When you think of evolution, images of a hairy ape slowly but steadily transforming into a less hairy, upright man, fill your head. But all things evolve and in the field of technology, things evolve very rapidly indeed. Consider the case of the tablet PC. First there was the Poqet PC, a very small, portable computer, manufactured by Fujitsu, in collaboration with Poqet Computer Corporation. For a while, the tablet device was largely ignored, especially with the arrival of the laptop. Then came the Microsoft Tablet PC, perhaps the first real ancestor of the tablet PC. Then came the iPod Touch, which was neither really a tablet nor a phone or a computer. Actually the Touch was revolutionary for its focused and scaled-down rendering of a computer interface. Then, Asus came out with the EEE PC line.
Tablet computing took a real evolutionary step forward in 2010. In that year, the tablet market literally exploded. It seemed as if each and every electronic brand was releasing a diminutive PC, perfectly sized to hold it in your hand. A list of mini-devices were seen, the Galaxy Tab, the Slate, etc. Then Apple released the iPad, the 'Homo Sapien', of the tablet evolution cycle. Soon the iPad 2 followed. But is the competition for top tablet PC over? Or is it just beginning? In the bloodthirsty tablet arena of "here today, gone tomorrow", here's a new entry: the Amazon Kindle Fire.
Amazon Kindle Fire Specs
Specs, features, hardware, software, usability... whatever name you give it, a tablet's ability to hit or miss depends on what's under its hood (or screen). Below is a detailed look at the features of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, to estimate its potential as a computing device.
|7 inch screen with Gorilla Glass coating||Ultra slim 0.45 inch thickness||1024 x 600 pixel resolution|
|IPS technology||Color display with 16 million colors||Very light 413 grams (14.6 ounce) weight|
The Fire is the perfect model, size-wise. You can hold it in one hand, which leaves the other free for swiping across the screen. Seven inches is the right display size to hold and transport with ease. Plus, it will fit easily in a bag and perhaps even a large pocket. The screen is toughened for scratches and bumps, making the Fire, a very transport-friendly tablet. Its ultra-light weight helps too. No one likes a tablet PC that weight-wise, feels like a laptop! With IPS technology, you can expect a wide, clear viewing angle and realistic color rendering.
|1 GHz dual-core CPU||Modified Android 2.3 OS||512 MB RAM with 8 GB storage|
|Amazon Cloud storage enabled||8 hours battery life||Stereo speakers on tablet's top, 3.5 headphone jack|
With a dual-core processor and 512 MB RAM, the Fire looks speedy enough to handle most applications, especially video playback. Multi-tasking is also possible, so you can open different applications and alternate between them. The exciting point in the Fire's favor, is its revved-up Android OS. The Fire uses Android 2.3 but the OS has a flair, style and look, that is unique to the tablet. It is streamlined for media usage, albeit with an Amazonian twist. For example, the main screen is a rotating bookshelf, where all data is displayed.
Storage-wise the Fire is a bit stingy. About 8 GB is enough for 10 movies or for a lot of books and songs. You cannot expand the memory and there is no card slot. But the Amazon Cloud steps in to save the day. Store all Amazon obtained content, movies, books and music for free on the Cloud. So use and delete as you please, go to the Cloud and get it back, when you want. The Kindle Fire has an estimated 8 hours worth of battery life. So reading on the Fire can be done for a long time. But the battery could drain with wireless connections and playing media on the device.
|Amazon Silk web browser||Amazon Appstore apps|
|1 USB 2.0 port||Connects through Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n|
The Kindle Fire seems determined to be as unique a tablet as possible. In a bold move, Amazon has developed its own web browser, Amazon Silk, specifically for use on the Fire. This browser uses the Amazon Cloud Storage services to load web pages extra fast, making the Silk a very speedy browser, with Flash support (the icing on the cake). Web browsing done, let's talk about email. With a proprietary email app, the Fire collects your email from multiple accounts and stores them in a single inbox for your viewing pleasure. You can import your contacts and messages from other email accounts as well.
App-wise the Fire is something like a puzzle. It runs the Android OS but you will have to download apps from the Amazon Appstore. So no apps from the Android Market but then the Amazon Appstore is equipped to handle even the most fussy of Android users. One point of uncertainty is the apps for download from the Amazon Appstore, are they Fire-optimized? For connecting the tablet to a computer as well as plugging in pen drives and other devices, the Fire has a built-in USB port. You can even charge the device through the port. For an Internet connection, this tablet will connect wirelessly to any 802.11 b/g/n network.
|Media & Function|
|Word formats (DOC, DOCX), PDF, JPEG, MP3 and MP4 are amongst supported formats|
|Connects to one of the best multimedia warehouses ever||Ease of use and convenient features (WhisperSync)|
The Fire is an Amazon product. So it seems obvious that one of its most impressive features is the way it makes reading on a hand-held device easy. An e-reader is a dedicated device while a computer is not suitable for portable reading and the Fire bridges this gap with ease. Whether a glossy magazine or an ancient tome, the Fire allows you to access the file quickly and read it with comfort. There are even special interactive magazine editions available for download. Books for young readers are beautifully illustrated. Then there's the might of the Amazon store itself. Millions of books, magazines, comics, storybooks - any literature from Amazon is available for downloading or streaming. Multimedia-wise, songs, movies and TV shows are available. Amazon has a huge and rapidly growing collection of media and with the Kindle Fire, it's all there at your fingertips.
To enhance your multimedia experience on the tablet, it is WhisperSync enabled. So transfer a video from the tablet to the TV and resume watching from the point where you stopped it. Bookmarks and notes are synced across devices. A deal-maker or breaker with any gadget is compatibility. It should handle different formats with ease. No one wants one device to watch a .AVI file and another device to watch a .MPEG file. The Kindle Fire allows you to read PDFs and Word files, read e-books, view images, listen to music and watch movies through streaming and supports multiple media formats.
In its 7-inch frame, the Kindle Fire packs an impressive amount of features and functionality for a very affordable rate of $200. But it does have its limitations, albeit some glaring ones. The Fire has no camera, front or back. So web chatting, taking pictures, all such photo-related activities are not possible. The Fire does not have a built-in GPS or the ability to use Bluetooth. It is not 3G enabled and just has 8 GB storage space. But the justification to all such limitations is the price. A price of 200 dollars for a portable device, especially one through which you can stream multimedia and read e-books and play games, is a steal. The Kindle Fire is expected to ship from November 15, so the question of whether its features are a bargain for its price, can be answered only then.