Note: While Amazon’s Fire tablet is awesome for a variety of purposes, this article will focus on its uses for gamers. I’ll assume, then, that you are a mobile gaming enthusiast. If not, perhaps you will at least consider it with an open mind. I will save making the case for mobile gaming for another day.
I never expected to own Amazon’s Fire tablet. My family uses a variety of iPads, smartphones, laptops and PCs, and we need new devices like we need raccoons. That said, my young son has a growing fixation with interactive screens so my wife and I have been discussing the best way to introduce him to this technology. When a Facebook friend alerted me to Amazon’s Thanksgiving sale (marking their already $50 Fire tablet down even lower), we quickly agreed it was time to buy. I threw their lowest-cost model in the cart and added the biggest, kid-friendliest case I could find to my order. I quietly thanked Santa that I wouldn’t even need to leave the house.
To avoid any potential Christmas crying I went ahead and unboxed everything to make sure the tablet was functional and that the accessories fit as expected. Considering that this gift was for a very small child, I didn’t even think to look into the hardware specs until I was surprised by the Fire’s front and rear-facing cameras. What I learned surprised me. While the smallest Fire tablet has a somewhat modest touchscreen in terms of resolution and pixel density (1024 x 600 resolution on my model at 171 pixels per inch), the graphics are sharp and Fire OS makes smart use of the slightly limited screen real estate. The entry-level model boasts a 1.3 GHz Quad-Core CPU with 1 GB of RAM, making it technically competitive with just about any lower-tier tablet you might find.
Even spectacular hardware wouldn’t make a difference if the operating system and the apps were no good, so I went through the first boot process and started poking around. This is when things really got interesting. Fire OS is fairly intuitive; it’s an Android-based system with no big surprises, so I headed for the downloadable apps to see what interesting things the Fire tablet could do. That’s when I saw mention of Amazon Underground for the very first time.
Amazon Underground, which is available to Fire tablet users, makes a large selection of games, including in-app purchases and other downloadable content, available to players completely free. That’s free as in, hand it to the kids, they won’t be able to spend a dime free. And the games are no joke. In the first hour I had found access to a collection of games that would have been so expensive in the iOS App Store they would have exceeded the cost of the tablet. Popular titles include Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Goat Simulator, Monument Valley, Ducktales: Remastered, and many pages more. This is possible through an Amazon program that reimburses app developers for the amount of time spent in-game by players through their service, instead of charging the players directly. Many Android users will undoubtedly be familiar with this program already but, as an iOS user, this felt like ransacking a GameStop.
If you’re like me, you may have heard about the Fire tablet in the past and thought of it like the latest, fanciest Kindle reader. I’m happy to say it’s closer to a cheaper iPad. You can certainly read books to your heart’s content, but I also played Knights of the Old Republic as smoothly as I’ve ever played it on the PC (touch controls aside, of course). Games like Goat Simulator naturally scale the dial the graphics down a touch, but I had no problem getting lost in the gaming experience on the Fire tablet and, really, what more can you ask of a mobile device?
If you find yourself settling in with some new Christmas toys in a few weeks, spare a thought for poor little William who’s no doubt fighting with Daddy for tablet time.
What are your thoughts on Amazon’s Fire Tablet for mobile gaming? Let us know in the comment section below.