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Amazon Kindle Fire e-book tablet

Amazon Kindle Fire

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Weighty tome

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos writes in his message to Fire buyers: "We designed Kindle Fire to disappear in your hands so you can lose yourself in the content you love."

Amazon Kindle Fire Android tablet

The screen is no "retina" display, but text is clear and smooth

Nice try, Jeff, but the only disappearing this tablet is going to do is slipping out of your hand and tumbling to the floor. Amazon's spec sheet puts the Fire at 414g. That doesn't sound very much, and on paper it's much less than the iPad's 601g. In your hand, it's another matter. The Fire's size is such that you unconsciously hold it one-handed. Indeed, that's one reason why a fair few of you prefer the 7in form-factor to nine- or ten-inchers.

The thing about those bigger tablets, though: you naturally pick them up with two hands. So that greater weight feels half of what it actually is.

Amazon Kindle Fire Android tablet

An e-book reader at heart?

The Fire's curves mean the 11.3mm front-to-back device's sides aren't quite as thick as that, but the flat sides make the Fire less comfortable to hold than it could be. Holding the Fire one-handed, I found it would slowly slip, the rubberised back not really producing enough friction to keep it in place without tightening my grip. Folk with sweaty palms, beware.

Verdict

The Kindle Fire is a nice-looking tablet, and, at 200 bucks, Amazon is going to sell a shedload of them. Its flaws are well balanced by the low price, and it's a logical upgrade if you're already a Kindle owner and you want to buy videos, music and apps from Amazon, not just books.

The problems I had getting content don't affect US buyers and will disappear for the rest of us when Amazon activates international sales. If it continues to make side-loading content a faff, that too will change when third-party video players and picture viewers are available.

And let's not forget the possibility of custom firmware from the likes of the CyanogenMod team, converting the Amazon-centric Kindle into a more capable device running generic Android.

For now, then, the Fire makes for a so-so Android tablet, but succeeds as an cheap vendor-tied content access device, the tablet equivalent of a Sky HD box. If you're looking for an iPad killer, look elsewhere, at least until the hackers have got to work. ®

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Amazon Kindle Fire e-book tablet

Amazon Kindle Fire

Compact but heavy 7in tablet for buying and consuming Amazon-sourced content.
Price: $199 RRP

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