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Amazon Silk: Assisted Web Browsing (Sort Of)

The Amazon Kindle Fire: Benchmarked, Tested, And Reviewed
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Amazon Silk: Technology Explained

Amazon Silk refers to the Fire's browser and its underlying technology. The idea behind Silk is to offload some processing onto Amazon's EC2 cloud, decreasing the time it takes to render a webpage on a comparatively slow mobile device and reducing overall power consumption. In theory, this should help extend battery life. And while this sounds awesome on paper, it's perhaps not a real benefit when put to actual use.

The problem is in its execution. To begin, Silk doesn't use the cloud to accelerate every webpage. Second, even when it uses the cloud, Silk dynamically determines what parts of the browser subsystems (for instance, networking, HTML, page rendering) to accelerate.

This graph was generated from a debugging script that polled CPU usage on the Kindle Fire. It illustrates the performance difference between processing a webpage locally and using Amazon's cloud.

The CPU workload is evenly distributed during a local test, as the browser requests data and processes it in real-time. When you enable cloud acceleration, the Fire idles for a short period while it waits on the EC2 servers to collect webpage data.

However, in order to counterbalance the time spent idle, Amazon's servers uses the SPDY compression protocol from Google to send information back. This is partly why cloud acceleration should be faster. After receiving the data, though, the Fire still needs to take what it received and generate the page itself. The thing is, what gets compressed must then be decompressed. And that's why CPU usage spikes.

The benefits of cloud acceleration aren't necessarily evident when you look at CPU usage alone; the time it takes to receive data, decompress it, and render differs from one page to another. Generally, cloud acceleration is enabled when there are a lot of HTML elements, seen on sites like cnn.com and our stories. When it does occur, the speed-up isn't really that dramatic.

Overall, power consumption tends to be a wash when you compare a local job to cloud-based acceleration.

It's also possible that I'm not requesting data from a site with a slow connection to my ISP. In that case, the rendering speed could be faster in the cloud, since Amazon has some of the fastest data pipes in the world.

As with most Web browsers, Silk maintains a local cache of data. Amazon doesn't specify how much space it sets aside, but as you browse more sites, Silk clears old data to make sure space is available. With cloud acceleration enabled, Amazon is supposed to prefetch certain linked webpages. However, requesting a linked page not stored in cache turns out to be faster when cloud acceleration is disabled. See Appendix B for instructions on how to disable cloud acceleration.

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  • 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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