First Look: Amazon Kindle Fire

Key features of Amazon's would-be iPad "killer."

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For the time being, the Amazon Kindle Fire is being hyped as Android's great blue-and-orange hope in the tablet market. It's cheaper than the iPad, it has its own unique Android interface and it is well-positioned to take advantage of Amazon's reputable cloud services. In this slideshow we'll give you a first look at the Amazon Kindle Fire's main features and how they'll stand apart from other tablets.

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The display screen and other exterior features. The Kindle Fire features a 7-inch Gorilla Glass multi-touch display screen with a resolution of 1024x600 pixels, meaning the device is sized more like the BlackBerry PlayBook than the Apple iPad. And like the PlayBook, the device does not feature a "home" button and instead uses multi-touch capabilities to help you navigate the tablet's applications and features. The tablet also has a USB 2.0 port that can be used as a charger when plugged into your computer.

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Battery power and other internal features. Amazon says that the Kindle Fire's battery will provide you with eight hours of continuous reading and seven-and-a-half hours of continuous video playback as long as the wireless connection has been turned off. Speaking of the wireless connection, the Kindle Fire is Wi-Fi-only for the time being, so it doesn't have any LTE, WiMAX or HSPA+ connectivity and thus isn't associated with any wireless carrier. As far as processing power goes, Amazon is only saying that it's a dual-core processor but hasn't yet told us the manufacturer or its clocked speed. It seems as though we'll have to wait for iFixit to perform an autopsy before we know for sure. The device also has 8GB of internal storage.

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Amazon Silk. Now here's where Amazon's tablet starts to get unique. The company has created a new Web browser called Amazon Silk that utilizes Amazon's cloud capabilities to speed up page load times. How, you ask? By tracking your Web browsing patterns and preloading pages you typically visit through Amazon's Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2) in other words, Amazon's cloud requests your frequently-visited pages before you even ask for them so they're ready to go for you. Or as Amazon puts it, "With each page request, Silk dynamically determines a division of labor between the mobile hardware and Amazon EC2 (i.e. which browser sub-components run where) that takes into consideration factors like network conditions, page complexity and the location of any cached content." Oh, and it supports Adobe Flash as well.

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Free cloud storage for all Amazon content. Why waste precious internal storage space on songs, books and videos when you can store all content purchased through Amazon.com for free in the cloud? This is another area where Amazon thinks that its brand as an online entertainment vendor du jour will help make its tablet an all-around media hub in a way that Apple can't yet match.

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Android with an Amazon twist. Yes, the Kindle Fire is an Android-based device but Amazon has put its own unique stamp on it by primarily featuring its own applications and services over Google's. In addition to all the aforementioned cloud features, Amazon is also using its own Android store instead of the standard version. The only main difference is that Amazon tests out and approves each app it allows onto the store, so while you may not have access to every Android app around, there's also a much smaller chance of getting nailed with malware.

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Did we mention it's cheap? We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that Amazon is selling this device for a mere $199, or $300 cheaper than the cheapest iPad model. Yeah, it lacks a camera and microphone, but market, consider your prices undercut.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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