The Kindle Fire Spills Its Guts

Editor's note: A previous version of this article indicated Quanta switched away from TriQuint Semiconductor chips in the Kindle Fire, when in fact, the Kindle Fire uses a different TriQuint chip. The Motley Fool regrets the error.

The Kindle Fire is out, and in characteristically eager fashion, iFixit has dug in.

Although the life of being an Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) supplier may not be as glamorous as that of an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) supplier at this juncture, it also probably won't cut both ways. Amazon wields some weight, but not quite as much as Cupertino does.

Source: Amazon.com.

Here's what we already knew about the hardware from the technical details Amazon provides: 7-inch multi-touch display with IPS technology, 8 GB of onboard storage, dual-core processor, no camera, and Wi-Fi only connectivity (no 3G). Since it was also put together by Quanta, the same shop that makes Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) PlayBook, we can expect some internal similarities.

Let's see what the iFixit technicians ended up finding lurking inside.

  • Samsung provides the 8 GB of flash memory storage.
  • Hynix sources 512 MB of RAM.
  • Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN  ) supplies a power management integrated circuit, flatlink transmitter, low-power audio codec, dual-supply bus transceiver, a dual-core ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH  ) –based OMAP 4430 processor, and an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi chip.
  • Ilitek provides the touchscreen controller.
  • LG Display manufactures the LCD display.

Texas Instruments is the clear winner as the provider of the bulk of the most critical components, including the CPU and audio codec. The similar PlayBook sports the same OMAP 4430 processor from TI, although it has 1 GB of RAM to boot. Quanta switched the Wi-Fi chip to a different TriQuint offering, while ditching Wolfon's audio codecs.

Cypress Semiconductor had provided the touchscreen controller for the PlayBook, and there are rumors that Atmel (Nasdaq: ATML  ) has won the spot in the next generation from Ilitek, which is expected in 2012. Next year's model is also reported to have a larger screen and to sport NVIDIA's (Nasdaq: NVDA  ) quad-core Tegra 3.

Amazon is estimated to have up to 5 million units produced in 2011 to accommodate the all-important holiday shopping season. This figure would be shy of the 11.1 million iPads that Apple sold last quarter, but it's a very healthy start when compared with the PlayBook and Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) Xoom, which have shipped 700,000 and 790,000 units thus far, respectively.

The current Kindle Fire's hardware is the only thing that really lags, as some initial reviews have pointed out, but that's what happens when you go for a $199 price point.

Add Amazon.com to your Watchlist to see who's inside the next Kindle Fire, and get access to this free report on three component suppliers that are cashing in on the mobile revolution.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Cypress Semiconductor, Atmel, and ARM Holdings, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Texas Instruments, and TriQuint Semiconductor. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Cypress Semiconductor, NVIDIA, Amazon.com, and Apple, creating a bull call spread position in Apple, and writing puts in NVIDIA. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (5)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2011, at 7:55 AM, Marker wrote:

    We have had an iPad at home for about two years, and I recently bought a Kindle Fire to evaluate the potential impact in Apple and Amazon (cheap investment at $199). Having used it for two days, here are my conclusions thus far:

    Contrary to the criticisms that some people have made of the design, stating that the Kindle Fire is plain and uninspired, it is in some ways better that the iPad. Yes, the screen is smaller--but the back is slightly rubberized and you can hold it securely with one hand--as opposed to the slick-backed iPad that seems made to fall on the floor. There is nothing wrong with the design, and it seems substantial and expensive,

    The screen and responses of the operating system are a bit clunkier. The screen does not respond as quickly as the iPad, and the orientation does not immediately respond to changes in orientation. I have found that I need to touch buttons 2-3 times to get a response, and there can be a slight delay. That needs some work.

    Some things about the operating system don't work exactly as they state, but perhaps this is growing pains on Amazon's part. Trying to put on my own content (photos, for example) has been different than the manual states. It is not too hard to install my own content using the USB cable that I have from my old Kindle to connect it to my PC, but getting to that content on the Kindle later has been a bit of a challenge. Cloud-based storage seems primarily designed to hold THEIR (purchased) content.

    I have been looking for Android apps that are available from Google, but not on the Amazon store (Google Earth and a 3-D Brain imaging program, for example), and have not been able to get them. CNET published a work-around using an Android-based cell phone as an intermediate step, and I may ultimately do that. I hope that Amazon expands the holdings a bit more...

    The Kindle Fire is AN EXCELLENT PURCHASING PORTAL, and ultimately that will be to Amazon's benefit. It is VERY easy to buy things, and once 1-click buying is enabled, it is scary how easy it is to part with money. Amazon may initially be losing $50 per Kindle Fire because of the hardware costs, but there is a good chance that they will make it back many times over. Much like a drug pusher, the first one is 'free', but the next one will cost you...

    In short from my two days' experience with the Kindle Fire, it is NOT an iPad killer, but MOST PEOPLE DO NOT NEED AN IPAD. Much in the same way that the Macintosh operating system was superior to DOS and Windows years ago--but Microsoft found a niche by making a product that was functional and cheaper, Amazon will likely steal away some market share from Apple by taking those people that would never notice the differences between the products.

    Look out for the second-generation Kindle Fire that has a larger screen and some refinements.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2011, at 8:04 AM, TMFBiggles wrote:

    Great analysis, Marker! Thanks for the hands-on review.

    -Alex

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2011, at 11:49 AM, TMFNewCow wrote:

    @Marker,

    I also appreciate the first-hand input. You mentioned the key to it all:

    "The Kindle Fire is AN EXCELLENT PURCHASING PORTAL, ..."

    I've been saying all along that this is what other Android tablet makers can't do, which sets Amazon apart.

    Next year's model should also crank up the hardware accordingly.

    -- Evan

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