The Kindle Fire is a great second tablet

My friend Jeffry sent me a Kindle Fire last week. He’s awesome! You should check out his Flex components if you’re a flex/AIR developer looking for some awesome turn key components. Ok that said, he sent me a kindle Fire.

I’ve been a Kindle owner since the K2 came out, and I paid almost $400 for it. I dropped it one morning and busted the screen, and bought a K3 for 1/3 the price of my K2, and I love it. It’s light, easy to use and great at the one thing it does, display words on a readable screen.

Enter the Kindle Fire.

I’ve been using the Fire since I got it, and like it, mostly. We’ve drafted it into service at Uncubed as a digital lending library, loading up PragProg books and the Magazine on it for any member that wants to check it out.

But I’ve been using it as well for various things.

 

 

Reading.

I’m very much anti reading on backlit screens. I’ve tried it on the iPad and end up staring at my eyeballs and falling asleep. Same with my Xoom, even when both had screen covers to make them less mirror-like. I tried on my iPhone, nope, same issue.

The screen on the Fire is definitely shiny but the default look of the Book reading app is a pinkish tinted background with black text (I dunno if it’s me, but the text seems to change color randomly in places, which helps focus my eyes). That color/contrast actually is quite readable. I’ve been using the Fire to read at night or at my desk. Both use cases work great.

The page turning is a bit sensitive, I’ve accidentally changed pages a few times, the lightest touch in the wrong place and it’s a new page. That’s something you get used to though.

Where it doesn’t work is the gym. The Fire is heavy. I don’t know if there’s lead shot in there somewhere or what, but it weighs A LOT. so the gym is out, I don’t want my reader to be my resistance training.

Amazon Experience.

From the moment the rumors started to fly about a Kindle Tablet, I said they were the only ones who had a snowballs chance to compete (maybe not beat, maybe, who knows) with Apple. They have the closed system with lots of lock in. My books were immediate available on the fire, I just had to re-download them. If you have an Amazon Prime account (you really should get one) then you can stream all kinds of video content, You can borrow books, you can upload music. The Amazon eco system is really a strong player. I immediately had music, books and video content at my finger tips and it was easy to access.

The other thing I think Amazon has going for it is, they can take the opposite approach Motorola and HP took to compete with the iPad. You can’t be the same price or worse yet more money, than the iPad. But if you’re half the price, and can offer an awesome foundation of apps, video, music and more, then there’s very few

Apps.

The app store is, meh. Everything I’ve bought from the Amazon App store that was compatible with the Fire was there and ready to be re-downloaded, which is nice. A lot still isn’t Fire friendly, but can be side loaded which works ok. But in general the app store is as much a mess as the Google one, with shit quality apps mixed in with really great ones. That’s likely to fix itself tho. My favorite news reader isn’t on the Fire but I found one that is ok. It’s good enough considering reading RSS feeds on the Fire is likely to be a not very often thing.

Video.

Vide on the Fire seems ok to me. I tried out hulu and Netflix, both were great. Dear Hulu, the Fire can run your app by my Xoom can’t? that’s craptastic, just sayin’. I also tried out the Amazon Prime streaming video and that was fine, it wasn’t HD and that was clear, but much of (that I’ve seen) the Prime video library right now is older TV shows and movies.  Overall It’s a great little movie watcher. The lame amount of internal storage precludes you from loading your own movies on it. You can, but only 1-2 movies are likely to fit. But if you’re in the net, stream away and enjoy.

OS.

To the casual user, I doubt they’d ever know it was Android, it’s so heavily skinned and modified. To someone like me that’s annoying. I want to tweak settings, etc. and Amazon has taken a very Apple-like stance in that you can change the most basic of settings, and that’s it. The rest is locked down.

The carrousel thing SUCKS. I’m guessing it’ll be gone in the next major OS revision. it’s retarded. It’s a running history of everything you do on the Fire, apps, movies, books, etc in one big ass list. And it takes up most of the screen in portrait and all of it in Landscape. It’s terrible. Amazon find a better UX for the home screen.

There’s things Apple just gets, that others need to shamelessly copy. Changing screen orientation is one of them. Rotating your iPhone you see a nice animation of the screen kind reshaping and fitting into the new size. Rotating the Fire and you see the old orientation, a blink of nothing, and the new orientation. like the damn Matrix redrawing when something is changed. It’s really terrible. Not OMG I can’t use the device, but OMG how did no one flip out about this before launch?

Magazines and Comics.

I was really excited about comics. I’ve tried every reader made for the iPad and Xoom, they all blow. Amazon secured some awesome exclusives so I assumed the comic reading experience despite smaller screen would be great. I was wrong. I’m glad I sampled the comics first before buying. It’s close, I’ll grant you, but having to double tap the panel you want to zoom into, and then again double tapping to get back to regular page view is terrible. Why not once zoomed in, allow me to swipe panel to panel, in the proper order? Reading comics was the pits.

The magazine experience wasn’t much better. Mostly because of the screen size. Zinio is a great app, I can see why it isn’t on the Fire, but that’s a loss for users. It might blow on a tiny screen too, who knows, but the amazon magazine viewer is useless. Bummed I didn’t sample the magazine I bought.

Hardware.

I already mentioned that the Fire is heavy, like small dog heavy. Really the hardware is probably my largest complaint, even beyond the stupid carousel UI. Where to start?

The power button. Clearly someone who’s never seen a kindle and never unplugged a device one handed did the design work on the Fire. Every Kindle since the beginning of time has had a slider for sleep/wake. the K3 it lights up all pretty etc. The Fire has a button, like most other tablets, but it’s right next to the USB connector. I can’t be the only person who unplugs devices with one hand, grasping the cable and pushing against the device on both sides of the plug. Doing that withe the Fire presses the power button. LAME.

Speakers, not including speakers might have been better. The Xoom has them on the back of the device, which blows. The Fire has them on the side, on the same side! Watching a video or listening to music, it’s very clear the sound is coming at you from only one direction. It’s a little off-putting.

Did i mention that is’a heavy device?

 

So, second tablet? For me a Tablet is a news reader, email browser, and web client… mostly, sure I game little, and other stuff. I’ll remote into a laptop once in a while, manage my torrents, write notes in Evernote, etc, but for the most part it’s browsing and reading content. The Fire is just not right for that. Too small screen makes reading more than books, a pain. I love the size, it fits in my back pocket and the pockets of my coats, which earns it some serious points. Of course it’s weight pulls my pants down, so…

I think the next version of the Kindle Fire, both Hardware and OS will kick ass. This one is very much a “let’s get it out and see what people love and hate, and make the Fire2 (forest fire? Blaze?) the best Kindle Tablet possible”

3 thoughts on “The Kindle Fire is a great second tablet

  1. polyGeek

    Thanks for the thorough review. For $199 it is so tempting. I could certainly use one for testing apps. Video + Amazon Prime sounds like the most compelling thing about it. But I’m leaning toward just getting the K-Touch for $99 and waiting for the Fire 2 that fixes the problems you mentioned.

  2. John Wilker Post author

    @john, yeah I still read most on my K3. The Fire is my away from home reader.

    @polygeek Yeah the amazon aspect is what i like. The Fire 2 will kick ass. I have been reading that there’s an update for the fire that supposed to drop this week or so, that should address some of the issues, will update and see.

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