Review: Kindle Fire

By Wayne Webb

I have heard that the new Kindle Fire is now selling faster than any other tablet save the granddaddy of them all, the iPad. The Kindle Fire only ships to the US at present so I had one delivered to a friend and then sent on to me. It is now my favourite gadget, hands down.

The most amazing thing about the Kindle Fire is the price. At US$199 it is by far the best value for money in the tablet market. It comes with some limitations, so if you are looking for a top of the line – must-have-it-all tablet, this is not it. It does come close though.

First thing you notice is the heft, it feels like holding a hard back book, not heavy at only 413 grams for its 7-inch size, but not so lightweight and delicate that it feels like it could break. It has a hardened glass screen that is not only rugged it’s also scratch resistant. It’s easily held in one hand and feels substantial and looks stylish in basic black. If your tastes run to the more colourful, Amazon already does a nice line in covers, cases and stick-on decals. It has a powerful dual core processor and 8GB of on-board storage, which is not expandable, but could to be upgraded in future models.

The Kindle Fire does all the things you want it to for a Kindle. It has wifi access for internet access to download books or stream Amazon audio or video. It has an Amazon app store that allows you access to a limited range of Amazon-approved Android apps. The OS is a Gingerbread equivalent and is tailored to Amazon exclusive use. It’s here you hit your first real snag if you import one to a country outside of the US. Regardless of your location and the price of your app, (yes even the free ones) Amazon will not allow purchase through its store if you do not have a US credit card attached to the Amazon account you use to register.

So the enterprising people on the internet have already logged hundreds of resources on how to jailbreak your Kindle Fire and unlock its full potential. Within a few short hours I had engaged Super User Root access to the Kindle, sideloaded the Amazon Market Place Framework and launchers to make my Kindle Fire now a dual OS tablet running Android fully unlocked while keeping all the original Kindle Fire software and functionality. Alternately, you could wipe the lot and install whatever you want Android wise. There are plenty of options if you know what you’re doing or know someone who does.

Once it was up and running freely, I could download the standard apps (straight to Angry Birds thanks) as well as some that would tax some smart phones processing power, but are nothing to the dual core grunt of the Fire.

Despite the initial limitations and the US-centric requirements that need to be worked around, at $200 it’s a quarter of what you’d pay for an equivalent tablet. The Fire is still a good e-reader but now it’s also a video player, an email and document handler and a personal organiser and web browser. Did I mention this is my new favourite thing?

Pros: Value for Money, processing power, multi-functional, Android OS, clear screen, rugged exterior.
Cons: No shipping outside USA, some configuration required, storage not expandable 

4.9 Shacks Out Of 5

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