Review: Kindle Fire

I picked up a kindle fire as a christmas gift for my daughter. After setting it up and playing around with it (you know, to make sure it works), I thought I’d drop a mini-review.

The Verdict: 

If you want to read books, then just get the Kindle touch instead. It has the E Ink display, a good-enough touch interface, way better battery life, is thinner and lighter, and is only 1/2 the price —but most importantly, it wont piss you off with all the things it should be able to do but doesn’t.

If you want a multi-function entertainment device, then buy a real tablet. It’ll cost a lot more than a Kindle Fire, but you’ll be much happier.

The biggest problem with the Fire is that it actually does “feel” like a tablet… but since it isn’t, you’ll find yourself frustrated by the things it can’t do, rather than enjoying the few things it does do well.

A Bit of Detail:

  • Storage: the limit of 8GB is a problem on a device doing music and movies. It doesn’t have any way to attach external storage either. You’d think that “the cloud” would solve this problem, but it only does so if you don’t stray outside of WiFi coverage areas often.
  • Performance: it doesn’t perform bad at all compared to other Kindles, but it isn’t quite smooth like a real tablet, or even most smartphones. It is sluggish all around. Opening a text file can take 3 to 5 seconds, browsing the web feels more like 3G than WiFi, and it often takes longer than expected to bring up menus and such. I suspect that having only 512MB of memory is a huge part of the problem, and the rest I blame on the OS being a custom fork of an older version of Android. With luck, future OS updates might smooth out some of these issues a little.
  • Apps: The amazon store isn’t too bad, but keep in mind that this thing doesn’t have GPS, compass, camera, microphone, or external storage. A lot of apps and games rely on one or more of those things, so they aren’t viable on the Fire at all. Also, there is no traditional “homescreen”, so you don’t get widgets, gadgets, or smart-tile like features.
  • Bugs & Oversights: This is likely to improve over the next few months, but the initial software does have a LOT of annoyances and bugs. The UI occasionally locks up for a long period of time (minutes even). It frequently doesn’t respond to taps or gestures, or takes a long time to respond. Documents and pictures don’t sync with the Amazon Cloud Drive (which is inexplicably stupid). The Carousel on the home screen is super-annoying; it just shows EVERYTHING you’ve interacted with recently… which will be really embarrassing when you go to show off your new toy, and the top item on the carousel happens to be

Overall, the Kindle is very good at being an Amazon Digital Content delivery device, but it falls WAY short of being a full tablet. Unless you just have a burning need for portable video in addition to books, I’d recommend you get the Kindle Touch and invest what you saved into a new smartphone; or put it towards a real tablet next year.


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