Amazon Kindle Fire
Content consumption kit
Review You might think it odd for a UK-based publication to review a product only available in the US, but such is Amazon's global reach that it's only a matter of time before the Kindle Fire is officially released over here.
Less a tablet more an Amazon content reader
In the meantime, if you have a chum living in the States who can order one on your behalf, Amazon's 7in Android tablet can be yours. It's hard to resist the impulse to snap up a tablet for only $199 (£128), and Amazon knows it.
The US-centricity of the device brings some immediate limitations, of course: I couldn't rent or buy videos using my Amazon UK account - even ones with a zero dollar price, like TV trailers. All attempts to download software - even free apps - popped up a 'The Amazon Appstore is not yet available in your region' alert. The Android Market is inaccessible to all, at least not without hackery.
No favoured orientation
Buying books works, because a tap on the Store button fires up the Fire's Silk web browser and takes you to the UK website rather than a UI-integrated shopfront. Past purchases are listed and available to download. British periodicals can be accessed in the same fashion.
Hooking the Fire to a USB cable and a computer is the work of a moment, but accessing transferred content is another matter. There are Music, Pictures and Video folders on the Fire's 8GB Flash storage, only 6.5GB of which is available for your content, but none of the films I dropped in were detected by the tablet's Video section. Amazon, like Apple, wants you to get your content from the official channel.
The back is rubberised
Side-loaded videos and pictures did appear in the bundled Gallery app but only the sample MP4 file would play - MKV and AVI test files were deemed incompatible. Gallery also showed the folder of JPEGs I dropped into Pictures, but listed them in some unusual, non-alphabetical order it's seemingly impossible to change.
So there's still work to be done on Amazon's interface software, which sits on top of Android 2.3 Gingerbread. The Fire's main UI is a cross between the bookshelf metaphor and iTunes' Cover Flow, here called the Carousel, so you can flip through all the content you've downloaded to your device. And all the web pages you've visited, videos you've watched and apps you've used.
Next page: Carousel, sell, sell
Sounds too limited
But might be nice as a subsidised Cyanogen tablet.
@uhuznaa: 'Proper kindle' battery life
I can tell you don't own a kindle. I (and the other people I know with Kindles) only charge the kindle about once a month. And this is with typical usage of someone who likes to read. ie you may read for 2-3 hours one day, none the next day, etc, etc. WiFi is only ever used to download a book, for the rest of the time it's off (no-one seriously uses the kindle for browsing) so even if you're buying 2 books a week that's still only about 4 minutes per month of wifi.
To try and suggest that a 'proper' kindle has battery life in the same magnitude as something like an iPad or Kindle fire is so very, very wrong. So, i return to my original point, you obviously don't own a kindle so stop commenting on things you know nothing about.
Missing the point
It is not an 'Android' device. The OS is a fork of the Android source. Amazon do not claim that it is Android (as far as I'm aware at least.) It's 'Amazon Fire OS'.
Something missing I feel...
What is the Kindle like as an e-book reader? One photo comment that the text is clear and smooth doesn't really add anything - Does it have all the usual limitations of being an LCD rather than e-ink screen? i.e. after prolonged reading are you eyes strained? is the glare rediculous? or have amazon made some software alterations to minimize this?
Given that the only thing you could put on the device without a PC were books I'm surprised you didn't mention much about them.
For a $200 tablet, I don't really care about loading my existing videos. What I would use such a cheap tablet for (I don't really want Amazon video and I have a proper Kindle for e-books) is web-browsing and watching TV... so what's the situation with iPlayer, 4OD, etc? Will they just work through the web-browser, or require special apps?
What IS this Silk browser anyway? Webkit?