Amazon Kindle Fire: Australian review


review Would you still pirate content if it was easier just to buy it? That’s the question that Amazon’s posing with the new Kindle Fire tablet, the company’s first mobile device to offer integrated access to all of its digital content stores.

The affordable US$199 pricetag distinguishes it from the Apple iPad as a significantly cheaper alternative, and while it isn’t actually available in Australia, it’s not that hard to get your hands on one either through a friend or using a third party shipping company like ComGateway. We had the pleasure of putting one through its paces and came away mightily impressed.

The first thing that struck us about the Kindle Fire was just how much it looked like the BlackBerry PlayBook. It’s a little shorter and a little narrower, but otherwise it’s a dead ringer, down to the 7” display, buttonless face, glossy black bezel, and soft touch rear. And it’s not poorly put together either – the Kindle Fire feels just as well-constructed as the PlayBook, which is an impressive feat considering how dodgy most of the other tablets in this price range are.

Its footprint is almost identical to that of the Kindle 3G, which in our opinion is the perfect size for reading eBooks and about the minimum size we’d be happy with for comfortable web browsing and watching movies. At 413g, it’s surprisingly heavy for a 7” tablet – 13g heavier than the PlayBook and only 180g short of the iPad 2’s weight – but it doesn’t feel too heavy. In fact, its density only adds to the perception of quality.

Amazon has gone for a completely minimal look, with an absence of buttons or branding on the face, and only a headphone jack and micro-USB port on the bottom next to a power/sleep button. Just as noteworthy is what isn’t included, namely physical volume buttons and front- and rear-facing cameras. Nor is there a memory card slot or a HDMI output.

The Kindle Fire uses the Android 2.3 operating system, but you really wouldn’t know it by looking at it. The user interface has been completely skinned to remove any traces of Android, and none of the stock Google apps like Gmail, YouTube and Android Market are on board. Amazon has also removed many of the power user functions like multi-tasking and fast-app switching (although some apps, like the web browser, will preserve its state from when you last used it, and you can still play music in the background), multiple homescreens and widgets, Exchange support and many of the advanced settings like VPN functionality, account syncing and portable hotspot.

In other words, the Kindle Fire really doesn’t look or act like any other Android device we’ve used, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you aren’t a tech-savvy user. Amazon makes it extremely clear from the get-go what you’re meant to do with the Kindle Fire, which is a lot more than we can say about most other tablets. Clearly labelled at the top of the screen are links to newsstand, books, music, video, docs, apps and web, and there’s a bookshelf graphic taking up most of the homescreen that houses a slick 3D carousel of all the apps, webpages, music, books and movies you’ve recently opened (basically like iOS’ Cover Art feature, but extended to all forms of content), as well as any apps or content that you’ve marked as favourites.

Only the Kindle bookstore works in Australia – everything else is restricted to US users only, and since access is dependent on having a US credit card rather than geographic location, this rules out working around it with a US-based VPN. Still, we were able to browse through the content stores to get an idea of what’s on offer, and both the selection and layout of each store is impressive. Amazon has made it even easier to purchase content than Apple has by separating each type of content into separate stores rather than dumping everything into a single portal.

The good news for Aussie users that have imported the Kindle Fire is that you can sideload music and movies over USB. Amazon doesn’t exactly encourage this – there’s no USB cable included in the box, only a charger – but it’s easy to do as the Kindle Fire mounts as a USB mass storage device and it uses the common micro-USB connector. The trick with playing movies on the Kindle Fire is that you have to use the Gallery app rather than the Videos app, but other than that it works just like any other tablet, with native support for H.264 MPEG4 videos. There are workarounds for getting access to the geo-restricted content stores, and if you’re really keen, it’s possible to root the Kindle Fire, install the Android Market and missing Google apps and replace the custom interface with a standard Android launcher.

Unlike other Android tablets, the Kindle Fire isn’t driven by feeds and speeds, but the specs are better than you’d expect for a two-hundred-dollar tablet. It has a dual-core 1GHz TI Core A9 OMAP 4 processor, 512MB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage (around 6GB available for user storage), a 7” 1024 x 600 IPS display and 802.11n Wi-Fi. What it doesn’t have is built-in 3G (not that we were expecting it), Bluetooth or GPS.

As well as the aforementioned content stores, the Kindle Fire’s preloaded apps (which is what you’ll be limited to if you don’t employ one of the workarounds) include a web browser, email client, photo gallery, contacts, IMDB, Words with Friends, Pulse (a news aggregation app) and Quickoffice.

Since we couldn’t download any apps to the Kindle Fire, we weren’t able to run our usual Android benchmarks to test system and graphics performance. For day-to-day use, performance was good rather than great. Simple things like unlocking the device, flicking through the carousel of content on the homescreen and moving between the different content sections is reasonably quick, but we noticed quite a bit of lag when rendering complex web pages in the browser (although pinch to zoom works smoothly), and Flash videos in particular play poorly.

There were also lots of occasions where the touchscreen failed to respond to input for up to five seconds at a time. We also frequently had difficulty selecting particular items on the display, as the touchscreen would register input as slightly above or below what we were trying to tap on.

Speaking of web browsing, Amazon has tweaked the usual Gingerbread web browser to display all of the open tabs above the address bar – a much quicker way to navigate between pages than the usual thumbnail views in Gingerbread that are displayed in a separate screen. Thumbnails of all of the last pages you’ve opened in the browser are also displayed whenever you open a new tab, similar to what Safari and Chrome does on the desktop. But the piece de resistance is Amazon’s “Silk” technology, which takes advantage of the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) to accelerate page loads. But it’s a feature that needs time to develop – loading the SMH website, the Kindle Fire wasn’t exceptionally faster than other Android devices, rendering the page completely in 14 seconds (the Samsung Galaxy S II and Asus Eee Pad Transformer did the same in 10 seconds and 15 seconds respectively).

The quality of the Kindle Fire’s screen was a lovely surprise. With most cheap tablets, the screen quality (or lack thereof) is one of the dead giveaways, with poor viewing angles, limited contrast and crappy black levels. But the Kindle Fire’s display is very similar in quality to the BlackBerry PlayBook’s. The colours are rich, you can make out lots of detail on the screen, and while the blacks don’t quite match the bezel around the screen, they’re only one or two shades off. The IPS display means viewing angles are good as well, although it’s a little more reflective than the PlayBook, resulting in more glare on the screen when you’re looking at it from different angles. As far as media playback goes, the stereo speakers are a little weak, but it’ll happily play movies up to 720p with no lag or stuttering.

We got another pleasant surprise with the Kindle Fire’s battery life. Amazon claims it’s good for up to 7.5 hours of video, but we were able to get an hour more than that with Wi-Fi off and screen brightness set to 50%. This is the sort of battery life we expect as standard on high-end tablets, but for a sub-$200 tablet to offer this as well is fantastic.

The fact that you need to hack the Kindle Fire to get the most out of it in Australia means this device doesn’t suit the same first-time tablet user demographic as it does in the United States. For Aussies, the Kindle Fire is best suited for users that are a little more tech-savvy and are comfortable with rooting and sourcing the requisite APK installers over the Internet.

If you are prepared to do a little hacking, then the Kindle Fire is the best-value tablet on the market even if you can’t buy or rent any of the Amazon content. It’s a compact, affordable and high-quality option for web browsing, email, multimedia playback, reading eBooks, and running any of the hundreds of thousands of Android apps. No, you can’t simply walk into your local JB Hi-Fi or Harvey Norman to buy one, but the fact that it isn’t officially available in Australia just adds to its geek cachet.

The Kindle Fire is available from to customers located in the US.

Jenneth Orantia turned her back on a lucrative career in law to pursue her unhealthy obsession with consumer technology. She’s known for having at least half a dozen of the latest gadgets on her person at a time, and once won a bottle of Dom Perignon for typing 78WPM on a Pocket PC with a stylus.

Image credit: Amazon. Disclosure: This article contains affiliate marketing links; if you click though to Amazon and buy a Kindle Fire or other products Delimiter will receive a small payment.


  1. I’m currently travelling in the US for the month and picked up a Kindle Fire while I’m here. My amazon account is currently assigned to an Australian card, but shipped to my office in California, and with services accessed from either Comcast or my employers corporate network.

    What works:
    – Videos (at least the prime video)
    – Book store

    What still fails:
    – App store (although once you flip the setting you can manually install APK’s, that’s how I got Seesmic on to have a twitter app).

    My two word review would be “don’t bother”, it is a fairly nice eBook reader, but I have a “real” kindle coming (the touch) and expect to use that far more. Mainly I’m hoping Cyanogen make an image for it which should make it much more useful.

  2. I’m a bit confused about the Kindle Fire not being available in Australia ATM as to what I will be missing out on if I buy it & will the things I cant get because I’m not in America become available in Australia further down the track?

    Thanks Joy

  3. I’ve been considering buying a Kindle Fire and getting it shipped to Australia via one of the third party shipping providers, but I’ve held off because I haven’t seen a definitive answer on how access is restricted.

    Reading above “access is dependent on having a US credit card rather than geographic location, this rules out working around it with a US-based VPN”.

    So does this mean that as long as you have a US credit card, you can access all features? It seems a little too simple, as some of the sites online that offer shipping out of the US also offer a virtual US credit card…

    Can anyone clarify please?

    • Can’t answer your last q. but I ordered a kindle fire via a third party company, I am reasonably confident that Amazon will take this to all counnty’s in TIME so in the meanwhile I am getting it shipped. i know it is opening worldwhide because I have seen there blogs

    • Hi Melinda just wondering which third party website you used? I was thinking of buying a Kindle Fire on ebay but have noticed that you used the US shipping address provided to you for the virtual credit card. Is there anyway of getting the shipping address if I dont get it shipped through them do you know?

  4. I bought one in Aus from delivered. App store hog working on Aus

  5. I have bought a kindle fire and wanting to buy some games(angry birds) but it said that they are unable to take my money or I cant buy it cause I am out of area zone. How do I go about that. I am wantind some books as well but because I live in Australia I’m finding this very frustrating!!!!!!

    • hi
      download marketplace and you can access all sorts of apps in aus. I also downloaded 1Mobile Market and get heaps from that for Australian use

  6. I received my Kindle Fire yesterday and have been able to download apps with no issues – I think this is because I have a US credit card and billing address on my Amazon account (I had to set up a second account to do it though). I think there’s a few websites that you can use to do this. I used – there’s a setup fee of about $10-$15, then you need to load some money on it to get the card number. Once the card is setup on the Amazon account, I just bought gift cards from my Australian account and redeemed them on my US account, so in theory I’ll never have to re-load the US credit card again :)

    Unfortunately it appears your IP address is checked when you try to stream movies from Prime. If I can figure out how to get a US IP address on the Fire, it should behave exactly as it would if I was actually in the US…

    • melinda – thanks for the info – regarding a new amazon account – same name or new identity? was it difficult?

      • Nah it was fairly easy to set up. I used the same name, although you need a different email address since you will use that to login. I also haven’t listed my actual address on that account as it will register that I’m in Australia. Instead I’ve used the shipping address provided to me by US Unlocked.

        I also played around with the Kindle yesterday and managed to stream videos from Amazon Prime with the help of There’s a setup guide on there for the Fire, and you can get a free trial to see if it works well before paying anything. After that it’s about $5 a month. Well worth it if you have a Prime membership I guess.

        So after a little effort on my part (but no rooting or major hacking of the device) I can pretty much access all content that is available to US-based customers. First time I’ve ever used an Android device as well – there’s plenty of info available on the internet so experience isn’t really necessary :)

        • Melinda – your info has been really helpful, thank you. A question though, I set up a second amazon account, with a different email address and an us shipping address from usunlocked – have not yet added the us credit card as I am waiting for that to be processed and started via usunlocked, but have gifted a gift voucher to the account from my normal aus amazon account which is set up with an aus cc. I then figured that in order for anything I buy (i.e., apps etc) from the new account, once the us credit card is up and running on it, to download to my new kindle fire, the kindle fire would have to be registered to the new account. I deregistered it from my aus account and registered it to the new account, but ofcourse (should have thought of this!) none of my 80 odd books attached and purchased through the aus account are now accessible to the new fire as it is registered to a new account…..I had the booked downloaded to my pc, and tried plugging in the fire and transferring the books via the usb cable from pc to fire, but though they show up, you cannot open them or read them, so I have taken them off again. I would prefer to leave my fire registered to my normal account, so my current books there can be shared with it, but am unsure how I then actually make use of the us amazon account – how do use that account to buy apps etc, and get them to the fire, if the fire is registered to another account? I am a bit new to all this, so just trying to work out how to best do all this! I have two other kindles (not fires) registered to the aus account and ideally want all 3 registered via that account so they can share books, but am stumped as to how I would utilise the new us account to buy apps and get those to the fire? Thanks to anyone who can assist and apologies if there is a simple answer I ahve missed somehow!

          • Hi Brenda,

            If you are lost about where you put ur files transferred from your computer, do this: apps–>quickoffice–>browse–>internal storage–>you will find all your internal follders here. But there is a problem I could not click on the file to open it. It seems to me that you have to open them e.g. if you read book if have to open the book from the book section.

            May be someone can find a trick?

  7. Any more info on what does and does not work with the Kindle Fire in Australia? I am faily new to this wand wanted to get one for my sister who is a total book geek! I’m really keen on ordering one for her for Christmas. There’s a helpful article at which kind of explains how to get one in Australia now. My questions are:

    1. Has anyone used HopShopGo?
    2. For those Aussies who already have one here, what does and does not work – keeping in mind my sister is a bookworm – not a nerd!

    Any help appreciated/

    JT :-)

  8. you can access all books so great for the bookworm. I use marketplace or 1mobile market for all sorts of apps

  9. I had one more question – once the usunblocked credt card is working, would it work to add it as a second card to the original amazon account which already has an aus cc attached, rather than to a totally new account with amazon? People who live in both the us and aus must have credit cards in both places, and they would just have them both as options on the one amazon account, I would have thought… that that they can share all their purchases between all their devices and not have the issues associated with not being able to share between different amazon accounts? When you select a card to use, does amazon just check that that card is in the us, and the address attached to it, or do they also check what other cards you have, and if they are overseas cards, they disregard the us option you have and view you as being overseas?


    • Brenda,
      if you manage to do this successfully please post a reply as this is something I am hoping to do as well


  10. Hi again- got my fire, plus US credit card and address, set up another amazon account to apply US credit card to, all going well, have downloaded some movies and books BUT when i try to download apps – even free ones like EPI i keep getting a refusal notice saying that i am unable to purchase as “my payment method has a non-USA billing address. A US credit card is required”…WT…
    any ideas oh cleverer than I techie people…
    many thanks

  11. Posting from my kindle now, love it. Books are purchasable fine, no apps yet but there are ways to get around that and with any luck rumours are that amazon will support us aussies sooner rather than later. This device has the only touch screen keyboard I like. Not interested in prime so that’s not an issue either

  12. so if i purchase a kindle fire off ebay etc… will i just be able to access the amazon book store and purchase book? i have no US credit card etc… i am slightly confused. what can i access if i am just using it in australia?

    • Hi Robbie,
      The Kindle fire via Amazon is useless in Australia if you dont have an American based credit card. I had to root the system and then use google play. Once i did that i never looked back the unit is sensational well worth the money.

  13. I have had the Amazon Kindle fire since November 2011 and It is brilliant..
    Forget the Rooting of the kindle if you own an Android Mobile PHone ( I own the samsung GT9000 )
    The easy way to download Apps is to download them onto your Android phone, then att your phone to your PC and copy the Apps you downloaded from the Apps folder ( ensure you have Astro file mgr ( free Download ) to a folder on your desktop, then plug in your Amazon KIndle and copy the App Files into the app folder on your kindle fire, then open your kindle fire and using ES File Explorer ( downloaded from Amazon ) When you click on the App download it will ask if you want to install the app on your kindle, say yes and the App will be installed and hopefully work ( Angry Birds is awesome on the Kindle.
    Although I have come across some Apps that refuse to run the majority are working fine
    Once Amazon come to the party and activate in Australia this will keep you busy until that day come ( hopefully Soon )

  14. Hi I would like to purchase a Kindle Fire for my daughter who wants it mainly for books, emailing, googling as she is going to South America for a few months and thought it was a good idea for keeping in touch …
    I will be purchasing it in Australia on the net , will she be able to do all these things with it looking foreword to hearing from someone Cheers D L

  15. Managed to get a Kindle Fire from an uneducated friend and wow it is great. Root the system (easy once you know how)………. Then it runs fantastic. Games, Books, Videos and applications as good as a laptop. The wireless connection is sensational and the web browsing a breeze. I will be taking this powerhouse everywhere. Also found out due to limited hard drive space I can connect to my Nokia N8, which has a 48 gig hard drive. and keep all my extra files there. It wont let you transfer to the phone, but it will let you transfer from the phone. The Go Launcher application i found the best to use as Ice cream sandwich doesnt do much extra. It seems apple are introducing similar size pad as they can see sales drop because of this powerhouse.

  16. Could someone please give me step by step simple instructions how to obtain use of the apps and movies and whatever else would be useful for the Kindle fire please. It would be much appreciated for a not so technical savvy person.

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