Thursday, December 8, 2011
The Kindle Fire - Hot or Not?
About 3 weeks ago, I read the 'impressions' (not quite a review) of author Tobias Buckell's new Kindle Fire on his Twitter feed. His general setup was to have a Kindle 3 and an iPad. After giving the Kindle Fire a try, he decided that not only would it not replace his Kindle 3, but also it would not replace his iPad. Thus, it was relegated to being a rather lovely paperweight. Since I have the same device setup as Buckell has, I decided I did not - at that moment - require a $200 paperweight.
The next day, my boyfriend said triumphantly, "Hey! Guess what I ordered for you!"
Well then. Can't beat the price, right?
I opened it up on Sunday night and put it through its paces. After seeing commenter Stevi talk about wanting one, I figured I'd write about my adventures.
The first thing I noticed is that this thing is heavy. I hefted both devices and if it were iPad 1 sized, it felt like the Fire might weigh a little more than the iPad! (Google tells me I'm right. Kindle Fire = 430g, iPad 1 = 730g.) It felt like a little brick. It was a sleek, beautiful little brick, though, and I was anxious to turn it on. It updated for about 10 minutes and then I began fondling it - er, testing it! - in earnest.
I'd heard that the UI was a little clunky but I didn't find it so. In fact, it had synced up with all my other Kindles (yes, there are two other Kindles in this house and two iPads - I'm a whore for gadgets, don't judge me). There was the book I was reading on my Kindle 3, the song I'd been listening to on Amazon Cloud, and my latest episode of The Vampire Diaries all queued up on its 'bookshelf' thing. I thought that was somewhere between cool and stalkery.
I decided to open up The Vampire Diaries and see how the little screen looked. I had the option of streaming the episode or downloading and playing it that way, which was peachy. I streamed for a bit and it looked pretty good, only buffering a little bit - my wireless signal is pretty robust. The screen resolution is almost exactly what my iPad's is, so no real picture difference there, aside from being significantly smaller. I opted to download the episode - a HD episode is about 2gb in size - and it gave me a nice countdown of how long it would be until it was watchable.
While I was waiting for TVD to download, I opened up the book I had been reading, The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff (which was excellent, by the way, buy it now). It was basically just like reading with the Kindle app on the iPad, so nothing new. And by nothing new I mean, "I still hate reading on a tablet." The backlighting makes my eyeballs feel like they are burning with the heat of a thousand fiery suns after about 3 minutes. (I just learned about the sepia tone you can set the background to instead of that eye-searing white. I'm going to have to try that.)
I did notice that while I was reading, there was a little 1 in a circle on the upper left hand corner of my Fire. I tapped it and it showed me my active download and its progress. It's a handy little task manager, which I really like.
I minimized my book and decided to listen to some 30 Seconds to Mars from my Amazon cloud while I was reading and also downloading. So, I had Night of the Hunter streaming, TVD downloading, and was happily burning my corneas reading a book. There were no visible performance issues, no stuttering of the music (though that's mostly my aforementioned robust wireless signal), and my video was happily downloading.
Now, all of that is great.
However, I went back to my Kindle 3 to finish reading my book, and I listened to my iPod while reading. The Kindle 3 is lighter and doesn't try to char my precious organic ocular devices. I also have no fear that I'm going to drop the Kindle 3 and shatter it into a million beautiful black pieces; the Fire is unwieldy. I used the iPad to finish watching TVD. It's just bigger, you know?
For a user like me - a seasoned gadgetrix - the Fire just doesn't have a lot of verve. I have my iPad for tablet things and my Kindle 3 for book things, and the Fire does neither of those things better than either device. Honestly, the coolest thing about it is the month of free Amazon Prime. We've watched the heck out of their streaming videos and it's been great. We're definitely keeping that.
If you don't have an iPad and you don't want to shell out the exorbitant fee for one, the Kindle Fire is a good compromise. It's a nice little tablet with a good picture that multitasks fairly well. The UI is a little rigid - you can't move things around - but the touch screen is responsive without being too responsive the way I find my iPad to be.
When Kanth gets his Nook, we'll do a little compare and contrast, see which one is superior. Either way, I bet at the end of the day I'll be happier with the iPad than both tablet-lite solutions.