Kindle Fire – Review

I’m lucky enough to have gotten a Kindle Fire right off the bat. Here’s a few initial thoughts:

1. This is not replacement or even legit competitor to the iPad or other Android tablets (Samsung Galaxy, Toshiba Thrive, Motorola Xoom, etc). I really like that when I ordered it, the settings were input into the device, so it was automatically tied to my Amazon account. This meant that it instantly populated the Kindle Fire with books I had checked out for Kindle! However, this “convenience” makes gift giving for the Fire a bit strange, however.

2. This is purely a media delivery device for Amazon. The clear and obvious intention in the device is to push users to buy an Amazon Prime account, and purchase items solely from Amazon. It’s a consumption device, sold and marketed at a loss in the same way that HP or Xerox sell printers: the printers are relatively cheap because they charge exorbiant amounts for the print cartridges and other printer consumables to make up the difference on the back end.

2a. How do I know this? Well, consider the following: the Amazon App store does NOT include the Overdrive app. Overdrive is an extremely popular choice for Public Libraries to provide ebooks, audiobooks, etc to patrons. It’s not included because Amazon wants the average Fire owner to purchase a Prime account and use the Amazon Lending Library instead of your Public library.
2b. Never fear! The Fire has a very decent web browser, which can properly load your local library’s webpage, and then their portal to Overdrive… you can select Kindle titles and directly deliver them to your new Kindle Fire.

3. Now, on the the device itself… the form factor is excellent. 7″ screen, VERY BRIGHT and VERY READABLE. I like this screen almost as much as my Toshiba Thrive (10.5″).

4. The weight is acceptable. It fits in my back pocket (although I wouldn’t want to sit on it). It’s comfortable to hold, and feels very sturdy. The power button location may be a mistake: it’s on the bottom. The only mechanical button on the unit, and it’s in a location where accidental use is not just possible, but likely.

5. Noticing the wifi antenna in the Fire may be a bit weak. In a location where my Thrive and Blackberry Bold both show strong Wifi signal, the Fire shows a very low, weak signal. On this subject… some people may purchase this without realizing it REQUIRES a wifi connection. So if you do not have a wifi connection at home, work, or wherever your primary use of this device is… you may need to arrange the installation of wifi.

6. The Amazon App store requires you set up a one-click choice for your account. The Amazon app store is simple enough to use, and works essentially the same way as the Android market. I was able to install and run Netflix without much issue once I applied One-Click settings to my account.

7. No extra media support. There are no media card ports, no USB ports, no obvious means to connect to your desktop or laptop computer. Your only connection with the Kindle Fire is intended to be with Amazon.

8. Oddity: the touch screen is oddly numb compared to an iPad or most other touchscreen devices. It’s like it requires you to “lag” your normal usage behavior from other devices. You have to touch, count to 0.75 or 1 and then release to actually click and use a button. This may confuse many people who are used to touchscreen devices, and certainly confuses an iPad user.

9. The Kindle Fire is clearly designed and intended as a n00b device. Anyone wanting more advanced features and hackability… is not likely to be happy with the Kindle Fire.

In summary: The Kindle Fire is an Amazon centric media consumption device with an excellent form factor, and some small issues, but otherwise is a well executed “pseudo tablet” and an excellent ereader.

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