I really wanted to like the 2011 Kindle Fire. It could have been contender! Instead it turns out to be a Palm Treo in world of smartphones. It has the might of Amazon behind in. It’s decent. It works. It is just a couple of years behind the times. Coming in to a mature market with a version one product is never an enviable position.
Here’s the video review of the Kindle Fire with the expanded review below:
Kindle Fire – Design
First, the Kindle Fire is big! Or, chunky. Maybe, it’s just big-boned. However, you want to describe it, the Kindle Fire is iPad 1 thick. Carrying the name “Kindle” you expect a light device. This isn’t it.
And that is a problem: there is no good way of holding a Kindle Fire for reading. While the regular Kindles are not particularly rubberized to stick in your hands, they are light enough that it is not a problem. The weight of the Kindle Fire makes you wish for some type of grove to help you hold it. The Kindle Fire feels like it is going to drop! And with that glass screen, it isn’t going to bounce.
The same can be said about the iPad. However, this is one of the factors that pushes the Kindle Fire into the tablet category: you feel the need to baby it. You are not going to toss it on the couch or let it slip off your bed (unlike an e-ink Kindle).
Also, does it have to be so bland? Compare the Kindle Fire to the 2010 Nook Color. The Nook still looks like it came from the future!
I like the gently curved sides, the gray metallic bezel, and the cut out corner loop suggesting I should attach it to a carabiner and go hike a glacier! Beyond style, the slightly raised bezel around the screen provides tactile feedback as you’re scrolling in a webpage.
The Kindle Fire, in contrast is just dull! And it’s not a matter of the form getting out of the way, to let the function take center stage. It’s just boring! It is like the Kindle Fire is saying, “I’m no one! I could be a Playbook! I could be any tablet! Look away!”
And it doesn’t have to be this way! The e-ink Kindles are proof of that.
The e-ink Kindles are stylish little bastards: from the new entry-level model to last years black unit. The e-ink Kindles may have started off as ugly ducks, but now they’re Anne Hathaway! There is a design esthetic at work.
Not so with the Kindle Fire. It’s a fat black brick.
The one design area where the Kindle Fire excels is in the unlock screen wallpaper.
These are varied and simply beautiful!
Kindle Fire – I accidentally turned it off again!
Other reviewers have commented on the poor placement of the power button (right on the bottom), just where you are likely to hold your fat black brick.
Yes, you are going to accidentally press the power button.
At least until you wise up and turn the device upside down. Now, the button as at the top and the interface rotates to the new orientation. Everything except for the unlock screen. But, just deal with it! It’s avant guard, ok?
Kindle Fire vs iPad
There is no comparison. The iPad wins hands down! I can do many more things with an iPad. I can present an entire trial from an iPad!
Well, it’s not a tablet!
Well, here’s the thing: even on its core competencies: reading, watching videos, listening to music, surfing the web, the iPad is still better! The Kindle Fire regularly has problems registering taps. Plus, the experience just isn’t smooth.
Scrolling in the browser or pinching and zooming feels like the screen is ratcheting compared to the smooth (like buttah) movement on the iPad.
Sure, the price is about less than half. However, I can put down the Kindle Fire and just not care about picking it up again. It’s just not good enough.
What the Kindle Fire does right
When you get a Kindle Fire, it is already registered to your Amazon account. YOUR NAME is in the upper left corner.
And it a few minutes after setting it up… It has all your books on it. And your music is ready to stream. It’s your device!
Scrolling through the shelf, you see all your things: music, videos, apps, books. Your stuff!
This is what has made me reluctant to get rid of the Kindle Fire. It may be a fat black brick, but it’s my fat black brick! The emotional hook caused by this one marketing tactic should not be overlooked. Lawyers: when creating materials for your clients, consider adding a little tag in the upper left hand corner of any correspondence with the clients’ first name: “James’ Case.” There’s power in attaching your business to your client’s feelings of ownership.
Then there are daily free apps. On Monday, I got Docs to Go (full version), a $14 app, for FREE! It definitely keeps you coming back!
Amazon Kindle Owner’s Lending library: All Kindle devices let you borrow one book a month for free. Choose from New York Times bestsellers and selected titles from the Kindle library. There is no due date to return books and you can pick a new book each calendar month. You can keep checked out books as long as you like. However, if you forget to check out a book in a calendar month, it does not roll over to the next.
And video, video, video! Of course, the Kindle Fire has a Netflix app. However, you can also watch Amazon video on the Kindle Fire. Buy movies, rent them and even stream free Amazon Prime movies and tv shows directly onto the Kindle Fire. You aren’t going to do that an iPad.
Want more? There Hulu, and you can watch flash video directly on the Kindle Fire!
Kindle Fire does a great job of keeping your media (books, video, music, websites, apps) front and center. It becomes a reflection of its users, much more so than an iPad.
- Kindle 2011 (non-Touch) – 5.8 oz
- Nook Color (2010 version) – 15.4 oz
- iPad 1 -1 lb 8.7 oz
- iPad 2 – 1 lb 5.3 oz
Kindle Fire Pros:
- Focus on YOUR stuff.
- Amazon lending library.
- Pocketable – at least in Dockers.
- Watch Amazon videos.
- Watch Prime videos for FREE!
Kindle Fire Cons:
- It’s a consumption device. Don’t expect much more than a viewer with some games.
- Pokey interface.
- Taps sometimes require multiple tries.
- Too bulky to hold comfortably.
- Too heavy to sit and read easily.
This Kindle Fire is all about content consumption. The hook is that it serves up your content but it that enough? Compared to the iPad, it is underpowered.
Compared to readers, it lacks style and is too bulky and heavy to hold for extending periods. And, like a tablet, you need to be more careful with it. If you already own an iPad, the Kindle Fire is fairly disappointing. The hardware screams version 1. And it is not even as good as an iPad 1.
However, if you bought into the Amazon or Android ecosystems, things become more interesting:
- Free books to check out.
- Free Prime videos (plus Netflix, Hulu & flash).
- Free apps.
- And then there is the price: $200!
It’s less than half the price of an iPad. Is it half as good as an iPad? For me, no. It’s slow and just not polished enough. It is not “nearly an iPad.” If you want something like an iPad, save the money and get an iPad. The Kindle Fire is not it.
I was ready to return the Kindle Fire. I have a return label printed up. However, writing this article, I don’t want to send it away. Which sums it up the Kindle Fire experience: it’s the clingy college relationship of tablets: it’s not that good, but it’s got all your stuff!