Amazon’s naming scheme for its various consumer electronics devices is, at best, confusing. Kindle this, Kindle that. Fire this, Fire that. Echo, Dot, Tap. If it all makes your head spin, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
However, once you break through Amazon’s lazy naming scheme, you’ll see that there is a kind of logic to it. You might also find a couple of devices that you had no idea existed, some of which may have a place waiting for them in your own home.
So, with all of that in mind, here’s a quick overview of Amazon’s consumer electronics, what they do, and why you might want one (or not).
Not only was the Kindle Amazon’s flagship device, but it remains to this day Amazon’s most popular device by a huge margin: people, even those who prefer physical books, absolutely love the Kindle, and rightly so.
The biggest feature is the E-Ink screen display technology, which emulates the look and feel of ink on paper. For this reason alone, Kindles are infinitely better than tablets when it comes to long reading sessions. If you buy a Kindle, your eyes will thank you.
As of this writing, there are four Kindle models:
- The entry-level Kindle Basic. (UK)
- The best-value Kindle Paperwhite. (UK)
- The unremarkable Kindle Voyage. (UK)
- The premium Kindle Oasis. (UK)
Which one is best for you? Consult our guide to the various Kindle models to compare the differences. And if you think the Oasis is a waste of money, think again. It only has a few unique benefits, but its ergonomics alone make it worth buying.
Amazon Fire Tablet
The Amazon Fire Tablet was first introduced in 2011 as the “Kindle Fire” despite having little in common with the Kindle line of e-readers. Both are tablet-like in shape, so perhaps “Kindle Fire” was meant to signify “like the Kindle but better”.
In 2014, Amazon dropped the “Kindle” aspect of the naming scheme, meaning there’s no such thing as a Kindle Fire anymore. Instead, the proper name is one of the following used interchangeably: Amazon Fire, Amazon Fire Tablet, or Fire Tablet.
It comes with either 8GB or 16GB of storage (priced at $50 or $70, respectively), a beautiful IPS (in-plane switching) display, the Amazon Underground app store, a microSD slot for extra storage, and up to seven hours of battery life. All of which makes it a strong option for anyone who needs a cheap tablet.
Note that you can get the Play Store on a Fire tablet and get rid of ads without rooting the device.
Amazon Fire HD/HDX Tablet
After the success of the original Fire, Amazon went ahead and expanded its tablet line with the Fire HD (in 2012) and the Fire HDX (in 2013). These two, respectively, are bigger, faster, and all-around better than the original.
At the time of writing there are three versions of the Fire HD currently available:
- Amazon Fire HD 6 (8GB, 16GB) [UK]
- Amazon Fire HD 8 (8GB, 16GB) [UK]
- Amazon Fire HD 10 (16GB, 32GB, 64GB) [UK]
All three have the same screen resolution (1280p x 800p) but the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 both have better cameras, better video recording resolutions, and better Wi-Fi standards than the Fire HD 6.
As for the Fire HDX, there’s only one version currently available:
Why get an HDX over an HD? It has a larger screen resolution (2560p x 1600p), faster processing speed, longer battery life, better cameras, and 4G capabilities.
Amazon Fire TV
The Fire TV has nothing to do with the Fire line of tablets; rather, it’s Amazon’s response to the growing popularity of digital media players like Apple TV, Google Chromecast, and Roku — and it’s actually not that bad. It first launched in 2014.
With an Amazon Fire TV (UK), you can stream all kinds of content from Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and more. Just connect it to your TV (using an HDMI cable) and to your router (using Ethernet or Wi-Fi) and you’re all set.
And when used in tandem with Ultra HD-compatible televisions, the Fire TV can stream videos in 4K quality.
What’s weird about the Fire TV is that it’s also something of a miniature gaming console — except you can only play games from the Amazon Underground app store. Gaming performance is subpar though so you’ll probably never use this feature.
Overall, the Fire TV is not a bad device. It has a lot of the same features as the other streaming devices out there, but you end up paying extra for the unnecessary gaming aspect. We recommend something more streamlined like the Fire TV Stick.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
The Amazon Fire TV Stick (UK) is pretty much what it sounds like: a smaller “stick” version of the Fire TV that focuses entirely on the media streaming aspect and eschews the unnecessary gaming aspect.
It’s like a USB thumb drive that plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port. With it, you get access to all of the same streaming services and channels that you get with the original Fire TV.
One thing to note is that there’s a slightly more expensive version of the Fire TV Stick that comes with a voice remote (instead of the normal “dumb” remote) that can interact with Amazon’s Alexa assistant. It’s worth the bump in price if you like Alexa!
Amazon Echo and Dot
When the Amazon Echo (UK) debuted back in 2015, a lot of people scoffed at the idea of it — some because it seemed like too much of a gimmick, others due to privacy and security concerns. But perceptions of this product have changed considerably since then.
The greatest thing about the Echo is that it can smarten up your home, which basically means you can control different devices in your house using nothing but Alexa voice commands. Or you can use it in isolation as a music player, speaker, and/or a dedicated voice assistant.
There’s also something called the Amazon Echo Dot (UK) which is a cheaper version with standard low-quality speakers. The Echo Dot is for anyone who wants to hook up their own high-quality speaker system or anyone who wants one in multiple rooms.
Normally you need to own an Echo to order an Echo Dot but here’s a possible workaround you can use.
The Amazon Tap is the company’s latest consumer device offering, having debuted in 2016. It’s related to the Echo and the Echo Dot but different enough in function that we figured it deserved its own section.
The first noticeable difference is that the Tap is much smaller than the Echo and Echo Dot, making it the ideal option if you prefer to have one device that you can move from room to room.
The biggest difference is that the Tap lacks always-on voice activation. Instead, you press a button before you issue a voice command. This is because the Tap runs on battery (the Echo and Echo Dot are wired), thus saving on energy and increasing battery life.
To learn all of the nitty-gritty details that separate the Echo, the Echo Dot, and the Tap, check out our overview and comparison of all three devices.
Which Amazon Devices Appeal to You?
Amazon’s offerings are all over the place, but the one thread that runs through all of them is the idea of home entertainment. E-readers, tablets, streaming devices, and voice assistants — so where will Amazon go next?
It’s exciting to see how far Amazon has come in terms of consumer electronics in under a decade, and even more exciting to imagine what other devices it will release over the next few years.
Do you consider any of these devices to be absolute must-owns? Or do you think they’re pointless wastes of money? If you own any of the above, let us know what you think of it/them, and whether you’d recommend it/them to your fellow readers.
Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!