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.
- 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."
I've had a chance to play with the Kindle Fire for a few hours now, and overall I think it is a great tool /toy when you factor in the cost of ownership and what you get. Compared to $500 minimum for the introductory price of the bottom of the line iPad2 (WiFi only), at $199 this is a great buy.
Using a Wifi connection at two different locations, the speed was pretty fast connecting to the Amazon server as well as to a couple of Internet sites. I had fast connectivity and display on Fox News, CNN, my personalized Yahoo page, and the website of the International Association of Penturners (hey, I do have hobbies!). I had slow connectivity at both Wifi locations with Google, ESPN, MSNBC, the Houston Chronicle, and the Weather Channel - I hope the unique app for ESPN and the Weather Channel are a lot faster, but I haven't loaded them onto the Fire yet. I will point out with the exception of the Google website, those other sites listed as slow are usually slow on my other handheld devices such as my Droid phone and my work iPad2 (yes, the Kindle guy owns and uses an iPad for work purposes). The web browser is called Silk, and it is nice and user-friendly.
Let's talk about what I see as the benefits first:
The screen size to me is just right for what I will be using it for - I have used an iPad and the screen is larger - but I did watch about 15 minutes of an episode of season 3 of 24 on the Fire and I didn't have screen envy or felt like I was missing anything. The sound quality was good, but I listened to it mainly with a set of headphones so I wouldn't wake my kids.
Concerning size of the overall unit - not too heavy or bulky and it fits nice in your hand. I have it in one of the Marware covers and it just "feels" right: that's not a firm statement for a review, I know, but what else can I say? Holding the iPad feels a little bulky at times but the Fire is just a little bit larger than my Kindle keypad, so I was pretty much conditioned to this size over the past few years. Compared to the iPad, the Fire doesn't generate near as much heat.
Speed of the apps as well as reading a book is VERY fast and responsive. I haven't tried a a challenging spreadsheet or Word document with the Open Office app yet, but then again I can't think of too many times where (based on my guesstimated usage) I will be doing those kind of tasks on my Fire: I like to keep my work separate from play. Maybe the time will come when business applications will become more prevalent with the Fire, but that's a story for another day.
Back to the pricing - $199 is an absolute steal for a unit with this many features. Compare that to an iPad2 at more than twice the price for a few more inches of screen space. Some people really want that, but it doesn't bother me. You will also receive a month free of Prime membership and I highly recommend you try out the benefits, which are more than free two-day shipping. You get full access to thousands of movies and tv shows for free. You can give them a test drive on your Fire and see if it is for you or not. I already rent a lot of movies to my Tivo via Amazon, and I can see the functionality of the free movies combined with the for rent options being able to be played on this device as very compelling for when I go on business trips.
And, for those of you I've been playing Words with Friends with, this morning's moves were made on the Fire - the touchscreen worked flawlessly.
I transferred some music to the Fire and it works like a charm. I haven't had enough time to really dive deep into this feature yet and come up with a playlist or jukebox list, but the sounds quality was nice: not too loud and not too soft.
Here are some potential negatives:
I don't think I will be reading too much on this device. Who knows, that opinion may change, but I REALLY like the Kindle for reading with its eInk screen. I read a lot outside or in bright light, and based upon my experiences with reading on an iPad the eInk is better than the full color for reading outside. However, my youngest child really likes the full color resolution as the books he likes to read has a lot of pictures in it (he's in elementary school). So, to each their own. I didn't purchase the Fire for reading, but more for entertainment.
As mentioned above, the screen is smaller than an iPad. That doesn't bother me (see comments above), but it may bother some people where size matters or they have to have the "biggest" of this and that.
I really wish they would have shipped this thing with a micro USB cord: if there is one in the packaging I missed it. Luckily, I have a few of them in the house, so I wasn't too put out. I imagine they did that to keep the overall cost at $199.
There are lots of apps available for the Fire because it uses the DROID platform, but Apple lovers will pound their chest and say "but we have over a million apps" blah blah blah. I think you should look at the QUALITY of the app vs. the quantity, as there is certainly a lot of junk in the iPad app store (as there is the DROID store), but your basic functionality for the apps I want / need are there.
Overall, at $199 this is an extremely great value to me and well worth it: Amazon has hit a home run with this one. If you haven't grabbed one now, get one before they run out before Christmas!
EDIT TO ADD:
Okay, I've tried to add this twice and it bombed, so hopefully the third time is the charm. Email setup was very easy - it took about a minute to setup my main Google account, and I was able to send a test message to another account as well as receive and reply to other emails. I sent a picture via email to the Fire and it showed crisp and clear.
If you're interested I just purchased a new second generation Kindle Fire for my grandson and I have done a review on it discussing how it compares to this model and how to set it up right out of the box with a video to help you. I also discuss the new version's pros and cons. It may be listed a few pages back from the top but you can find it posted with the product link shown below:
Kindle Fire 7", LCD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB - Includes Special Offers
I picked mine up today at Best Buy. At home I plugged it in and set up the WIFI and my Amazon account and it immediately told me that an update was downloading. After about 10 to 12 minutes it rebooted and started working. I own an iPhone, iPad 2, HP Touchpad and a Kindle Keyboard version. This device compares with the Ipad. The reviews that blast the Kindle Fire as being no good are just not true. I am a retired CEO and computer Guru and have a great WIFI set up in my home. Here is my quick and dirty review:
WIFI fast and easy to set up and use
Keyboard types great, much better than the HP Touchpad and as good if not better than the iPad.
Display high resolution comparable to the iPad 2
The device downloaded my 100 books in minutes. Most books downloaded to the device in 3 to 4 seconds. A couple of large books took 5 seconds and I am talking about books with 800 pages!
Web browsing is extremely fast. I loaded up a dozen sites that I go to with complex screens and they took 2 to 3 seconds to load. The people who are complaining should fix their WIFI instead of complaining about the Kindle Fire. I see no problem and the speed on the sites I tested is comparable to the iPad 2. One site for a local TV station took about 8 seconds and the screens are complex and contain a lot of videos and changing photos.
Apps load and work great, Facebook, Words With Friends and the Weather Channel loaded fast and work quickly.
Scrolling works very fast and responsive on the capacitive touch screen. Better than the HP Touchpad
Video download is very fast and I have no complaints.
Sound is very good on the device. Much louder than on my iPad 2 device. I saw several reviews blasting the Kindle Fire and in my opinion the sound is better than the iPad 2.
I put the Kindle Fire into a case I purchased from Oberondesign and it fit tightly, but it did fit.
The Kindle Fire is more portable and easier to hold than the iPad and HP Touchpad.
The power button is bad. It is easy to bump and it is right next to the power plug. I have already turned the device off 4 times by accident while doing the testing. I was unplugging the power cable and touched the switch every time. This switch should have been on the top of the device.
Overall the Kindle fire is a 9 out of 10. For the price it is a 10 out of 10.
I am not a professional reviewer nor am I a paid reviewer. The Kindle fire is worth the money and it works well. What happens after 5 million users get onto Amazon is a new test that Amazon must prove they can handle.
Please look at one of my later comments on an excellent WIFI APP tool than could help you test your home WIFI system. Amamzon sells it and it is free!
Amazon has made an update to the Kindle Fire operating system effective today. Make sure that your Kindle Fire is fully charged or plugged in and press the power button for about 20 seconds. Turn on the Kindle Fire by pressing the on button again and it will begin to come on slowly. It will be downloading the update. After it starts it will shut down automatically and then restart again. When the swipe arrow comes on, swipe it and enter your password (If you have one) and your Kindle will start. Be patient when downloading this and wait for the Kindle Fire to totally restart!
The new operating system is number 6.2.1 and it was 6.2. You can check this by touching the small gear in the upper RH corner, touch "+More", touch "Device" and then looking at the entry for the "System Version".
Major changes that I can see:
-Memory is now segmented into two parts that are available to you. The first is Application Storage which is set at 1.17 GB. It will appear at the top of the device screen and you can see how much is used for Apps. This is the memory allocated for your down loaded and resident Apps.
- The remaining memory is called Internal Storage and it is now 5.37 GB for your books, movies and other storage besides Apps. It is listed below the Application Storage.
-When looking at the Settings page you will see a new access for "Restrictions" which allows you to enable a password to turn WIFI access OFF or ON. If you enable this you will be asked to enter a password, (Minimum of 4 characters) that will allow you to turn Off the WIFI access. You have now just enabled a "child" mode where you can play games, read books, or do anything that is installed on your Kindle Fire. You will not be able to get new email, browse the internet, buy anything, or communicate in any way to the Web as the WIFI is turned off. You will see a key in the upper RH corner where before you saw the WIFI strength indicator. The key symbol means the WIFI is locked OFF. DO NOT FORGET YOUR PASSWORD! Remember you can do anything that is on your Kindle but you cannot download anything from the "Cloud" so make sure that your Kindle has everything you want to do on it resident in the Kindle memory. In order to enable the WIFI you must touch the key symbol, touch WIFI, touch WIFI "ON", enter your password and click OK. Your WIFI will reconnect in about 5 seconds.
-You are able to remove anything from the Carousel by simply touching it for a few seconds and then selecting "Remove from Carousel". This is a nice new feature and you can still access your books or Apps by using the menu bar items above the Carousel.
- Amazon states that operation fluidity and performance enhancements have be added but it is difficult to see what they are as the device does so much you don't know where to look for the enhancements.
-Amazon states that the touch navigation is more responsive and again it is difficult to see changes. I do seem to notice that the back arrow symbol on the bottom of the screen seems to be more responsive.
There is a post on Amazon to download this update using a computer and a micro-USB cable but I have updated two Kindle Fires using the method I discuss above without a problem. If you would like to look at the Amazon post look here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_k6_updatesi?nodeId=200790620
Many people may not own a micro-USB cable.
I could not use the automatic update mode where it says to touch the "Update Your Kindle" button on the Kindle Fire under the Device page as that selection was grayed out. Cycling the power to do a hard reset forced the download automatically. You should receive this update automatically on your Kindle Fire in a day or two after it begins the automatic update roll-out.
on 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 tried to make the first 2 sections as informative and as objective as possible, hoping that anyone not yet decided whether they want a Fire or not may find this at least marginally useful. The rest and the star rating should be heavily influenced by my own subjectivity and biases.
PLAYING WITH FIRE (USABILITY)
[NOTE added on Aug. 1, 2012]
Q: The Fire was released back in 2011. Should I buy this model today?
A: No. The Fire was a great buy during the year it was launched and shortly thereafter but, as time went by, newer and better tablets became available and Amazon is likely to announce an updated and upgraded version before the end of the year. In the second half of 2012 tablets such as the Nexus 7 matched the Fire's price and greatly surpassed it in features: faster CPU, better screen resolution, camera, Blue-tooth, GPS, microphone, open to the larger Android world and running the latest version of Android. The best course of action would be to hold on until Amazon announces its new model(s), then make an informed decision.
Q: Do I get free and unrestricted access the Web?
A: Yes. The Silk, multi-tabbed browser allows access to just about anything on the Web.
Q: Can I store songs, video, photos on the Fire?
A: Yes. The Fire has about 5GB of physical storage space. In addition, Amazon offers 5GB of free 'cloud' online storage for non-Amazon media.
Q: Is the 5GB of physical storage large enough for, let's say, 50 apps, 1000 songs, 1000 photos and 100 home videos?
A: Yes, except for the home videos.
Q: Does 'Kindle' indicate that this is a true reader, like the other Amazon Kindles?
A: No. The Fire is a customized Android tablet with a backlit touchscreen. While it does come with a Kindle app accessed through the 'Books' tap on the home screen, the reading experience is similar to that from any other tablet.
Q: Does the Fire make it easy to access Amazon content?
A: Yes. The Fire was designed to facilitate that. You will have easy and immediate access to you Amazon-purchased books, music, video and apps and to their related stores so that you may purchase more.
Q: Does the Fire make it easy to access non-Amazon content?
A: No. You can transfer and retrieve/play non-DRM content directly into the Fire via an USB cable. Anything stored on Amazon's Cloud that's non Amazon-purchased shouldn't exceed 5GB or you will have to pay a fee for the additional storage.
Q: If I have another Android tablet/phone, will I have all the already-purchased apps available on the Fire?
A: Yes and No. YES for all the apps downloaded from Amazon's Appstore and NO for all others.
Q: Are 'major' apps such as Netflix or Pandora preinstalled?
A: No but they are easy, quick and free downloads from Amazon's Appstore.
Q: Is the Amazon Appstore the default store for Android apps?
A: Yes. And Amazon would like it to be the only store.
Q: Do I have access to non-Amazon Android app stores?
A: No. Or not unless you are prepared to engage in some serious tinkering. While you can install Amazon's Appstore on any Android tablet from Google's Marketplace, Amazon's Appstore does not carry a Google Marketplace app at the time I'm writing this.
Q: Can I install apps from sources other than the Amazon's Appstore?
A: Yes but it's not easy. A Fire setting will enable the installing of non-Amazon Appstore apps but, without access to third-party app stores, some skills are required.
Q: Are there any Google apps available at the Appstore?
A: Not at the time I'm writing this.
Q: Is it easy to buy Amazon digital or non-digital merchandise through the Fire?
A: Yes, it's very easy. Fire is built to facilitate that.
Q: Is it possible to turn off 1-Click?
A: Yes and No. 1-Click can be disabled for non-digital purchases but it can NOT be disabled for digital purchases.
Q: Can I prevent my kids or anyone else from making purchases while using the Fire?
A: You can password-protect access to the Fire itself but, once in, it's impossible to prevent 1-Click ordering of digital content.
Q: Are there ANY restrictions I can set?
A: You can disable in-app purchases or you can set parental controls with a PIN for in-app purchases if enabled. Post-patch, you can password-protect Wi-Fi.
Q: Are 'parental controls' limited to requiring PINs for in-app purchases?
Q: Is it possible to make any of my past digital purchases disappear from Fire's 'cloud'?
A: No. (According to Amazon's Customer Service rep.)
Q: Would Amazon allow me to 'return' digital items that I (or someone else using my Fire) ordered by mistake?
A: I was told by a Customer Service person that there is a 7-day refund policy on digital items. Not tested by me.
Q: Does the purchase come with any perks?
A: Yes. You get one-month free Amazon Prime which translates in free 2-day shipping and access to Amazon's streaming video library.
Q: Did the Dec. 20, 2011 patch address all parental control and unrestricted 1-Click issues?
A: No. Password-protecting Wi-Fi access does not address these issues because it's an 'all or nothing', crude and ineffective answer to real concerns. Password-protecting Wi-Fi is not a solution to anyone who would like to allow access to most cloud content but restrict or block 1-Click purchases and access to certain categories of content.
INTO THE FIRE (SPECS AND FEATURES)
Q: Is the Fire display bright and sharp?
Q: Is battery life on par with today's expectation?
A: About 4 hours of battery life are a little bit less than what competition offers.
Q: How does the Fire connect to the outside world?
A: Fire is a Wi-Fi device. There is no 3G/4G. You can also connect and transfer connect from a PC/laptop via the USB port.
Q: Can the Fire be charged from a laptop or a standard USB charger?
A: Not very efficiently. The charger that comes with the Fire is rated 1.8A/5V. Generic USB chargers output a lot less than 1.8A.
Q: Does the Fire have cameras?
Q: Does the Fire have a microphone?
Q: Does the Fire have a motion sensor?
Q: Does the Fire come with GPS, compass, IR sensors?
Q: Does the Fire have Bluetooth?
Q: Does the Fire have an HDMI port?
Q: Is there any way to pair a physical keyboard, speakers or some display device with the Fire?
A: Not at the time I'm writing this.
Q: What are the sound output options?
A: Sound outputs through the speakers or through the headphones port.
Q: Absent volume control buttons, is it possible to control volume through Fire's virtual controls from within an app?
A: It depends on the app. Some apps do not allow it.
Q: Is Fire's storage expandable through memory cards?
Q: Is CPU performance adequate?
KINDLING THE FIRE (my conclusions and rating)
I found the Fire to be a good pick for anyone seeking a small, portable interface into the digital content world 'out there', especially but by no means limited to Amazon-provided content. However, for anyone who would like to share their Kindle, the Fire may be a little too hot to handle at this time, especially if you are sharing it with kids or if it's meant to be used by a kid. Please read my note at the bottom of this review for the details. I also listed Fire's other issues with the hope that I may be able to help anyone not sure whether the Fire is indeed what they want.
After several months of me and my daughter playing with the Fire I can say that I am generally pleased with my purchase. I will be thrilled once Amazon addresses at least the huge problem having to do with parental controls over Fire-made purchases. I also hope that Amazon open the Fire a little bit more to non-Amazon content sources and... please... I want my Gmail app.
The Fire is Okay because it's an inexpensive, easy to use, capable, not fully locked tablet. It makes it easy to buy and 'consume' all kinds DRMed of media, especially that which is stored in Amazon's cloud (free for all Amazon purchases) and I had little difficulty adding my own DRM-free content. The Fire is not a replacement for PCs or laptops but no tablets are. I don't miss an outward looking camera because there are much better alternatives to taking pics with a tablet but a little cam looking at user's face and a mic (video calls) would add significant value to a good product. Then, of course, there are the issues I listed above.
I'm going to grant the Fire 3 stars at this time. Three stars mean "It's Okay." My rating could and should improve once Amazon addresses some of the issues I listed above.
NOTE on 1-CLICK PURCHASES (playing with FIRE revisited)
It is currently impossible to turn off 1-Click purchases of most media on the Fire. This is quite an issue for anyone who has kids, especially if the user happens to be the kid. The way the Fire is currently set up you are going to get your song or your movie or your book almost the instant you touch them while browsing through the store. This may be okay when you are using a laptop because you can set multiple accounts and make sure that only those authorized can order things but the Fire can be easily shared and I'm not aware of a way that would allow both multiple accounts and the ability to access the purchased media at the same time.
To make the story short, it is possible to set some controls but at the App Store only but it's only for in-app purchases. The other media stores: music, movies, books do not allow for any restrictions such as asking for a password or PIN before completing a purchase transaction. The Customer Support person I discussed this verified that this is indeed the case and she promised to forward my feedback to the higher ups. Until then, I am and I will continue to be very concerned. Not that our daughter would knowingly buy the entire Amazon movie library without my permission but that, possibly, one of her friends would do that without being fully aware of what she is doing. Amazon MUST address this or sell the Fire as an 'adults only' product.
>> Brush your teeth, it's the law! <<
on November 14, 2011
SHORT SUMMARY: WHO SHOULD BUY A KINDLE FIRE
The Fire is an all-around excellent device, especially for the price.
DO BUY IT, without hesitation, if you want to consume media by yourself or with one other person (max). For example, if you read books and other Kindle content, surf the web, look at photos and want to watch Amazon Instant Videos (Movies & TV) or web-based video sites, then the Kindle will serve your needs well.
DON'T buy it if you consume as a group or want to do any creation other than the occasional social media post. Watching movies with many other people is hard (7" isn't that big), and the lack of keyboard options, Bluetooth, etc., makes this a very focused device that creators will soon tire of. Doing anything with maps is difficult or impossible, as are all the nifty apps that require a camera, so if those limitations are a deal-breaker then look at a Samsung Galaxy Tab (to stay small) or iPad (big and expensive).
+ The IPS screen is nothing short of fabulous. I've spent several hours staring at it now and am still amazed. It makes my friend's iPad 2 look grainy. Using this as a high-end photo frame on your desk is actually tempting because the colors are so rich. The screen is very close to 16:9 (15.36:9) and fits movies much better than a 4:3 iPad screen, which negates much of the 2.7" screen size difference between the two (but the reverse is true for old videos that are not widescreen). Overall, the video experience is good enough that you soon become immersed in the movie and you forget about the medium. Plus, since it's so small, you can carry with you more often.
+ The overall feel and construction is super-solid. The rubber/silicone backing gives such peace-of-mind; at this price, I don't plan on buying a case for mine in the foreseeable future.
+ Compact size. It's about the size of a "steno" pad. You can throw it in your backpack, purse, or coat pocket. Overall the Fire is a great balance between usability and portability--much more screen space than a smartphone (at about the same price) but lacking only one typical phone storage option: in your front pocket.
+ Simplicity and UI polish of the overall experience is tight. I wouldn't hesitate to give this device to a total tablet novice. This is a great gift idea for even the most technologically-challenged individual.
+ Speed is perfectly adequate for anything I've had to throw at it. I've tried at least half a dozen games now and they are buttery smooth. The crisp display and saturated colors make it such a joy to re-examine all my old apps.
+ The email client is slick! I have used apps like TouchDown and want to cry because they are so ugly and complicated. Not so with the Fire! Even though this is not a "creator" device, I am glad that they didn't skimp on a full-featured email client that actually looks nice.
+ Silk web browser! Side by side on the same wi-fi connection vs. my dual-core Android phone, the web browser doesn't seem that much faster. HOWEVER--they were both *very* fast! Keep in mind two things: 1) Silk is taking away bottlenecks, but if your existing wi-fi connection is already super-fast (i.e. no bottleneck), you won't notice the difference. 2) The "cloud" improvements will only begin to work when there is a large group of Kindle users who are sending data to Amazon so that they can start proactively caching. It should get faster and faster as more people start using it, so don't feel bad if you're not seeing any speed change out of the box.
+ Content, content, content. What sold it for me was the new Kindle Owner's Lending Library. For my $79 Prime subscription I'm getting access to a ton of shows that were are least partially available elsewhere, but no one else is giving away a book a month. I've seen at least a dozen titles I want to read, so my schedule is "booked" (sorry, couldn't resist) for a year solid. I was already a Prime member, but had never purchased a eInk Kindle because, so now I will have a "Kindle Device" that will qualify me to read a free book a month.
-No GPS or Google Maps is a disappointment. I wanted this thing to be a huge GPS to take in the car, but without a GPS chip that can't happen.
-No Bluetooth limits its use as a creation device. The $30 Bluetooth keyboard I use for my Android phone is useless for the Fire. Please, someone, make a MicroUSB keyboard that works easily with the Fire or point me to one that already works with the Fire and I'll update this section (I couldn't find any on Amazon).
-Lack of hardware buttons was at first a turn-off, but after the tenth time of accidentally hitting the home button playing a game on my Android phone, I now appreciate this minimalist approach taken by the Fire. There's the power-button that you may occasionally bump by accident, but you just need to turn the whole thing upside down and the power button is then at the top--problem solved. The remaining complaint is the missing volume button, but I can also understand the reasons behind that. The original iPod touch lacked volume buttons, but they eventually included hardware controls on subsequent devices.
-Content Lock-in. This is the flip-side of the coin for having so much Amazon content. Since there's no HDMI, any movies you buy are going to be stuck on the device unless your TV also supports Amazon Instant Video streaming. I think the strength of selection outweighs this, but it's something to keep in mind!
-(Minor) Does not play WMV files. My Android phone does this--why is this codec missing?
-Battery life--The specified battery life is really a best-case: you'll want to charge this device at least every other night. It's terrible compared to an iPad 2 and great compared to a typical dual-core phone. It remains to be seen if the competition from the large bricks and mortar book store's new tablet is any better, but on paper they say theirs is longer.
CREATIVE USES FOR THE FIRE
+ Fitness. Use your new Fire as an indoors exercise companion for treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines, etc. Make yourself a commitment to not watch TV until you've worked-out first (while watching/listening/reading on the Fire, of course). It's the perfect size to strap-on or permanently adhere to your home fitness apparatus. This device and a Prime membership is about the same cost as two months for a personal trainer.
+ Schools and home schools. With the number of education apps out there (and ease of development), expect the Kindle Fire to become THE device for kids to use in their studies. This device, in 2011 dollars, is about the same price as my fancy graphing calculator in high school during the early 90s, so we can only guess what kinds of cool education-centric applications will come from this new class of gizmo. For parents, see a variety of great sites (like mine, Learn Richly) that make it easier to evaluate very fun products that make learning a breeze!
+ Small business elegance. What if your customers in the waiting room were each given Kindle Fires instead of magazines? How about giving your next sales pitch or presentation as an interactive HTML5 web page that allows your client to engage with the content even as you're explaining it? This also becomes the perfect Kiosk device because it's so open, inexpensive and ubiquitous.
+ Lists and reference. Putting a $700 iPad in your shopping cart while you check of grocery items makes me nervous, but somehow I'd feel safe doing that with my rugged-feeling grippy-backed Fire. Use it around the house for the kids' chore chart or as a "dedicated" to-do list while at work (what good is the task list in Outlook if I never look at it?)--this price point makes all sorts of things feasible, and especially if you buy multiple devices to establish a community of users in your office or home.
APPS INCLUDED & MISSING w/SUBSTITUTE SUGGESTIONS
Built-in you will find already downloaded:
+ Kindle Reader App (with more layout options, such as line spacing and margins, than the current phone Android Kindle app)
+ Amazon shopping app
+ Integrated Music, Video and Web browsing (Silk)
+ "Docs" tab that takes documents you email to your @kindle email address and puts them in Kindle format
+ Audible audio books app (Amazon subsidiary)
+ IMDB (internet movie database) app for information about movies, actors, etc. (Amazon subsidiary)
+ Contacts app (looks like standard Android with Fire skin)--will sync with GMail contacts and probably others
+ Email app with built-in support for Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and "other", i.e. POP for my ISP worked (not sure about IMAP). Attention: NO MS EXCHANGE/OUTLOOK :(
+ QuickOffice, which is a *viewer* for PowerPoint, Excel and Word--no editing at all
+ Gallery app for photos--looks like you'll need a MicroUSB cable and a computer to do much with it, though
+ Help & Feedback
+ Facebook--seems to be a link to the mobile site
+ Pulse--good, possibly great, news aggregator/reader
+ Other various popular apps/games that are links (but not already downloaded)--may be trials or ad-supported and you can get them from the AppStore anyway. Thanks for not installing them Amazon! This device is refreshingly free of "bloatware"
- Task list & Memo / note- taking--I recommend ColorNote Notepad Notes that has both of these functions
- Alarm clock--I recommend Alarm Clock Xtreme Free
- Calendar--too many choices to recommend a replacement, but you'll probably get one with a paid Exchange email client
- Calculator--I recommend Calculator Ultimate Lite
- Weather--AccuWeather for Android or My-Cast Weather Lite both get good reviews
Anything else I've missed? Comments welcome, thanks!
on November 15, 2011
This will be a review that will be updated as I continue to use the Kindle.
SHORT BACKSTORY: I own a 1st gen Kindle, and despite its original design flaws, I have put it to great use. I am a Prime member. When I saw a tablet(ish) device with a modded version of Android, made by Amazon, with a dual core processor and a smaller, more portable form factor than the iPad for sale at the easy on the wallet price of $199, I pre-ordered immediately.
FIRST IMPRESSION: The packaging it comes in is very simple. The Kindle came in a brown cardboard box, which I expected to open and see a Kindle box, but rather opened and saw the Fire itself. Underneath was the Micro USB charger. I immediately plugged it in and fired it up. First thing it asked was to connect to WiFi (it showed every network within at least a 300 ft radius (my office floor is shared with a few others). Connection was hassle free. Then it asked me a few questions, registered quickly with Amazon, and then updated the software. After that 5 minute process, I was free to explore.
OS: Intuitive and easy to navigate. A lot of cool little nav helpers come up to explain the various navigational aspects and preloaded apps. It immediately showed all the books in my library.
TOUCHSCREEN: Seems very responsive. Keyboard typing was easy enough, especially when laid out landscape. I know other Android devices can bring up different keyboards, so I'll be looking into this.
PROCESSING: Haven't opened up anything super intense, but navigating between apps is smooth and doesn't stutter.
INTERNET: Took about 6 seconds to fully load a Reuters news page. I've read Silk gets faster with more use, so I'll expect that, but for now, it's definitely fast enough.
CLOUD CONNECTION: Awesome. I love everything about it. All my content was readily available and I know my usage of this will go up now that I have this device.
MEDIA: I quickly threw on an episode of 24. It looked very crisp and had no trouble whatsoever with streaming. I'll dive into Hulu and Netflix a little later.
That's all I've gotten through at the moment. I put this at 5 stars because it MET MY EXPECTATIONS. I read all about this device before buying it, so I knew exactly what I was getting for $199 dollars. It has met all of my expectations of a small form factor tablet that is intuitive, media friendly, and has great processing capabilities. I did not expect an iPad, so there is no comparison in my mind.
My next update will go a bit more in depth into EMAIL and Document capabilities as well as exploring some apps. I hope you enjoy this as much as I am!
NICE: Email setup is a breeze for GMAIL (including IMAP) and they present a unified inbox view which is nice. However, they don't thread the emails, but that's not a huge issue.
BUMMER: Native Email app doesn't support MS exchange, had to download an app. Again, it's not a big deal, but would have been nice to get work emails on this.
Sent a PowerPoint Presentation to my personal email and opened it on the Fire. It displayed perfectly in hi res...I am a happy camper at this moment :)
APPS: This is my first Android(ish) device and as such my first experience with the Amazon appstore. App store is coming up shallow (in variety of apps) esp. in the finance apps department. That is just my initial response and I may not be entering the right search strings (for finance, I tried Bloomberg, finance, finance apps). I'm SURE as more and more Kindle Fire's come online, the developer community will focus on improving and optimizing more apps.
Free APP a day program is very cool and I will be sure to set a reminder to look into this every day.
I would gladly take any suggestions for finance (news, stocks, charts etc.) apps or any others.
Loving the Pandora app. And the Cloud player! And just discovered that you can upload UNLIMITED MP3 files to the Cloud just by upgrading to the 20GB plan ($20 annually...). For me, that's over 60GB of music available anywhere + 20GB of anything else. Awesome.
Now that I've spent a great amount of time with the Fire, I can honestly say that I'm very happy with the purchase. It functions fantastically as a tablet device. It could rival the iPad due to the plethora of media streaming options, portability, CLOUD capabilities, flash availability, and basic functionality (but don't set your expectation on this, it IS NOT positioned to be an iPad competitor).
I downloaded the TouchDown Exchange app for receiving work emails. The Accuweather app is much more functional than the native Weather Channel app. Thompson Reuters News Pro is a great reader, especially for financial news. Netflix and Hulu + both work very well and I have had no issue in streaming content for both. YouVersion still needs some refining, but it looks great on this tablet.
I am starting to realize that the lack of 3g will be a bummer moving forward, but it is not a blocker yet. If the developer community picks up the popularity of the Fire, I will be excited to see a plethora of new apps coming online.
Again, overall, I am pleased at how functional this is as a tablet.
No issues so far (3rd day of ownership). This thing doesn't leave my side (at home or the office). Amazon's free app a day program is awesome; today downloaded an email app that is normally $10 for my favorite price...free99. My biggest gripe at the moment is that they don't have multiple keyboard options (outside of landscape or portrait). This was available on other tablet devices with Android OS and would make typing a bit easier. But please...for $200, this thing kicks ass.
UPDATE (as of DEC. 19th)
The FIRE is working great. I stand by my initial 5 star rating.
Not thrilled with Amazon's app store, but like I said before, it will get better as more developers come on line. All of my previous comments still stand. Amazon's free app a day program should not be overlooked as its utility has been fantastic. The BEST thing about this is its form factor. I didn't realize how important this was until I found myself carrying my Fire with me everywhere. With the amount I use it, I'm happy that it is light and almost pocket sized. Battery life seems to be about 5 hours with heavy use, 7.5 with reading. I charge this thing every night along side my iPhone, so it's not a burden. This makes a great gift for any electronics fan looking for a reader and mobile media player.
on November 15, 2011
I've been a long time fence-sitter in the tablet wars, but I finally decided that the Kindle Fire was what I was looking for. I had previously purchased the original iPad for my son, but he never used it so I was very worried about spending that much cash for what I feared would be an expensive toy.
I was primarily interested in tablets for mobile web browsing, watching some videos now and then (I have a ton of digital movies), and that's about it. I have a very small music collection, which I've moved to both Google Music and Amazon's cloud storage, so I'm not what you'd consider a big mobile entertainment guy.
So far, from the time I've spent with it, the Fire is going to fit the bill nicely.
1. WEB. The Silk web browser is fast enough. I don't bother running side-by-side tests, as all I worry about is whether or not I'm going to become irritated by page loads. Thankfully, that's not the case. The text IS a bit dithered (blurry) in some places, which I assume is an artifact of Silk's server-side rendering, but it hasn't seriously affected legibility. Web videos load pretty darned fast, and the entire browser experience just works.
2. VIDEO. I streamed one of my Amazon Unbox videos as soon as I opened the Fire, and was very pleased with the speed at which the video appeared as well as how quickly the controls just got out of the way so I could enjoy the flick. It's going to be an EXCELLENT device for videos.
3. MUSIC. The streaming music store works pretty doggone flawlessly. The only complaint I have so far is that I can't seem to find any difference in the equalizer settings. Beyond that, since I'm not terribly into music, it suits my purposes just fine.
4. BOOKS. Kindle Fire's weak spot, imo, and the reason I give it four stars. But to be fair, it was never going to compete with my Kindle 3. E-ink really is just that much more comfortable to read versus a (relatively low resolution) LCD screen. Text just isn't that crisp and the backlight actually interferes with legibility. I've read rumors that the NEXT Kindle tablet (due in 2012) might just feature a dual LCD/e-Ink display or even a Mirasol display, which would remedy this nicely. For now, though, I didn't expect miracles from LCD and, by golly, I didn't get them. :)
5. APPS. I'm not a big gamer anymore. (I used to be huge on Gameboy, but I got older and slower.) The App store, curated by Amazon, is exactly what I though it'd be. Some might complain about it not having a billion apps, but I really do think everything that the casual user would want is there. (But if you're not sure go browse it and see BEFORE you buy the Fire.) As far as accessibility goes, it's easy to get in and out of.
As far as the Kindle itself, it's a SOLID little brick. It's not fancy, nor would I say it has that "Apple aesthetic" going for it, but it's a shick brithouse of a tablet. Amazon might just decide to advertise it as a personal defense device, if they decide the tablet business isn't working out. It's got a nice, rubberized back. It is, however, a bit heavier than I expected and is likely to be less comfortable for long-term reading than the (significantly) lighter Kindle 3 or Touch. The onscreen controls are easy to get to, which stood out to me since I saw some reviews complaining about the lack of physical buttons.
Overall, the Kindle Fire is snappy if a little quirky. I figure it's early and that we've got plenty of time for Bezos 'n co. to tweak the software. The Silk browser WILL get faster as more users use it--which is the beauty of cloud storage/computing--and in the long run, I really think the whole Amazon/Kindle ecosystem is just plain excellent. If four and a half stars were available, I'd have shaved only a half a star for the e-Reader functionality, since I knew coming in that it simply couldn't replace my Kindle 3.
If you're a Prime member already, this thing's a no-brainer. If you don't have another tablet and you weren't sure about the costs, it's a great time to get your feet wet. Amazon's always been incredible about returns if you don't like it, but I think if you're like me and you wanted a good little media consumption device that works pretty intuitively, does the main things you want it to, and doesn't break the bank, the Fire is a doggone great deal for the cash.
on November 14, 2011
As an Ipad owner I initially had low expectations for the Fire. However, after having played around with the Fire, I have to admit it is actually quite compelling especially if you are a price conscious buyer. Here's why:
- The mp3 apps works real well. I switched to using the Amazon MP3 store fairly recently having used the itunes store for years primarily since Amazon seems to have a larger selection and lower price. I uploaded all my Apple DRM free music to my Amazon cloud drive and now I have access to all my music - both itunes and Amazon MP3. Unfortunately, some of older Apple DRMed music files do not play on the Fire as expected
- The video app is real snappy and I had no issues streaming video at home over wifi. I can honestly say that the Amazon video app is as good as the Netflix app on the Ipad. It seems like the netflix app will be released soon for the fire so I plan to compare them side by side then.
- I don't read many books so I can't really provide much useful insight on the book app. I did like on the Fire that the one book I owned opened up on the last page I had stopped reading on my Ipad from months ago. The screen is a bit glossy so that may put some readers off.
- The Fire is in general very snappy especially compared to most other Android tablets. Not as snappy as an Ipad but oh so close.
- I did notice a slight improvement in page load times in Silk. I am not entirely sure whether that was due to the browser or my internet connection.
- I don't like the placement of the power button as I find myself accidently hitting it all the time. The fire is also feels a bit heavy but it is not intolerable.
Overall, I feel this is a compelling device for the price and the negatives I stated above are minor to me. If I were looking for a 7"" or below $300 tablet, I would say this is the best tablet around. However, if you have $500+ to spend, chances are you would be happier with an Ipad.
on November 16, 2011
I received my Kindle Fire yesterday and I have to say that I'm impressed. It's exactly what I wanted and by that I mean it's great for surfing the internet, checking email, reading books, magazines, and comics, and playing the occasional game.
This is definitely a content consumption device and that's exactly what it's advertised as. I'm a little tired of everyone trying to compare it to the iPad. My wife has an iPad and it certainly does a lot more than the Fire. However, I don't need all the extras she has on her tablet. I don't need a camera or extra storage or a Bluetooth keyboard and if I need to do document editing or the like, I just use my desktop or laptop.
This device is perfect for laying in bed and surfing my favorite sites or checking on my RSS feeds. I haven't read a book on it yet but I did bring one up and it looks great. This thing is perfect for sitting at Starbucks and just chilling out.
I have had a few lag issues here and there, brief but noticeable. I know this device will have some growing pains but I have no doubt Amazon will do a great job in providing updates and support. I do not like the fact that controlling the volume requires accessing the settings menu versus having a dedicated control but I can live with that since I won't be listening to a great deal of music on it.
The bottom line is you have to decide what use you'll have for a tablet. Don't buy one with all the bells and whistles if you're not really going to use them. Buy the one that has the features you'll use and go from there.