Hands-On With The Kindle Fire

So I’ve now spent over an hour playing with the new Kindle Fire, and here are some preliminary thoughts.

First, the look-and-feel is better than I expected. It’s plastic, not metal like the iPad, but it’s surprisingly solid-feeling and the screen is super-glossy. At considerably less than half the price of an iPad, it doesn’t come across as cheap.


As soon as I turned it on and hooked it up to wifi, it knew it was mine and downloaded my Kindle library. I didn’t have to enter my account or password at all; Amazon obviously took care of that before shipping. A nice touch.

I can’t explain why, but I don’t like the Android operating system quite as much as the iPad’s. It’s not really that different, and it’s reasonably intuitive, but it just doesn’t feel as slick somehow.

Kindle books popped up and were easy to read. Display is nice and clear. I prefer the double-page display on the iPad, I think, but that only works because the iPad screen is twice as big.

Video played fine. As an Amazon Prime member (and everyone who buys a Fire gets 30 days of Prime free, if you’re not already a member) you get a lot of free streaming video. I watched part of a Firefly episode — The Train Job — and it played flawlessly; no pausing to rebuffer, no stuttering or freezing. Sound was good through the little speakers, though not terribly loud. But loud enough in my not-very-noisy environment. Otherwise you’d want earphones, which aren’t included.

There’s no camera. On the other hand, I hardly ever use the one in the iPad. After a bit over 60 minutes of run time, it shows 81% of battery left, suggesting that it should be good for around 5 hours of use. That would probably be longer if you weren’t streaming video, switching applications, etc., or if you dimmed the screen a bit. It shows 6.15 GB available out of the nominal 8 GB of memory.


The web browser is OK. Amazon claims it’s cloud-accelerated, but if it’s any faster than the browser on the iPad it’s not enough to tell. It crashed on me twice while loading pages; both times it recovered fine, but that’s a bit troubling. You can blog from it (see below) but — as with a keyboard Kindle, or an iPad for that matter — it’s not much of a blogging tool, except in extremis.

The Facebook App is okay; about like the iPhone app. Overall, natch, the supply of apps is a lot smaller than the iPads. It’ll go up, but I doubt the Kindle Fire will ever catch up in the Apps department. There’s no GPS.

The size factor is about what I expected. I miss the bigger iPad screen, but this will fit in a jacket pocket, even in its Marware case. The iPad is too big for pretty much any kind of pocket.

Best thing about the Kindle Fire — did I mention it’s less than half the price of an iPad? Like the iPad, it’s primarily a media-consumption device; you can do other things on it, but it’s not as well-suited for that. As with cheap digital cameras, the low price is an added feature in a way, as it means you’d be willing to take the Kindle Fire on places or trips where you might be loath to risk a more-expensive iPad. Like the iPad, of course, but unlike the regular Kindles, it’s probably not great for reading in the sun. (I didn’t actually test that, since there wasn’t any sun here today. . . .) Overall, it’s not as good as the iPad, but it’s probably nearly as good for all the things I actually use the iPad for. And it’s a lot cheaper. Not bad.


Meanwhile, InstaPundit readers have been reporting their own experiences. Reader Jerry Hogan writes: “Got mine this afternoon..it’s everything I expected. No manual or instructions in the box. Plugged in the AC adapter and turned it on and voila, everything was there. Accessing the web via my house wifi was quick, downloaded a free ebook, surfed the web, even the non-geek wife was impressed.”

Another reader, who asks that I not use his name, is less impressed:

The device looks good but I don’t like the inability to get to Google’s Market since I have a lot of apps from that app store that aren’t offered by Amazon. I can’t even get the Gmail app.

Even stranger was that I couldn’t find Netflix by searching in the Amazon App Store. However, when I went to Netflix’s website, I was able to find a link to an Android app that took me back to Amazon’s App Store where I was able to download it. I’m sure Netflix will calling them to find out why their app is “hidden” in the app store. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to do the same for the Google apps and other apps that I want.

And I will miss the side page buttons if I use the Kindle Fire to read books while standing in a subway car. Not an issue for most people but I see a lot of Kindle’s on the New York subway. I’ll be curious to see how many Kindle Fires I’ll see.

I assume the app stuff will catch up, but yeah. I’m not much for watching movies on portable devices, but the Netflix App is important. As for gmail, I just accessed mine via the browser and that was fine, though it took me a minute to find the “sign out” button when I was done. (It’s down in the bottom left corner). Anyway, there you go — my first impressions. For the price, I’d say it’s a good deal.


UPDATE: How to get the Nook App on the Kindle Fire.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Louis Abbott writes:

I have several Kindle Fires on the way for my family as Christmas gifts and am glad to see reviews on your blog. The lack of a GMail app is a bit disconcerting, but the email I received today from amazon has a link directly to the Netflix app.

I look forward to seeing how well Evernote works on the Kindle Fire as well.

The Netflix link is there with a lot of other icons. Or just go directly here.

(Crossposted from Instapundit).


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