Carousel, sell, sell
I'm not a fan of carousel-style UIs in any case – too much swiping to get to distant items – but having a sequence of attractive book cover portraits spoiled by a brash square app icon or, worse, a blank rectangle representing a PDF I'd side-loaded, put me right off. It all quickly looks a bit of a mess.
The Carousel runs smoothly but it's not an attractive UI
It's also too sensitive. Move your finger ever so slightly on the image of the item you want to open and the carousel will flip round to the next image. Yet other parts of the UI are less sensitive than I'd expect. The Fire's touchscreen is capacitive, but the UI often failed to register taps, or misjudged which one of two closely position items I was attempting to press.
Below the Carousel sits shelf after shelf of favourites, be they apps, books, movies or a mix of the content types the Fire can present. Again, the mix of icon sizes and styles – why can't some developers do PNG transparency properly? – makes for an unattractive interface, made more unappealing by the funereal burnt grey wood texture Amazon has chosen.
There's plenty of video content on offer - but only to Americans for now
All this makes sense for a device designed specifically for content consumption, but I found myself longing for the clarity and neat grid of iOS or even the native Android UI. Still, Amazon makes it easy to acquire more, segmenting all sections into Cloud – stuff you can download – and Device – stuff you have downloaded. Books aside, the store pages are integrated into the UI.
Amazon scores better for its Silk browser, which renders pages cleanly. Silk does a lot of page rendering at the server end, but I can't say it makes for a browsing speed demon. The progress bar slides right-ward very quickly, but some page elements still don't appear for a moment or two. It doesn't feel appreciably quicker than other, clientside-only browsers.
Next page: Screen machine
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?