Evaluating the Kindle Fire Objectively

There are two ways to evaluate something. The subjective “How do you like it” and the objective “How does it measure up”. The Kindle Fire has a lot of challenges when looked at subjectively. The software is pretty rough, the app selection is fairly dire, and it doesn’t feel anywhere as polished as anything Apple sells. These observations are all pretty apt.

The engineer in me, however, wonders how much of that is a result of them just rushing things out and can be improved in the future. If the fundamental hardware is solid and we expect Amazon to be working feverishly on improving things, the utility of the device will only get better.

This is typically where we turn to benchmarks to try and equalize things in an objective way. I poked around for a good measure to use for this purpose and ended up using SunSpider. SunSpider is a JavaScript benchmark that measures web browser performance. The advantage of this tool is that both iOS devices and the Kindle Fire are based on WebKit so differences between them should be more about hardware than implementation.

I collected SunSpider results across a range of relevant devices.

Sunspider results

As you’d expect the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S come out ahead, with the iPad 2 being 42% faster than the Fire. But the Fire is quite a bit faster than the equally priced 4th Generation iPod touch.

To put the difference in price and raw performance in context here is the benchmark multiplied by price. (Multiplied because smaller is best for both measures)

Sunspider comparison

That paints the Kindle Fire in pretty favorable light, and makes me hopeful that things have quite a bit of room for improvement.

The Kindle Fire is by no means better than the iPod touch or iPad. To my subjective tastes I’d take either of them over a Fire every day. But the Fire was also just released, while iOS has been polished for 5 years now. I’m glad that Amazon is joining this market, I think that is only good for consumers.

PS: These are the subjective consumer reviews for the Kindle Fire. 50% 5 stars isn’t too shabby.

kindle fire consumer reviews

Links used to aggregate the data:

iPhone 4S & iPhone 4 iPod Touch 4th Gen & iPad 2 iPad 1 Kindle Fire
David Smith