After Hours

Kindle Fire teardown: No-frills tablet filled with TI hardware

The Kindle Fire puts Amazon's store right in your hands. Bill Detwiler cracks open the Fire for a look at the hardware inside.

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.

Internal hardware

Our Kindle Fire test unit had the following hardware components:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

7 comments
DuppyPog
DuppyPog

If only they had included 3G! However, with my 2 previous Kindles, for my purposes I wanted access to lots of books without having a mule around to carry all them with me. I have a smart phone for most of the things that would clog up the Fire, and with such little free time, I love the Kindle's simplicity but with the other options included - i.e. Share passages with Facebook or Twitter, highlight and take notes which are indexed, and not having to remember where I left my flashlight if I want to read in bed. I'm also liking the Newsstand since carrying around magazines has never been something I do. There are a few minor quirks I've yet to figure out - like where to touch the screen to be able to go back to Home. At one point, the Silk browser kept crashing - but only on non-Amazon websites....hhmmmmm.... I found Netflix in the app store, and I'm Prime Member (since 1999 [I hate to shop]) so I can stream Amazon's video content free. The image qualities are way more than I expected. The images are gorgeous. Now I won't hesitate so much anymore about purchasing a photography e-book instead of the hard copy. If only they'd included wi-fi!

jspeaker
jspeaker

dissemble /d'smb()l/ verb [NO OBJ. ] conceal or disguise one's true feelings or beliefs: an honest, sincere person with no need to dissemble. [WITH OBJ. ] disguise or conceal (a feeling or intention): she smiled, dissembling her true emotion. [Oxford Dictionary of English] I think the word you're looking for is disassemble?

nrkoch
nrkoch

After much excitement and anticipation, I purchased the Kindle Fire last week only to find that the App Store is not available in South Africa where I live. This important issue should have been made clear during purchase, as I'm now sitting with what is basically an overpriced e-reader. What's frustrating is that the device shows so much potential, but what's the point of an Android device without any apps?

WCarlS
WCarlS

Let's overlook the desirability of being able to replace the back piece of plastic with a customized one. (Anybody ever hear of "decals"?) My concern is this: " . . .playing Amazon content, running Amazon-approved apps, and helping you purchase merchandise from Amazon . . .". Restricted to one vendor, restricted to one proxy provider, restricted in which applications you can use. It's almost as if they want to corner the market, a la "monopoly". Who needs it when other, as good as or better, devices exist which do not lock you in to one marketplace.

jjonessec
jjonessec

So far I like it, all my books are there, disappointed with the app selection on the amazon store, but with a few tweaks from the apps from my phone, backup on phone, restore to kindle fire, and all my apps are both places. honestly only disappointment is wifi only content is fast, amazon cloud option is very nice, download a movie, get on the plane, watch movie instead of taking out my laptop.

mgauley
mgauley

Kinda like the iPad?

arh_z
arh_z

Hit the nail right on the head there....