4.0 out of 5 starsA great device WHEN you consider price and function, with a few flaws
ByReviewer #67845on November 14, 2011
UPDATE November 2012 - With the Kindle Fire HD out now, I highly recommend it over this older version, as it fixes many of the problems I mention in my review. No one should buy this original version of the Kindle Fire unless you can get it for very cheap. I would also recommend the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" over the 7" Fire, as I feel the increased size has a dramatic effect on the tablet experience.
The first and most important thing that should be said about the Kindle Fire is that this is not an "iPad-killer." It is not designed to be. I have seen so many articles and comments comparing this to the iPad, and surveys where people are asked if they will be buying a Kindle Fire over an iPad this Christmas. If you are expecting an iPad, or even a tablet, you will be disappointed. The main purpose of this device is to deliver Amazon content to you more effectively. It is designed for consumption, not creation. That is the reason it is so cheap and why Amazon is taking a loss on it. They are hoping to make up for that loss through sales of videos, music, books, and apps through Amazon's Web Services. You can also use it to view your own movies and media, but will find that it is more limited in that way than a regular tablet. Personally, as someone who has ordered several rentals from Amazon Video, and had to contact customer support for every single one of them due to problems with Amazon's Unbox player or purchases not appearing in my downloads, I can really appreciate this. But if you don't plan on using Amazon at all to obtain your media, you may want to take this into consideration before purchasing the Fire. Additionally, the reason this product is so hyped, and one of the reasons I like it so much, is due to the ridiculously low price. Amazon reviews shouldn't focus on price, but it is hard not to with this device. On price alone, this is a five star device. However when looked at the Fire overall, and when compared with other touch devices (what little there is to compare it to), I have to give it four stars, since there are a few areas I feel could use definite improvement.
FORM FACTOR - The Kindle Fire feels almost the same in my hand as my 3rd generation Kindle but it is a bit heavier. It might be difficult to hold it one handed and read a book for an hour or watch a movie. You're going to need to rest it on something. The display is made of Gorilla Glass, which is a highly damage-resistant. You can still crack it, but I have used a phone with Gorilla Glass for two years on it and it has zero scratches on it despite being kept daily in my pocket with my keys. The back of the tablet is rubberized, so it won't slide around and won't get scratched easily. It also feels good in my hand. Despite all the companies that will be selling them, I do not think you need a screen protector. I have scratched Gorilla Glass before, but it is very difficult to do.
CONNECTIONS/STORAGE - On the bottom are a headphone port (which will accept external speakers), micro-USB (for charging and file transfer), and power button. The Fire doesn't come with an SD card slot, with good reason. As mentioned, Amazon wants you to get content directly from them. It also reduces the production costs. You can transfer your own content to the device through the USB connection from your home computer. The Fire comes with 8Gb of storage, which is enough to hold about 8 downloaded movies, 80 apps, 800 songs, or 6,000 books. I filled mine up right away so I never checked it out of the box, but apparently it is closer to 6.5Gb as the OS is going to take up some of this. You have to really become adept at managing your content through the Cloud. Books won't take up much room, but magazines are around 250Mb and movies are a little under 1 Gb. Free videos available through Amazon Prime cannot be downloaded, only streamed. So unless you buy a movie from Amazon or transfer one of your own, you must be connected through a wi-fi connection in order to watch your movie.
AMAZON CLOUD - If you have not tried out the Amazon Cloud Drive, you will be pleasantly surprised. You get 5Gb (which they will probably increase in the near future) of free online storage to store anything you want, and you can access it from anywhere. This combines very nicely with the Fire. 5Gb isn't much for my collection, so I upgraded to a higher plan (rates are $1 per extra gigabyte per year). I can upload a playlist to it and listen to it on my home computer, then when I get to work the Fire can access it and pick it up where I left off. Any songs you get from Amazon Mp3 are automatically stored on the Cloud and don't contribute to the 5Gb storage space.
E-READER - This was going to be the big determination in whether I should get a Fire or the new Kindle Touch. Ultimately I ended up getting both since I prefer the E-Ink technology to the backlit display of the Fire. If you are the type of person who reads a lot and expect to spend at least 50% of your use on reading books, I don't think you will be satisfied with the Fire over your Kindle 3 or the Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Display - includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers. It just isn't the same, and after hours of reading, the display would make my eyes hurt a bit (just like with any tablet). However it is nice not to have to use a lighted cover to see my books in the dark. The Kindle Fire is difficult to read in bright sunlight or on the beach. The touch navigation is very nice, but it doesn't function as nicely or quickly as it does on the iPad or even the Kindle Touch. This can be a problem for me, and the main reason I am using the Kindle Touch for reading books. Additionally, the Fire doesn't support real page numbers, even though the Touch does. So you have to use that ridiculous "location 121 of 16077 - 2%" format. A year of that with my last Kindle and I still don't understand what that means. They need to fix this in an update. Being able to touch a word and have it bring up the dictionary is incredibly convenient and takes less than 2 seconds. But still, the Kindle Touch handily beats the Fire for reading.
MAGAZINES - The Kindle Fire can also handle magazines, however the display is just too small to be an enjoyable reading experience. I tried out several different magazines, and the main problem I had was with the formatting. I tried to read an issue of Bon Appetit and my eyes were straining after three pages. There is no way to read a single article without zooming. The Fire handles magazines two ways: with Page View, which shows the original magazine display, and with Text View, which attempts to just provide the text of the article. A lot of magazines these days have several things going on in one page, with multiple columns, little sidebars and boxes everywhere, etc. I couldn't view a lot of this without zooming, the text is just too small. So Page View did not work very well for magazines like this. It is especially tough with magazines like Entertainment Weekly, Men's Health, GQ, etc. I found magazines like that unreadable on the 7" display. Magazines that focused mostly on the article, like Nature, Wired, etc, were handled much better. Some magazines even come integrated with embedded video and audio, which is a very nice feature, and one I can see being very useful for things like Men's Health, but I haven't had as much of a chance to use it yet. Text View is a very nice feature that works mostly well, but seems to get a bit confused with magazines that have complicated formatting, so it pretty much defeats the purpose since those are the ones I need it for the most.
COMIC READER - This is one of the main reasons I purchased the Fire. Amazon has a fairly extensive collection of comic books available for the Fire, including an exclusive deal with DC to publish many of their books. In addition to a proprietary comic reader that comes on the Fire, Amazon also has a Comics by ComiXology app available to purchase issues and subscriptions through. Although I initially thought the 7" display would be too small, it is actually decent enough to serve as a comic reader. I would definitely prefer a 10" version if they came out with one in the future. A 10" tablet is still the way to go for comics, but if you're looking for a cheaper option and portability, the Fire isn't too bad, and definitely beats a smart phone. It has a "panel by panel" feature that lets you scroll through the issue by different panels, which it will then zoom in on. You tap the panel when done, and it moves to the next panel. This is great for getting a larger view and working around the size restriction, especially since some of the text in the comics is just too small to read. Although it is fairly decent, if you are considering the Fire just for comic books, and you are a Marvel fan, you may want to hold off and look at another retailer's device which I think has a few more options. You can load your own .cbr comic files on the Kindle, but you'll need to use a third party app, like Comicat to do it.
AMAZON MP3/VIDEO - Amazon hopes that you will get the majority of your content from them. That is why the Fire is so reasonably-priced. Amazon music is DRM-free. DRM is copy protection. That means that the record labels haven't locked down the music you buy from Amazon to restrict how you use it. Amazon MP3 music is playable anywhere, even on your Apple devices. It also has a very high bitrate so you are getting great quality. You don't have to worry about not being able to listen to your music 15 years from now if Amazon goes under. It's yours forever. As far as video, I have always disliked Amazon's Video services. The prices are very reasonable and they now have a huge selection, but obtaining the videos is a huge pain due to Amazon's terrible Unbox player. That changes with the Fire, as everything is native and streams/downloads beautifully. If you make a lot of purchases with Amazon, or if you have several Amazon customers in your household, you should take advantage of their Prime program. In addition to the large selection of free videos now available to Prime members, the shipping advantages are amazing. I once had a 200 lb exercise bike overnighted to my house for only $3.99. Everything I order I get within 2 days. The Prime program seems expensive but it has certainly paid for itself over the years for me, and now is even better that it is integrated more with the Fire. The only problem I have with video playback is that everything I watched did not fully expand to the screen, and was letterboxed. Considering the small 7" display size, this was an annoyance for me. I know shows have different aspect ratios, but some should fit the display, and I think many users will be annoyed that they can't zoom or stretch the display to fit.
WEB BROWSING - This is another feature I was initially excited about. I like the idea of being able to use the Fire as a netbook. Amazon advertises "ultra fast web browsing" using Amazon's Silk browser. It is based off of technology that is designed to increase page loading times by pre-fetching part of the content. Sounds like a great idea, but doesn't work as well in practice. I tried out the Fire on several different connections and compared page loading times with other devices (all connected wirelessly). The Fire was one of the slowest. Amazon's own web page, which has actually recently been optimized to work with the Fire, takes an average of 7 seconds to load. Other major portals took a similar amount of time or slower. My iPad and my Xoom both load pages much faster. It is not slow enough to be a problem, but not fast enough to impress me or be worthy of Amazon's marketing regarding it. This needs to be improved. UPDATE - As of February 2012, page loading times are much improved. It can still be a bit slow and stutter at times, but you can increase this by following the steps at the bottom of this review. I am mostly satisfied with browsing now, although Silk still occasionally won't recognize it when I touch a link.
BATTERY LIFE - Amazon advertises 8 hours of reading or 7.5 hours of video playback. As an average, that's probably fairly accurate. During testing I got an average of 7.4 hours of continuous reading, and 7 hours of video playback over five tests for each. This is a big change over the roughly 30 days of continuous reading with the traditional kindle, so it may hamper you a bit if you're a voracious reader. I just got into the habit of charging it every night with my cell phone. You can shut down the Kindle or put it in sleep mode. I keep mine in sleep mode all the time because it is so efficient that it uses almost no battery. I can leave it in sleep mode for 2 days and come back and not notice any change in battery life, and since I don't have to reboot, it starts up immediately.
VS IPAD - As said, this isn't designed to be an iPad. I have an iPad and there is so much more I can do with it compared to the Kindle. The Fire serves a different (but sometimes similar) function. I just don't ever see Amazon building up the type of app store that Apple has, and that's where you're going to find the major differences. Additionally, the 10" display on the iPad makes a huge difference to me over the Fire's 7" display when it comes to watching movies and TV, and reading magazines and comic books. However, I think there is definitely room for the Fire to steal some of iPad's market share, as many people (I am one of them), will find the functions they want in a tablet can be covered by the Fire.
USER INTERFACE - The Fire uses a heavily modified version of Android. I really liked the interface, however I don't think it works as well on the Fire as it does on a full tablet device like the Motorola Xoom. Occasionally I would try to make a page turn and have it not register on the Fire, or have it register more slowly than I am used to. If you have a lot of experience with the iPad, you are going to notice that the software doesn't respond as quickly on the Fire as it does with other tablets. Although this is an inconvenience and something I definitely feel needs to be addressed, I can accept it given the lower price point. I will have a problem though if this is not resolved through a firmware upgrade in the future. The Fire's custom version of Android is very nice. The most recent applications or files accessed will display in a carousel format that you can rotate through. You can also set up commonly-used applications as favorites. If you want to access movies and pictures that you manually load onto the Fire, you have to open up the "Gallery" app, rather than accessing them from the "Videos" and "Photos" tabs. The gallery app does not very user-friendly at displaying these files. For instance, it just creates thumbnails for all your video files and doesn't let you view the file names when selecting a video. If you have dozens of videos from a single TV show, there is no easy way to organize them in the gallery. It's clear Amazon wants you to view their videos purchased from them rather than your own. I would really like to see them fix this through a simple firmware update but I doubt they will.
NEGATIVES: - No bluetooth and no HDMI. I could really use bluetooth for integration with bluetooth-capable speakers and so I can use bluetooth audio in my car. As a media player, I feel this really should have been included, and I imagine it will with future versions. This is especially important since the audio from the speakers is a bit tinny and weak. I have been using headphones with all my media-playing, which significantly improves the sound. There is also no physical volume button, which is a pain when you need to silence the device quickly (EDIT: You can sideload the "Volume Control" app by RubberBigPepper" from the Android Market for a great software workaround to this). I also would like HDMI output so I can take my Amazon video purchases and watch them on my TV. Another big disadvantage in a device that is made for media. This will also likely be included in a future edition, so at $200, I don't feel bad about possibly having to upgrade a year from now to get it. - Only 8Gb storage space. As mentioned, this device is mainly designed to integrate with Amazon's Cloud, so 8 should be enough, but it would be nice to have at least 16. I imagine Amazon did this on purpose to force people to use their Cloud service. - Touch capability can sometimes be sluggish. iPad and other tablet owners may be disappointed with the touch reaction time and some aspects of the software. - Video doesn't include option to zoom or stretch the display to fit the screen. - Very limited selection of apps from the Amazon App Store. Most of the apps are mediocre games. UPDATE - you can get around this by manually loading apps onto the Fire. Do a search for "sideload kindle fire." It is very easy. - Web "Accelerator" is not as fast as other tablets. - No Micro-USB transfer cable included with it. Another way for Amazon to discourage you from transferring your own files to the device. If you want to do that, you will need to purchase one separately, like the AmazonBasics USB Cable - 2.0 A Male to Micro B (6 Feet / 1.8 Meters).
SUMMARY: Bottom line, you will not find a cheaper device out there for streaming music, video, and books than the Kindle Fire. The reason that this device is so amazing is not for what it can do, but for what it can do at such a cheap price. The price tag, not the technology, is the story here. Although I definitely feel there is room for improvement and will be interested in seeing Amazon's second generation of this device (which I think will be significantly improved), the Kindle Fire is a solid start. If you can wait a year or more for Amazon to work out the kinks with the Fire (like it did with its 1st generation of the Kindle), you should definitely do that. The next version should fix a lot of the problems that keep the current Fire from being a "Five Star" product. Unfortunately, reviews shouldn't focus on price, so due to some issues with the form factor and touch interface, I can only give it four stars. It is just not "perfect" enough for me to say it is a five star product without taking price into consideration. But aside for that, there is really only one device you can compare the Fire to - The Nook. So for what it is, I would have no problems recommending the Fire to consumers who can take advantage of it. This product more than lives up to what it is DESIGNED to do. If you plan on getting most of your content from Amazon AND you have a Prime membership, I think you will really find this is a pretty incredible device for the money.
UPDATE 28 Dec 2011: After getting a new case for the Fire that makes it easier to hold, I'm starting to use it more for reading (although I still prefer my Kindle Touch for anything over about 45 minutes). Some magazines are now better adapted to the Fire liked my subscription to Wired, and some are still terrible and just compressed PDFs. An update released last week adds more privacy features so you can delete recent history form the carousel, and does improve noticeably on the touch sensitivity, although it can still be frustrating at times and not as smooth as something like an iPad. Browser loading times are still disappointing, but not as bad as they were at first release, and I don't notice them as much. I am continually impressed at battery usage for this device. Despite using it less than an hour a day, I never turn it off and only charge it a couple times a week. The rest of the time it sits in standby mode which is extremely efficient. If they could improve a couple more options I'd be closer to giving the Fire five stars.
UPDATE 7 Feb 2012: I have been able to update the browser significantly by doing the following: Open up the browser and select the menu button at the bottom, select the Settings button, and then change the following options:
Enable plug-ins: Change this to "off." This will disable Flash, so if you have any web sites that need it you can re-enable it (YouTube works fine). Accelerate page loading: Uncheck this. If your wifi connection is decent, it's not really necessary. Mobile (This one is optional, but I prefer to view everything in mobile mode rather than having Silk trying to force a desktop view on a 7" screen."
3.0 out of 5 starsI want to love it, I really do. But I can't.
Bywaethermanon November 15, 2011
As a long-time Kindle fan I was eager to get my hands on a Fire. For the most part I've found that it does what I wanted it to, which is be the one device I can take with me anywhere. There are some great features; the reader app is excellent (though not without flaws), the app store experience is terrific, videos are fantastic, and the device is quick and for the most part dead-simple to use, all thanks to the services Amazon provides. And of course the extras that come with Prime membership really make it a real value - I won't be cancelling my Netflix streaming account just yet (watching Netflix on the Fire works very well) but I imagine within a year Amazon's free streaming video catalog will be just as good as Netflix. The free "lending library" book every month really is the icing on the cake though, and makes Prime membership a no-brainer. The hardware itself is solid and has a quality feel, it's just the right size for one-handed use, and the screen is fantastic (for an LCD screen) with good brightness and excellent color, and a very wide viewing angle. So as a reader, video player and music streaming device the Fire excels, and as an occasional browsing, emailing, game playing tablety thing it does pretty well.
But there are some downsides too; the small bezel size makes holding it without inadvertent page-turns difficult, the lack of buttons makes controls harder, the accessible storage memory is limited to just 5GB, which seems awfully small when carrying my own video content on a trip, and overall the interface of the system is just a little awkward and unfinished. Sometimes the back button doesn't work, buttons are hard to push accurately or launch the wrong function, navigation isn't exactly intuitive, etc. Particularly annoying are things like the way that almost half the screen is taken up by menu bars when browsing in landscape mode, the "momentum" of the browsing not stopping, menu bars that sometimes just pop up randomly while reading, and the navigation of Newsstand content like the New York Times is incredibly awkward. And then there's the jerkiness that happens when browsing or navigating other content; to me, this just shouldn't happen when reading a book. This is a Kindle, after all.
On the missing or unfinished side its disappointing that there isn't even a little bit of social media built in - no sharing clips of books or newsstand material via email, FB or twitter. Also missing is the "read out loud" found on other Kindles, and the new "X-Ray" feature found on the other new Kindles. There is no archiving or syncing personal documents - they have to be mailed individually to the Fire. And there's no page numbers in the books - c'mon, Amazon, this is even available for the old Kindles at this point. The browser lacks some basic functionality like being able to rearrange bookmarks, and other little annoyances. The email application is very basic, and doesn't always format text properly, and doesn't have simple things like a landscape mode to view a list of messages. But the biggest "unfinished" feature of the Fire is the Cloud integration; the Cloud doesn't work hand-in-glove with the Fire in the way you think it might. In order to access features like the video or the docs, you basically have to go through a browser the way you would from any other device. For the most part the Cloud acts only as a digital locker for items purchased from Amazon, not seamlessly as a repository for any kind of content you want to access from the Fire. The way the Cloud seems to be marketed, and the way it should work, is that the Fire and the Cloud should work seamlessly together for all kinds of content; if you upload your own movie from your PC to the Cloud, you should see it in your Video tab on the Fire, and be able to stream it or download it. If you upload folders of work documents to the Cloud, they should be available to browse and download from the Fire's Doc tab. But that's not the way it works. For whatever reason, the Fire's using a Frankenstein mix of the Cloud, Kindle digital library, the app store, and local storage to handle content needs. It just isn't quite ready for prime time, and it isn't what people are expecting when they pick up the Fire.
All of these little things add up to make what could be a great device merely adequate. Many will be able to overlook these problems and enjoy the Kindle Fire for what it is; an inexpensive all-in-one-entertainment device. I only point them out to remind people that they should not expect perfection from the Kindle Fire, at least not out of the box. Over the next few months it's possible (likely) that many of the problems I have could be fixed with software revisions - i.e. the bezel problem could be fixed by making the margins in the reader app non-active, for instance, and the problem with the menus taking up too much room could be fixed by making them accessible via swipe-up or swipe-down. Hopefully Amazon is already working on these things. Until then, I'm trying to learn to live with the Fire as best I can. Maybe I can learn to love it.
NOTE: This review has been edited slightly since it was originally posted for the purposes of clarity and to answer questions that have come up in the comments thread to this review. Please leave a comment if you need clarification or think that something has been missed.
UPDATE NOV 30: a recent software update seems to have fixed several of the above problems, specifically the system speed and page-turning speed are better, and the button response is much improved. Random menus no longer appear when reading, momentum in the browser doesn't seem to be a problem anymore, and the carousel is much easier to use as a result of it having slightly more "friction" in paging through the most recent items used.
I'm disappointed in the Fire. I'm an avid Kindle user and there are several capabilities other Kindle models have that this one doesn't. 1. I can't categorize my books. I've accumulated over 800 books in my archive. It's a pain to try to search for one if you can't remember the author or title, without being able to group your books. 2. I don't like the lack of privacy of what's in the cloud or on the device. I won't show people my Fire, because I don't want them to see all the stuff I have on it. Nothing is outrageous--I just don't like having my whole book list out there. 3. It has no text to speech capability. I use that function all the time when I'm on long road trips and it's very bothersome the Fire doesn't have it. 4. I can't delete a few pre-populated app icons on the carousel. I find that annoying because I'm adding a lot of things and I don't like having to sort through stuff I don't want on there.
I also have an iPad. Fire offers three benefits over the iPad: it's much lighter, it's less expensive, and you can watch Adobe files on it. On the downside, Fire only has wireless connectivity, so if you're on a road trip, you can't shop or get to the web on a Fire as I can with my 3G hookup with iPad. It also has fewer application options and the smaller key board makes typing more difficutlt.
The bottom line is, I'll use my Fire occasionally, but plan on sticking with my older Kindle for reading and iPad web surfing and writing for the most part unless Fire software is upgraded to address my issues. I wouldn't buy another one unless they fix these things.
Have used the Fire for about an hour after initial set-up. First off, I've been thinking that instead of comparing the Fire to an IPAD, it should be compared to the IPOD touch -- (a) it is in the same price range as the IPOD touch, and (b) it will be a gift for my daughter, and I can see this product replacing her IPOD touch. From that perspective, it is an 5-star device, that easily outperforms it's competition.
But, evaluating it on its own merits, I've quickly discovered one, non-major issue: The carousel: Really don't want my entire library on the carousel. Amazon needs to quickly update this UI, and allow users to remove items from the carousel.
Will update this review after spending more time with the device.
11/17/11 Review Update.
Have removed a star from the review for an important reason: Amazon Cloud, which allows a person to store files (documents, photos, home videos, etc.) for use anywhere (which is its reason to be), isn't usefully supported on the Kindle Fire. Music works well, but any other file type which you'd like to store in the cloud, then download to your Fire...you're out of luck....Dropbox could feasibly work (but Amazon market doesn't support Dropbox). I was prepared to upgrade my Amazon Cloud service, but given its limited usefulness on the Fire, I won't be making the upgrade purchase at this time.
Also --- the "official" Youtube app isn't preloaded on the Fire, and isn't supported on the Amazon market.
It is very possible that this will be the perfect tablet for you, but I was very disappointed. To begin, the wireless strength is subpar, and I was woefully saddened that I could not watch the digital versions of Blu-Rays on it. It very much is an Amazon content delivery system, which is fine if that is what you want, but I was hoping for something a wee bit different.
I picked up a Kindle fire in the states and am now back in Cayman where I live. The fire seems like a reasonable piece of kit, but if you live anywhere other than the US, or if you happen top travel a lot outside of those shores, you'll find the baked in Amazon version of Android very limited. I have an android phone and I can use the app store etc. On the fire I have no option but the amazon app store (which I would love to have work) but that just gives me an error that I can't download anything as I am not in the USA. Even free stuff can't be downloaded. I wanted to add a simple note taking device, but nope, can't be done.
Basically a neat bit of hardware. I am a developer and really highly rate the Amazon Web Services, which I can use quite comfortably from Cayman, but I'm really disappointed with the fire. I can't even enter a proxy server, so I can't use it at work. Huge let down.
First off, I had no expectations that this device would be on par with an iPad. My main motivation for buying it was to have a native player for the Instant Prime movies, and to use to read PDFs. I also had a lot of android apps that I'd purchased over the last year for my EVO.
This was my first kindle - I was very excited, until I got it. My specific complaints:
1) I do not like the Carousel interface, at all. There is no way to turn it off. 2) No physical volume controls. Really? Apple learned from that mistake early on, for their phones and tablets. Lots of the Amazon apps force you to go through the settings to adjust volume (though the Cloud music player does not). 3) Silk = S...L...O..........W browsing, especially on pages with more dynamic content.
The way I see it, I've got 30 days to see how Amazon reacts to the list of complaints. Some of the hardware related items obviously can't be addressed via a software update. I'm on the fence on whether or not to return it and either wait for the next iteration, or just pay more the iPad.
When I broke my Kindle 3G and Square Trade reimbursed me the full purchase price I decided to go ahead and get the new Kindle Fire even though my plans were to wait a year or so before actually purchasing it. I really wanted to like this device but I just don't. Most of the features that I loved about my Kindle 3G were not there. There is no privacy settings so everything you have ever opened, i.e. books, web pages, apps, etc is there for viewing on the carousel and you can't delete them...I don't have kids but for people who do that can't be a good thing. Here are some other issues I have with the Fire: 1) sometimes the touch screen feels like I almost have to punch my finger through the screen for it to actually open what I want it to; 2) you can't create collections so you can't sort your books the way you want; 3) text-to-speech is not available for the books that do have that option; 4) Unlike the 3G and probably other previous Kindle devices I have to buy a separate USB connector instead of just removing the electrical outlet connector if I want to connect to my computer and; 5) the length of the adapter is a joke...guess that was my first indication that there would be problems...with my 3G when I was reading in bed and needed to recharge I could plug it in and continue reading because the cord was long enough or I could just remove the electrical outlet connector and plug it into my laptop on my bed...neither is an option with the Fire (check reasons 3 & 4)
The bottom line is it's just not the Kindle I have come to know and absolutely loooooove...I soooo wanted to love the Fire but was just disappointed and became more and more so as I kept using it...printed out the return label already...I ordered the Kindle Touch for my mom for Christmas so I'm going to see what it's like (hopefully it's exactly like my old Kindle Keyboard 3G except with a touch keyboard instead of the physical one) and if I like it then I will order the Touch 3G for myself. If it is also a disappointment then I'll go back to the Kindle Keyboard 3G. Rarely ever disappointed with an Amazon purchase but seriously so with the Kindle Fire. :-(
The Kindle Fire is an interesting little toy, but as it stands, it's about half as useful as my phone, even if my phone couldn't make calls. As a portal into content sold by Amazon, it's absolutely excellent. As an Android device, I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that my G1, the very first Android device, was better.
Something that was praised in an early review of the Kindle Fire was that, unlike other Android tablets, it told you what it was for. There was no staring blankly at a desktop, trying to determine for yourself what exactly you wanted the tablet for--something that's been a problem for other Android devices. Instead, you've got a friendly menu at boot: Newsstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps, Web. There's a carousel of recently used things below that, and a row of favorite apps at the bottom. So, what's it for? News, books, music, videos, docs, apps, and the web, of course! With Amazon ensuring you always have options for the first four of these, it's easy to see what you bought that Kindle Fire for.
Unless, of course, that's not what you bought that Kindle Fire for. If your notion was that you'd get a nice, cheap Android tablet for general use, you're going to have some problems. In ensuring that they could provide content to users with zero fuss, Amazon locked much of what Android users think of as "Android" out of the Kindle Fire. Android phones, during setup, integrate tightly with your Google account, and a wealth of Google oriented applications are all ready to go with your phone when you turn it on. That's not so with the Fire, and it's not just a matter of extra setup--the thing is locked down. This means no Youtube app, Google+ app, no Google Maps app, no official Gmail (Fire's mail client can read Gmail, but it's not very impressive), no ANYTHING that Google brought to the table for Android, unless you muddle through the web interface, which is really irritating when there's a perfectly good Android app for that.
If you don't like their browser (Silk), you can't use a different one. This has already presented a problem for me in the way of trying to use JManga, a portal for manga that's run by Japanese manga publishers directly. This isn't an "oh, it doesn't work on mobile," thing: it doesn't work on Silk. Dolphin, one of the best browsers for Android, handled it fine, but isn't available for the Fire, because Amazon said so. Dolphin is in the Amazon Appstore, and they're perfectly happy to let you have it--but only for your Android phones. It's explicitly blocked from the Fire (and so is every other web browser). You can't go to the official Android Market website to get it either. Try, and Silk will kick you back to Amazon's Appstore.
Using Silk to watch videos from sources like YouTube has proven a bit spotty, but doable. When running in the desktop style, framerate problems abounded. Switching to the mobile web based version of YouTube fixed that, but it's awfully stripped down. Again, if Amazon weren't so determined to lock customers out of apps provided by anyone but themselves, this would be a non-issue, as I could just use the YouTube app and have it work fine.
So far, I HAVE found an option in the Fire's OS settings to allow installation of third party applications (which is how the Amazon Appstore works on "normal" Android devices), but I have yet to find a way of doing so, now that I'm allowed.
This is not what it could, or should have been, and the fault lies entirely with Amazon taking a page from Apple's playbook, and trying to maintain an iron fist on the device.
I like to think of myself as a reasonable fair-minded person. In this case I must give a decided "thumbs down" on my new Kindle Fire. I really WANTED to like it, really I did. In fact, I was all ready to take back the Vizio 7" tablet I had bought from Costco 2 months ago but ...
While this product has great promise and while I applaud what Amazon is trying to do, I think they rushed this product out for the holidays without having done proper testing. The touch screen experience is downright horrendous. I swear that I must hit something 4 or 5 times before it registers. (The no-privacy carousel has the opposite problem - it's overly sensitive.)
The positives: The minimalistic design is nice. Although I really miss volume buttons. In other ways the hardware is great (screen has good strong viewing angles etc.) Streaming seems to work well Brain dead simple set up Great Amazon consumption device
The negatives: The terrible touchscreen The terrible non-changeable keyboard (I'm even writing this review from my iPhone 4S - doing it from the Kindle would have been pure masochism) The lack of volume buttons The lack of privacy with the carousel The location of the power button and headset jack
I've even side-loaded many Google Market Apps I'd purchased for my other Android Tablet and though they work and make this device more like a true tablet (including real Gmail email), it doesn't save this device at all.
Wait for new firmware or a complete new version (i.e. Kindle Fire 2). The new Fire will be more of an Android tablet killer (and who know, maybe it will even have a run at the iPad).
In 2009 I purchased the Kindle 2. I fell in love. In 2010 I purchased the Kindle 3. My love affair continued. In 2011 I purchased the Kindle Fire. I fell out of love. I consume vast amounts of books and am always mobile. So ability to hold this device in one hand is essential when I am standing on the train. Unfortunately, after getting used to the Kindle 3's weight, the weight of the Kindle Fire came as a shock. The Amazon description of the weight is accurate, but the expectation that an additional 7oz or so would not be much was met with a hard reality. Holding this in one hand - as the picture shows - is problematic. The wrist begins to hurt after a few minutes. But that is not Amazon's fault. It is a beautiful device, if sort of sluggish in response. I give it two stars because two stars means that I don't like it. And I don't like it because I have been spoiled by Amazon. Back to the Kindle 3 I go. For anyone who is maybe not so mobile as I am, I recommend this. But if you're on the go and do end up holding this Kindle with one hand because you're used to holding your previous Kindles with one hand, then be warned, the weight is substantial enough that you will notice and it will be uncomfortable.
I was looking forward to the release of the Kindle fire for quite some time. As a long time fan of the Kindle, I was on the lookout for the next generation of the e-reader that's changed my life so much. When I started to read the marketing hype about Amazon Silk browser, I was intrigued. I liked the idea of a portable web appliance for my home and office. A 7 inch screen was just the right size for that round-the-house browsing my family would enjoy. For example, I liked the idea of ordering takeout through a restaurant's website on a portable device, then handing the device to my wife and kids so they could order what they want. I had considered buying an iPad in the past for that purpose, but at $500+ that seemed pricey, especially for a device that wouldn't support Flash. For $199, I was now going to be granted two wishes at once: I'd be getting the next generation e-reader, as well as full-featured a portable web browser.
My enthusiasm was quickly diminished. The device is VERY frustrating to use. Touches don't register very easily. Unlike my other touch devices (which, for the record, are not only iPhones and iPads, but other Android and even Microsoft devices as well), the movement of images and forms on the screen is slow and sticky. Simple tasks such as selecting a book or recently-used app from my home screen are tedious, requiring multiple touches to register the selection. The browser is a horrible HORRIBLE disappointment. The pages are slow to load, and difficult to move around. I am unable to scroll a webpage while it is still loading, and it's difficult to tell when a page is fully loaded. That gives the impression of a frozen web page a lot of the time. Normally I wouldn't complain about that. If a page is still loading, then I should wait for the content to complete, right? However I found that most of the time the page content loaded just fine, but then I was stuck waiting for the Flash ads to load. What's worse, the page isn't disabled while it's loading. Instead, it registered your actions, and then executes them all at the end of the load, leaving you lost in a link, out of focus, and annoyed with the experience.
The Flash support is a joke. Almost every Flash-enabled site I visited made my browser crash! Some pages, such as Speakeasy.net's broadband speed test tool (Speakeasy.net/speedtest), seemed to work at first, but then returned consistent script errors when halfway through the test. The Flash that DID work was limited to those horrible advertisements that slow down page loading. Now I have all of the hassle of those horrible animations and little or none of the benefit of the more powerful plugin-enhanced experiences. Some sites worked, but the experience was insufferable. Hulu.com rejected my web request due to the Android platform on which the Fire's OS is built. That was disappointment #1, but at least Hulu was honest about their lack of support. I went instead to Crackle.com, another online streaming content site powered by a LOT of Flash. It took me about 10 minutes and multiple tries before I got the movie "Step Brothers" to play in the web page. The crashes and errors I received seem to come from Crackle's Flash-based age validating tool. "Step Brothers", a rated R picture, could not be viewed on Crackle without entering my month, day, and year of birth on what appeared to be a Flash-scripted user interface. Bad news. My touches weren't always picked up. When they were, the screen had shifted and I inadvertently selected the wrong date or year. As the fields expanded and collapsed, the content shifted back and forth, causing me to constantly loose my place. The movie did eventually load, and seemed to play for a while with no further issues.
In addition to the software, there are frustrating elements of the physical design. The lack of a home button is just ill conceived. I can't easily discern which way the device should be held to hold it right side-up. When I'm caught in one of those page loading freezes (no doubt waiting for some messy Flash turd of an advertisement to load up) I can't just hit that escape button to go back to the home page. Instead, you tap on the screen towards the bottom of the panel to get the Home page icon to show. Obviously if the device is not responding to your touches, you can't easily escape. Also, the on-off switch is very easy to accidentally hit. I sat with the Fire on my lap to read a magazine I downloaded and my belt kept pushing the power button., I didn't realize what was happening the first few times. I thought the device was crashing. Thankfully it was just my clumsy movements. Still, to be fair, I never had that problem on my other Kindles, or on other mobile devices for that matter. I do like the size and shape of the Fire. Unlike the iPad, it is a perfect design for a portable web surfing appliance. In fact, I went out to a doctor's visit and took the fire with me, and it easily slipped into my [admittedly spacious] inside jacket pocket. Ipads aren't meant for that kind of portability, but e-readers are.
On a personal note, I think Amazon went a bit overboard with the Cloud integration. We all like the idea of storing our content safely, and flexibly on Amazon's massive server network. Yet when buying videos, books, and music I now have a two-step process to get my purchases on my device. This is no doubt designed to mitigate the seemingly paltry lack of local drive space. Nevertheless, when you are unable to connect to a 3G network you need to be 100% sure that you have all that you need ON THE DEVICE before you leave the WIFI hotspot. That wasn't very clear to me when I downloaded my first video. Excited to view some purchased content from Amazon's vast array of TV and movie media, I downloaded an episode of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia". I purchased it through my Fire and ran out to meet some friends in the bar for a beer. When I tried to play the video I just bought I was peeved to realize my purchased content was still floating in the cloud. I never took the extra step to download it to the device. Yes, it's easily fixable, and the cloud does have a lot of advantages. Still, I would hate to buy $25 worth of magazines for a plane trip and find out IN the clouds that I left my content ON the cloud. The irony of that pun would be eclipsed by my teeth grinding frustration.
As far as connectivity goes, I'm ok with WIFI, even though it departs from Kindle's otherwise well-conceived purchase model. Remember, I am a die-hard fan of the original Kindle. One of the greatest, most brag-worthy features of the regular Kindle is the 3G-connected Kindle store. I can buy books, magazines, and other e-reader content from anywhere with a 3G signal without an account with a cellular provider. The purchase goes directly against my Amazon.com account. The Kindle Fire has no such cool 3G option. It would have been terrific if Amazon enabled 3G for purchases only, however one can easily understand the difference between downloading an e-book, versus downloading movies, songs, and surfing the web.
Bottom line: I feel this first version of the Kindle Fire is a let down. At $199 I never expected it to do all of the wild thing an iPad does. What I did expect was that the tools it did deliver worked as well or better than those same tools on competing products. Do I judge the Fire for not have an accelerometer, compass, or even a camera? Not at all. However do I expect the well-hyped Amazon Silk browser to work as well than, say, Safari on iOs? You freakin' bet I do. Unlike so many reviews that are forgiving of Amazon's many misses because of the low price tag, I feel the need to chastise. The folks at Amazon need to focus on what they DID deliver, and make those tools work well. Instead, it almost feels as if Mr. Bezos and the gang bought into the it's-cheaper-so-it-doesn't-have-to-be-perfect attitude a little too much.