No, I can’t stop with the music references. I am a cruel, broken, human being who enjoys getting terrible songs stuck in your head. It’s either why you love me or why you hate me (spoiler: probably hate).
I want to talk a little bit about Amazon’s Kindle Fire because it seems to be one of those devices which has strongly divided consumers and even reviewers. I received mine on Tuesday and I wanted to spend some quality time with it before jumping in and discussing it in any detail. Now that I’ve had a full day to play with it both at home and on the go I feel like I can actually contribute something useful to the discussion.
The first thing to say about the Fire is that it is actually smaller than I was expecting. Because so many people have been comparing it to the BlackBerry Playbook I expected it to be exactly the same size and shape. It is in fact slightly small and not as thick which is nice. I didn’t realize how small a 7 inch tablet would be. I can hold this thing in one hand and operate it with my other hand. The Fire is just a little heavier than I was expecting but that actually is a benefit for me. The Fire isn’t so heavy that it becomes uncomfortable to hold and it makes the device feel substantial, like I won’t accidentally break it.
The screen on the Fire is brilliant and crisp and almost a little too bright even on the lowest setting. My only real issues with the hardware itself are the placement of the power button and the speakers. The sound coming out of this device is a little rough and it never seems to get as loud as I would like it to. With headphones on this really isn’t an issue and there are very few times I listen to music on a tablet without headphones so I suppose this isn’t really a deal breaker. The power button is really irritating. It seems like a minor complaint but putting that button on the bottom of the device breaks my brain. My iPad and my Droid both have the power button on the top so I’m conditioned to pop the device on/off that way. Every time I reach for the top of the Fire and there is no button there I find myself muttering to myself about dumb design and fumbling around on the bottom to find the button.
Amazon’s custom interface is interesting for me. On one hand it’s responsive and mostly makes sense. The only thing I’m not a huge fan of is the carousel. I wish there was a way to limit what was displayed in that space instead of having it always display a chronological list of what you have accessed on the device. Pro Tip: this thing sometimes put thumbnails of the websites you have visited in the carousel. You might not want to visit porn sites on this if you anticipate your mom might want to see it at any point.
Reading books, watching videos, and listening to music via Amazon’s services operate about how I would expect them to. Video buffering seems to take longer via Amazon Instant Video than it does on Netflix but that could have something to do with server load considering how many of these devices were sold. I kind of expect that to speed up over time but I’ll have to take a look in a few weeks. Books work as I want them to. They take a second or two to load but that isn’t breaking my heart in any way.
The real controversy for many folks seems to be the web browsing experience. Some people complain that it’s slow and clunky, others seems to be fine with it. I fall somewhere in between. The first time you load a site, especially one with lots of images, it is a slow and painful experience. Due to the way Amazon is caching things via their servers that process speeds up each additional time you load the site. For some sites, especially Flash heavy ones, they always seem to hang a little bit between when they load and when you can browse them which is frustrating. Zooming and navigating sometimes feel a little sluggish and other times they are super responsive. The inconsistency bugs me but I’m left wondering how much of it is the way Amazon is choosing to preload things on their super servers and push them out to the tablet.
Overall I’m pleased with the Kindle Fire especially for $199. It’s a good tablet for accessing Amazon services and the perfect size for throwing in my bag to read a book over lunch. As a multifunction tablet it definitely is lacking a bit especially in the web browsing but there is a good possibility that some of my complaints will be addressed by Amazon via a software update or server tweaks. My issues really are all software based which means they could easily be fixed. I would say if you are looking for an inexpensive tablet for reading books or listening to music and some light web browsing this is a good choice. If you want something really fully featured you should either look for another device or considering buying the Fire and rooting it so you can load a full version of Android on it.
Any of you folks pick up the Fire? What are your thoughts so far?