Some may deride the Kindle Fire for having a boring appearance. After all, it's nothing but a black rectangle. But those who think there's something wrong with that either have very little imagination or they've never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey. If they had, they?d know that sometimes wonderful things can come of featureless, monolithic slabs of black.
Okay, the Kindle Fire isn?t that cool, and it certainly isn't going to be the impetus behind any evolutionary leap ? for mankind, tablet, or even eReader ? but it's a pretty neat device nonetheless that effectively blows the doors off its eReader antecedents. But does being "neat" make it worth its $199 asking price, or should you hang onto that new Kindle or Kindle Keyboard a little longer? Keep reading to find out for yourself.
BUILD & DESIGN
The Kindle Fire is minimalist at its core and suspiciously resembles the BlackBerry PlayBook, and those who crave simplicity will likely find much to drool over in the Fire. Inspecting the Fire?s outer edges, all you?ll find are two small speakers on its top edge, and on its bottom edge a power button, headphone jack, and microUSB charging port. Bizarrely, the charging cable that comes included with the Fire can only be plugged into a wall socket, it?s not a micro-to-full USB cable, so if charging through your computer?s USB port is something you prefer, you?ve already got an additional accessory to buy.
Also missing from the Kindle Fire?s exterior is an SD card slot for the expansion of internal memory, but the fact that by purchasing it you?re given unlimited access to your very own Amazon cloud drive (for content purchased through Amazon) that you can access from just about anywhere pretty much eliminates the need to add space to the device itself.
Adding to the Fire?s sleek exterior is the rubberized coating on the back, which is really only there to provide additional grip for greasy-palmers and tabletop users, and wouldn?t likely offer any protection if you happened to drop it. Which may or may not be a risk, considering the Fire is one heavy little sucker. Sure, it?s got something going on inside with an 8GB drive that has the capacity, according to Amazon, to hold roughly 6000 books, 800 songs, or 10 full length movies. But at 14.6 ounces (that?s 1.4 ounces shy of a full pound, in practical terms) you might find yourself having to adjust to the extra weight if you?re moving up from the incredibly light, late-generation Kindles that would barely tip a kitchen scale at under 6 ounces. That said, the Kindle Fire isn?t particularly uncomfortable to handle when compared with other tablets and its comparatively smaller dimensions actually rank high on the convenience factor.
Screen & Speakers
The spec sheet on the Amazon website lists the Fire?s display as 7-inches, but as you probably guessed, that?s measuring from corner to corner like you do with TV sets. The actual screen size is 3.5-inches by 6-inches, which works great for reading eBooks and isn?t too shabby for web surfing or watching movies either, thanks to the 1024 x 600 pixel resolution and 169 ppi that delivers crisp, limited-glare images with vivid colors that are just shy of HD quality. The roughly ?? border that exists between the end of the screen and the edge of the actual device on all four sides might look like a waste of space, but it?s actually there so that a user can grip the Fire without accidentally tapping the screen and setting off some random function, like automatically paging forward as you?re reading an eBook or triggering the video controls when you?re watching a movie.
Speaking of listening to music or watching movies, if you?re planning on doing a lot of that on your Fire (and why wouldn?t you?) you?ll want to invest in a nice set of comfortable earbuds. The speakers, of which there are two that are located on each end of the Fire?s top edge, aren?t especially loud even when you?ve got the on-screen volume controls cranked. Yes, that reference to ?on-screen volume controls? means that there?s no volume controller on the exterior of the Fire whatsoever. If you want to adjust the volume, you?ve got to do it all on-screen, but having to do so isn?t a pain. It?s manipulating the volume slider and forward/reverse controls that?s a bit trying, since they?re so sensitive that it?s virtually impossible to set them precisely where you want them. Unfortunately, there aren?t any ways yet of adjusting the screen?s touch sensitivity. Is a stylus in your future? Probably not. But keep your fingers crossed that this gets addressed in future software upgrades.
The Amazon Kindle Fire has the following specs:
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