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Amazon Kindle Fire Unveiled, with Full Specs

Andrew Williams by

Kindle

Amazon has officially unveiled the Kindle Fire tablet, its Android-powered colour alternative to the eink Kindle. And, of course, an alternative to the iPad and the horde of other Android tablets.

The Amazon Kindle Fire has a 7in screen, runs a heavily customised version of Google OS Android and comes with Wi-Fi connectivity only - there's no 3G on offer here. This tablet's real stand-out bullet point is its price. At $199 it undercuts all the big-name Android tablets - although we expect US-to-UK conversion rates mean we won't end up paying less than £179. However, that's a figure we'll be perfectly happy with if its performance is up to expectations. It'll hit the US on 15 November, but we may have to wait until next year.Kindle

Kindle Fire - mostly yum

Rather than being Android-centric, using the Kindle Fire will seem Amazon-centric, based around access to the Amazon Appstore, Amazon MP3, the Kindle bookstore, Amazon store, and other Amazon streaming services currently in the works for us little islanders. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said at the Kindle Fire's launch, "We don't think of the Kindle Fire as a tablet. We think of it as a service." This is an intriguing proposition, an approach not yet taken by a tablet maker.

In this age of the tablet, it's impossible not to compare it to other tabs, despite Bezos's claims. What's interesting hardware-wise here is that there are no nav buttons. Everything is handled with the touchscreen. There are no cameras either, features we have always felt are largely redundant on a big (for a portable) device.

Other than these aberrations, the Kindle Fire absolutely supplies the spec goods. It uses a 7in 1024x600 pixel IPS display fronted by strong, scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, is powered by a dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP processor (MHz TBC) and weighs around 410g. That's significantly heavier than the 250g Kindle, but much lighter than the 600g Apple iPad 2.The battery life is rated at eight hours.

Multi-tasking is supported, no big surprise in an Android device, but exactly how well it is implemented in Amazon's custom UI will have to be something we test first-hand. Amazon claims it'll have access to 100,000 TV shows and movies, although this could be something us UK folk have to wait for. Is the deal not sweet enough yet? The Kindle Fire comes with a free month's trial of Amazon Prime. If that won't convince you, nothing will.

We'll be back with more UK release details as they appear.

Go to comments

markc1728

September 28, 2011, 8:53 pm

Definitely interesting, especially the browser. Any news on whether the UI supports multi-touch or just the rumoured two touch gestures?

The one thing that seems to have happened though is that this has overshadowed the Kindle Touch's launch, which is at least as intruiging to me. And coupled with the similarity of the name I think Amazon could have done a better job in seperating the two in the public consciousness. They're differentiated enough as products but one is casting an almight shadow on the other!

Andrew_TR

September 28, 2011, 8:59 pm

We've only heard the two-touch rumblings so far, but that could be enough. The inclusion of IPS suggests that Amazon is keen on quality of experience, so I'd be amazed if the capacitive panel wasn't nice 'n' responsive.

And yes, the Kindle Fire does amount to a certain muddying of the Kindle brand. We'll have to wait to see whether this brings ill commercial effects. I definitely agree about a separation between the two being beneficial.

Sam Wright

September 28, 2011, 10:53 pm

To be honest, this spells a bit of a death knell for the other android tablets. The UI almost certainly wont be up to Apple standards, but compared to the other Android devices.

The spec sheet is nearly spot on though. Cameras are unnecessary but 3G really is required in this connected day and age. I personally would shell out an additional 30 quid for it in a heartbeat. The price is just incredible as it is anyway!

ChaosDefinesOrder

September 29, 2011, 12:14 am

*if* you have an Android phone you could use that as a wireless hotspot and connect to that with the Fire...

ChaosDefinesOrder

September 29, 2011, 12:15 am

The biggest question about the Kindle Fire for me is whether you can put any of your own existing library on there (music or videos) or whether it has to be from the Amazon store

Andrew_TR

September 29, 2011, 12:22 am

An excellent point. I've had a look over the Whispersync documentation available so far, and it's not 100% clear. This particular phrase is not a good sign though -

"Kindle makes it easy to take your documents with you. You can e-mail documents - including Word, PDF and more - directly to your Kindle so you that you can read them anytime, anywhere."

Sounds like Mass Storage mode is definitely NOT an option. A shame. Let's wonder how long it'll be until some enterprising folk hack it though. My guess is not long.

ChaosDefinesOrder

September 29, 2011, 1:24 am

I was wondering the same thing myself. If this sells well, it's only a matter of time until someone finds a way to stick Cyanogenmod and/or Honeycomb on the Fire...

Peter

September 29, 2011, 3:27 am

My question is whether I can make a 'book' out of a Fire and Old Kindle Keyboard 3G. So that the Fire can utilise the Kindle Keyboard 3G connection. E.g. interactive parts of documents. The dimensions are almost identical! (Same Height, 0.1" difference in Width)

lensmann

September 29, 2011, 4:30 am

A bit of a let-down, from my point of view.

1. The absence of Mass Storage is a bummer. Especiallly when there's no SD card slot either to make transfers easy. Good luck emailing a dozen music albums to yourself, leave alone movies.

2. I guess this really should be seen as a device on which to consume Amazon content, with a few extras thrown in. Which, I suppose, will be fine for many people. But one thing that made the iPad so successful was the *range* of things you could do with it. Maybe I'd gotten my hopes too high, but I really don't see the Kindle Fire offering that.

3. Relying so heavily on the cloud and streaming in a device that doesn't have 3G strikes me as a bit odd. Wi-Fi hotspots aren't that common. I guess there will be provision for local caching on the 8GB SSD - though I wonder how much of that will actually be available for user files. 16 GB really should be the minimum for devices without expansion slots.

Chris

September 29, 2011, 5:35 pm

Despite being based on Android, Amazon are clearly intending to supplant Google as the primary provider of content and services to this device, and that's where they'll make their money. Books, apps, movies, music and more besides. If the device is strictly tethered to the Amazon ecosystem, this would explain the low price, despite its tablet-esque hardware and OS.

My concern is that the Fire might be restricted to these services exclusively, and it won't give the user any of the freedoms we usually associate with tablets. This would position the device closer to a traditional Kindle than a tablet as we know it. Amazon's choice of words certainly indicates this. Perhaps that's just fine, since the Fire shouldn't cost much more than a Kindle anyway.

It's just that I keep reading all these iPad and Android tablet comparisons in the press and can't help thinking that such comparisons could be misplaced.

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