Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kindle Fire Review

We bought a Kindle Fire for Thanksgiving.  We compared the Fire to our existing devices: an older Kindle, Android phone, and Apple iPod Touch and iPad.  Our overall assessment of the Fire is that it is a vastly better Kindle book reader with many features superior to our iPod Touch and many of the features we use on the iPad.  Here is an overview of what we like and what could be better:

A vastly better Kindle
The Fire has all the reading features we like about our old Kindle with many new additions. The screen is high resolution with color making the text easy to read and color pictures in books clearer than on our lap top, iPod, and iPad. Fire uses touch screen buttons instead of the physical buttons on the older Kindle, so a finger swipe flips the page.  The power on/off is the only button on the device. When connected to a computer it presents a thumb-drive file interface, like the old Kindle. To buy or add books, the Fire requires a wireless internet connection (3g is not supported) or connection to a computer so that books can be moved onto the device.

A better iPod
The Fire has the music and video player iPod/iPad features without the frustrating iTunes interface.  Movies are stored in a directory or played via the internet and the screen resolution makes HD videos and youtube look great.  You can purchase music online or move songs into the music directory to play while reading or surfing the net.  The web interface is easy to use and, unlike Apple’s Safari, it supports Flash.  Games, movies, and applications are available from the Amazon store.  Finally, the same iPod/iPad interface we use for keeping track of all of our email accounts is replicated on the Fire.

So in addition to the book reading device, the Fire has the applications we use all day on our iPod and iPad: Email, Skype messaging (IM), Facebook, and web surfing. And, all this is available for $200.

There are, however, some limitations:

Limited Applications
The Fire uses Google’s Android OS, so we assumed that everything we have available on our Android phone would be available on the Kindle Fire.   Currently that is not the case.  There are less games and other applications in the Amazon cloud as compared to the iTunes and Android stores. Hopefully this will change and more applications become available as the device gains popularity.

Connectivity limitations
You have to connect the Fire to a computer to move movies and music into the appropriate directories or email them to the device via an email address Amazon provides.  The Fire does not come with the USB cable needed to connect to a computer (fortunately we had one from our previous Kindle).  When you email files to the Fire, they are put into the download directory and must be moved into the appropriate music or movie directory by connecting to a computer.  The Kindle USB cables may be easy to find on the mainland, but they are not readily available on an outer island in Hawaii.

Text to Speech
The text-to-speech capability on the older Kindle is not currently available on the Fire.

Local flash Apps
Our Android phone allows us to move flash games onto the phone via a computer connection and play them locally.  Though the Fire supports Flash applications, there is no way to run a local application yet. This limits the device’s use as a gaming platform for now.

The Fire is a superior replacement for our iPod Touch and our older Kindle.  With more drawing applications and iTunes applications, it could replace our iPad.  Hopefully, Amazon will add more Android capabilities and the Kindle text-to-speech feature.

We look forward to reading lots of book on our Kindle Fire during our Hawaii winter.


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