Modest Specs and Performance
Tablets are more about usability than specs. That said, the Kindle Fire's skimpy specs is one of the clear sacrifices Amazon made to achieve its $200 price.
Amazon uses a Texas Instruments OMAP 4 dual-core processor; but in use, the Fire didn't feel like it was a dual-core tablet. It lagged on transitions, even simple ones like turning pages in books or rotating orientation; it produced jerky animations; and video playback was repeatedly pixillated. It's unclear whether all of the blame lies solely with the 512MB of RAM--half what's standard on 7-inch tablets from companies like Acer and Samsung. Software optimization could also be part of the issue here; after all, Amazon's custom build of the Android 2.3 operating system could have some kinks, too. But in use, I became all too familiar with the spinning ball wait indicator as something loaded, and I felt as if I paid with my time what I saved in money on the Fire's modest price. .
Some missing elements weren't felt immediately, though. For example, Kindle Fire has neither a front-facing nor a rear-facing camera, and it lacks GPS. None of these felt like onerous omissions on their own, but they are standard inclusions in the pricier top-tier competitive set, and their omission means you're making a choice not to use your tablet for video chat, scanning an image, or navigating your way around town--all of which are practical uses you may miss having in the long-run. At $200, you're getting what you pay for.
If you plan to pack this tablet with apps, music, books, and movies, you'll be disappointed: The Fire has only 8GB of storage space, and only 6.54GB is user-accessible. In practical use, it took little to blast through a couple of gigabytes of space , and even Amazon admits in its specs that the on-board storage can only hold 10 movies at a time, for example. And unlike Barnes & Noble's $200 Nook Color and $250 Nook Tablet, the Kindle Fire has no microSD card slot, so you can't add more space as needed.
Amazon bills the battery life as lasting for up to 8 hours of continuous reading, or 7.5 hours of video playback, but those estimates are based on Wi-Fi being turned off. With Wi-Fi on, I found my casual use of the tablet drained the battery surprisingly quickly. In about three hours and 45 minutes, the battery dropped from 56 percent to zilch; brightness was set to the default of three-quarters maximum, and the tablet was used just for some light Web browsing, e-mail, downloading a few apps, and streaming a handful of tunes and a few minutes of video. Stay tuned for our full battery life tests, which remain in progress.
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