Here you can see the home screen on the Kindle Fire -- a radical departure from the virtual desktops we're accustomed to seeing on tablets.
At the top you'll notice categories for Newsstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps, and the Web browser. With the exception of Docs and the Browser, each of those menus also include direct links into Amazon's digital store for that content.
Beneath the categories, you get a nice big view of your recently used apps and files, along with a shelf of your favorite stuff. These can be your favorite apps, books, albums or web sites.
When held in landscape view, the Kindle Fire's main menu zooms into a larger cover flow-style view of your recently used content. The search/navigation bar remains at the top, but your virtual bookshelf of favorites is hidden.
The integrated Amazon video store on the Kindle Fire offers an impressive selection of TV shows and movies. Movies can be rented for as little as $2.99 (48 hour rental) and TV shows are $1.99. Amazon Prime members are also treated to free instant video streams of thousands of TV shows and movies. Since one month of Amazon Prime is included with every Kindle Fire, you can dive into these free videos right out of the box.
The view of your music collection on the Kindle Fire seems fairly straightforward at first glance. Categories at the top allow you to quickly sort by playlist, artist, album, or song. Above the categories you'll see one unique feature -- a toggle between the music you have stored on the device, and the songs you have stored in Amazon's cloud. These cloud-based songs include any music purchased from Amazon, as well as any music you uploaded to Amazon's free Cloud Drive service.
The music playback screen on the Kindle Fire is clean and simple. Along with song info and album artwork, you'll find standard controls for play/pause, track skip, shuffle, repeat, and volume. The glowing orange circle beneath the album artwork indicates that this song is streaming from the cloud.
The Kindle Fire's web browser is fast to load, but lags slightly when it comes to zooming or scrolling large sites. We've never been crazy about the web browsing experience on any 7-inch tablet, and the Kindle Fire is no exception. On the plus side, the Kindle Fire supports AdobeFlash content and the browser's settings can be made to load the full desktop versions of sites instead of the mobile versions typically served to smartphones and smaller tablets like these.
The Kindle Fire's book menu displays a colorful shelf filled with book covers. As with many menus, you can toggle the view between content stored in the cloud and e-books stored directly on the device. A link in the upper right corner directs you to Amazon's e-book store, which is now stocked with thousands of full-color children's books.
Amazon's custom touchscreen keyboard is simple and responsive. In portrait orientation, it's easy to type with your thumbs, just like you would on a smartphone. The landscape mode (shown here) is slightly awkward on a 7-inch screen, since your thumbs can't quite stretch to meet in the middle.
The Kindle Fire includes a pull-down notifications window, similar to the one used on standard Android devices and iOS devices. Here you can see an ongoing process of a song being downloaded from Amazon's cloud.