When Amazon first debuted its tablet, Kindle Fire reviews hailed the device as a potential iPad killer -- a cheap tablet that performed well. The latest generation of the tablet ($174 without ads; $159 with ads, Amazon) is still good, but reviewers aren't swooning this time around; other tablets have since hit the market with similar or better features and performance that match or exceed that of the Fire. The Kindle Fire review in PC Mag, for example, says the device is responsive and delivers good performance overall but is noticeably slower than the Google Nexus 7. Moreover, the Kindle Fire contains only 8GB of storage and less than 70 percent is available to the user. This wouldn't be a big problem if the Kindle Fire included a memory expansion slot, but it doesn't. Users can store content in Amazon's cloud service, however, which helps mitigate this shortfall.
Reviewers take other minor swipes at this model. CNET's Kindle Fire review points out that it can't play video at HD levels due to the screen's relatively low resolution. And tests by experts at PC Mag and CNET found that the Kindle Fire's battery life expired after about five hours, which is less play time than competing tablets.
The Kindle Fire has a 7-inch display with a resolution of 1024x600. It runs on a dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU and uses an Amazon-specific version of Android 4.0. It comes with 8GB of storage, of which only 5.5GB are available -- the rest is taken up by the customized Android operating system and other Amazon content. Amazon claims the Kindle Fire can run for up to nine hours per charge, although reviewers say otherwise. Wi-Fi connectivity is available.
The latest version of the Kindle Fire garners muted praise from experts, but it is faster than the previous generation and is cheaper than other tablets. If you can accept ad placements on the device, you can buy one for $159. Even without ads, the tablet is just $174, which is a pretty good value. For $40 more ($199 with ads or $214 without), you can step up to the Kindle Fire HD, which offers a higher-resolution display and more features than the entry-level Kindle Fire.