by Dan Licht (@thedvl)
The Kindle Fire is no iPad. It’s also not an iPad killer (as stated in comments to our first review). But I personally don’t really think Mr. Bezos (or anyone at Amazon) would think it could be. We all know the basics, it’s not as fast, large or capable as it’s pomaceous competitor. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a capable device.
Many a reviewer has mentioned how, for some users, the Fire is perfect. And I would agree. Its price is obviously easier to swallow than the cheapest iPad. If portability is your goal then it’s definitely smaller (but does way less) than the iPad. If you use Amazon music it might be nice, too (I don’t, so I couldn’t test this). What I did do was use it as a replacement in the situations I normally would use my iPad. What follows are my observations.
Physically, I didn’t mind the weight. I felt it was nice in my hand and definitely has a good build quality. Gorilla Glass is good and I will say it felt like I didn’t need to baby it the same way as my iPad. MAJOR flaw, and it’s one present on several Kindles, why oh why is the power button on the bottom? Every time I set the Kindle down to read, I put it to sleep. It seriously makes no sense at all. One other smaller hardware gripe: the touchscreen sensor. While this could be software based, it very well could be the sensitivity of the screen. I found far too many times I had to tap several times before items were interacted with. Compared to the iPad’s smooth and precise touch interface.
As they say, it’s not just what’s on the outside … it’s what’s on the inside that matters. And that is a major issue for me. As an iPad user I was FLOORED with how poor the experience of the Fire was. Partly this is due to Android. Android has always felt, as a colleague put it, “Hodge-podge-y”. Never polished or finished. And that is really obvious in this build.
The fact that the Silk browser crashed multiple times within my first hour of use to the fact that (as stated previously) I had to tap, triple tap or tap & hold just to open an app are not good signs. Also, the Amazon store (which for some bizarre reason isn’t the same as the Android Store) app crashed multiple times while trying to get Evernote on the Fire. As an aside, Evernote worked well and their UI for the Fire’s smaller wider screen was nice. Netflix was not very good. Interface was slow and for some reason on a 20mb pipe the quality was TERRIBLE on Iron Man Armored Adventures. Fruit Ninja was ok, but again low res graphics, and no 2 player (smaller screen I guess).
Oooohhhh! I can use Flash sites and video on this. Eh! I tried out using sites with Flash. They work. That’s about all. Not blown away, and, with the amazing things UI Developers can do in HTML, what’s the point? Well, I thought the point would be for flash video (yes there are still sites that show flash encoded video). That was worse than the Netflix attempt. I was in Buffering hell, and mind you this was on a 10mb connection at about 11pm on a Wednesday night (read: not much traffic).
Overall it comes down to the interactions & software. Device-wise it’s an ok, capable tab with a low cost. It’s the experience of using it that I have an issue with. It’s got no finesse. The subtleties are gone (I missed my smooth de-accelerations on scrolling, and the spring of scrolling to the bottom). And in their place is a buggy system and buggy apps. After using an iPad it’s very clear why it’s the leader and the one to beat. Sadly the Kindle Fire isn’t going to do that.
That said, if you are in the market for an intro to the tablet space, haven’t used an iPad and don’t need 3G connectivity, then I would (and have) recommend the Kindle Fire. It’s inexpensive, solid and hopefully in the process of some system upgrades.
Next up on the Fire train, our IT team will have some more insights from a slightly different perspective.