The Amazon Kindle Fire has been refreshed with better performance and a lower price. However, limited access to apps and stiffer competition -- including from the Kindle Fire HD (Est. $200 and up) -- make it a questionable value.
Better, but still not great. The Kindle Fire was upgraded to a more powerful processor in late 2012 -- 40 percent faster, according to Amazon -- and that's welcome as its predecessor could be a bit laggy. CNET notes some improvement in the speed and smoothness of the tablet's touch controls, but PCMag.com says page loading is only "marginally faster." However, the competition hasn't stood still, and the Kindle Fire is outpaced by some budget tablets that are only a little more expensive, including the Google Nexus 7 (Est. $230 and up). The same is true of the screen: Its 1,024-by-600-pixel resolution is outclassed by the Nexus 7, as well as by the Kindle Fire HD.
Great for life on the Amazon. The Fire continues to be, first and foremost, a device for consuming content from Amazon. It's a particularly attractive option for those who subscribe to Amazon Prime, with its unlimited streaming movie access from a limited roster of TV and movie titles and eBook lending library. It also benefits from some software upgrades Amazon rolled out for the Kindle Fire HD.
Impressive parental controls make the Fire a very good option for younger users, but the tablet doesn't include many of the bells and whistles found in other devices. There's no GPS or cameras, and only limited and non-expandable memory, although you do get free cloud storage for Amazon-purchased content. You also get to enjoy ads on the device's lock screen unless you pay $15 to make them go away. Yet the biggest negative is that the Kindle Fire doesn't have native access to the full Google Play store, only Amazon's more curated app offerings.
Better than before. The Fire's user interface received a freshening, as well, which CNET calls "sleeker, more streamlined and more mature, eschewing the toylike quality the original had." The tablet continues to be easy to use, with somewhat better response to touch controls. "I didn't have any problems playing action games or using painting programs, although the Kindle Fire HD's brighter, higher-resolution screen offers a better experience," says PCMag.com's Sascha Segan.
It's all relative. The Amazon Kindle Fire is clearly improved following its 2012 refresh, with better performance and a lower price. That's great until you realize that the new Kindle Fire HD outclasses it in screen quality, overall performance and even the robustness of its revamped Wi-Fi link, yet costs only a little more. Still, if you're on a tight budget and can live with being tied to Amazon's app offerings rather than the broader Google Play market, it's worth a look. That's doubly true if you're a parent looking for an inexpensive tablet -- but not a toy -- for your child.
Review Credibility: Excellent
CNET conducts hands-on and bench testing of the 2012 revision of the Amazon Kindle Fire. Franklin says its performance and value are improved, but many of the downsides of the original Fire remain unchanged.
Review: Amazon Kindle Fire Review (2012), Eric Franklin, Sept. 27, 2012
Following his testing-based review, Segan says the Amazon Kindle Fire provides "acceptable performance." The problem is that several budget tablets ring up for just a little bit more but outclass Amazon's offering on several fronts, including performance and display quality.
Review: Amazon Kindle Fire (2012), Sascha Segan, Oct. 6, 2012
Review Credibility: Very
Although the Kindle is fine for those looking for a simple, easy-to-use device, Gingrich says there are better choices for those who want a tablet computer. "Amazon's simply selling you a guided tour of a store they own; Google and Apple are selling you a car, so you can go wherever you'd like," he writes.
Review: Amazon Kindle Fire (2012) Review, Aaron Gingrich, Sept. 30, 2012
Review Credibility: Very
Amazon.com hosts more than 525 user reviews of the revamped version of the Kindle Fire. Most are happy, but a sizable minority is not. We saw some complaints regarding the charger, access to apps other than those available through Amazon, and issues with connecting to the web via Wi-Fi. While it's made clear that the Kindle is ad-supported, some owners still seem surprised to see advertisements on their device. The bottom line is a rating of 3.5 stars out of 5.
Review: Kindle Fire, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of November 2012