I’ve had a Kindle Fire since last April, thanks to the generosity of a friend, and, after using it for a few months, I posted a review of it at Amazon. I’ve reproduced it below, with some added comments at the end. The short version, though, is that I love it.
I’d wanted an e-reader for quite a while, since the first Kindles came out. And, while new models kept coming off the line from Amazon and other makers, I held back, because I wanted color and a few other functions besides a reader. Eventually, I acquired a Kindle Fire and, boy, am I glad I waited!
Let’s go through the various functions, briefly.
Reading: I’m an avid reader. Have been all my life, and I can’t imagine going anywhere without something to read. But, books are often clumsy to carry around, plus they can get damaged. The Kindle Fire is a perfect answer. Not do I have ready access to a far broader library than I could ever carry around, but the reading experience itself is much more pleasant than I expected. I was one of those who thought I wouldn’t like not having the “feel and smell” of a book around. Wrong. Reading from the Kindle Fire is easy on the eyes, page turning is smooth, and jumping back and forth between text and endnotes is a breeze. And it’s simply a much more convenient size than many books or magazines. I love books, but I don’t miss having one in my hands.
Music: I’m also a music nut with a large collection, which I uploaded to the Amazon Cloud Drive/Player (before the recent service changes). With earphones, I think the listening experience is as good as on my iPod, and having my entire library available via wireless is very handy.
Video: This is surprisingly good on the Kindle Fire. My iPad-owning friends were impressed. Video quality is excellent, playback is smooth, and, again, sound quality is great. I currently have two TV shows bought through Amazon Digital that I follow on my KF, rather than on my TV.
Docs: I don’t use this feature much, but the PDF reading experience is good, not great. I’ll have to use it more, though, before I can give it a fair review.
Apps: Honestly, like my iPod Touch, I just don’t use apps all that much. The email app is functional and handy, and Tweetcaster is an excellent Twitter app. Mapquest is very useful, when a wireless connection is available. The most I can say is that you’ll find a wide variety, from utilities to games.
Web: the included browser is fast and renders pages well, but many come out too small to be easily read on the KF’s screen: you have to expand them, which means scrolling around the page. Here I think the larger iPad has an advantage. Still, I did find it a figurative life-saver in at least one case, when I had to quickly reschedule appointments and had to hunt up numbers.
Weaknesses: None of these are even near-fatal for the KF, but I do think they are design flaws. First and foremost, why can we not organize books in collections? Kindle for PC can do this. If, like me, you have a lot of books, the inability to organize them for quick access is frustrating.
Carousel/Favorites. I like the carousel feature, but wish I could turn off the feature that adds items to it automatically when you open it. That is what I would use as my “favorites.” The actual favorites shelves, below the carousel, seem redundant.
That’s really about it. The weaknesses just mentioned mean my five-star review is really a 4.5er, but don’t think I am in any way less than thrilled with this device. If what you want is an excellent e-reader and music and video player with some neat additional features, take a long look at the Kindle Fire.
Just to amplify on a couple of things…
I really don’t understand why one cannot arrange books in folders/collections/categories/whatever you want to call them. It can be done in Kindle for PC and on earlier Kindle models, so why not the Fire? You can’t tell me it’s beyond the OS.
Also, the “carousel” is a neat feature (seen on Apple devices, too) but setting it to add any item I open automatically, without giving me a way to shut it off, is damned annoying. Let me choose which items go in the carousel, please. And it doe make “favorites” redundant. Why not give the user the choice of one or the other, including being able to configure it? Sloppy design on Amazon’s part, in this case.
Like I said, music sounds good. Apps such as Pandora give you access to “radio stations,” while your own collection is available through Amazon’s Cloud Player, presuming you pay for the service. I had originally bought the 20GB Cloud Drive deal for offsite storage. It came with unlimited room for uploaded music, played through the Cloud Player. I have a large library, so this sounded like a good deal.
However, Amazon recently changed the terms (perhaps under pressure from the evil RIAA?) and separated the services. The music I had uploaded to the Drive is still available, and I can upload new music to the player (or it matched to songs in their library?), but the terms are still unclear to me. This doesn’t really affect the player as a device, per se, but might lower its utility in the future.
I’ve also noticed the device no longer fully recharges. I can nearly drain it (less than 10% power left), turn it off, recharge it overnight, and yet it will only be orughly 85% charged in the morning. Perhaps, rather than a battery problem, the meter is off? Regardless, it’s a minor problem, but I may want to talk to Amazon about it.
So, like I said in my review, overall I love this device and hardly go anywhere without it.
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