First Impressions – Kindle Fire

I received my new Amazon Kindle Fire about 5 hours ago and someone suggested I post a review.  Not having spent enough time with the device I figured I’d just give a first impressions analysis.

If you don’t know what the Kindle Fire is, you can read more about it here so I won’t be getting into specs, etc.  The first comment I got from one of my co-workers is “You have an iPad2, why would you get a Kindle Fire?”  To that I have a couple of answers.  First, my iPad2 has pretty much been taken over by the rest of my family.  Kids play games and stream Netflix on it, wife surfs the web on it, etc.  Second, while obviously the iPad2 isn’t overly large or heavy, there is something about the 7″ form factor I liked (hell, I even like the Dell Streak 7 *shocker* 🙂 ).  Lastly, me being the geek I am, at $199 I couldn’t resist.

Size
I love the 7″ screen.  It’s a little thicker then the iPad2 and without weighing it, it does actually feel a little heavier then the iPad2.   However, one thing I noticed with the 7″ screen is that with the “News Stand” magazine reading app, pages don’t format correctly, so if you’re looking at a magazine full page the text is very small and there is a lot of pinching and zooming to make it usable.  Compared to a standard Kindle the screen does have glare in direct sunlight, it’s a color touch-screen display and I was expecting that.

Interface
I’m not sure what the “skin” of the Kindle Fire is called but its responsive and works well.  Across the top of the device you have shortcuts to Books, Movies, Music, Apps, Web and Docs (more on that later) Then a “carousel” in the middle which lets you flip thru your most recent apps and content.  The bottom has a dock for your favorites.  Takes a little getting used to coming from an iPad but I like it.  Across the very top of the device are your normal status items, WiFi, clock, battery and notifications. The Kindle Fire can display in both Portrait and Landscape and its rather responsive when you flip it around.  Standard Android touchscreen keyboard.  Overall I feel the device is easier to use in Landscape, which is exactly how I feel about the iPad as well.  Besides the power button on the bottom, there are no other buttons on the device, it’s all driven thru the touchscreen.  I would have preferred volume buttons but it’s not a deal breaker for me.  Whenever you touch the screen, the controls appear on the bottom of the screen.  There is a home button, back button, menu button and a search buttom – very Android-ish.

Camera
There isn’t one…With that being said, the camera on the iPad2 sucks anyway and I never use.  I have a Canon DSLR I take real pictures with, anything else I can get away with my phones camera.

App Store
Again, only having the device a few hours, I didn’t have trouble finding the apps I was looking for in the Amazon App Store.  While not as big of a library at the iTunes AppStore, it’s good enough and I’m sure it will get better over time.  Beats the hell out of the Blackberry App World which is downright terrible.  The only app I couldn’t find so far is the Citrix Receiver but I saw on a blog post somewhere its coming.  At the end of the day, it’s an Android device so I’m sure its just a matter of porting over a few lines of additional code.

Email
The Kindle Fire comes with an email app that for the most part works like any other mobile device mail client.  Can’t really say I have any complaints.  When you first launch it there is a wizard that will setup all the mainstream web based email providers like GMail, Yahoo and MS Live, etc and I had email running in under a minute.

Docs
This is by far my favorite feature so far.  The Kindle Fire has this “send to Kindle” feature.  It looks like Amazon flips your regular Amazon username and appends a @kindle.com address to it.  From your email, you can attach a doc and send it to that address and it shows up in the docs app.  This is like a Dropbox-esq feature I like.  I’ve already emailed a couple of spec sheets and presentations I’m always using to that address and in under a minute they showed up on my Kindle.  Great idea, I really like that feature.  You can also control from Amazon’s website which addresses can accept documents.

Content
Me personally….I’ve sold my soul to Google and Amazon.  Once a co-worker turned me on to the Amazon MP3 store and the Cloud Player, I dropped iTunes like like a lead balloon.  All your music is already ready to be downloaded to your Kindle Fire from the Cloud Player or you can stream it if you’re online.  As an Amazon Prime member you can stream a number of movies and TV shows for free.  You can also rent and buy movies and download them to the device locally.  The knock I’ve read online about the Kindle Fire is that it only has 8GB of memory but if you’re an Amazon junky like myself it doesn’t really matter because you can save most of your media on their cloud and download what you need.  When I took the Kindle Fire out of the box and powered it on (and after a system update) all my purchased Kindle books were already there as well along with a nice letter from Jeff Bezos appreciating my business…you’re welcome Jeff 🙂

Browser
The Kindle Fire includes Amazon’s new “Silk” browser.  There are some other reviews that compare the iPad vs. Silk vs. Android browser and from a speed perspective, I don’t find it to be slow.  However there is a certain “fluidity” of the Safari browser on the iPad that is better then Silk.  The Silk browser can be a bit choppy at time while scrolling and zooming.  It’s not terrible, but its something you definitely notice coming from an iPad.  Flash seems to work fine though and browsing sites like YouTube is not an issue.  Overall I think the browser suites the device just fine.

Final Thoughts
Again, only a couple hours into owning the Kindle Fire – I like it.  Is it an iPad killer? No….not yet.  I think the 7″ screen is a great size for a tablet and using Amazon’s ITaaS,PaaS,SaaS and any other *aaS , delivering content I’m most interested in on a daily basis is a breeze.  I’m sure all the Apple fanboys will rip it to shreds because it wasn’t innovated by Jesus Jobs.  As someone who’s used a lot smartphones, tablets and laptops, I think there is definitely a market for the Kindle Fire and will be a hot seller this holiday season.

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