Monday, December 26, 2011

Guest Review on the Kindle Fire

Hi, my name is Jeff and I am a readingaholic. I have been one as long as I can remember, and always will be. At any given time I am reading 3-4 books. I usually have a book at my bedside table, one on my desk, one in my car, and one that kinda floats around wherever I go. Bookshelves line my living room, overflowing with mine and my wife's collection. We are readers.

A few years ago my wife wanted a Nook for her birthday. While I thought that nothing could replace the experience of having an actual book in your hand, I relented and got her one. It seemed fine enough for what it was, but I never saw myself going that route, it just didn't seem the same to me. Earlier this year that all changed as I was offered the chance of getting a Kindle at a discounted price, and I have not bought a paper book since. I much prefer the Kindle to the Nook, it doesn't seem as bulky, it's easier to organize, and Amazon has a great system set up to support it.
Three months ago I started looking into getting an iPad. On my budget it's a pretty big investment so I wanted to be sure. I had a hard time justifying the expense for what I wanted to do with it (access the internet, read books, play some games). What I needed was a turbo-charged Kindle. And the Kindle Fire was announced! It was a no-brainer to pre-order, it seemed like it was just what I was looking for, at more than half the price of the cheapest iPad. And I was right.

Let me be clear, I am not anti-iPad. I have gotten to play around with them quite a bit, and I love them. But for me, it's just too much to spend for what I want. I do not think the Fire is the iPad killer it was first touted to be. It's just, for me, the Fire is a better fit.

So let's get down to it. If you order it from Amazon (which I did), it comes pre-configured for your account. Out of the box all I had to do was type in the password for my wifi home network, skip thru a few introductory screens, and I was off and running. Since it was pre-configured, all the books I had bought for my original Kindle were instantly available for me to download, displayed as front cover icons you can scroll thru. I wanted to try out the purchasing process of the Fire, so I bought the new Stephen King book 11/22/63. Accessing the Amazon store is a one-tap process, and a few taps and a quick download later it was on my Fire. Amazon has abandoned the e-ink technology for the Fire, which is too bad as it was easier on the eyes. But in exchange I get a back-lit presentation, which is good for late night reading in bed while my wife is trying to sleep (the original Kindle was not back-lit).

The Fire runs a version of the Android OS. Amazon has a nicely stocked app store (not the full selection of the actual Android store, but it has over 8000 currently available with more on the way). The Fire comes with a bunch of apps pre-loaded. I fired up the Facebook app, and was very happy with the results. Quick and easy to use. I downloaded the Twitter app and had the same results. The apps seemed to run just the way they should, so no complaints there. Web surfing is quick and easy with the Amazon Silk browser, which supports Flash. I have read some reports that said web browsing was slow, but I did not encounter that. The sites I went to loaded fairly quickly. Amazon offers one free selected app every day. Kinda cool if you want to try out something but weren't sure if it was worth the money.

One of the big features the Fire has been touting has been video streaming. With the Fire you get one month of Amazon Prime free, which gives you access to their vast movie and TV collection. From Amazon I looked up Dr Who, and they had every season of the new series to include the recently finished 6th season. I watched some of the last season 6 episode, and was happy to find a crisp picture, good sound, with zero lag/buffering issues. I downloaded the Netflix app and watched a bit of Torchwood with the same results. Again, some online reviews found the streaming to be a bit laggy, but I did not see that at all.

Amazon, like Apple, has introduced a cloud storage system. You get 5Gb (which they will probably increase in the near future) of free online storage to store anything you want, and you can access it from anywhere. This combines very nicely with the Fire. I can upload a playlist to it and listen to it on my home computer, then when I get to work the Fire can access it and pick it up where I left off (as long as you have access to a wifi hotspot). Any songs you get from Amazon Mp3 are automatically stored on the Cloud and don't contribute to the 5Gb storage space. You can expand the storage for $1 per extra gb per year).

So let's talk comics. Amazon has a fairly decent collection of comic books available for the Fire, including an exclusive deal with DC to publish many of their books. In addition to a proprietary comic reader that comes on the Fire, Amazon also pre-loaded the ComiXology app, where you can purchase issues and subscriptions. I bought Brightest Day #0 and was pleasantly surprised. While I really don't see myself reading comics on the Fire too often, the images were crisp and clear, and had no trouble reading it on the 7" screen. You can either read it by the page, or frame-by-frame. Decent enough for what it is.

Amazon has kept in the sync ability from the Kindle. This means I can be reading a book on the Fire, then switch to my Kindle iPhone app, tap a button, and I can pick up right where I left off. LOVE that!

Of course the kindle Fire is not perfect. So far my main grumbling point is the poor placement on the on/off button, which they put at the bottom of the device. If you use a cover (I bought the Microshell Folio cover by Marware, which works just fine), the placement shouldn't be much of a problem since the cover creates a kind of buffer for the button. But if you go coverless it most likely will result in you hitting the button more often than you would like. Also, if you want to transfer anything to your Fire, I hope you kept your USB cable from your old Kindle, because the Fire does not come with one (they switched to a wall charger). Also the Fire is wifi only, no 3G support. While that doesn't bug me too much, I did like the fact the Kindle had free 3G support. Oh well, I will learn to live without it.

In closing, I can honestly say I LOVE the Kindle Fire. It's light weight, easy to use, does everything I want it to, and it didn't cost a whole lot. Highly recommended!