Refurbished Kindle Fire Review – An Excellent Tablet for the Price

The Kindle Fire is an excellent tablet for the price. I purchased a refurbished Kindle Fire when it was the Gold Box deal of the day for $139 and have been very happy with it overall with a few small caveats.
Kindle Fire
Should you buy a refurbished Kindle Fire? I highly recommend it.  You get the same 1 year warranty as a new one, and I honestly could not tell that mine was refurbished.  When it arrived it was packaged as if it was new and there were no signs of use whatsoever – it looked brand new, and has worked perfectly ever since!
+ Inexpensive
+ Excellent, intuitive user interface
+ Nice high resolution IPS display
+ Performance – applications, media, and web browsing are fast
+ Tight integration with Amazon media services (video, music, books, etc.)
+ Minimalist design

– Some applications in the Amazon App Store are not available for the Kindle Fire
– Besides music, Amazon Cloud Drive is not fully integrated into the OS
– No “advanced features” such as GPS, bluetooth, or wireless 3G (honestly, you can’t really expect these at such a low price point)

The design is minimalist – the only thing on the front of the tablet is the display.  There is only 1 button (the power button) on the bottom of the tablet next to the micro-usb charging port.  There is a headphone jack on the other side of the micro-usb port.  There are two small speakers on the top of the device, but are barely noticeable as they are incorporated into the bezel. The back is made out of rubberized plastic which feels soft in your hands and is not slippery.

If you are reading this review you have probably already looked at the specifications – I won’t rehash the processor speed, RAM, storage space, etc.  I will say that the processor and RAM are more than adequate for anything that I have done – applications load quickly and run well, videos and music play without any problems, and web browsing with the silk browser is fast.  I was worried that the 8Gb of storage (about 6Gb user available) on the device would not be enough, but since essentially everything but your applications is in the cloud, I have not even come close to maxing out the available storage.

User Interface:
I have plenty of experience with both Android and iOS devices. Before buying the Kindle Fire I was skeptical about the heavily modified android OS it uses. It turns out I was pleasantly surprised.  The “home screen” is much different than most android devices.  At the top there is a search bar and tabs for all of the Amazon services (newsstand, books, music, video, docs, apps, and web).  Underneath that is a carousel of recently used apps, and at the bottom are your favorites – these can be applications, specific web pages, books – pretty much anything you use often and want to put there. This works well as the web, applications, and all Amazon services are just one touch away.  The only downside to this is that there are no widgets unlike other android devices.  However, if you really like the typical Android OS home screen with widgets, you can install (via “side loading”) a launcher (for example ADW.launcher EX is known to work well) that will create the typical home screen and allow widgets.

Amazon Products & Services:
The Kindle Fire OS was clearly designed to be integrated with all of Amazon’s digital content. Any books, magazines, music, videos, or applications that you have purchased are available to you from the cloud and synced or streamed to your device seamlessly.  The built in applications for reading books or magazines, listening to music, and watching video work very well and are easy to use.

If you have an Amazon Prime account there are thousands of TV shows and movies to watch for free and books that you can borrow for free each month.  Any music you have bought from the Amazon’s MP3 music store will appear on your device automatically. Any music you have bought through other services can be uploaded to your Cloud Drive and will then be playable from the Kindle Fire.  You get 5Gb of free storage space (the things you buy from Amazon do not count towards your 5Gb limit).  You can pay to get a larger cloud drive if necessary (20Gb is only $20/year) – if you go to any paid version of the cloud drive you get unlimited music storage (i.e. none of your music counts against your storage limit).

One thing that I was disappointed with is that non-music files in your cloud drive are not easily accessible.  Unlike music, which shows up immediately under the music tab in the OS, documents, pictures, videos, etc.that you have uploaded are not accessible except through the browser – no different than on your PC. I don’t understand why the rest of the cloud drive is not integrated into the OS – perhaps it will be at some point, all it would take is a software update. There is a way to send documents via email to your Kindle Fire or through a new application that can be installed on your computer, for your Mac, or Windows.

Since the Amazon App Store was launched it has come a long way in catching up to the apps available in the Google Play market.  Now, almost all of the major apps are available in both locations.  The Kindle Fire’s built in web browser and email application work quite well.  I enjoy the “reading view” mode in the browser – it reformats the website’s text into a kindle like format for easier reading without all of the extraneous sidebars, ads, etc. Unfortunately there is no built in calender application, although you can buy 3rd party applications, such as CalenGoo, that will work.

One of the most disappointing things I have come across using the Kindle Fire is that even though most applications are available in the Amazon App Store, some of them are not available for the Kindle Fire. For example some of the apps I use: Dropbox, Business Calendar, WeatherBug Elite, and FlightTrack are not currently supported by the Kindle Fire.  I assume this may be due to the fact that the Kindle Fire does not have some of the services built into the stock Android OS such as location or Google calender services, but I am not sure.  Some apps, such as Dropbox, are not supported by the Amazon App store for the Kindle Fire but actually work fine if they are “side loaded” but others will crash or not install if you attempt to install them outside of the Amazon App Store.  I imagine as time goes on this will improve as more app developers create Kindle Fire versions of their apps.

If you already have an Amazon Prime membership or plan to get one, you cannot go wrong with the Kindle Fire.  It is an excellent, fast, well designed t
ablet for using Amazon services.  Most major Android apps are available and work great, but some applications are not supported by the Kindle Fire even though they are available to other devices in the Amazon App Store.

Review Summary
Product:Kindle Fire
Description:The Amazon Kindle Fire is a great tablet if you are invested in the Amazon ecosystem. If not, another tablet may be better as Google services and apps will not work on the Kindle Fire.
Rating:7 out of 10.
Editor:R.G. Medlin