September 3rd 2011 12:11 am

Heads up! A newer version of this product has been announced!

final rating

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this review has been viewed 1755 times

Criteria Comments Rating
  • Features No comments so-so
  • Display No comments good
  • Battery life No comments good
  • Ease of use No comments good
  • Storage capacity No comments poor
  • Design and form factor No comments poor
  • Portability (size / weight) No comments so-so
  • Durability No comments good
Detailed review
I just finished packing up my Kindle Fire to return to Amazon. Let me say in advance I'm a huge fan of Amazon and everything they do (first gen Kindle owner, Prime for 5 years, Cloud Music User, etc.). However, I'm disappointed in the Fire. As a current iPad owner perhaps I set the bar too high but I believe that in today's market the bar should be pretty high.

The device in and of itself is a nice little piece of hardware that is reminiscent of a Motorola Droid vs. the iPhone. It's a little blockier and feels substantial in your hand. The 7" display seems to be the perfect size to replace a typical paperback which makes it seem like a no brainer for books and movies. However is was much weightier than I expected and a little awkward to hold. The power button for the device is at the bottom which seems completely counter intuitive especially when holding it one handed. If you try to hold the device in one hand you need to splay your fingers along the bottom to prop up the device which will inevitably cause you to accidentally trip the power switch. Incredibly annoying. Of course, since the display rotates, you can flip the device upside down to read however the lock screen does not rotate which makes this workaround clunky. Even ignoring the power button issue, the device is just too heavy to hold with one hand easily, after 30 minutes with the device my hand was going numb. I like my original kindle for it's light weight feel which truly makes it a paperback replacement. The fire is definitely a two handed device which doesn't make sense with such a small screen. If you're going to use two hands you might as well use a 10" device.

One bright spot was the interface which is well thought out and elegant. It's highlight is the cover flow homepage that moves seamlessly through your content. Overall the Amazon skin on android is well executed, with plenty of content integration that feel natural. Navigation is easy and intuitive on the device. I had no trouble knowing where to go for my content. Keep in mind that the Fire is not a typical tablet, it's designed entirely as an entertainment device for consuming content, apps, email, calendars, browsing, and even social media all feel like an afterthought. If you're like me and have a lot of content within the Amazon ecosystem this is a great device for accessing that content.

One drawback to the device is the available storage. Amazon pushes their cloud as integral to the device which reduces the need for on device music, but without 4G this is a pretty empty promise. I have a 64G iPad which is mostly full of music and movies and I found myself pushing the boundaries on the Fire pretty quickly, especially since I use my devices in my commute. So while it gets you access to great content, there are some big limitations.

Lastly, I think it's worth pointing out some things that others have pointed out about the device. Page turns on books on the Kindle Fire are not what they are on other apps (e.g. iOS). It's crazy to think that the premier device is so clunky on books. When I first turned on the device and tried to read the included welcome letter from Jeff Bezos the device had a hard time displaying the content and getting to the second page. It's also not even close to a comfortable reading experience for newspapers and magazines. At 7" there's no way to read a digital analog to a print publication when all that's happened is the content has been re-sized to fit the screen. This results in text that is too small and can only be read with zooming and panning. Finally, as I mentioned previously, the idea of using the device for email or surfing the web feels like an afterthought. Finding the email app took some time and the browser is the last available tab on the interface. It's clear Amazon wants you to use the device to buy more movies, music, books, and newspapers.

While this was a disappointing experience I'm still holding out hope. I like the direction that this is going and who can argue with the price point. Perhaps when they come out with the next version I'll make the jump.