Saturday, November 19, 2011

(Updated) Highly mixed reviews of Kindle Fire

OK, I just got my Kindle Fire today, overseas to UK. And it's early days yet, but I felt I better report that I don't really see any of all that sluggishness, non-responsiveness, and bugginess that some of the reviewers below talk about. So far, it really seems like a nice Android experience. Main liability I note so far is the weight, 410 grams (14.5oz) is a bit on the heavy side for relaxed reading, especially in bed or when you want to read one-handedly for a while. In this aspect the Galaxy Note beats the pants off the Fire at 170 grams, although of course the Note is more expensive and smaller (but with a sharper screen).

Although it ostensibly works only in the US, it has no problem letting me read my Kindle library, or surf the web, and so on. So this was my main objectives for getting it, all is well.
When  try getting to videos, paid or included, it does not seem to realize "consciously" that I'm not in the US, but I do get an error message when I try to play a video. I had not expected to get away with that either.

OK, it's clear that I can't buy media on this one. I can buy books though, via the Amazon UK ebook store. Although oddly, so far I've only been able to make purchased books turn up on my iPad, not on the Kindle Fire itself. Don't know what's going on there, demands more investigating.

Original post:
The Fire Aside, Amazon’s Lower-Priced Kindles Also Shine, David Pogue in NYT.
Most problematic, though, the Fire does not have anything like the polish or speed of an iPad. You feel that $200 price tag with every swipe of your finger. Animations are sluggish and jerky — even the page turns that you’d think would be the pride of the Kindle team. Taps sometimes don’t register. There are no progress or “wait” indicators, so you frequently don’t know if the machine has even registered your touch commands. The momentum of the animations hasn’t been calculated right, so the whole thing feels ornery.

Walt Mossberg Reviews Kindle Fire, article.

This new $199 device is called the Kindle Fire, and after testing it for a week, I think it's a good—though not a great—product and a very good value. [...] 
To be clear, the Kindle Fire is much less capable and versatile than the entry-level $499 iPad 2. It has a fraction of the apps, a smaller screen, much weaker battery life, a slower Web browser, half the internal storage and no cameras or microphone. It also has a rigid and somewhat frustrating user interface far less fluid than Apple's.

A human review of the Kindle Fire, article from the maker of Instapaper.
I expected the Kindle Fire to be a compelling iPad alternative, but I can’t call it delightful, fun, or pleasant to use. Quite the opposite, actually: using the Fire is frustrating and unpleasant, and it feels like work.

Magazines are a special beast on the Fire. They can either be custom apps, like on the iPad, or they can provide their content in a split “Page View”/”Text View” interface provided by Amazon.
The “Page View” is unusable. It’s literally just a big image of the magazine pages, like someone scanned them in. There’s nothing modern about it — the table of contents, being just an image, doesn’t even link to the articles. The Fire’s screen is so much smaller than a magazine that you need to zoom and pan constantly, and the zooming and panning is frustratingly sluggish, jerky, and clumsy. Even when zoomed in, my example issue of The Economist didn’t even have sharp text.

This is a great pity, and very different from Zinio's usability, it has working links, and if you zoom in all the way, the text stays pin-sharp, it's real text, not just an image.
Marco also replies to one of those who say that the negative reviews of the Fire are wrong because they compare it to the much more expensive iPad:

As an aside, I need to argue with Steve in good fun about his car analogy:

"Complaining that the Fire is less thrilling or compelling than an iPad is a bit like grumbling that a Honda Civic is less fun and exciting than an Audi A6. Both do what they are intended to do very well (though their intended functions are a lot more alike than the Fire and the iPad.)
The Civic is a great car. It’s not the fastest, the most fun, or the must luxurious, but it’s smooth, comfortable, versatile, and extremely reliable. It does what it’s supposed to do exceptionally."

The Kindle Fire is not a great tablet. It doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do well. That’s the difference. If Amazon had made a “Civic of tablets”, it would have been a much better product. Maybe, someday, they will.

Maybe Amazon really over-reached in wanting to beat the market to death with a super-low-priced color Kindle?
But then the original Kindle also had lots of problem, poor usability and frailty for example, and it still succeeded and got better in later generations. And of course, with Amazon's sheer momentum, it will take some huge problems to make the Fire anything like a failure.


TC [Girl] said...

Gotta say: just discovered something about the Kindle Fire that quite disappoints me...much like what was already covered in this posting:

Just bought my first magazine. WAY DISAPPOINTING experience:

no links to the page references;'s official: a 7-inch screen isn't large enough to get a decent read in a magazine! The magazine that I bought (Family Circle) even touted having the page view but...what good is it if you have to keep zooming in and moving the page all over just to read the text?! :-(

Going for a refund and adding this mental note to my "justifying buying an iPad!" pros list! ;-)

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Have to say, even on the iPad 3 high rez screen, I have to zoom into mags and comics to get the best experience. The pages are made for bigger paper pages.

TC [Girl] said...

I guess I am sort of surprised to read that; I would have thought that a 10-inch (Right? Pretty sure that's correct.) screen would be big enough, I get why you're wanting a larger Pad! I seem to remember you writing re: having several [photo] magazine subscriptions and such.

And...I think a larger screen would be cool for drawing; having a larger "canvas" to work on, when painting, etc. :-)

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Yeah, even a normal comic book page is a bit larger, and a magazine page is larger than that. And typically they have pretty small type.

Maybe somebody with perfect eyesight can read many of the pages without zooming, I dunno. (That would be due to the iPad 3's very high sharpness.)

TC [Girl] said...

Right. Guess what else I just discovered:

(Never mind that the cursor doesn't even show up on this screen; UGH!!)

Trying to answer a quick e-mail from my Yahoo account; no can do...the keyboard won't pop up!! How WEIRD/ANNOYING is that?! : -/ (Am I doing something wwwrong?)

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Try installing another browser. The "Dolphin" is popular.