Kindle Fire

First things first, the Kindle Fire is not an iPad. That's not what it's meant for. There is an abundance of articles comparing the Kindle to the iPad, but I'm here to say that it is completely different. If that's what you are expecting, you will be disappointed. The main purpose of the kindle is to deliver Amazon ebooks more effectively and it is mainly designed for reading, not writing. It can be used to watch movies, but you will find that it's more limited than a tablet. If you don't plan on using Amazon to obtain media, you may want to take this info into consideration before purchasing the Kindle Fire. The reason the kindle is such a hot product is due to the really affordable price. On price alone, this is an excellent device. However, when the Kindle Fire is compared with other touch devices, I feel there are some areas for improvement. Now that I've said that, let's talk about the device and its features.

The Kindle Fire feels just like the 3rd generation Kindle, but it's a little heavier. It may be difficult to hold for an hour to read or to watch a film. You'll have to prop it up on something. The display is made of highly damage-resistant glass. It can still be cracked, but it would be hard to get scratches on it. In fact, I don't think you even need a screen protector.

If you take a look on the bottom of the kindle, there is a headphone port, a micro-USB, and power button. The headphone port can also be used as an external speaker port and the micro-USB is for charging and file transfers. The Kindle Fire does not come with an SD card slot because Amazon wants you to get content from them only. You can, however, import your own content to the device with the USB connection from your computer. The Kindle Fire comes with 8Gb of storage, which can hold about 8 movies, 80 apps, 800 songs, or 6,000 books. Books don't take up that much room, but magazines are around 250Mb and movies are about 1 Gb. There are many free videos available through Amazon Prime, but can only be streamed and not downloaded. So, unless you purchase a movie from Amazon or transfer your own, you must connect through a wi-fi connection to watch your movie.

If you haven't tried the Amazon Cloud Drive, you're in for a treat. With the ACD, you get 5Gb of free online storage and you can access it from anywhere. Amazon is most likely going to increase the amount of free storage in the near future. Although 5Gb isn't a huge amount of storage, you can upgrade to a better plan for only one dollar per GB per year. All music purchased from Amazon is automatically stored on the drive and does not take away from your free 5Gb of storage.

If you read a lot and are going to spend at least 50% of your time reading books, the Kindle Fire isn't much better than the Kindle 3 or Kindle Touch. It's not the same, and if you read for hours, the display might make your eyes a little sore. I guess this is true with just about any tablet. Also, the Kindle Fire is a bit difficult to read in bright lighting. The touch navigation is good, but it's not as nice as the iPad or the Kindle Touch.  Another convenient addition to the fire is that you can touch a word and the dictionary automatically pops up. It has its pros and cons, but I personally still like the Kindle touch a little bit more for reading.

You can read magazines on the Kindle Fire, but the display isn't big enough for it to be enjoyable. I think the main problem is with the formatting. It's hard to read an article without using the zoom function. Nowadays, magazines have several things going on on every page so it's difficult to read on the 7" display. Magazines that focus on the article handle much better. Some online magazines even have video and audio embedded on the pages, which can be helpful with articles in exercise magazines and such, but I haven't come across too many yet. The Text View is also a great feature and it works well most of the time, but it sometimes gets confused with magazines that have complicated formatting.

Amazon has an extensive collection of comic books available, including an exclusive deal with DC to publish many of their books. In addition to a comic reader on the Kindle Fire, Amazon also has an app available to purchase subscriptions. At first, I thought the display would be too small, but it actually works well as a comic reader.  The Kindle Fire definitely beats using a smart phone for a reader. It has a feature that lets you scroll to different panels, and then you can zoom in on them. All you have to do is tap the panel when you're finished reading, and it will move to the next. It works great to get a larger view and helps work around the small size of the reader.

With video, Amazon would like it if you purchased most of your content from them. That's why this Kindle is so affordable. Amazon music is copy protection free. That means that record labels do not restrict how you use the music you purchase from Amazon. The MP3s are playable anywhere, even on your ipod. You also get great quality Mp3s with a high bitrate. With the Fire, everything streams and downloads easily. The only problem I have is with the video playback. Not everything fully expands to the screen. If you consider the small display, it's actually quite annoying. Different shows have different aspect ratios so, it's a hit or miss.

Another feature I was initially excited about was using the Kindle for web browsing. Amazon advertises that using its Silk browser is really fast. It uses a technology that increases page loading times by pre-fetching some of the content. It sounds great, but doesn't work as well as I imagined. I tried browsing the web on the Kindle Fire with several different connections and compared page loading times. Compared with other similar devices, it is fairly average. However, Amazon is constantly improving the speed of these devices and they will come close to perfection in the near future.

As far as battery life, Amazon advertises you can use the Fire for 8 hours of reading or 7.5 hours of video playback. That's actually pretty accurate. I actually got about 7.5 hours of reading and about 7 hours of watching videos before the battery ran out. Just like my cell phone, I just charge it every night. The Kindle has a sleep mode, but I usually just shut it down. The sleep mode doesn't use hardly any energy at all, I just have the habbit of turning it off.

The Kindle Fire uses a modified version of the Android interface. I think it works really well. If you have used an iPad, you'll notice that the Fire doesn't respond as quickly as other tablets, but it's acceptable for the price. I'm sure that this will be addressed with a firmware upgrade in the near future. If you need to access photos or video that you have manually loaded onto the Kindle, you have to use the "Gallery" app. It's not very user-friendly for displaying these files. It only creates thumbnails for your videos and doesn't allow you to view the file names during selection. If you have several videos from one television show, there isn't an easy way to organize them.

Now, I would like to discuss some of the negatives:

1) First off, there isn't a bluetooth or HDMI. As a media player, it should have been included. I'm sure it will be with future versions. This is important because the audio from the speakers is a little weak. This causes me to use headphones every time I play media.

2) There isn't a physical volume button so it's hard to silence the device quickly. I also wish there was an HDMI output so I could watch my Amazon videos on my TV. This device was made specifically for media so I'm sure it will be included in a future edition.

3) The Kindle Fire only has 8GB of space. The Fire is mainly designed to integrate with Amazon's Cloud, so it should be enough, but I'd prefer 16GB. Amazon probably did this on purpose so people would have to use their Cloud service.

4) The touch capability is sometimes sluggish. The iPad has a better reaction time and some aspects of the software are quicker.

5) The video does not include an option to zoom or stretch the display to fit the screen.

6) There is a limited selection of apps from the Amazon store. Most of them are mediocre games. However, you can get around this by manually loading apps onto it.

7) There is no Micro-USB cable included with it. I see this as just another way Amazon is discouraging you from transferring your own files onto the Fire.

Overall, you will not find a more affordable device for streaming music, video, and books than the Kindle Fire. The reason it's so amazing is not because of what it does, but for what it does at such an affordable price. Although there is room for improvement, the Kindle Fire is a solid start on what's to come from Amazon. The next version should be much better. I think the current Fire is pretty close to a five-star product. I know reviews shouldn't focus on an item's price, but due to the issues with the touch interface, I give it four stars. It's just not good enough to give it a five star rating without taking the price into consideration.

I hope this review helps in your decision on purchasing the fire. Thanks for reading!