Monday, December 19, 2011

Kindle Fire Review


I was disappointed when the iPad 2 came out and it was no smaller than the previous version. I had heard rumors that it would be downsized, which would have been great for me as I had owned an iPad and thought it was too big. I am not an Apple-hater, or anything of the sort; I have an iPhone and think it is the best thing since canned beer.

So I was stoked when they announced the Kindle Fire, a tablet from Amazon. The size was just what I was looking for, about 8 inches by 5 inches. It was going to be Wi-Fi only, but would use the Android operating system so it already had a huge base of applications to work with. It sounded like a winner (at a reasonable price too) so I pre-ordered one.

It showed up a few days earlier than expected, and the packaging was very simple and did not seem wasteful. It is small (as expected), but a little bigger, thicker and heavier than my wife’s conventional Kindle. The heft gives an initial impression of quality, and feels nice with a non-slip rubberized back. These come with Gorilla Glass over the screen, which I have had good luck with in the past, as it is clear and resistant to scratching.

There is not much else going on with the exterior, just an ON/OFF switch, an 1/8-inch headphone jack and a micro USB port. All charging and data transfer is done through this port. A micro USB cable and AC adapter are included.

It has 8GB of internal storage which would be enough for approximately 800 songs, 8 movies, or 6,000 books. It would be, but there is really only 6.5GB of storage available as the operating system takes some room. This is not very much space, but Amazon tries to make up for it by including 5GB of cloud storage for free. I am too old-fashioned and have not embraced the cloud yet.

I guess the idea is that you can store your media on Amazon’s cloud, and then access them on your Fire, (or any other device) whenever you please. It is easy enough to transfer files to the Kindle, as long as you have Wi-Fi access, or a computer to plug into. By the way, if you buy songs or videos from Amazon, they are stored for free.

Anyway, I plugged it in and it fired right up (heh). It guided me through a quick set-up and it was a breeze to connect to my home’s wireless network. As I said, it uses the Android operating system, so it looked very familiar as I used to have a droid phone.

I was a little wowed by the screen, as it has great resolution. It looks just as nice as the one on my wife’s iPad. The funny thing is that is not optimal for reading books. The E-ink display on my wife’s Kindle is easier on the eyes, although it is nice to be able to use the Fire without having a light on.

With the small screen, magazines are not very fun to read unless you are looking at a Fire-optimized app. However, I found that newspapers come out ok and comic books are fun to look at. You can tap on the individual comic frames and they zoom out to fill the screen.

The web browser works fine, and actually is light-years faster than the one on my old droid phone. I guess the Wi-Fi connection makes a difference. I am not used to the way the favorites work, as I am too used to my iPhone now.

Videos play well too. I accessed them through Hulu and YouTube with no problems, and also streamed a number of shows and movies from Amazon Prime. They loaded quickly (within a few seconds), and were easy to control. The lack of external volume control switches is a pain the butt, though.

Music is the one thing I cannot get behind with the Kindle Fire. I am too stuck in the Apple way of life and I have embraced the iTunes lifestyle. I do like the idea that any music that is downloaded from Amazon is Digital Rights Management (DRM)-free, which means you can put them on whatever device you want to. You got your hook into me a few years too late, Amazon.

I have heard that Amazon loses money on the Fire by selling it so cheap. And that they hope to make up the difference with folks using it as the ultimate shopping device. It is SUPER easy to buy stuff from Amazon with this thing with one-click shopping, so they might be onto something here.

Amazon also includes a free month of Amazon Prime membership. This provides fee 2-day shipping on many items, as well as thousands of T.V. shows and movies that you can stream for free. I was impressed, and if I was more into movies and television I would be sorely tempted to plunk down $79 a year for it.

Some common complaints I have seen online are that the Fire does not have a camera, its storage capacity is too small, and that the power switch is in the wrong place because it will turn the unit off if you rest it on something.

The power switch location has not been a big deal, because I am smart enough to turn it upside down so the Kindle doesn’t rest on the switch. I do not miss the camera feature, as I have one in my phone. By the way, have you ever seen somebody use the iPad to take pictures? That is a yuck-fest. But, the lack of storage is a tough one, so I have to tell myself that for the price it is still a good deal.

And I think the Kindle Fire is worth the money. It does everything I expected it to, and there have been no problems with it. You can buy the Kindle Fire all day long on for $199 with free shipping. This is a lot cheaper than the entry-level iPad, which comes in at $499.


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