As with many others, I received my Kindle Fire yesterday and thought I’d write up my initial impressions. My main frame of reference is comparing it to older Kindles and my gen-1 iPad which probably sees 50% of its usage as a Kindle reader.
I should start off my with my expectations. First of all the price point is low enough for me that I was willing to take a chance with it to learn what its like to live with an inexpensive mini-tablet. I’m hoping that it fills a role in my multi-device household that includes ePaper kindles, the iPad, many PCs (laptops and desktops) and the xbox. I should be able to use it to read a book, to check recipes in the kitchen, or watch some TV shows on Hulu, NetFlix or Amazon. I’m also putting my entire music collection into the Amazon Cloud Drive so checking out how they pull off the seamless integration with their cloud services should be obvious.
First of all, overall the device is really nice. The display looks good although its pretty reflective and certainly shows fingerprints pretty easily. The lack of any hard-buttons other than power means that simple things like increasing/decreasing volume require hunting around on the screen (& multiple steps) which makes it pretty inconvenient as a music playback device.
Again, the general impression was that its a solid effort but with some rough edges. It should actually have plenty of CPU compared to my gen-1 iPad and WP7 phone but lots of simple animations “tear”/drop frames. The best test of this I did was that I used my iPad & Fire to read exactly the same book side by side and flipped pages. The iPad page transitions were smooth, the Fire ones would glitch. The same sort of thing happens in the flip UI on the home page (which is actually not a very practical UI anyway although its nice eye-candy when it works smoothly).
Overall video playback worked pretty well, although NetFlix seemed like the audio was slightly out of sync with the video. Hulu seemed like it was better enough that it wasn’t annoying (watching a TV show on NetFlix was off enough that it bothered me).
The browser is ok, although it also just “felt” a bit rough. Pages just felt like they were loading in a bit of a funny way. Also it will be interesting to see how I feel about the 7″ form factor after using it for a bit. For reading fiction in the reader it was fine, but reading a technical book felt really squished and most web-sites wouldn’t fit in portrait so I had to switch to landscape which was a bit awkward.
I’m a little disappointed that it doesn’t have audio-in of any sort. If it did you could see amazing apps like Amplitube run on it. At $200 for an amazing guitar/vocals effects box I’d probably buy a few. Of course if Amazon is losing money on every one sold that might not work out so well for them. It will be interesting to see if the USB port can ever be used for any peripherals?
The lack of any option for 3g is too bad also. The whole billing model for cellular network devices is a mess right now but I’m assuming by 2020 we will have that all figured out and these super-portable devices will be much more killer when they are just automatically internet connected, always, everywhere.
One other frustrating thing is that the on-screen keyboard is terrible compared to those in iOS and Windows Phone. I don’t really have any experience with other Android phones or tablets- is keyboard input this bad on all Android devices? Or maybe the Fire has a less expensive touch digitizer so its less accurate at reading the positions of my taps?
Overall, its still a very solid inexpensive media consumption device and it seems like it could open up this category for a much broader audience. Further, its realistically a v1, and I’d expect to see lots of improvements polishing these rough edges in the future.