Amazon Kindle Fire tablet (preview)

Amazon Kindle Fire preview: Amazon's Kindle Fire heats up the tablet market, but leaves Aussies out in the cold

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Pros

  • Extremely low price
  • Reasonably powerful specifications
  • Compact 7in design

Cons

  • Lacks Android Market access
  • Amazon content limited in Australia
  • Not available outside the US initially

Bottom Line

Amazon's Kindle Fire is an impressive looking 7in tablet that runs a customised version of Android, providing access to a wide selection of Amazon content including movies, TV shows, books, magazines and newspapers. However, it's only available in the US, at least initially.

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Rumours were flying around for months about Amazon launching a tablet and the US giant has finally delivered. The Kindle Fire is a 7in tablet running a customised version of Android and is Amazon's attempt at shaking up the Apple-dominated tablet market. Unfortunately, Australians are left out in the cold: the Amazon Kindle Fire will only be sold in the US, at least initially.

Read out guide to the best upcoming tablets in 2011.

The Amazon Kindle Fire will sell for just US$199, making it one of the cheapest tablets on the market. Amazon's strategy with the Kindle Fire is a pretty simply one: it is happy to make little profit on sales of actual hardware, but recoup the losses by selling content. In addition to over one million books and hundreds of magazines and newspapers, Kindle Fire owners can also stream, download, buy or rent over 100,000 movies and TV shows and over 17 million MP3 music tracks.

The Kindle Fire is an Android tablet, but the operating system has been heavily modified by Amazon. It will provide access to the Amazon Appstore, but not Google's Android Market or any other Google services like Google Search and Google Maps. However, the Amazon Appstore will offer a limited selection (around 10,000) of Android apps for Kindle Fire owners including popular titles like Angry Birds, Pulse News Reader, LinkedIn and Fruit Ninja.

For $199, the Amazon Kindle Fire certainly looks very compelling on paper. It boasts a 7in IPS display with a gorilla glass coating and 1024 x 600 pixel resolution, is powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor, has 512MB of RAM, 8GB of internal memory and promises up to eight hours of battery life for continuous reading: provided you turn Wi-Fi off.

You're probably asking what the catch is at this price, but aside from a couple of missing features, the Kindle Fire stacks up pretty well. The lack of 3G connectivity is a downside, and there's also no camera: even though we'd argue a camera on a tablet is a pretty low priority. There's no memory card slot as Amazon is pushing the fact that its content can be stored in the cloud — we still think 8GB of internal memory is pretty low. There's also no external volume controls on the Kindle Fire, which may prove to be an annoyance for video and music playback.

The Amazon Kindle Fire also introduces a new Web browser called Silk. The company says the main focus of Silk is to take the processing load off of the Kindle Fire: it will speed up page load times by sending part of the processing to Amazon's cloud servers. Silk also promises to optimise pages for the Kindle Fire's exact hardware, and will also cache regular sites you visit to speed up loading times. If you're concerned with privacy, considering Amazon keeps a 30-day log of Web sites you visit, you can use the Silk browser in "off-cloud" mode.

The most disappointing aspect about the Amazon Kindle Fire is that it will only be sold in the US, at least initially. It will be released in the states on 15 November, and orders will be prioritised on a first come, first served basis. Amazon has not stated when or if the Kindle Fire will be made available for worldwide consumers.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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