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Amazon brings tablet competition to market

Submitted by Matt Johnson on February 1, 2012 – 3:00 pmOne Comment

When the news hit the street that Amazon was releasing a tablet, and that it would be priced at just $199, the tech world certainly paid attention.

For years, Apple has enjoyed a firm hold on the tablet market with the iPad and now the iPad 2. Their success can be attributed to many things, but the ecosystem they’ve built to marry content and device is what drives sales of both.

Amazon has apparently been paying attention and with the Kindle Fire, they’ve delivered a content-specific device that will especially benefit those who are Amazon Prime members or use Amazon’s Cloud service to store their music.

For those who don’t know, Amazon Prime is a membership program offered by Amazon for $79 a year. It includes free two-day shipping on any eligible item you purchase (usually anything over $25, but there will be a check mark next to the price of the item to alert you if it’s available for free Prime shipping). You also gain access to a selection of  free streaming movies and television shows. It’s an excellent deal, and if you buy just one item a month, the service has already paid for itself.

We’ll get to the specs, but first let’s talk about what the Fire is and is not. This is a tablet built to deliver Amazon content — be it books, music or videos — in an almost seamless experience. With only 8GB of onboard memory, the Fire is not designed to carry around all your music or movies. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as you’ll find out.

If you are an Amazon Prime member or have music stored in Amazon’s Cloud service, this device provides you a way to access that music or stream television shows and movies over Wi-Fi.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Fire is its size. It features a 7″ screen that’s bright and looks great when playing video content. Amazon has used Corning’s Gorilla Glass for the front, so scratches shouldn’t be much of an issue. I’ve had my Fire for about three months and do not use a case for it. It is not treated roughly, but it goes in and out of my messenger bag and is used at least a few times a day and there are no scratches on the screen.

Through Amazon’s app store,  you can also enjoy access to many of the same apps that are available for the iPad. Yes, you can play “Angry Birds” on your Fire. There’s also Hulu, Netflix, “Words with Friends”, “Plants vs. Zombies” and Pandora, to name just a few. You also have access to Amazon’s Kindle bookstore where you can buy books or magazines.
The home screen looks like a bookshelf and it automatically stores, in descending order, the things you have accessed on the device. I wasn’t sure about this at first, but over time I’ve found it to be convenient. If you are reading a book or magazine or listening to an album and want to take a break and pick it up later, it’s right there without having to search for it.

With a dual-core processor, operations are carried out quickly and without any pauses or hiccups. The touchscreen is not quite up to the standard that Apple has set with their iPad and iPhone, but it’s still very responsive.

I have not experienced any problems with the Fire since I purchased it. There were early problems with some users who experienced trouble with the device remembering Wi-Fi settings but I set mine up right out of the box and it has never failed to connect to my home network.

I have a tough time coming up with any negatives for the Fire. The video looks good, the sound quality is very good and the battery is above average. If you are not part of Amazon’s ecosystem, you might not find the 8GB of memory enough to really carry all that you might want to. You also need access to Wi-Fi, but this is true of most tablets unless you have one that can utilize 3G. For the price, the Fire is an excellent device. Amazon has succeeded in finding a price point that will deliver a perceived value to the consumer.

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