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Customer Review

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.
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