Amazon Kindle Fire tablet

A tablet that fails to impress, as either a tablet or as an e-reader

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Amazon Web Services Kindle Fire
  • Amazon Web Services Kindle Fire
  • Amazon Web Services Kindle Fire
  • Expert Rating

    2.50 / 5

Pros

  • Easy shopping for Amazon books, music, videos
  • Smooth integration of cloud and local storage

Cons

  • Sluggish performance
  • Interface still has some bugs
  • Not as flexible and versatile as other tablets

Bottom Line

The 7in Android-based Amazon Fire will appeal to those who buy books, videos, and music at Amazon, but it will frustrate those looking for a more versatile slate.

Would you buy this?

The difference between phone and tablet apps on a 7-inch screen can be huge. This shortcoming is particularly surprising since I'd have expected Amazon to handpick apps from its Appstore that best show off what the Kindle Fire can do. Instead, my random downloads produced apps with fuzzy, phone-ready graphics and menu design, and my searches revealed apps that won't even work right on the Kindle Fire because it lacks the necessary hardware. Even Angry Birds wasn't ready for prime time here — two versions of Angry Birds launched upside down, depending on how I held the tablet. Oops.

Amazon Kindle Fire: Software

For all the thoughtful design touches the Kindle Fire has, I found just as many glitchy behaviors. In all, they speak to premature software, and some things that Amazon may perhaps fix with future software updates. For example, book page turns didn't always feel smooth, whereas highlighting passages gave me no issues. Animations and graphics were jerky, but the carousel on the home screen is insanely zippy. The well-presented music player is an improvement over that of standard Android 2.x tablets, but the interface is at times inconsistent (tapping on a song in the cloud brought up a jarringly Android-like menu). The Amazon-supplied on-screen keyboard has a good layout for typing, but I nonetheless found myself prone to a few more errors than I'm used to on other 7in Honeycomb tablets.

Other random issues I encountered: The keyboard in the Newsstand didn't work consistently in landscape mode, the device wouldn't always register various taps on the screen, and sometimes the interface ran away with itself (in one instance, when I zoomed in on a photo, the image moved every which way).

Although many of those problems are clearly software bugs that annoy, but don't impede use of the tablet, my bigger concerns lie with the image-quality compromises I identified with the Kindle Fire.

Let's start with the image gallery. Ordinarily a tablet's gallery lets you easily show off photos of family and friends. But the Kindle Fire's Gallery app limits the usefulness of this indispensable tool: It resizes all the photos loaded into the app — regardless of whether you add them by dragging and dropping to the tablet when it's connected to your PC, or whether you download the images via email. After resizing, images become soft and pixelated, and you can't zoom in on them (and when you try, all you get is a hot mess of blockiness).

One of my test images, for example, was resized to 486 by 324 from its original 3888 by 2592 pixels, which made for an unacceptable result. The issue lies entirely with Amazon's Gallery app. That same photo renders well in a random but kludgy free image viewer that I downloaded, exhibiting better colour and saturation, and reasonably sharp detail. But in the Kindle Fire's native image gallery? Not even close.

Knowing that Amazon made such choices for users in the gallery makes me question what other trade-offs the company may have made in the name of its perceived greater good.

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Read more on these topics: amazon, Apple, mobility, mobile solutions, Kindle Fire, iPad
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