As expected, Amazon entered the tablet fray with a 7″ offering it’s calling the Kindle Fire. At just $199, it promises to be the first serious challenger to the iPad’s dominance in the tablet market.
With a 7″ color LCD touchscreen instead of the iPad 2’s 9.7″ screen, the Kindle Fire is smaller, lighter, and cheaper than the iPad, but is designed even more for content consumption rather than the iPad’s limited content creation capabilities. It boasts Wi-Fi connectivity, and is designed for watching movies, playing music, surfing the Internet, using apps, playing games, and reading magazines, comics, and e-books. It lacks cameras, GPS, bluetooth, and some other advanced features of full-fledged tablet computers, but at less than half the price of Apple’s cheapest tablet (which runs a hefty $499), that’s a trade-off many people will be willing to make.
Amazon also has the advantage of connecting their new Kindle Fire to their burgeoning content marketplace: Amazon Video on Demand, the Amazon MP3 Store, the Amazon Android App Store, and, of course, Amazon’s class-leading Kindle E-Book Store. In fact, a $79 subscription to Amazon Prime (which nets users free 2-day shipping on Amazon purchases) comes with a library of free streaming movies and TV shows, free apps and games, and even a free library of Kindle e-books.
Similarly, Amazon offers to store any content you purchase from them (movies, music, apps, newspapers, magazines, e-books) in their Cloud storage for free — so you can always download your content and don’t have to worry about running out of space on the device itself. Amazon’s WhisperSync service also saves your place in e-books and movies, so you can pick up reading or watching where you left off if you switch to your Kindle or computer.
Now for some specs on the $199 Kindle Fire:
- 7″ IPS LCD touchscreen display, 1,024 x 600 resolution
- 7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″
- 14.6 ounces
- 1 GHz dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP 4 processor
- 512 MB RAM
- 8 GB flash memory
- Battery life: 8 hours reading, 7.5 hours video playback (Wi-Fi off)
Still, the most impressive spec is probably the sub-$200 price, which gets you a portable mini-tablet connected to the Amazon content ecosystem. For current Amazon customers (especially Amazon Prime subscribers), it’s an almost irresistible gadget for the price. And for anyone looking for a 7″ tablet, it’s a great bargain — handily undercutting the competition.
My only gripe about the Kindle Fire is the same gripe I have with all LCD-based tablet computers being marketed as e-readers: most people find LCD screens tiring on the eyes, and would prefer the reading experience on an e-Ink screen (which is easier on the eyes, visible in bright sunlight, and allows for much longer battery life). But as a movie-streaming, game-playing, Internet-surfing device, the Kindle Fire looks like a hot gift this holiday season.