Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Kindle Fire Review

If you know me, you know I have been biding my time to dive into the Mobile Internet Device (MID) market.  I was among the first to have an EVO 4G, but that doesn't quite count.  The IPAD came along, but I was holding out for the HP Slate.  I couldn't join the IPAD revolution because it lacked a camera and wouldn't handle flash. Then the HP Slate basically died during production when HP decided it should be released with Web OS instead of Windows 7. I had been down the disastrous IPAQ Pocket PC road some 12 years ago and once a company has burned me, it's hard to regain my loyalty.  Why not the IPAD2? I was actually in line for it's release but by the time they got to me they did not have the model I wanted. So, I remained without a tablet.  I was constantly trying to keep up to date with the Android tablet market, there are some pretty reasonably priced one's out there, but many do not have a viable Android OS version.  Most are of the 2.1 or earlier flavor which prevents them from running flash.  But then the Kindle Fire announcement hit, and I suddenly found a device that intrigued me at a price that wouldn't break the bank $199.

So, that's the basic background.  Here's the full story.  I've wanted a Kindle for some time, but couldn't bring myself to spend that kind of money on a device that only did one thing, albeit very well. The fact that the Kindle Fire would work as an e-reader, browser (with flash), media device and overgrown Android version of the iTouch was what put me over the top.  I've also been impressed with the Amazon Cloud services.  The ability to have a book, movie or song at my fingertips wherever I have a connection to the Internet has been fantastic.  But, I am also not delusional, I'm well aware the Kindle Fire is not an "IOS killer".  What I was hoping to get for my $200 was a content consumption device.  Plain and simple.  So, that's the perspective that this review will take.

First the Good:

  • It's an Amazon Product - There was nothing to setup out of the box.  In fact there was barely anything in the box.  The 7 inch tablet and the charger.  Amazon is very good at the basics.
  • The Fire has some heft. While many would see the weight of the device a drawback, I like the fact that it feels like I am holding a hard-bound book in my hands.
  • Plenty of battery life - After a full charge, you will get 10 hours of actual use. When it goes into hibernation, it actually hibernates.  Trust me if I have time to read a book for 10 hours straight without being able to charge the device there is something wrong with my life!
  • The Silk browser is FAST! and will load pages that use Flash.  The pages you visit actually load properly (what a novel idea)
  •  The 7 inch screen.  The 4 inches on my EVO, while great as a phone, was just too small to read a book on comfortably.  The backlit screen takes some getting used too, but you can always tone down the brightness and tweak the display settings for your comfort level
  • The integration with Amazon's cloud - pulling files directly from Audible or purchasing books is a breeze (sometimes too easy).
  • Email Integration is a snap.  I'm a Gmail user (both Apps for Edu and personal) and had no trouble integrating both of my account using these configuration details
  • Multi-media streaming on the web, or through YouTube, Netflix or the Amazon cloud is flawless and gorgeous.
  • PDF Browsing - While it's not obvious at first, you can download PDFs to read on the Kindle Fire.  One would think these would appear in the DOCs section of the interface, but they don't.  Instead, you need to use a browsing app to find and open the file.  But, this opens the world of public domain books available from Google Books or Project Gutenberg.
The Bad
  • No 3G - That means when away from WI-FI there is no Amazon Cloud, no Internet access, no EMail, even some apps become unavailable.  You still have access to audio books and any downloaded items from Amazon or other resources.
  • Limited Android Market - Whatever deal Amazon worked out with Android, the marketplace is limited.  Surprisingly, there are not many Google Apps?!  You can still get Angry Birds and many other popular apps for free. In fact Amazon offers a paid app for free daily. Get 'em while their hot.
  • Limited content creation - I've found that trying to blog here at Zenodotus or at attempting to type in other "paragraph" sections of websites is impossible.  No keyboard comes up.  This is a serious issue and hopefully one the Amazon addresses soon.  The lack of camera also means no images or video can be generated from the device.  But again, expected, so I am not disappointed
  • Lack of Navigation Buttons - More of an a nuisance than anything, there is no easy way to navigate once you are in certain applications. You have to press the power button to bring you back to the slide screen to unlock the device and then press the home button.
  • Lack of Ports - There is no SD Card - for expansion or access to documents. You can email files back and forth to yourself or get an app that will allow you to access files over WIFI.  It may be possible to plug the Fire in via a micro USB device, but I have yet to find one that fits the charging slot.  My guess is there isn't. But again since this device is not designed for content creation, it's really not a big deal.
I've enjoyed my first few days as a Kindle user and will be adding updates to this post as I find things and explore the application further. I will also likely be inline for an IPAD, once HTML 5 has firmly taken root.  I understand the draw and am hoping it will eventually be a tool that serves all of my needs.  Until then, I have a tablet device that enables me to stay connected and close to my content and that makes me happy!
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