We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Amazon Kindle Fire: some good, some bad, some to be seen

Ultimate tech toy, or overblown iPod...

Did you hear about the Amazon Kindle Fire? An Android tablet and eReader from Amazon that costs HALF THE PRICE OF THE iPAD!

Well, not quite. Not even close, in fact. (And that's before we get into the thorny question of what exactly the Amazon Kindle Fire will cost when it eventually ships up on these shores. *IF* it eventually makes it.)

The Amazon Kindle Fire is a fascinating device. If it is priced anywhere near the £200 mark it will be a must-have for all serious gadget fans. But we need to scotch the idea that it is comparable to the iPad, or any of the better second-generation Android tablets (Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Sony Tablet S, for example).

If the Kindle sells for half the price of those devices, it will be because it attempts to fulfil only  half of what a full-blown tablet does.

What the iPad has done brilliantly, and latterly Android tablets have begun to succesfully emulate (if not imitate) is to replace two devices: media player and laptop. If I have to travel for work these days, I require only my Samsung Galaxy Tab and a portable keyboard dock. I wouldn't even need a smartphone were it not for that fact that I need to, well, make phonecalls. The tablet is a perfectly usable device for email and office tasks, web surfing, photo and video capture, movies, eBooks, and audio playback.

And it is portable, and then some.

You can choose either the locked-down, curated and spotless iPad or the slightly more rough-and-ready Android devices, and enjoy laptop-replacement capabilities on the hoof.

Amazon Kindle Fire: ultimate media player

The Kindle Fire aims to take on only the consumptive aspects of this job spec - and do them better. It wants to be your new iPod: an even thinner and lighter device with a direct line to Amazon's treasure chest of media. An arsenal of music, movies, books and TV shows, built up over 15 years.

Amazon has arguably the biggest store of the good stuff outside of iTunes. It's possibly bigger.

The device looks great, and anyone who as ever used a Kindle will appreciate the end-to-end consumer experience that Amazon offers. It still blows my mind that I can read a novel accross four (non-Amazon) devices, and it will pick up where I left off regardless of which PC, smartphone or tablet I am using.

Throw in a web browser that, in principle at least, takes all the processing power out of the portable device and puts it into the cloud. Then extrapolate that curated eReader, WhisperSync experience to incorporate movies, music and TV. The Kindle Fire looks like the ultimate tech toy. For just $199 (or whatever that equates to in the UK).

But let's look at the down sides.

Amazon Kindle Fire: the bad

Amazon has a massive amount of content, but to use the Kindle Fire as intended is to enjoy only Amazon content. To feel the benefits of that end-to-end user experience of which Amazon is so proud, you have to limit yourself to Amazon's world. Which in turn means access to only a fraction of the Android apps in the world, via the Amazon App Store. It's Android without the benefits.

There's no camera, or native email app (you can use webmail or install an app). Given the likelihood that you already carry a device which has both, this is no hardship. But it does mean that the Kindle Fire is another gadget carry: it's not going to replace your iPad or even your phone. Given that it has a reflective LCD screen, it may not even replace your existing Kindle.

There's not much storage on the Kindle Fire. Of course, you might say, the whole point of the device is that you access your media from the cloud. It's a good point, but it does require regular access to a web connection. If you are on the beach on your hols, for example, you'll need to stock up before you go.

Amazon Kindle Fire: want one

Despite all of which, the Kindle Fire is disruptive and it is absolutely exciting. It is, in essence, a new kind of device. At the very least a fresh take on a declining device: the standalone media player made better.

a lightweight, good-looking gadget that is telly, eReader, web browser and MP3 player, for (let's just say) £200. How could you not want one?

HAVE YOUR SAY: What do you think of the Amazon Kindle Fire?

IDG UK Sites

Where to buy iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the UK: Launch day price, deals and contracts

IDG UK Sites

Is Apple losing confidence in itself?

IDG UK Sites

Professional photo and video techniques for perfect colours

IDG UK Sites

How (and where) to buy an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus in the UK. Plus: What to do if you pre-ordered...