I’ve had my Kindle Fire a few weeks now, having received it in he first shipments. I figure the best way to review it is to recap how it’s settled into my routine (and what parts haven’t settled in). I’ve been rather disappointed in the quality of the reviews I’ve seen. Many have been contrary to my own experience. Maybe the early reviews used an early software version. I got an update right after the first power-on. There was also a number of reviews which mainly complained it wasn’t an iPad. I got the impression those same reviewers would have complained it was a cheap knock-off if Amazon tried to clone the iPad. The Kindle Fire and iPad are different devices. I’ll compare them but only because it’s my only other personal experience with a tablet. I don’t consider one better than the other and won’t be declaring a winner.
When I pre-ordered the Kindle I was already deep into Amazon, I dislike the term fanboy but I’d have a hard time denying it if applied to me. I’ve put a lot of my music in the Amazon Cloud although I rarely play it directly. I bought most of my music through Amazon since the days it was DRM free and iTunes wasn’t. I’ve also found Amazon cheaper or equal s used it over iTunes. I also have a Kindle and numerous Kindle books.
What I really wanted from the Kindle Fire was a better way to view video. I never really like iTunes for Video and long ago stopped using it. I’ve gone without all but basic cable (real basic – just over the air stuff to avoid needing an antennae) so Amazon video has helped filled in the gaps when I really wanted to see a TV show. But Amazon video was only available on my TV and computers.
So I wanted a better way to access Amazon video and also be able to play my own videos. If the Kindle Fire failed at that I’d be disappointed. If it worked well I’d overlook a lot of other faults.
I was also curious about the 7″ form factor. I seemed just big enough to stay easily portable. It should fit in jacket or cargo pants pockets.
As others have mentioned, it was heavier than expected when I first picked it up. While it turned out being easy to hold and use, it took a little while getting used to it. The power button sticks out on the bottom edge and is easy to hit accidentally. Actually, any edge can be the bottom as the picture will flip around, but the initial power on screen is only oriented one way and in that orientation the power button is at the bottom.
The Fire does have a plastic feel, after all, it is plastic. But it does feel solid.(But I have no plans to intentionally drop test it. Other than the poorly designed power button there aren’t any other switches or buttons, everything is in the software.
The speaker is fine. Not great, not poor. I definitely want to use the headphones when the sound quality matters That said, I rarely use headphones and pretty much stick to just the built in speaker since it’s mainly a video player for me (more on that later), It’s loud enough for personal use in a fairly quiet setting, but if would be a little software for a noisy environment. By comparison, both my iPhone and iPad built-in speakers are louder than the Fire’s.
So let’s get to the video. I’m using it regularly and I’ve bought a few more videos than I normally would and I am using the Prime videos more. So I think it’s safe to say I like it. It’s also safe to say Amazon’s strategy to position the Kindle Fire as a gateway drug is working. The screen is fine for personal use. I generally avoid any high-def video (or video labelled high-def) for anything but Blu-ray on my TV, so my expectations were relative to that. I find the 7″ tablet easier to use than the iPad when lying in bed, a couch or sitting in a chair. If I want video propped up on a desk I might pick the bigger iPad but I don’t watch video that way.
The 8GB of memory (about 6.5 GB available) is limiting, but I’ve been able to copy my own video to the device easily and they play without a problem. Copying the video is as easy as hooking the Fire to my computer via USB and dragging the files to the video folder. What is strange is I have to play my own video files through the Gallery app, not under Videos. It’s not a problem, now that I know where to get the files.
The bottom line is the Kindle Fire is a perfect video player for my needs.
Video streaming over my 802.11N network has been problem free. There has been one recently developed anomaly. The initial load has always ben quick and the video starts playing within seconds. There’s a progress bar during this initial load. Recently the video started playing when the status bar was 1/2 way across. The in a couple seconds the video hesitates and skip a second or so. After that or restarting and it’s fine. Local videos don’t have the problem and Amazon Videos streamed to my TV or computer don’t have the problem either.
The Amazon Video app/widget is not well designed on my TV, The videos aren’t in any order (and they seem to re-arrange qt will) and navigating is a click-fst with the remote. TV series aren’t grouped together and the multiple seasons aren’t in order. The Video section on the Fire is better. The videos are in alphabetic order (and TV series ordered by season). Plus the touch interface is easier to navigate so it’s much easier to use. That alone has me using the Fire instead of the TV.
It’s a Kindle so naturally it can handle books. I find it to be an adequate reader but my use of it is limited. I’d put my e-books into two categories – the first is leisure reading, the second is reference books.
For leisure reading I much prefer an e-ink display over the backlit display. I can read for about 45 minutes to an hour without my eyes getting tired. Between the Fire and the iPad there’s no difference from that perspective. I find the Fire easier to hold and read for that length of time. So my preference is the e-ink Kindle. But if I want the backlit display, say reading in bed before going to sleep (without having to worry about another light source), I reach for the Fire instead of the iPad.
For reference books the e-ink falls short since it can’t handle pictures, tables or anything beyond basic formatting very well. And the larger iPad screen is usually better. So since it’s usually propped up on my desk the iPad gets the nod for this use. the nod.
So as a reader – I use it but I could live without it and use the e-Ink Kindle and the iPad. But if I could only pick one device I’d pick the Fire. Seems strange, but it’s a compromise that’s adequate for the two ways I use it.
The Kindle Fire is a terrible magazine reader, at least until they start formatting them for a 7″ tablet. The magazines I sampled weren’t much more than scanned PDFs. They looked good enough, great even, but scrolling, zooming and moving around is a nightmare. If the magazine could be formatted for the screen it would be fine. But on any 7″ screen it’s going to suck.
Comic Book Reader
Because the Comixology Comic Book App includes a guided view to move panel by panel it’s not as bad as regular magazines but the iPad’s larger screen has its benefits. The Fire is serviceable thanks to guided view, but the iPad is a better experience. Like book reading, the Fire is usable for a quick read before going to sleep, but the iPad is the preferred choice.
I already had much of my music in the Amazon Cloud Player and streaming it with the the Fire was fine. I did stream music for a couple hours without any skips, gaps or hesitations. I like iTunes as a music manager and my iPhone is the preferred player. I’m pretty set in my ways for music so I’m not likely to use the Fire for it a lot. I might use it during the few times I need to preserve the iPhone battery. But those cases are probably ones where I’m traveling and won’t have the Fire.
I haven’t used any docs on the device.
It’s an acceptable browser but since I typically have other choices I rarely use it.
I haven’t even set up e-mail. The Kindle Fire isn’t something I’ve yet found comfortable creating content on. The 7″ size makes it hard to position comfortably in a way to type on. It is small enough to thumb type on when in portrait mode, but I can’t do that for vary long and it’s not something I can do beyond a quick note.
Apps I use include Evernote, Audible, IMDB and Plants vs. Zombies (my game of choice over Angry Birds) and they are fine. Amazon doesn’t promote the Fire as an Android tablet and not all Android apps will work on it. The Android Market isn’t available and everything will come from the Amazon App Store (unless I want to side-load). I don’t use the Fire as a full fledged tablet so I don’t have any specific app requirements, so when I say it’s not missing apps I want it’s true, but not a really much of an endorsement.
I like the Kindle Fire an use it daily. If I wasn’t into the Amazon eco-system I wouldn’t be such a fan since I mainly use it to tap into that. The $200 price is certainly a big attraction. But the Fire doesn’t come off as cheap. Yes, it doesn’t have every feature of other more expensive tablets, but what it does have works well and is solid. As others have said, Amazon sells the Kindle about the cost of building it in order to get us to big more. For me it’s actually worked. I’ve found the video experience good enough to get me to buy some videos I probably wouldn’t have otherwise purchased.
The Fire itself isn’t a speed demon but I find the operation smooth for the most part. It is a little rough around the edges, I haven’t figured out if the Kindle Fire is ignoring some of my taps or I’m not tapping in exact the right spot although it really doesn’t matter. There are times when I have to re-tap. It’s not enough to be frustrating, just mildly annoying at times. Since it’s all touch it takes a little care to shift around the smaller tablet without accidental taps. Such as accidental page turns then reading or stopping a video. But I’ve gotten used to it and it’s not a problem anymore.
For books and video I’m already in the Amazon ecosystem so the Kindle Fire is a good fit. With the exception of reference material it’s replaced the iPad completely for Video and reading. For music I use Amazon over iTunes if I’m buying but most of my new music comes from neither place these days and I still prefer local songs for playing so the Fire’s not used much for music.
For Magazines and Comic Books the iPad still rules due to it’s larger screen. The Fire is unusable for Magazines but acceptable for Comic Books (at least with Comixology)
I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at Apps for the Kindle Fire because I just don’t see it as app platform. Maybe games, but I’m not a big gamer and am happy with the one I have, I have Evernote for reference and quick note taking and a few apps for reference. For Apps and Web the Fire is something I might use for a quick check or note, but that’s it.
So in the great iPad vs. Fire debate the choice is it’s an invalid comparison. If you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem the iPad is probably worth the extra cost. If your invested in Amazon content then the Fire is a good choice. If you want something with abilities closer to a traditional computer then the iPad is the choice.
Summing It Up
During the day the iPad is on my desk and in use whether it’s for work or a little leisure activity during a break. After work the Kindle comes out for entertainment. It wasn’t a conscience decision, just how it evolved. I’d have to say I need the iPad more than the Kindle Fire, but considering the price difference that’s what I’d expect. For entertainment the Kindle fire is a fine device.
Any other Kindle Fire experiences – agree/disagree?