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Storage Performance: Slightly Faster Than USB 1.0?!

The Amazon Kindle Fire: Benchmarked, Tested, And Reviewed
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Space on the Kindle After Installing All Our AppsSpace on the Kindle After Installing All Our Apps

Though there's not a lot of user-accessible space on the Kindle Fire, it's a real pain to fill it up over USB.

USB File Transfer
2.8 GB H.264 encoded MP4 Movie
Avg. Transfer Rate
Time
Amazon Kindle Fire (OS Level File Transfer)
2.76 MB/s
17:14.615
Apple iPad 2 (iTunes)
19.19 MB/s
02:29.090
Motorola Xoom (OS Level File Transfer)
13.18 MB/s
03:36.990


The process is excruciatingly slow, with a top sequential speed somewhere around 2.7 MB/s. If you're moving small files, expect initial speeds around 1.2 MB/s. Meanwhile, other tablets that support USB 2.0 frequently hit average speeds above 10 MB/s. 

Samsung's eMMC NAND In Kindle FireSamsung's eMMC NAND In Kindle Fire

Hardware isn't the problem. Amazon employs a Samsung 8 GB KLM8G2FEJA eMMC NAND package. You find the same product in competing tablets, like Acer's 8 GB A100. Motorola employs a 32 GB eMMC NAND chip from Toshiba with similar specs. And yet, transfers are much faster on the Xoom.

The zippy transfer rate on the iPad 2 in the table above shouldn't come as a surprise. Apple is the only major tablet manufacturer to use vanilla MLC NAND, which is found in the zippy SSDs we all know and love. But that also means the A5 contains extra logic to add block management and ECC.

Since Tegra 2 and OMAP lack the same circuitry as Apple's A5, nearly all Android-based tablets use a simpler storage implementation called eMMC, which embeds block management and ECC onto the NAND itself. The difference is highlighted in the slide above.

Since everything is managed at the NAND level, the operating system doesn't have to bother issuing commands like secure erase or TRIM. The MMC controller in the storage device handles all of that. However, this also means that eMMC NAND is blind to much of what the operating system is doing. The result is a significant amount of performance overhead.


Amazon Kindle Fire
Apple iPad 2
Motorola Xoom
NAND Chip
Samsung KLM8G2FEJA
Toshiba TH58NVG7D2FLA89
Toshiba THGBM2G8D8FBAIB
NAND Bus
eMMC v4.41
Toggle 1.0
eMMC v4.4
NAND Bus Speed
104 MB/s
133 MB/s
104 MB/s


Of course, the difference between eMMC and regular NAND isn't limited to block management. The bus interface is also different. Whereas Toggle Mode 1.0 is limited to 133 MB/s, for instance, eMMC tops out at 104 MB/s. There's a new revision of eMMC that bumps speeds up to 200 MB/s, but it's currently too new and too expensive for tablet manufactures to implement.

Xoom: Uses Media Transfer ProtocolXoom: Uses Media Transfer Protocol

It's not clear if there's a way to address the Kindle Fire's low transfer speeds through firmware. Other Android tablet vendors implement Microsoft's Media Transfer Protocol, whereas Amazon chooses the more generic USB Mass Storage Class (MSC) driver. That's good news for Mac users, since you don't need a special program to transfer files.

Kindle Fire: Appears As Generic USB Device In Mac OS XKindle Fire: Appears As Generic USB Device In Mac OS X

It's possible that the problem is with Amazon's USB MSC implementation. The only way to transfer files is to put the Fire in Mass Storage mode preventing you from using the tablet at the same time. However, it also suggests that Mass Storage mode is a hosted layer above the operating system.

RIM got around this issue with its Blackberry line by implementing a pass-through mode for transfers. It's likely that Amazon will have to do something similar in order to speed up USB performance. Currently, transferring files to your Kindle Fire over your home network using Astro (along with its SMB module) is likely faster than using USB.

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Top Comments
  • 18 Hide
    acku , November 24, 2011 7:51 AM
    Quote:
    How do I win a Radeon 6990?


    Ummm.... what? :heink:  This is a Kindle Fire review.....

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
Other Comments
  • -3 Hide
    JeTJL , November 24, 2011 4:55 AM
    Should of done other comparisons with Tablets around the Kindles Price range like the Coby Kyros. I personally don't have either the Kyros or the Kindle Fire. But recently My sister bought it and she is thoroughly enjoying it. I received a Ipad2 though because of the Academy at my School that I belong to and I'm quite pleased with it, even though I'm a big android fan.
  • 18 Hide
    acku , November 24, 2011 7:51 AM
    Quote:
    How do I win a Radeon 6990?


    Ummm.... what? :heink:  This is a Kindle Fire review.....

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 6 Hide
    Goldengoose , November 24, 2011 9:24 AM
    ackuUmmm.... what? This is a Kindle Fire review.....Cheers,Andrew KuTomsHardware.com

    Just give him the 6990, the poor fellow just wants to play BF3.
  • -8 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , November 24, 2011 9:48 AM
    ackuUmmm.... what? This is a Kindle Fire review.....Cheers,Andrew KuTomsHardware.com


    Ever heard of bots? There're tons of those on Tom's nowadays.

    GoldengooseJust give him the 6990, the poor fellow just wants to play BF3.


    A GPU of a 560 Ti level maxes it out @ 1080p, no need for a 6990.

    Back to topic...

    Quote:
    Notably, it's missing a slew of features, including a GPS, front- and rear-facing cameras, and a microphone.


    ROFL, and who needs a tablet without all that? That's right, Amazon fanboys. That company is an utter POS that is not unlike Apple, designing underpowered useless products and delivering them as "innovative". The only "innovative" thing here is a complete dependency on the company's online services... oops, nevermind, Apple did it first :kaola: 
  • 7 Hide
    donovands , November 24, 2011 11:13 AM
    Wait, what? Is there such a thing as an Amazon fanboy?
  • 5 Hide
    donovands , November 24, 2011 11:39 AM
    The iPad took a part of the market away from the PC, in the sense that there are folks out there who don't need the full functionality of a PC and the media consumption tablet gave them a device more suited for their needs. The same thing is happening here, if not as dramatically. The Fire may not have all the functionality of an iPad, but there's a lot of folks out there that will get the Fire *instead* of the iPad because it provides all the functionality they need. It isn't an iPad killer. But it *is* going to hurt iPad sales.
  • 1 Hide
    SneakySnake , November 24, 2011 11:57 AM
    I think it's hilarious how the best selling droid tab this year is completely closed off, limited, and controlled. Sounds familiar doesn't it :p 

    And do not say "ya, but you can root it!!!". That's nice, people can jailbreak their iPads. You cannot include rooting and jailbreaking when you talk about something being open
  • 2 Hide
    acku , November 24, 2011 12:43 PM
    __-_-_-__"That rules out video conferencing using Skype or mapping out directions to the bar across town."There are some new devices called WEBCAM and bluetooth or usb GPS that would enable that. you might want to check this huge innovation. -.-


    The Fire doesn't have either of those things. Not going to work. You should check out the specs of the Fire first.
  • 1 Hide
    BlackHawk91 , November 24, 2011 3:20 PM
    Actually this tablet surprised me, I didn't expect that much from the kindle fire.
  • 4 Hide
    acku , November 24, 2011 3:55 PM
    BlackHawk91Actually this tablet surprised me, I didn't expect that much from the kindle fire.

    Oh yeah? You bought a Fire?

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 1 Hide
    eklipz330 , November 24, 2011 7:05 PM
    i was playing with my classmate's kindle fire yesterday, an amazing little device. despite all the negative reviews ive been reading, it just showed me that we've been seriously spoiled with some amazing technology.... it's really an amazing piece of tech
  • -6 Hide
    jla0 , November 24, 2011 8:05 PM
    At that price ($199), why not buy a 16GB Playbook? At least it's a "real" full featured tablet. The QNX OS rocks too. Anyone who's tried it loves the interface compared to an Android tablet...

    This article is a big fail.. they should have included it to compare.

    Just sayin...
  • -3 Hide
    josh jones , November 24, 2011 9:31 PM
    Like the author implied, the fire will make a great Trojan for amazon store:) 
  • 1 Hide
    JeTJL , November 24, 2011 10:19 PM
    josh jonesLike the author implied, the fire will make a great Trojan for amazon store


    You can say the same thing with the Ipad and the Itunes store. Except for the fact that Amazon isn't making money with just selling the Kindle Fire alone.

    Still though I like both the Ipad and Kindle Fire.
  • 0 Hide
    quantumrand , November 26, 2011 5:11 AM
    Is the A5's RAM really clocked at 1066MHz, or is it actually 533MHz and 1066 after the DDR conversion? It's a little unfair to list it after the DDR conversion and the others before.

    Also, I want to elaborate on the GPU. The OMAP 4430's SGX540 runs at 300MHz, not 200MHz, so those figures are a little misleading.
  • 1 Hide
    eddieroolz , November 26, 2011 9:26 AM
    A very informative review. I was interested in the Kindle Fire for a while for its super-cheap price tag, but didn't pull the trigger on it because I don't really need a tablet.

    It seems like a good product from Amazon, but for my expected use, it isn't sufficient. I mainly use my iPod touch to read comics in JPEG format, so not being able to install many apps + having limited space really hurts.
  • 1 Hide
    acku , November 26, 2011 9:40 AM
    eddieroolzA very informative review. I was interested in the Kindle Fire for a while for its super-cheap price tag, but didn't pull the trigger on it because I don't really need a tablet.It seems like a good product from Amazon, but for my expected use, it isn't sufficient. I mainly use my iPod touch to read comics in JPEG format, so not being able to install many apps + having limited space really hurts.


    Glad you liked it! Most of the time I cringe when the table discussion turns to tablets. A lot of tech reviewers aren't even really technies. They come from a Communication background, which is why the Fire is always pitted in a iPad 2 fight. Plus, the investors want the Apple fight cause they only see things in terms of units sold.

    The engineers and consumers want a comparison based on features and usability. And the executives and PR people want a comparison based on demographics.

    The truth lies somewhere in the middle. For me, this tablet is very attractive, but then again, I like amazon. If you're not part of that crowd, it's a harder purchase to justify in the long run.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , November 27, 2011 2:31 AM
    I pruchased on, love it! no need to root. Just sideloading is all you need. The interface is easy, quick, fun. My mom loves it and is getting one for xmas. My phone has a camera plus who uses video conferencing apps anyways? I'd rather wait for a Dick Tracy watch.
  • 0 Hide
    kartu , November 27, 2011 12:24 PM
    Good review, but not clear why Xoom makes it into review, while much more popular Galaxy Tab 10.1 doesn't
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