14
Nov
Kindle-Fire

The Kindle Fire is just about ready to launch, and not since the launch of the Motorola XOOM has an Android tablet been so hotly anticipated. With a little help from the mainstream media, consequent consumer excitement, and - last but certainly not least - Amazon's front page (all things manufacturers like ASUS could only dream of), it has skyrocketed to the top of many tech enthusiasts' holiday shopping lists. And at $199, it won't break the bank, either; the only thing that could possibly hold it back now would be, well, an underwhelming user experience. So has Amazon ironed out the kinks? Let's take a look at four reviews to gauge the Fire's chances.

Gizmodo

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In an appropriately melodramatic introduction to his review, Gizmodo editor Sam Biddle advised Apple to "be afraid." The infamously Apple-oriented tech blog was surprisingly upbeat about the Kindle Fire, venturing to say its simple, intuitive UI "works perfectly" (unlike Apple's "dodgy attempts"), its multimedia capabilities are "all tremendous, easy fun," and its overall experience will make you "feel a little powerful ... in a consumer couch potato kind of way."

Of course the review wasn't void of complaints: Sam came across the occasional lag, and the lack of a home button was annoying as well. Overall, he deemed it a great tablet for its price (and the best Android slate to date), though not quite as powerful or capable as the iPad.

Read the full review

The Verge

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Joshua Topolsky of The Verge (formerly This is my Next) concurred with Sam on the whole, though he seemed to take far more of an issue with the tablet's aesthetics. By all appearances, Amazon used RIM's BlackBerry Playbook as the reference design for the Fire, which in JT's view "isn't necessarily bad," just "incredibly unoriginal." Still, the Fire's size and shape are next to ideal, so there's that.

The hardware (including the 8hr. battery) was mostly fine; however, while the screen was decent enough for most media, it seemed to have scrolling issues that were in all likelihood largely due to software glitches. That said, the vast majority of the Fire's software experience was said to be fine - with the exception of the odd unregistered tap, it was responsive enough, and the UI was great. The device also ships with several Amazon-specific apps, including an email client, a book-reading program, playback options for music and video, and the super-cool Whispersync - a method of remembering where you left off in a book, movie, etc., regardless of which device you last viewed it on. Really, the only major software downside he found was the browser, which has certain "bright spots" (i.e. tabs), but overall provides an underwhelming experience.

All in all, Josh found the Fire a "really terrific tablet for its price," but was disappointed by the bugginess of its software and the Amazon Appstore's limited catalogue (no, the Market isn't available).

Read the full review

CNET

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CNET's senior tablet editor, Donald Bell, gave Amazon credit "for seeing something that no other manufacturer--not even Apple--was able to grasp": that consumers "just want to be entertained." And while he agreed with the previous reviewers that the Fire isn't quite as powerful a tablet as the iPad, he thought its media capabilities (specifically its options for e-book, video, and music browsing) were stellar, and the corners Amazon had to cut in order to keep the Fire's price at a low, low $199 were shaved with "scalpel instead of a chainsaw."

Namely, there's no GPS, no maps, no Bluetooth support, no cameras, no microphone, no chat client, no calendar, and no SD card slot. But it is precisely these omissions that allow for a seamless, hassle-free user experience the likes of which no other tablet can boast. In fact, the only missing item of note was Amazon's Cloud Drive app, though it isn't all that surprising given the Fire's focus on content consumption as opposed to content creation.

Donald came to the conclusion that at its price point, the Kindle Fire is the best gadget in town. Of course, the iPad is more capable, and even the 3.5-inch iPod touch technically has more features; but neither of those devices are veritable competitors to the Fire - this is another class of device altogether.

Read the full review

Wired

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After a string of mostly positive reviews, Jon Phillips' Wired article dropped. And with a title like "Is this really the tablet everyone's talking about?", there's no question that his review is a bit, shall we say, different from the rest.

In his intro he states that the first 5 minutes or so of using the Fire are filled with joy - but those 5 minutes are regrettably short, and afterwards, the user is shown the true face of Amazon's so-called iPad competitor. For one thing, Jon found the 7-inch screen far too small for many "key tablet activities"; for another, its hardware is undeniably outdated. But the biggest issue is the slate's book- and newspaper-reading options, both of which are hindered by the screen: it's too glossy for the former and has the wrong aspect ratio for the latter. The Fire's saving grace is its video playback and video store (for a sample, look at Amazon's website).

As for the device's app selection, it's limited to the still-nascent Amazon Appstore, though most apps work very well. The hardware, meanwhile, is passable but nothing exceptional, leading Jon to conclude that while it's "a great platform for casual video playback" and "a perfectly fine Android 2.3 app device," it's ultimately not worth it. Jon's advice? "Wait for the Kindle Fire 2," or "consider an iPad."

Read the full review

Conclusion

With the exception of Wired's review, the overall verdict on the Kindle Fire seems to be this: though Amazon's offering may not pack the most features or horsepower of any tablet on the market, it's still a great option, if only because of its affordable $199 price point.

Its media capabilities (e-books, videos, and newspapers/magazines) are almost certainly up to the task, and its UI, though hardly perfect, isn't half bad.

Really, the Kindle Fire's only veritable hindrance appears to be its lackluster (if fast) Silk browser and the remaining bugs in its OS.

Only time will tell if Amazon will commit to fixing those bugs and improving on what just might be the best for the buck Android tablet to date.

Jaroslav Stekl
Jaroslav Stekl is a tech enthusiast whose favorite gadgets almost always happen to be the latest Android devices. When he's not writing for Android Police, he's probably hiking, camping, or canoeing. He is also an aspiring coffee aficionado and an avid moviegoer.

  • Jacques

    Amazon will improve its modified Android, for sure. But I don't think I'll ever buy one of these. One of the main reasons I am an Android user instead of an iOS user is because it is open. Amazon has created a walled garden, and I refuse to be hemmed in by it. I was initially excited about the Fire, but I cancelled my pre-order after even the positive reviews demonstrated just how locked down it really is. I'll spend a few more bucks on something more powerful once ICS tablets start being released.

  • http://zelrick.com Zelrick`
  • ins0mn1a

    So we have a device with mediocre hardware specs and software that enables you to do only one thing: consume (& purchase) content from Amazon. Given the sum of parts inside, it's true that it's cheap, but for the functionality that you get, it seems rather expensive to me.
    On the bright side, I expect Fire to make the tablet idea more mainstream (so things get better and cheaper), and provide some healthy competitive boost to real Android tablets. So looking at the big picture it might not be such a bad development, but I am quite amazed that this thing is even being considered a tablet. Tablet somehow implies "tablet computer" and Fire is not really a computer, it's more like a small portable TV with a few extras. Boring.

  • Get@me42

    The HP Touchpad takes a dump on the Kindle Fire. Especially with the Android Port and soon to be Ice Cream Sandwhich port already in the works. Oh and yes the amazon appstore Does work on the android port of the touchpad. I got a 32 GB tablet for $50 less than the selling price of the kindle fire. More storage, more features, bigger screen to read books and to watch movies on sums up why the HP Touchpad is still the best tablet for it's low price of $150.

    • Freak4Dell

      If the TouchPad was available every day for that price, your point would be valid. It's not, though.

    • kd

      Yes, kind of a pointless rant since the TouchPad only sold at that price for a one time liquidation fire sale which lasted all of 2 or 3 days before they were sold out.

      If I picked up a formerly stolen Ferrari for $500 at a police auction I guess according to your logic I should start telling the world to go buy $500 Ferraris. Too bad they don't actually sell at that price in the 'real world'.

  • Tee

    Where is the cheap and stable tablet? Speed wouldn't hurt either... Runninng on Android, of course.

  • mrw

    I've been using a rooted, overclocked Nook Color running CM7 for the better part of the year with access to Kindle books, B&N books, NetFlix, Hulu, YouTube, Android Market, Google apps, Dropbox, a bluetooth keyboard, etc. etc. Ok, I paid an early adopter premium of $50 for the NC (compared to the $200 Kindle Fire), but tell me why on earth I should be excited about this. About 9 months too late for me.

  • Dan

    With an unlocked boot loader imagine what ICS will run like on this thing, its not really mediocre hardware, isnt it a d-core TI OMAP 4 like th SGN?

    Technically with the hardware accelleration that ICS provides it should fix the slight lag that almost all reviews mentioned.

    Maybe I misunderstand the facts...

  • ins0mn1a

    It does use TI OMAP4, though a version older than SGN. But that's not the point, the reason I think hardware is mediocre is 8GB of flash storage, 512MB of memory, no GPS, no cellular data, no SD card slot, no camera, no bluetooth. And note that all these complaints are comparing it to a mid-level tablet (with a possible exception of cellular data, that one is still a rare animal). I am not even mentioning pen input, USB ports, higher-resolution display, HD output or other stuff currently considered high end. OK, i *am* mentioning them now, but just to illustrate the difference between mid-level and high-end. And Fire falls way short even of mid-level. So "mediocre" is actually a compliment.

    My first thought when I learned about Fire was exactly what you are saying: this will be great once we have custom roms, but after going through the details I realized I would definitely spend $50-100 more on something with more potential. But hey, that's just me ;).

    • shasha

      I agree with you one hundred per cent

    • kd

      Nook Tablet is the way to go. $249, 1 Ghz dual core OMAP4, 1gb/16gb ram, better screen, microsdcard slot. That memory bump from the Kindle Fire makes all the difference in the world in real world use.

  • caliber

    This is a really great feature! I love the review round-up.

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