Kindle Fire Review roundup

The Kindle Fire is in reviewers’ hands and a flurry of Kindle Fire reviews are out. There are lots of very interesting opinions flying around and it’ll be fun to do a Kindle Fire review roundup.

Kindle Fire Review Round-up – Top 10 Things

The Price is Right

The shiniest thread running through all the Kindle Fire reviews is the impressive price of $199. That’s the one area Amazon has really delivered in.

MSNBC has an entirely too positive Kindle Fire review, and has one line that stands out -

 The Kindle Fire can handle about 80 percent of what I want to do on an iPad, for 40 percent of the price.

If 80% of what people do on Tablets is email, surfing the web, watching movies, playing casual games, and reading books – Then this isn’t far from the truth.

The Performance isn’t Perfect

A surprisingly large percentage of the Kindle Fire reviews say performance is sometimes sluggish. It’s a surprise given the assumption that Amazon would use its magic software skills to turn the not-very-impressive hardware into a super fast beast.

Kindle Fire is a Store

Engadget points this out very well. Kindle Fire is basically a very tight integration of Amazon’s digital offerings into a Tablet. It’s a mini Amazon store.

Kindle Fire seems to be very easy to use

While very few Kindle Fire reviews address this directly (since they seem to miss the fact that users care a lot about ease of use), the overall picture that is emerging is that Kindle Fire will be very easy to use.

You have your carousel of everything you opened or read or watched or played with. You have your shelves where you can stack up your favorites. You have your shelves of Amazon purchases. It’s all quite well laid out and simple.

Kindle Fire Reviews miss the core uses of Tablets

It would be really cool if one or more Kindle Reviews listed the 10 uses cases that make up 90% of Tablet usage i.e.

  1. Surfing the Web
  2. Email
  3. Watching Movies
  4. Playing casual games.
  5. Reading Books
  6. Watching TV Shows
  7. Checking Facebook
  8. Reading Magazines and Newspapers
  9. Photo Frames and Photos.
  10. Shopping and Searching.

And discussed those. Rather than talking about how Kindle Fire’s battery life is 5% less than this $399 Tablet’s and 20% less than that $499 Tablet’s.

That really is what is missing. Just tell us whether it does these core things. And how well it does these core things.

The one review that comes closest to doing that is Andy Ihnatko’s Kindle Fire Review. It’s probably the best Kindle Fire review.

Kindle Fire Reviewers keep comparing the $199 Kindle Fire to $400 and $500 Tablets

It’s a bit strange.

Here’s the list of devices Kindle Fire reviewers keep comparing the Kindle Fire to – iPad, Galaxy Tab, Playbook, iPad 2, Motorola Xoom.

What do all those devices have in common? They are all 2 to 2.5 times more expensive than the Kindle Fire.

For some strange reason, most Kindle Fire reviewers don’t know about Nook Color or don’t want to do that comparison. It’s painful that they wouldn’t do the most obvious comparison. Engadget goes to the extreme of comparing Kindle Fire with the T-Mobile Springboard from Huawei.

A lot of hating of 7″ screens going on

Percentage of reviewers who claim that many Tablet functions are useless on a 7″ screen: Approximately 50%.

Percentage of reviewers who point out the weight and portability benefits of a 7″ screen: Approximately Zero.

Found it amusing that people keep claiming that surfing the web, reading magazines, and several other ‘Tablet functions’ are useless on a 7″ screen.

Browsing the web, playing games (casual ones), writing email, etc. are all perfectly fine on a 7″ screen. Of course, I only have a year’s experience with a 7″ Tablet so the 4-day experience of these Kindle Fire reviewers is far more meaningful.

The one area the smaller screen will be an issue is magazines and newspapers.

The advantages no one seems to be mentioning – easier to hold, easier to carry, you can hold it with one hand, itweighs less. 7″ Tablets have a lot going for them and are far more ‘mobile’ than 10″ Tablets.

Silk is good but not as good as expected

Amazon’s Silk browser was supposed to make browsing really fast. It turns out it’s more of a case of Silk making browsing decently fast and compensating for the limited amount of RAM.

Where reviewers ran into trouble was interacting with the pages – things were sluggish and awkward. Amazon really shouldn’t have promised a lot with Silk. It made it seem Silk was Moore’s Law in action and the unfulfilled dream of the Network Computer finally fulfilled. Apparently, it’s neither.

The Dichotomy – People either think Kindle Fire is amazing or disappointing

It’s quite inexplicable.

  1. You have Gizmodo saying – The iPad finally has serious competition.
  2. You have Wired giving Kindle Fire 5 out of 10.
  3. Who’s right?

There’s a rather sharp dichotomy of Kindle Fire reviews – some absolutely adore the Kindle Fire while others treat the Kindle Fire like the Prada-wearing Devil treats her interns.

How could the same Fire Tablet result in such vastly different reviews?

Amazon needs to beef up the App Store

Not going with the standard Android Market is a problem since it limits apps to what Amazon can get approved and fine-tuned for Kindle Fire.

We are talking about a few thousand apps compared to the iPad’s 50,000 or 100,000 Apps.

Tablets are currently toys but Kindle Fire reviews are pretending otherwise

It’s quite funny to hear lots of people claim the iPad is a full-fledged computer and a productivity machine and replaces a laptop.

Really?

Apparently, the only people who disagree are the ones buying Tablets.

We have a situation where most people are buying Tablets and using them to surf the web and watch movies and check email. Kindle Fire does all of these well (at least it seems that way from the Kindle Fire reviews and videos). However, it’s being dragged across the coals because it’s not ‘a laptop replacement like the iPad’.

The $200 Toy isn’t as productivity-enhancing or computer-like as the $500 Toy. How tragic.

Kindle Fire Review Roundup – Pros and Cons

Pros of the Kindle Fire

  1. Great $199 Price.
  2. Covers 80% of what the $500 Tablets do.
  3. 1024 by 600 IPS LCD screen.
  4. 1 GHz dual-core processor.
  5. 2.4 GHz WiFi works well.
  6. Gorilla Glass display.
  7. 169 dpi is pretty good density.
  8. It has a backlight and will be great in bed (despite its boring looks).
  9. Pretty good battery life. 7 hours and 42 minutes of playing video according to Engadget.
  10. Decent Email App.
  11. Amazon’s Customer Service. None of the Kindle Fire Reviews mention this.
  12. Amazon’s Infrastructure.
  13. Link to the Amazon Store. Of course, there is the accompanying risk of your spending increasing.
  14. Great if you’re already a Prime subscriber.

There are quite a few other benefits. Do read the Kindle Fire reviews.

Cons of the Kindle Fire

  1. Only 512 MB of RAM. Software tweaks and enhancements apparently don’t compensate for this.
  2. The design is painfully unimaginative.
  3. No physical buttons at all – no Home button, no volume buttons. This is madness. No, this is Sparta!
  4. 8 GB memory is rather low.
  5. You don’t get any default editing software for Excel and Powerpoint. OMG It’s not a productivity machine. Burn it at the Stake.
  6. Speakers aren’t very good. Audio even with headphones is lacking.
  7. No HDMI output for playing movies through a TV.
  8. No ambient light sensor. Which is such an important feature to have since using our own eyes to see how much ‘ambient’ light there is might be too stressful.
  9. No 3G.
  10. Can’t read it in sunshine as it’s not eInk. Amazon will have to pull its reading on the beach and by the pool advertisements. What will the snarky lady do now?
  11. Few customization options. Amazon has strangely ruled out all Wallpaper Apps and taken away one of Android’s big pluses over iPhone. Perhaps it will allow custom screensavers instead of showing us members of The Dead Poet’s Society.
  12. 7″ display is a bit small for magazines.
  13. No micro-USB data cable included.

There are also some other negatives. The Kindle Fire reviews cover some of the ones I’ve missed.

Kindle Fire Review Round-up – 3 Biggest Surprises

1) Silk is not silky smooth. Silk either failed or it only managed to compensate for the lower amount of RAM.

2) Amazon’s User Interface and Kindle Fire’s performance isn’t super fast (as had seemed earlier).

3) The Amount of Tablet you get for $200.

I think people still don’t fully realize that you are getting 80% of what the $500 tablets deliver – in terms of usability and utility. Kindle Fire is not going to be as fast, or have as many technical terms to adorn itself with – However, it will deliver 80% of the features of $400 to $500 Tablets at 40% to 50% of the price. Which makes it a winner no matter how you look at it.

Kindle Fire Review roundup – The 3 Best Kindle Fire Reviews

I really wish Amazon had given units to people like Mike Cane and Nate at The Digital Reader. People who could step out of the ‘Let’s compare this $200 Tablet with $500 tablets’ miasma and give a really smart review.

Here are 3 Kindle Fire Reviews that were quite good.

Andy Ihnatko Strikes Gold

The Kindle Fire Review in the Chicago Sun-Times is great.

It starts with the title -

Kindle Fire is no iPad killer – but it is a killer device.

It continues by nailing what most reviewers are missing -

Take an iPad, solve its two biggest problems, and you’d hope to wind up with something exactly like Amazon’s Kindle Fire. The iPad has a 10-inch screen and costs a minimum of $499.

Instead of ignoring the price difference ($499 and $299) and pretending that the 10″ screen has no disadvantages, Andy Ihnatko writes a forthright review.

The review seems to be a bit too positive at times. It glosses over some points of concern (Is Silk actually faster? Does the hardware measure up in performance?). However, the big thing it gets right is that it talks about what the Kindle Fire is, and not what tech journalists want it to be.

It’s just crazy to compare a $200 Tablet with a $500 one and the only reviewer who seems to realize that is Andy Ihnatko. He throws in a bonus – Kindle Fire is a big threat to iPod Touch sales.

The Second Best Kindle Fire Review – The Verge

While the review is quite harsh, it’s the second best Kindle Fire review on the basis of the thorough coverage. There is also a nice, systematic breakdown. The Verge gives the Kindle Fire (my thoughts in italics) -

  1. Design – 6 out of 10. Have to agree – it’s so box-shaped, cardboard boxes are getting jealous.
  2. Display – 7 out of 10. That’s really unfair. It’s an IPS display with 169 dpi and Gorilla Glass. What more do you expect out of a $200 Tablet? I’ll wait to see the Nook Tablet’s Vivid View display and the Kindle Fire’s display side by side before discussing this further.
  3. Speakers – 7 out of 10. Based on the reviews this seems fair to generous.
  4. Performance – 8 out of 10. This seems fair.
  5. Software – 8 out of 10. This seems fair too.
  6. Battery Life – 9 out of 10. This seems generous.
  7. Ecosystem – 7 out of 10. Not sure about this.

It’s a little crazy that The Verge doesn’t cover Price, Value for Money, Customer Service, Cloud Infrastructure and all the other Amazon strengths. How short-sighted.

Overall, the verdict from The Verge is – There’s no question that Kindle Fire is a really terrific tablet for its price.

Engadget’s Glowing Kindle Fire Review

Engadget’s Review of the Kindle Fire is a bit too forgiving at times. In fact, there are times when it’s practically fawning -

what Amazon has delivered is a device that is intimately familiar yet mysterious

This thing feels incredibly solid, as if Amazon simply put a chisel to a big piece of slate, gave it a good whack and then put the resulting slab into a Frustration-Free box

Unfortunately, it looks like a slab too.

What saves this Kindle Fire review is that Engadget points out both the weaknesses and flaws. It’s a good overview of Kindle Fire’s strengths and weaknesses plus there are 2 well-done Kindle Fire review videos thrown in. Here’s part of Engadget’s summary -

The Kindle Fire is quite an achievement at $200.

When stacked up against other popular tablets, the Fire can’t compete … Other, bigger tablets do it better — usually at two or three times the cost.

Kindle Fire Review Roundup – Summary

It seems that Amazon has managed to exceed and miss expectations at the same time.

Kindle Fire at $199 is way more Tablet for the money than anyone expected. Amazon has certainly delivered on price and value for money.

Amazon’s talk of nattily-dressed UI and elegant software optimizations and strong, muscular 1 GHz dual-core processors and Silky Smooth Browsers had everyone excited (especially romance novel lovers). However, it seems all these embellishments only manage to compensate for the cost-cutting Amazon has done.

We were, perhaps wrongly, hoping for a miracle – a $200 Tablet that is neck to neck with the $500 iPad. Surprise of surprises – it isn’t. Kindle Fire is just a really good $199 Tablet that delivers 80% of what a high-end Tablet would.

The Kindle Fire is about to upend the Tablet Market. Just not in the way we thought it would.

24 Responses

  1. But does the Amazon android app store permit you to download a Nook app for multimarket reading like the iPad or non dedicated reader platforms?

    • Probably not. There are some claims that an ePub reading app is available but I seriously doubt Amazon will let it stay and it’s even unlikelier that it will allow B&N and Kobo to release their apps on Kindle Fire.

  2. Does the Kindle Fire use the Kindle for Android app? Or something better?

    Kindle for iOS doesn’t recognize side-loaded personal books.

    Hoping the Kindle Fire is compatible with Calibre for side-loading personal documents.

    • It seems to be using a variant of Kindle for Android. It’s highly unlikely it will be compatible with Calibre but you never know.

    • Your question made me curious and I went looking. I’ve been reading the Kindle Fire Users’ Guide which can be found at http://kindle.s3.amazonaws.com/Kindle_Fire_Users_Guide.pdf

      In terms of personal documents, it works the same as Kindle Keyboard. I have downloaded hundreds of books from Project Gutenberg and saved them in text format. To get them on my Kindle (still in text format), I plug it into the computer with the USB cable. I open the drive that represents the Kindle. Open the documents folder and drop in any files that I want to read on the Kindle. If by accident you add a file not supported by the Kindle, it doesn’t mess anything up. It just doesn’t show up on the Home Screen.

      The procedure is the same for the Kindle Fire only you can add Music and Pictures the same way. The files do not need to be converted to Kindle format and they don’t have to be e-mailed to your kindle. As long as the format is one the Kindle Fire can handle, drag and drop works fine.

  3. i dont know about the ipad as i dont own one… but i can say my asus transformer with the keyboard dock absolutely replaces a laptop. the only thing i use it for is work (i keep my 7″ galaxy tab around for play) and it does 100% of everything i need it to, up to and including making presentations by hooking it to the conference room projector with the hdmi output… and the absurd battery life (i plug it in once a week on average) is far better than ive ever gotten out of any laptop or netbook.

    • Pleased to read this. I was on the fence about another portable (I have an NC), and I looked at this one yesterday. It seemed the best of all worlds. I hate lugging a behemoth 17″ laptop from room to room, floor to floor, so it looks like this Android based rock star wins!!

    • Very interesting. I need to get my hands on one of these. I keep hearing a lot of good things about the Transformer. That seems feasible – a Tablet with a keyboard dock replacing the laptop.

  4. “The Kindle Fire is about to upend the Tablet Market. Just not in the way we thought it would.”

    I’m not clear on what you mean by this. Since it was announced, people, including, IIRC, you, have been saying what reviewers are saying now: the “Kindle Fire is just a really good $199 Tablet that delivers 80% of what a high-end Tablet would.” The value equation is what would upend the tablet market.

    What has changed? Certainly not that the Fire’s design is pedestrian — we knew what it looked like when it was announced. Not the specs. Ditto. Not what Amazon’s intentions were. They were clear from the start, at least to those who realized that Amazon and Apple have two very different business models, which I definitely recall you explaining.

    So who is the “we” and what has changed?

    • We = everyone.

      I think people still don’t realize the full ramifications of this.

      Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet and other good, low priced tablets are going to cement Tablets as what they really are – surfing and entertainment toys.
      The grand notion that iPad is ushering in some era where everyone starts working from Tablets will be revealed for what it is – a misconception.

      ***********
      Three things Kindle Tablet and Nook tablet will do –

      1) Start the beginning of what people will recognize is the end of Apple’s Reality distortion field.
      2) End the misconception that Tablets are post-PC devices or the future of personal computing.
      3) Show that Tablets really are toys and that people are buying them for things like surfing and watching movies. That there is no ‘killer app’ which is going to turn iPad into the modern computer.

      • Oh. Now I understand and I completely agree. I’m bemused by how comments on the various reviews and some of the reviews themselves focus on Android aspect and bemoan the fact that you can’t use the Android App Market or can’t run some modified OS. This misses the point of the Fire and the Nook Color: you don’t do work on them, you consume stuff on them. That being the case, the OS and even most of the apps are besides-the-point. As long as I have Netflix, Amazon Prime videos and some magazines, I’m cool.

        One qualifier: my doctor uses an iPad as a kind of data entry device. He updates his records on it. I can see where this would a productive use for a tablet. But writing 2000 words on a tablet instead of a desktop or a laptop? Are you kidding me?

  5. I stopped in Staples today to take a quick look at a few tablets. They say the Kindle Fire will be on the floor tomorrow but what really caught my attention and may change my purchase decision is they (Staples) are offering the Nook Color for $199.00.

    • Stephanie, Nook Color is really good. Well worth considering. I’ve owned one for a year and it’s very impressive. It’s also easy to root if you want to get Android Apps on it.

  6. “Found it amusing that people keep claiming that surfing the web, reading magazines, and several other ‘Tablet functions’ are useless on a 7″ screen.”

    I’m wondering if those people have iPhone and don’t find anything ironical with their opinions.

    • Actually Arthur, I removed that exact line from my article to cut down on Apple bashing.

      These are the EXACT same people who claimed that iPhone is better for reading than Kindle because screen size doesn’t matter.
      They are also the EXACT same people who claimed that you can never compare an iPad with a notebook because they are ‘different devices’.

      However, they insist on comparing a $200 Tablet with $500 Tablets and keep pretending Nook Color and Nook tablet and Kobo Vox don’t exist.

  7. I’ve read several reviews and they’ve basically confirmed my belief that this is a rough 1st generation device that was rushed to market to give Amazon some cover from the Nook Color & Nook Tablet. I’m sure in a year or so Amazon will release a Fire II (or even Fire III) that will address all of the shortcomings of the current model and truly set the standard for reasonably priced Android tablets. Until then, I’m not spending $200 to participate in a beta test.

  8. Received a mid-priced iPad as a gift last Christmas. Played with it for a few days. Totally unimpressed, returned it and went back to my MacBook Pro. Carrying Pros are good exercise. ipad’s are so far from working as well as a Pro that it was an expensive toy. When HP decided to leave the market due to weak sales at a price point near iPad’s, I swooped in and bought for $149. Received the HP last week. The HP pad seems to work better than the iPad. I can see using the HP when the Pro is too much. It would appear Android operating system works better than iPad’s.

    • Patrick, I feel the same way about Android being better than iPhone if you’re looking for something other than an entertainment device. iPad is portrayed as a blank slate that morphs into whatever you want it to be. However, most of the apps are geared at entertainment and I think at some level Apple had the ‘Macs for work, iDevices for play’ mindset and it manifested in the devices.

  9. There is one thing that could change tablets from toy status, and that’s more of a software issue than a hardware issue. When tablets support Office Live and/or Google Docs for document creation and editing, they have just become incredibly useful, especially if they also support bluetooth keyboards. I know that if I could use Microsoft One Note on the cloud for my class notes, I’d be buying a cheap tablet the next day. The reason I bring a laptop to class is for One Note, not to browse the web, read my email, or catch up on Facebook.

    Ok, being able to do it with a stylus would be even better; that’s what I do at work with my HP hybrid.

  10. I’ve been playing with my Kindle Fire for a couple of hours, and it will likely go back to Amazon. I will preface this with a disclaimer that I’m an iPad user, but I was excited about the Fire, pre-ordered it on day one, and was very happy when UPS rolled up this morning.

    But for me it would be nothing more than an “entertainment” device. Having been a smartphone user for over 10 years, “two-handed thumb typing” is totally natural to me, but uncomfortable on the Fire, because the Fire is too wide in portrait mode to make this work well. In landscape mode, it’s too narrow to “touch type”. I’ve done many typing tests on my iPad (with the soft keyboard – I have never had a keyboard for a tablet!), and I can routinely type between 45-60 WPM on my iPad’s soft keyboad, depending on content. I can only single finger peck on the Fire.

    So, yes, I could watch videos, listen to music, read books, maybe do some browsing of the web. If I were looking for an eBook reader with “extras”, then maybe this would work for me. I even need TouchDown (which costs money after 30 days) to get to my corporate email, calendar and contacts. I’m not “feeling” it yet, and that bothers me because I SO wanted to like this device.

  11. [...] Engadget, Andy Ihnatko, and Bufo Calvin. Also, don’t miss well-done summaries of reviews by Abhi and Andrys [...]

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