Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Getting Hot in Here...

by Kathy F.

The Fire HD was released last Friday and guess who got a prezzie!

Yep, me, the person who never gets a newly released tech gizmo has got a Fire HD 7. 

I've played around with the husband's tab and my uncle's iPad, but honestly didn't think I would get one. It's not like I need a tablet, right? I mean, I have a computer, a Kindle 2 (soon to be upgraded - aw yeah, this reader is smokin'...OK, I'm done with the fire puns), why do I need a tablet on top of that?

The truth is I don't. However, that doesn't mean that I haven't been gloriously happy trying out my new Fire. I might not need it, but there is no way now I'm giving it up, and I have to admit it makes some things a lot easier. I was skeptical of eReaders until I got my Kindle (also a gift), then it quickly became My Precious.

I know lots of folks do everything with their smart phones. Me, I call people, text and occasionally take photos, so I've never shelled out the $$ for a smart phone. I hate the touchscreens on most phones and don't like reading on them. This means that at home I have only one way to check e-mail & surf the internet: my desktop computer. So for me, being able to check my e-mail on the Fire is nice. I like being able to sit on the couch and look up something on Google. I can sit on my computer chair for a long time, but my La-Z-Boy is more comfy.

I have to say, though, that typing on the Fire is not fun at all. If I was going to do more than a quick e-mail or note to myself, I would probably use something else or try to use one of the wireless keyboards.

I read Laurie's post on the first gen Fire last year, and I doubt that users who want to customize or who already own and utilize the more flexible capabilities of their iPads or Samsung tabs will be happy with a Fire. However, if all you want to do is read, watch videos and play some games, and you already have purchased content through Amazon, this will likely fit your needs.

The free Prime trial still comes with the Fire  and so far I like it. We'll be keeping Prime.

Setup - Easy. Since I already have a Kindle registered, it was as simple as connecting to my home Wifi and I was pretty much set.

Size - This is smaller than I thought. Although the screen is larger, the device itself is a tiny bit smaller than my Kindle 2. It is also heavier, but not too heavy for me to use longterm. I don't really know what I was expecting, I mean, the dimensions are there, the "7" is in the title. I guess I just was thinking the device would be noticeably bigger than my Kindle. Its not a dealbreaker for me, although it does mean that some websites don't show up as well. i know I can use the mobile websites, but many of those leave much to be desired.

Videos - so far I have tried the Prime Instant Videos and I thought the quality was really good. Playback wasn't an issue at all, although it should be noted that we don't skimp on internet service in my house. In looking at the Prime Instant Video and comparing to Netflix streaming, I would say that they are about equal for what I like to watch. I also picked up the free Daily Show with John Stewart app to watch popular clips.

Games - Here is where I become the best mommy ever. My son actually told me "Its fantastic that you have a tablet." Yeah, he got trained on his uncle's iPad and dad's Samsung tab. I'm not sure who was more excited about opening the box, me or the kids. So far we have tried Where's My Perry (fun), Angry Birds Space (I like this one better than the Rio and Seasons versions), Temple Run (slide, damn you little running man!), and Siege (I love the music. And the bombs, but the collateral damage makes me sad.). While the Fire does have parental controls, nothing beats the consequences of screwing something up on the 'rents techno-babies to keep the kiddos on the right path. I will probably try out Kindle Freetime when it becomes available next month. That one allows you to set a time limit as well as restrict what the little rugrats can get into. You can set up a personal profile for each kid. I know there are more than a few parents waiting for that one.

Books - Which is better, e-ink or backlit tablet? To no surprise, e-ink, of course, wins hands down. I can read my Kindle 2 all day without killing my eyes (and my eyes are crap). When looking at all methods of reading, I can read my Kindle longer than I can a print book. Given my love of e-ink, I was quite skeptical when I opened up a book on the Fire. It's bright, which can be toned down a bit, but I found the best solution was to switch to sepia tone. That helped things out a lot. I can't read on the Fire for as long as I can on an e-ink Kindle, but I didn't have a screaming headache after an hour of reading, so I'm good. Since I can sync my Fire and Kindle, I'll always be able to get to the right place in my books.

PDFs - This is where the Fire performs high above the e-ink Kindle. I loathe reading PDFs on my Kindle. I had to switch to landscape and nothing every really looked right. On the Fire, though, the PDFs look great and I have no problem reading them. Since I review books and sometimes get PDF ARCs, this is an important feature for me. (I am aware that I can e-mail the PDFs to be converted by Amazon...I never do it and I'm not going to start. I just don't feel right e-mailing ARCs off, even though I'm sure its automated and no one else sees what I'm sending. I tend to be protective of any ARCs I get.)

I have mentioned my hatred of certain touchscreens, but so far so good on the Fire. The sensitivity was just right for me right out of the box, and I'm not constantly hitting the back button. It was pretty intuitive for me too, although I'm not a complete newbie so that helps. I wouldn't mind being able to ditch the carousel, though. It is not my favorite. And the things I take off the carousel keep coming back. So many zombie apps and books. This would be OK if they were actually about zombies and not just things I want to delete.

I tried to get the Google talk app for the Fire but have been thwarted. I can use the built-in camera with Skype, but it looks like that is about it for now. It does not take photographs, so it is very limited in use.

After trying it out for a few days I can say that the Fire is not going to replace anything I currently have, but it is a welcome addition. I even named it - Smudge, after my favorite fiery spider.

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  1. This is good to know. We are moving internationally and unfortunately cannot afford the shipping for books. I plan on getting a Fire and then buying my favorite books in ebook format. I still have to figure out the propriotary stuff and things like that.

    1. Sandra - check for any international restrictions when looking at the Fire so you don't get any nasty surprises when you try to use it overseas (I'd heard of some issues with the first gen Fire). I seem to recall some probs with internat'l ISPs. Hopefully it will work for you.

    2. I think that Kobo might have better coverage internationally - you may want to look into that. I haven't personally tested the new Kobo Arc tablet yet, but I've heard good things. My Kobo touch is wonderful. Kobo uses ePub and will accept PDFs without conversion. Also, since the Kobo Arc is on an Android platform (Google 4.0, it comes pre-loaded with Google Play, the app store), you could get the free Kindle App and have both! (I have the Kindle App on my phone for those books that are self-published through Amazon.)

  2. Hey now! I'm supposed to be the gadget-forward one of this group, missy!