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Everything You Need to Know About Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire

By Wesley Fenlon

Amazon's selling the Kindle Fire, a dual-core 7" tablet, for an unbelievable $199. Here's what you need to know.

In a rare and pleasant surprise, Amazon has actually managed to sell its Kindle Fire tablet cheaper than we expected, proving that undercutting the iPad really is the new go-to strategy for the tablet market. Coming in at the low end of our $200-$300 prediction, the Kindle Fire delivers 7-inches of Android in a $199 package that includes a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime.

Recovered from the price shock? Then it's time to dig into the hardware and software of the Kindle Fire. Except for the price, this is exactly the tablet we expected--the Kindle Fire overflows with Amazon software with the Android Appstore and Amazon shopping app pre-installed.

The 14.6 ounce Kindle Fire runs a range of Amazon services on a dual-core processor displayed on a 7" IPS touchscreen. Whispersync, Amazon's sync-from-the-cloud technology used to deliver books to Kindle devices, now covers movies and music. Like Kindle e-readers, the Kindle Fire tablet connects to your Amazon profile and wirelessly syncs your content automatically to the device. While Amazon didn't delve into the details of its video player on the tablet, we're optimistic about a new Amazon Instant player rollout beginning with the Fire.

The Fire uses a carousel UI to scroll between large icons representing different apps and pieces of media. Favorites can be pinned down below for easy access. This thing is running on Android Gingerbread, but Google's platform is all but invisible--the Fire is as heavily skinned as the Nook Color. But with more of a focus on apps, courtesy of the Android Appstore. Gartenberg also reports that the system supports Android app sideloading.

Amazon's touting fast web browsing with "Amazon Silk," a system that uses Amazon EC2 to speed up web page delivery. Opera's been doing the web optimization thing for years, but now it's built right into a tablet browser. Silk caches common web files to EC2 and can deliver them to your tablet more quickly, and supposedly the service will offer predictive pre-caching of popular pages.

Technical Specs
Display7" IPS, 1024x600 (169ppi), anti-reflective coating
Size7.5" x "4.7" x 0.45" (190mm x 120mm x 11.4mm)
Weight14.6 ounces (413 grams)
Storage8GB internal, no SD expansion
Battery Life8 hrs reading, 7.5hrs video playback (Wi-Fi off)
ConnectivityUSB 2.0 (micro-B), 3.5mm audio, 802.11n Wi-Fi
Supported Media FormatsAZW, TXT, PDF, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, AAC
MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV, MP4, VP8

On the hardware side, the Fire keeps it simple. No camera, no 3G, no microphone. It is a $200 tablet, after all. Contrary to early fears, the system shouldn't be a sluggard thanks to its dual-core processor. Exactly how zippy it is, and what kind of apps it can handle, remain to be seen--our hands on time should answer those questions.

The Kindle Fire ships on November 15 for $199. You can, naturally, pre-order it right now (US only for now).