If you're thinking about getting the Fire, you have to decide not just whether you want a tablet, but what kind of tablet you want. This isn't an iPad-killer. It has the potential to do lots of things, but there are many things I have yet to see it do, and I wonder if it will get there given the lean software support. It's my impression that Amazon believes that the Fire will be so popular that developers will choose to work on its platform rather than on Google's main trunk of Android, but that's just a theory right now.
Still, there's no question that the Fire is a really terrific tablet for its price. The amount of content you have access to — and the ease of getting to that content — is notable to say the least. The device is decently designed, and the software — while lacking some polish — is still excellent compared to pretty much anything in this range (and that includes the Nook Color). It's a well thought out tablet that can only get better as the company refines the software. It's not perfect, but it's a great start, and at $200, that may be all Amazon needs this holiday shopping season.
The Kindle Fire is quite an achievement at $200. It's a perfectly usable tablet that feels good in the hand and has a respectably good looking display up front. Yes, power users will find themselves a little frustrated with what they can and can't do on the thing without access to the Android Market but, in these carefree days of cloud-based apps ruling the world, increasingly all you need is a good browser. That the Fire has.
When stacked up against other popular tablets, the Fire can't compete. Its performance is a occasionally sluggish, its interface often clunky, its storage too slight, its functionality a bit restricted and its 7-inch screen too limiting if you were hoping to convert all your paper magazine subscriptions into the digital ones. Other, bigger tablets do it better -- usually at two or three times the cost.
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So, the Kindle Fire is great value and perhaps the best, tightest integration of digital content acquisition into a mobile device that we've yet seen. Instead of having a standalone shopping app the entire tablet is a store -- a 7-inch window sold at a cut-rate price through which users can look onto a sea of premium content. It isn't a perfect experience, but if nothing else it's a promising look into the future of retail commerce.
If you like what Amazon Prime has going on in the kitchen, the Fire is a terrific seat. It's not as powerful or capable as an iPad, but it's also a sliver of the price—and that $200 will let you jack into the Prime catalog (and the rest of your media collection) easily and comfortably. Simply, the Fire is a wonderful IRL compliment to Amazon's digital abundance. It's a terrific, compact little friend, and—is this even saying anything?—the best Android tablet to date.