First Kindle Fire Reviews: Promising But Rough

By  |  Monday, November 14, 2011 at 9:42 am

A few samples:

David Pogue at The New York Times:

The Fire deserves to be a disruptive, gigantic force — it’s a cross between a Kindle and an iPad, a more compact Internet and video viewer at a great price. But at the moment, it needs a lot more polish; if you’re used to an iPad or “real” Android tablet, its software gremlins will drive you nuts.

Then again, Amazon tends to keep chipping away at the clunkiness of its 1.0 creations until it sculptures a hit. Or, as they say in the technology business: “If you don’t like the current crop of e-readers, just wait a minute.”

Joshua Topolsky of The Verge:

If you’re thinking about getting the Fire, you have to decide not just whether you want a tablet, but what kind of tablet you want. This isn’t an iPad-killer. It has the potential to do lots of things, but there are many things I have yet to see it do, and I wonder if it will get there given the lean software support. It’s my impression that Amazon believes that the Fire will be so popular that developers will choose to work on its platform rather than on Google’s main trunk of Android, but that’s just a theory right now.

Still, there’s no question that the Fire is a really terrific tablet for its price. The amount of content you have access to — and the ease of getting to that content — is notable to say the least. The device is decently designed, and the software — while lacking some polish — is still excellent compared to pretty much anything in this range (and that includes the Nook Color). It’s a well thought out tablet that can only get better as the company refines the software. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start, and at $200, that may be all Amazon needs this holiday shopping season.

Tim Stevens at Engadget

The Kindle Fire is quite an achievement at $200. It’s a perfectly usable tablet that feels good in the hand and has a respectably good looking display up front. Yes, power users will find themselves a little frustrated with what they can and can’t do on the thing without access to the Android Market but, in these carefree days of cloud-based apps ruling the world, increasingly all you need is a good browser. That the Fire has.

When stacked up against other popular tablets, the Fire can’t compete. Its performance is a occasionally sluggish, its interface often clunky, its storage too slight, its functionality a bit restricted and its 7-inch screen too limiting if you were hoping to convert all your paper magazine subscriptions into the digital ones. Other, bigger tablets do it better — usually at two or three times the cost.

So, the Kindle Fire is great value and perhaps the best, tightest integration of digital content acquisition into a mobile device that we’ve yet seen. Instead of having a standalone shopping app the entire tablet is a store — a 7-inch window sold at a cut-rate price through which users can look onto a sea of premium content. It isn’t a perfect experience, but if nothing else it’s a promising look into the future of retail commerce.

Sascha Segan of

The Kindle Fire is one of a kind, at least this week. It’s the first affordable, easy-to-use general-purpose tablet. It doesn’t replace the Apple iPad: It complements the iPad, which is bigger, more powerful, more expensive, and has far more apps. While there are other good small tablets out there, most notably the Acer Iconia Tab A100, they’re also more expensive and just more fiddly. While geeks have more options with a “generic” Honeycomb tablet, non-geeks get less guidance as to what to do with them.

I can’t emphasize this “ease of use” thing enough. More than anything else, that’s what’s been holding non-iPad tablets back. Amazon cracked it. End of story.

Yes, the Kindle Fire is missing features that will make some people scream. It has no camera, no Bluetooth, and no microphone. And if you don’t get your videos from Amazon, you’ll find storage very limited. But Amazon has correctly identified the features most people use, and pared away the rest to cut costs. Folks looking for those extra features can still turn to Acer’s excellent Honeycomb tablet.

Sam Biddle at Gizmodo:

I said the Fire is very responsive, most of the time. Most of the time, yes. But when it’s not, it’s awful. There’s absolutely no excuse for a machine with these guts to be unable to turn pages with zero lag. It has two cores, for Chrissake. What are they being used for? Lag is, other than using your tablet to bludgeon someone to death, the worst possible sin of portable computing. Unfortunately, the Fire is probably cursed with the same blood as every other Android device that can’t manage to run a mile without tripping over its laces. Luckily for Amazon, its tablet is among the peppier around—but it’s pretty pathetic that it can’t match the iPad at this point. Paper doesn’t lag. Your Kindle shouldn’t either. A pity.

Figure. This. Out. And fix it.

Aside from the occasional chop, your main beef will likely be with the Fire’s sole—but quite glaring—interface hole. There’s no dedicated home button. To return to your content shelf HQ, you have to tap squarely in the middle of the screen, which brings up a soft home button. This would be fine, except most of the time you’ll turn a page by mistake, rather than trigger the navigation bar. It’s dunce cap design, made all the more glaring by the great design surrounding it.

If you like what Amazon Prime has going on in the kitchen, the Fire is a terrific seat. It’s not as powerful or capable as an iPad, but it’s also a sliver of the price—and that $200 will let you jack into the Prime catalog (and the rest of your media collection) easily and comfortably. Simply, the Fire is a wonderful IRL compliment to Amazon’s digital abundance. It’s a terrific, compact little friend, and—is this even saying anything?—the best Android tablet to date.

More thoughts once I’ve tried a Fire for myself–soon, I hope.


Comments are closed

Read more: , ,

3 Comments For This Post

  1. MJPollard Says:

    I’ll get a Kindle Fire once I hear that the CyanogenMod team is working on a ROM to turn it into a “true” Android tablet.

  2. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Not sure what the definition of a "true" Android tablet is. I'm guessing that it is subjective?

  3. MJPollard Says:

    In my view, a “true” Android tablet is one that has the complete Android interface with all its features (as far as the hardware allows) that lets you do anything you like, not one that has its features buried and restricted like the Kindle Fire’s default interface. In other words, turn a specific-purpose device into a general-purpose one. For $200 and a little time spent installing a new ROM, I’d be crazy to pass it up.