Phone, Smartphone, Notebook and Gadget Reviews and buyers guide
Phone Notebooks & Tablets Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Forum


Home > eBook Reader Reviews and Android Tablet Reviews> Amazon Kindle Fire


Kindle Fire

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Discuss this product
Where to Buy

What's hot: Affordable, good quality, excellent Amazon shopping and support experience.

What's not: Lacks the features of a general purpose tablet, lags sometimes.


Editor's Note, 9/2012: Also read our review of the Kindle Fire HD. The original Kindle Fire is now called the Kindle Fire SD.

Reviewed December 1, 2011 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

The Kindle Fire hardly needs an introduction, since Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO showed it off a few months before launch, it's been a seriously hyped and anticipated gadget. Billed variously as an iPad killer, the king of eBook readers and Amazon's latest attempt to maintain your addiction to their various digital storefront; the Fire instead is the product of mere mortals and it has no intention of murdering larger, fruity tablets. The Fire is clearly designed to deepen your addiction to Amazon's eBook, video, music and Android Appstore though--compulsive shoppers beware. That is the real charm of this 7" Android-based touch screen tablet: easy access to Amazon's stuff. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you gain free (free other than the yearly $80 that gets you discounted expedited shipping on physical goods and 1 eBook/month on loan) access to 10,000 movies and TV shows, and they look fantastically sharp on the Fire. If you're a Kindle owner with a large investment in Amazon eBooks, they're all downloadable to the Kindle Fire, and your Amazon MP3s are available too. Since the tablet has only 8 gigs of storage and no microSD card slot, Amazon's cloud for music, books and video are important; you can stream or download that content as you need it, then offload it.

Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire runs a highly customized version of Android OS 2.3 Gingerbread. Beyond the pull-down notifications and a few menus, you'd never recognize it as Android. There's no multi-screen Android desktop with widgets, no app drawer and the standard Google Android apps like Gmail, YouTube and Maps are MIA. In fact, the tablet lacks a GPS, cameras and Bluetooth that are standard on general purpose Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus and HTC Flyer. But the Fire costs less too: at $199 it's half the price of the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus, $100 less than the Flyer and about the same price as the Vizio 8" tablet with its less sharp and bright display. If you don't need a GPS, Bluetooth and access to standard Android apps including the Android Market, the Amazon Kindle Fire delivers a tablet with an excellent display, solid build quality and Amazon's world class customer service and solid storefronts at a very attractive price.

Kindle Fire

There are no hardware volume controls, so you'll use on-screen controls instead, which is a bit disruptive when viewing video (at least video playback doesn't pause when using the on-screen controls in the Amazon video player). The micro USB port for file transfer is at the bottom (when held in portrait orientation), though Amazon doesn't include a cable. You do get a wall wart style charger that plugs into the micro USB port. The tablet has decent stereo speakers, a 3.5mm headphone jack and Audible audio book support. It can play Amazon MP3s and side-loaded MP3, AAC and OGG music files.

The tablet runs on a dual core 1GHz TI OMAP CPU with hardware graphics acceleration and 512 megs of RAM. Performance is acceptable but we noticed lagging that could possibly be improved with software updates. More RAM might have helped; the Nook Tablet has a gig of RAM as do most Android Honeycomb tablets. The 8 gigs of internal flash storage is all you get, and there's no card slot for expansion.

Deals and Shopping:


Kindle Fire Video Review



7" Tablet Smackdown Comparison Video: Nook Tablet, Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus and the HTC Flyer


The Kindle Fire has a pleasing 7" IPS display running at the fairly common (for 7" tablets) 1024 x 600 resolution. The display has wide viewing angles typical of IPS technology, is colorful and reasonably bright. Not all IPS displays are created equal, and we'd put the Fire's at the middle for quality. It could be brighter (not so much for reading but for photo/video playback and gaming) and colors don't jump out, but it's certainly a great display for $199.

The specs are quite similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook's, and it shares the overall design esthetic as well. This is a basic black 14.6 ounce slab with a soft touch back and minimal hardware controls. The power button is annoyingly small, and it's located at the bottom. The power button is easy to press and given its location, we found we couldn't place it in portrait mode in some of our tablet stands without causing it to power down.

User Interface: What you See Everyday

Amazon went with a hybrid interface. Depending on the content type you're looking at (Home, Books, Newsstand, Music, Video, Docs and Apps), you'll either see an iTunes cover flow presentation bookshelf or visual grid of content. The home screen uses cover flow with your most recent apps, books, magazines, newspapers and apps listed. The Newstand, Books and (oddly) apps use a bookshelf metaphor. Videos are in a grid with large thumbs of each video. In all there's a handy selector that lets you see stuff that's on the device and stuff that's in your cloud. You can sort by recent and title, as well as by author when in the books tab. It's clean and easy to use, and as you'd expect from Amazon, there's a shop button for each category. Since there are no hardware buttons other than the power button, you'll use the pervasive Home (house) icon at the lower left of the screen to get back to the home screen and the tabs for the various content types.

Web Browser

There's one more tab, labeled Web, and it takes you straight to the Android Webkit web browser with Adobe Flash and tabs for additional windows. Amazon touted their Silk web browser acceleration that uses Amazon's web servers to deliver cached content of popular websites more quickly, but in our 3 weeks of testing, Silk actually resulted in slower page load times over WiFi (the Kindle Fire's only method of connecting to the Net since it has no 3G). Try it for yourself and see by tapping the menu icon at the bottom of the screen and using the settings option to turn Silk off and on.

eBooks and Magazines

If you like or prefer reading books on LCDs rather than the E Ink displays found on dedicated eReaders, then the Kindle Fire is a good option. In fact, it's an excellent option if you're a heavy hitter Amazon customer who's invested quite a bit in Amazon eBooks. The Fire's eBook reader app is similar to their Android app, and it offers settings for margins, line spacing and a selection of serif and sans serif fonts. Is the Kindle Fire superior to the Nook Tablet or a good quality Android tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus or HTC Flyer in terms of the reading experience or display quality? No, it's not. But it is the least expensive 7" LCD tablet on the market with a good quality display that has wide viewing angles, crisp fonts and a big bookstore behind it.

Note that Amazon sends books to the Kindle Fire in .prc format rather than the ususal .azw format. For those of you who use Calibre and remove DRM, this might be an issue.

Amazon Video and Prime Instant Video

Though the Kindle brand has been synonymous with eBooks, the Kindle Fire really shines as a portable streaming video player. Amazon videos, including the approximately 10,000 available for free streaming to Amazon Prime members, look superb. They're ultra-sharp, stream smoothly and a simply a pleasure to view on the Fire's 7" display. One can use any modern Android tablet with Adobe Flash to play Amazon videos by logging into the desktop version of the Amazon website and streaming using their Flash-based player. But that's often balky and much less smooth and easy to control than Amazon's special Fire player that eschews Flash. For Amazon Prime members, this is certainly a plus, though I've noted that many movies I want to watch aren't included with the free Prime service and cost around $2.99 to stream.

Netflix and Hulu Plus are on board too, but these don't look as mightily impressive as Amazon's own videos. Netflix actually looks a little bit sharper on the Nook Tablet, but it's by no means poor on the Kindle Fire.

Battery Life

Amazon claims 8 hours of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of continuous video playback with WiFi turned off. That's accurate according to our tests: when using the Fire as an eBook reader it lasted 7 days with a little power still left, when we read an hour per day. We had no trouble watching 4 movies over the course of two days when using it as a video player.


The Kindle Fire isn't a game changer in the world of tablets, but it's a very intelligent evolution of the Amazon ecosystem. With one device, Amazon can sell you eBooks, MP3s, videos and apps--they're all just a dangerous "1 Click" away. As an affordable Android tablet, the Fire does a passable job thanks to good quality hardware like the IPS display and dual core CPU, but it lacks the Android Market, Bluetooth, cameras and a GPS, which are all standard fare on general purpose Android tablets. Yes, you can root the Kindle Fire to add the Android Market for a much wider selection of downloadable applications and you can side load apps using a computer, but if that isn't your cup of tea, then the Fire remains a tablet in Amazon's walled garden. If you're frequent shopper with Amazon and like to read on LCD rather than E Ink displays, the Fire makes perfect sense. If you're a Prime customer and love portable videos, Amazon Prime videos look superb on the device.

Price: $199 $159



Kindle Fire


Kindle Fire


Kindle Fire


Kindle FireAbove: the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire.


blog comments powered by Disqus


Display: 7", 1024 x 600 pixel IPS capacitive display. Supports landscape and portrait modes via accelerometer (can be disabled).

CPU and Storage: 1GHz dual core TI OMAP processor with hardware graphics acceleration. 8 gigs internal storage and 512 megs RAM.

Size and Weight: 7.5 x 4.7 x 0.45 inches. 14.6 ounces.

Expansion: None.

Supported file formats: Amazon version of PRC files with DRM, Amazon AZW, MOBI without DRM and PDF without Adobe DRM, TXT, MS Office files, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3, Audible, AAC, OGG and MPEG4 video.

Audio and Video: Has a music player, video player, photo viewer and comes with Netflix and Hulu Plus. Supports Amazon Appstore, Amazon Videos, Kindle eBooks and Amazon MP3 content with streaming and cloud storage.

Networking: WiFi 802.11b/g/n.

Core OS: Android 2.3 Gingerbread (heavily disguised and modified).

In the Box: Kindle Fire, AC charger and welcome card.



All Phone Reviews
Smartphone Reviews
Android Phone Reviews
Windows Phone Reviews
HTC Phone Reviews
LG Phone Reviews
Motorola Phone Reviews
Nokia Phone Reviews
Samsung Phone Reviews
Sony Phone Reviews
AT&T Phone Reviews
Sprint Phone Reviews
T-Mobile Phone Reviews
Verizon Phone Reviews
Unlocked GSM Phone Reviews


All Tablet Reviews
Android Tablet Reviews
Tablet Comparisons
Android Tablet Comparisons



Laptop Reviews
Ultrabook Reviews
Laptop Comparisons
Best Ultrabooks



Bluetooth Headsets
iPhone and iPad Accessories
eBook Readers

iPhone Game Reviews
iPad Game Reviews

iPhone Case Reviews
iPad Case Reviews


RSS News Feed

About Us

Contact Us


Site Map