The Kindle Fire is Amazon's entrant into the rapidly growing tablet market. Having launched the original Kindle e-book reader in 2007, the company is no stranger to mobile devices. But, the Fire is Amazon's first true tablet. The Fire runs a heavily modified version of Google's Android operating system. CNET's Donald Bell described the OS as "a fork of Android 2.3 that has been gutted and overhauled to be optimized specifically for the Kindle Fire's lean hardware."
Not only has Amazon customized the Fire's operating system, but also the browser, called Silk. Using a combination of the Fire's internal hardware and Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) system, Silk was engineered to be faster than traditional mobile browsers. But because all browser activity is filtered through EC2, some have raised privacy concerns. Traffic to sites secured with SSL bypass EC2, and users can disable it all together.
Apps are another area where Fire users won't get a full Android experience. According to Bell, if you enter the Android Marketplace's URL in the Silk browser, you're bounced "out of the browser and into Amazon's Appstore." Although it appears to be technically possible to run non-Appstore apps on the Fire, the process will likely require more than just installing the apps from the developer's Web site.
Cracking Open analysis
- Easily cracked open and dissembled: The back cover is a cinch to pop off, Amazon used standard Phillips screws through out the device, and the LCD panel is not fused to the front glass panel.
- Lower capacity battery: The Fire's 3.7V 4,400 mAh battery has slightly less capacity than those in other tablets, such as the Sony Tablet S, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, and the iPad 2.
- Lots of Texas Instruments chips: Not only did Amazon use the 1GHz TI 4430 OMAP application processor (also used in the BlackBerry Playbook and Motorola Droid Bionic), but they also used at least five other chips from the Dallas-based company.
- Amazon store that's always with you: For better or worse the Kindle Fire is no-frills tablet. It's designed for browsing the web, playing Amazon content, running Amazon-approved apps, and helping you purchase merchandise from Amazon. In fact, this may be the Fire's defining characteristic. It basically puts Amazon's retail store right in your hands.
Our Kindle Fire test unit had the following hardware components:
- 1.0 GHz dual-core Texas Instruments 4430 OMAP application processor (mounted under the RAM chip)
- 512MB Elpida B4064B2PB-8D-F RAM chip
- 8GB Micron NAND flash chip (IRAI8 JW686)
- Texas Instruments TWL6030 Fully Integrated Power Management IC (6030B107 19ZCMX9L)
- Texas Instruments SN75LVDS83B FlatLink 10-135MHz Transmitter (16C4TJT LVDS83B)
- Texas Instruments AIC3110 Low-Power Audio Codec
- Texas Instruments WS245 4-Bit Dual-Supply Bus Transceiver (SN74AVCH4T245)
- Jorjin WG7310-30 Wi-Fi SiP Module (contains Texas Instruments WL1270B IEEE 802.11b/g/n chip)
- 3.7V, 4,400 mAh Li-ion battery pack (Model: 3555A2L)
- 7" HYDIS HV070WS1-101 LCD panel (1024 x 600 at 169 ppi)
- ILITEK touchscreen controller (2107QS001K A95B9F695 A2135B010-20)
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. He was most recently Managing Editor for TechRepublic Pro. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.