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Kindle Fire's low price and easy access to Amazon content are draws

The Kindle Fire won't end the iPad's reign as king of the tablet, but it will appeal to those who don't need as many bells and whistles.

November 27, 2011|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Los Angeles Times

If Inc.'s Kindle Fire turns out to be the blockbuster that many are predicting it will be, it won't be because of design or hardware features.

If Fire ignites consumers, it will be because it sells for $199, wears the trusted Amazon Kindle brand name and serves as a direct and easy-to-use pipeline to Amazon's online store, a massive offering of e-books, music, movies, TV shows and apps matched only by Apple.

But although Fire's content offering is top-notch, the hardware is as plain as you can get.

The 7-inch screen on the Fire is bright and clear, and its 1024-by-600-pixel resolution provides ample room for reading books or watching TV shows and movies. The back of the Fire has a rubberized-plastic coating that makes the device feel good in the hand.

There are dual speakers at the top of the tablet, but they're not very loud — headphones are recommended. There is no volume rocker on the Fire, which means shuffling through on-screen menus to turn the sound up or down.

The only button is a power button at the bottom center next to a USB port for charging. I found myself hitting it by mistake and turning off the display. Of course, turning the Fire upside down is a fix of sorts, but not all apps rotate with the screen, and it gets in the way in landscape mode.

There is no camera, Bluetooth or port to connect the Fire to a TV and unfortunately no expansion slot for adding storage. With just 8 gigabytes of built-in storage, and only 6 gigabytes of that available for users' content, don't plan on loading up the Fire with a large collection of music or movies for a long plane ride or road trip.

Amazon does offer free, unlimited cloud storage for all books, movies, music and apps purchased from its stores, helping overcome some of the limitations of the 8 gigabytes of storage. But the cloud can be accessed only by Wi-Fi, which means you can't use any of the content unless there is a wireless connection to the Internet.

This isn't an iPad killer like some in the industry are making it out to be, and Amazon didn't intend it to be one.

The Fire's appeal is its low price and user-friendly operating system that is focused on buying and consuming content from Amazon. It's a tablet for anyone who doesn't need all the bells and whistles that come with the iPad or doesn't want to spend as much.

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