199.

After my review of the Kindle Fire, I would happily recommend the device to anyone. It's an excellent tablet for movies, music, TV, books, magazines, apps, games, and browsing, and a formidable rival to other tablets, especially for upgrades and later versions. For $199 why wouldn't you want one?