Currently only available in the US, the Amazon Kindle Fire is arguably the first tablet able to give the Apple iPad any kind of real competition.
Retailing for a mere $199 in the US, the heavily customised Android tablet managed to boast strong holiday sales over there by targeting the low end of the market.
Now, with the Google Nexus 7 looking to pull the same trick, retailers have begun predicting the Fire's UK release leading to speculation of a possible Google vs Amazon grudge match.
Having secured a hands on with the Kindle Fire, V3 offers its first impressions of the Kindle Fire and its chances at UK conquest.
Design and build
In terms of build quality we were impressed with the Kindle Fire. Despite being made of plastic, we found that the tablet had a fairly solid feeling, featuring a thick outer coating and Gorilla Glass coated 7in touch-screen that felt as well built as similarly sized competitors such as the BlackBerry PlayBook or Galaxy Tab 7.0.
In fact, with its soft, slightly rounded sides, the device has an e-reader feel that matches Amazon's other Kindle devices. This means that the device felt very comfortable when held in hand and was easily used this way.
One of the few negatives we found was that the device felt slightly heavier than we expected, weighing 431g despite only measuring in at 190 x 120 x 11.4mm. While hardly back breaking, this could prove a problem for many users looking for a lightweight device to use while on the go.
Another feature which took us a bit of time to figure out was that the device only has a single physical control - the power button. This means that despite being avid tablet users, when attempting to change the device's volume we actually had to ask Amazon how to do it.
However, the device's lack of external buttons, when combined with its lack of camera and matt black finish gave the Fire a very stripped down look that we quite liked - mainly because it makes the device look different from Apple's iPad series of devices.
The Fire features a 7in 1024 x 600, 169ppi IPS display that we were actually quite impressed with. We found that it was suitably bright and legible, though from our inital experience it appears the unit is not quite as crisp as some similarly sized tablets like the Galaxy Tab 2.
Operating system and software
The Kindle Fire runs a heavily customised version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread. In fact, the Fire's custom user interface and skin means that it bears little resemblance to Android on other devices, and we found it took a while to get used to.
The best way we can describe the interface is as being like a real world library. The UI features a series of shelves containing links to the users Newsstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps and Web. Tabs were contained above the shelves and can be switched between using basic swipe and pull motions on the screen.
Another key difference we noticed was the unit's Silk web browser, which Amazon claims as having faster load times than rivals thanks to its use of cloud servers to boost the device's speed and power.
During our brief test we got to load a few pages and videos across multiple tabs and we have to say we were pretty impressed by how speedy the browser appeared to be. We look forward to seeing how it competes against Google's new Chrome mobile browser when we get our hands on it for a more prolonged period.
One other factor that separates the Fire from other Android tablets is the fact that the device doesn't have access to the main Google Play store, replacing this with Amazon's App Store. Unfortunately, the device we tried didn't have access to this making it difficult for us to judge whether this is actually a positive or a negative.
The Fire is powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor which is backed by 512MB of RAM. While not particularly impressive by today's quad-core devices, we really didn't have any issue with the device's speed during our hands-on.
Testing the device we found menus and apps launched quickly and videos and web pages loaded close to instantaneously - however it's worth noting we didn't get a chance to do prolonged video tests or try any power hungry apps.
The elephant in the room whenever talking about the original Kindle launching in the UK is of course Google's official Nexus 7 Android tablet.
The device is confirmed for release within the next two weeks, and given that Amazon hasn't even confirmed the Kindle Fire's UK release, it's likely Google will be the first tablet maker to seriously target the UK budget tablet market.
This means that despite being the first tablet to really mount any challenge to Apple in the US, it may be a latecomer to the game in the UK.
However, Google has admitted that its iPad rival, the Neuxs 7, will not be able to access music, movie and TV content when it launches in the UK, as the firm has failed to strike deals with content owners.
If the Kindle Fire can launch offering such content - as it does in the US - then the device may still have a fighting chance of wrestling control of the budget tablet market from Google's Nexus 7.
Check back with V3 in the future for full reviews of the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire.
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