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A human review of the Kindle Fire (marco.org)
196 points by zdw on Nov 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 135 comments

I actually like mine quite a bit. I had't previously made use of the Amazon Prime free streaming content, but it's great on the Fire. Marco compared it negatively to Netflix, but Prime is $6.50 a month and the streaming stuff is just a small part (it was actually added on after--Prime was a good deal before any streaming content). Complaining about free streaming content is not a great way to start a review. How's the streaming content that Apple provides?

The size and weight are great, the iPad feels bulky after using the Fire. It's great for reading while holding in one hand, something I don't do much with the iPad because of it's size and weight.

I'm not sure why hardware volume buttons would help much, the software controls are always one tap away. I'm not a fan of the only physical button (power)--it's small and on the bottom, but I'm probably just used to the one on the upper right of iOS devices.

It's two days old, there isn't a lot of software written for it yet. That's not surprising since most developers just got theirs two days ago. The app experience on iPad wasn't great at first either, remember all the double sized iPhone apps? The focus of the Fire isn't apps, it's Amazon's content. Remember when it was announced and people were guessing whether or not Apps would even be allowed?

It's easy to use, arrives configured (and personalized--the Fire knowing who I am when I opened it was a lot better than the "plug into iTunes" message my iPad(s) came with) and seamlessly hooks into the Amazon ecosystem. It's exactly what I expected.

Update: I just tried the PDF reader, by emailing a document (again, try that on an iPad). It worked great. I added the email address to my address book and now can send docs to my Kindle without having to think. Lovely.

Apple's free streaming video is pretty much all educational - but I've lost countless hours watching Stanford's series on Energy - in particular, I highly recommend Their Global Climate and Energy Project. Start with Solar Energy 101 - and see if you can avoid being hooked.

Obviously - there is also all of the podcasts from NPR, 5by5.tv, etc...

I've been happy with the free content I get from Apple - I probably spend, on average, 6-8 hours a week listening/watching it.

by emailing a document (again, try that on an iPad)

huh? You can read attachments normally on iOS, and mail them in. Since 5.0 (wi-fi sync) you can also just drag & drop the files onto the device in iTunes.

And save them where? You can keep a PDF in your email and try to read it, but that's a big stretch. On the Kindle it automatically gets put into Docs (which nets you stuff like remembering your position and not having to wade through thousands of emails to see your document again).

Tap on a PDF and it will ask you if you want to open it in Dropbox, iBooks, or any other PDF reader you have on your device. I keep mine organized in the iBooks categories, myself, but other people use different apps.

If you have any installed that is, none are installed when you buy your device.

"It's two days old, there isn't a lot of software written for it yet. That's not surprising since most developers just got theirs two days ago."

So it's unacceptable that the iPad doesn't come preinstalled with all the things that you expect but it's fine that the Fire can be currently gimped by a lack of third party apps?

The point is that the stuff you were complaining about is available and out there for iOS. Whether it's pre-installed or third-party is pretty irrelevant.

Isn't iBooks part of the default for iPads now?

iBooks wasn't around for the iPad 1, but things change.

presses and holds

selects 'open in iBooks'

Seems to work here!

iBooks doesn't come installed on iOS devices, so that's not what happens when you use the device as it comes. (You just get the ability to Quick View it.)

The first thing that happens (after the TOS) when you go to the App Store is it asks you if you want to download your free version of iBooks.

If you happen to be in a market that has iBooks.

I think it's a little strange to have to download an application called iBooks so that you can save documents (that you need to email yourself). Apple tries to be very intuitive, but document management on iOS is a mess. There is much room for improvement. I've had multiple people ask how to get documents on their iPad, which stands out because most everything else is so simple (especially after iOS 5 not needing as much of an iTunes lifeline).

On Kindle you go to Docs and it says "Nothing here, email something to XXX@kindle.com". You try that and boom it shows up. If you want to load some documents on your iOS device there's no obvious way without getting extra apps (which itself isn't obvious). iOS 4 addressed this somewhat to allow management through iTunes, but even after plugging it in it takes knowing to go to your device in iTunes, selecting Apps, scrolling down, clicking on an App under "File Sharing", clicking the "Add" button and choosing your file (then sync and hope it works, it doesn't let you know what file types are allowed so it's a crapshoot).

It's a side effect of iOS not having a shared repository of files. I'm surprised that iCloud didn't attempt to fix this, but it only keeps application specific documents in sync. Dropbox is still king, but because they're not integrated into the OS it feels like a hack. Maybe it's coming, but right now the iCloud folder on your Mac is hidden: http://www.macstories.net/tutorials/use-mobile-documents-fol...

Fair enough, though I'd suggest that iBooks' position as the Apple book reader will mean that most people who download apps will have it (though I know there's a sizable amount of users who never download anything).

Maybe not "as it comes" but even if you dont have iBooks, the "Open in.." menu will show any app that support the filetype. I can open pdf email attachments in iBooks, GoodReader, Dropbox or TabToolKit.

Why does your ability to save an attachment depend on you having an application installed to open it with?

Because if you don't have an application to view it with outside email, what are you going to view it with outside email?

iOS is moving away from the user-facing file system. Normal users don't get it; they associate content with tools to process it with, not as content just sitting there wholly independent. If there isn't something to view the content with, the notion of storing content to not view is nonsensical.

I don't think people have difficulty with files; some fraction of people have difficulty with hierarchies of folders, but files? I don't think the evidence is there.

> "Complaining about free streaming content is not a great way to start a review. How's the streaming content that Apple provides?"

I'll bite. I really don't like the Prime free Videos thing. It's not the lack of selection (though that is an issue), it's that there is zero discoverability.

Amazon's concept of "recommendations" is quaint and still entirely obsessed with the concept of a physical product, and fails dramatically when put alongside modern recommendation engines like Netflix, or any number of smaller startups that deliver better content recommendations. Netflix's content selection isn't terribly awesome either, but it doesn't feel lacking because the system does such a fine job of finding you something to watch.

And it's not that Amazon tries to build out a good discoverability system,and it just isn't any good. It simply doesn't have one. When you drop into the Video Store, almost none of the things it shows you are meant to be relevant to you. We see global bestsellers. We see new releases. We see nothing relevant to the user, and that's a pretty big problem for a device whose mission is to help customers discover content and buy it.

The same applies to the MP3 Store. Where Apple has Genius, Spotify/Rdio have social features and tastemaker-based recommendations... the Music Store on the Fire has... nothing.

I'm really disappointed with mine. The out of box experience is so good. You pull it out of the box and power it on, it's already registered to your Amazon account. You're led through a simple setup process as good as iPad with iOS5. You even get these cute chalk-mark-scribbles tutorial overlays when you first land on the home screen.

And then you drop off a damn cliff, and 20 minutes later you realize the device is pretty vacuous. About the only part of the entire device where I don't have serious issues is the e-reader, thank God.

Going off on a bit of a tangent...

modern recommendation engines like Netflix ... the system does such a fine job of finding you something to watch.

I strongly disagree (about Netflix). I think their recommendation engine is dismal. It pretty much never finds me things that I'm interested in.

To me, the strongest evidence that Netflix is after a red herring is the Netflix Challenge. The goal was an algorithm to provide the most accurate ratings, but I think that phrasing the question in that way makes it almost irrelevant.

The real question should be: what movies will this user likely find to be very good. That means that a precise rating is never necessary, and no rating is needed at all for things that are outside the 4-5 range. And an algorithm to find movies that simply have a high likelihood of high scores is a very different beast from an algorithm that can precisely rate movies across the whole spectrum.

I think they're still working on recommendations, the app is still quite basic. It shows similar products well, but doesn't try and tell me what I want. To be fair, I have not bought/watched much video content on Amazon and on the website the recommendations are pretty sparse because of that (I have bought Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld DVD sets, so the recommendations are mostly from those).

When I go to the Music store on Kindle it has recommendations for me on the front page (I haven't bought music on Amazon for a while so they are a bit out of date, but it took me a second to figure out why all the top albums were so good). If I uploaded my music to Amazon Cloud I'd expect the recommendations could be better--Amazon currently only knows a very small part of my music collection.

For a comparison, I just logged onto the music store from my iPhone and the "Genius" recommendations on there are as bad as they could be, despite Genius working great on my desktop. Apple has the benefit of knowing all my music, so this is a little disappointing. It seems they go by artist mainly and don't weight by play count (I have some popular albums, albeit mostly un-listened and they drove almost all recommendations.) I would heavily weight by play count, that's the best tell that the music is actually enjoyed.

> "If I uploaded my music to Amazon Cloud I'd expect the recommendations could be better"

On the contrary, I think it gets far worse. Think about your entire music library. How much of it do you actively listen to? How much of it do you still care about? Or is it left over from those 6 months when you just can't get enough hiphop, and now you can't stand it anymore?

Tracking recent purchases will make for strong recommendations, since that's a good measure of where your tastes lie right now. Using your entire library (which is the only recommendation the Kindle can do) will inject a lot of noise, which is what happened to me (my entire library is on Cloud Player).

The whole thing desperately needs a Genius-like recommendation system. We know Amazon has the tech to do this, so why isn't there anything even remotely like it? Why is it that when I listen to music the UI is sparse and empty, and I'm not being upsold on relevant music?

Genius suffers from the same library-wide problem, but the difference is if you select a song, it will give you recommendations based solely on it. I've used this to discover new music a lot, and it works really well. Amazon desperately needs the same thing.

> "I think they're still working on recommendations, the app is still quite basic."

That really describes the entire device. You can see what they're getting at, but it's fallen so far short of the goal that it's sometimes infuriating how big the squandered opportunity is. Everything is "quite basic", and considering this is supposed to be the electronic gateway to all video, audio, periodical, and textual content... it does a really poor job everywhere of pushing content to you.

> On the contrary, I think it gets far worse. Think about your entire music library. How much of it do you actively listen to? How much of it do you still care about? Or is it left over from those 6 months when you just can't get enough hiphop, and now you can't stand it anymore?

Amazon right now doesn't know what I have or what I listen to. If they know what I have, it can't hurt things. They get listen data from your usage and can pick up further listen data from iTunes (the playcount data there is a great record of what I actually listen to).

Genius is great at finding similar stuff if I give it stuff I like, but the recommendations at the store are crap.

> The size and weight are great, the iPad feels bulky after using the Fire.

Really? I only held one for a few minutes, but I thought it felt way too heavy (dense). It's only 2/3 the weight of the iPad 2, but since it's all plastic, I expected it to feel on the light side (like most Android phones, e.g. Galaxy S II).

As for bulkiness, I think both the iPad's and Fire's form factors are pretty great, and should be able to coexist rather than compete directly. For fullscreen video (which is 90% of what I use my iPad 2 for), the iPad form factor wins on sheer screen size, although the Fire's aspect ratio does fit most video better.

Also, Silk is by far the best mobile browser I've used, in terms of speed. It feels as fast, if not faster, than my laptop. Amazon really did what they said they did with Silk.

>Complaining about free streaming content

At what point did the term "free" come to describe things that you pay for? Whether you pay for Prime out of pocket or get it with your Fire, it is most certainly not free. Streaming is a part of Prime, and that doesn't make it free, either.

Do you believe that the HVAC in your car was free simply because it was bundled with the rest of your car?

Have you tried watching videos from other websites? How about using it to read HN or blogs?

I tried going in store and testing web browsing and video playback, but for some reason the display has its browser locked.

I have read HN, worked about as expected. The arrows are hard to touch accurately, but I have the same complaint with any mobile device (it's HN's fault--doubly so that votes can be changed).

I just went to nytimes.com and played some video on their homepage. Worked as expected. It's tricky to do direct comparisons because many sites show different versions for the iPad (the Fire seems to get a fair amount of general "mobile" sites, but is obviously too new for dedicated "Fire" sites). ESPN falls in this category, it works better on the iPad but is also specially made for it.

I'm really disappointed with Marco's review because, quite frankly, it feels like he came into the purchase expecting to be disappointed, and colored his review as such.

Yes, it's not an iPad, we all get that. Stop reviewing every device as if it were.

I have an iPad, and love it to death. However, I bought the Fire because I'm a developer and I wanted to use my experience with it as a test to determine whether or not I should develop for it. My conclusion? Yes I should.

It's not perfect. Some of the hardware buttons seem like an odd choice. The back button does indeed fail sometimes, but that's it.

I think the touch works better than on any Android device I've used in the past, and I thought the mail app was just fine. Media is decent, and the Amazon Music/Video integration is awesome.

The screen size is a strange one, but I got used to it. The only thing I have really gotten used to is the weight, but I suppose that I will in time.

In short, it's not an iPad, but I didn't expect it to be.

Sure, but you're an edge case: most people don't buy tablets so they can develop for them. From a consumer perspective, its very much more a comparison to existing tablets, and especially the iPad (being the leading tablet).

There are arguments in favor of the Fire over the iPad--price comes to mind--but I very much think a comparison is appropriate.

True, but Marco didn't even mention price. The KF price is just 40% of the iPad price, and while the iPad has certainly raised expectations, it's unfair to expect a $199 tablet to perform at the same level of the iPad.

Marco has his mind made up on the Android, and though I'm not an Android fan (some would call me an Apple fanboy), I don't think he is giving this device a fair shot.

Why is it "unfair" to compare to the iPad? What else is there to compare to?

It sounds like you were the one expecting him to cut some slack for the Fire - "it's a cheap Android device after all" - not the other way around.

> What else is there to compare to?

No tablet at all, of course! Those are the people this is targeting.

It's sort of like comparing a Fiat 500 (the original ones) to a Ferrari. No, it's not as good. However, it's probably better than nothing for most people buying one.

I don't think accounting for price is equivalent to him cutting slack for the Fire.

However, to answer your question:

Any Android or WebOS tablet on the market still. The Nook Color Older Kindle models iPod Touch (Same price class, similar features)

Yes, the iPad SHOULD be in the conversation, but just as it defined the tablet market, so too did the Kindle define the e-reader market. It's a brand new market, and I have a hard time believing it's never going to evolve or see a worthy competitor.

> Marco has his mind made up on the Android, and though I'm not an Android fan (some would call me an Apple fanboy), I don't think he is giving this device a fair shot.

I don't think any tablet coming after the iPad (and iPad2) has a fair shot, to be honest... the market's boundaries are actively being defined by Apple and they aren't going to play nice.

A Nook with CM9 would warrant another look, though.

The Fire is going to get CM9 too (and probably will have an easier time of it, to boot).

Separately, there are plenty of markets where non-iPad tablets are going to get more than a fair shot (see: India and China). And there are plenty of reviewers that think Amazon has found one.

Me, I think they're probably on to something, but there are clearly rough edges they need to work on. That's why I believe the rumors that they've already started on an ICS upgrade for the Fire.

I don't think that the screen size is weird. It's good for people who don't want a size bigger than an iPhone but smaller than an iPad. I could see myself using one for commutes.

I think he was genuinely expecting a worthy iPad competitor. That's the impression I got from the (far too many) discussions about it on his podcast.

This review mirrors my experience almost exactly.

I would also expand it and mention that PDF reading is pretty terrible. I tried the built-in reader and all of the paid applications. Only one of them, ezPDF, was even able to decently render a two-column ACM paper. And that one had page turns only slightly faster than my e-Ink Kindle Keyboard, and the Fire became hand-scorchingly hot after just a few minutes of using it.

He also didn't mention it, but the device doesn't feel very nice in the hand. Despite the presence of a plastic back, they didn't make it "sticky" enough that you could lightly hold it and not worry about it slipping out due to its heavier weight than the e-Ink devices. So, in practice, you have to be just as careful while holding it as you do with the toe-seeking iPad.

The only thing that worked well was the Crunchyroll app, which streamed and displayed asian video content quite handily.

FWIW, in my experience, PDF seems to be a lost cause in general on any device w/ less than a 10" screen.

I read PDFs on my 7" Nook color (running cyanogenmod) without any real trouble. I switch between aldiko and ezPDF and find that they both work well.

PDFs technically "work" on the Fire (and the Playbook, another 7" I've used recently), the issue is just that of shoving a letter/A4-sized page into half the space. You can scroll and zoom, but it's still nowhere near as comfortable as reading them at their intended size. It'd be nice to have a "smart" PDF reader that can auto-detect columns and such; but it'd never be a replacement for a proper reflowable doc format (such as ePub/mobi)

Heck, I used to read PDFs on my G1 using Repligo Reader. They have a great mode that squeezes out the vast majority of text and arranges it in a useful, readable form for the current screen.

> and the Fire became hand-scorchingly hot after just a few minutes of using it.

And the true reason for the name is discovered? :)

Tested our app on mine; unsurprisingly it identified it's model as "blaze".

Interesting. I've had good luck with ezPDF on my (mid-2010 single core) phone except for the obvious size limitations. It's definitely the go-to PDF reader on Android.

Maybe the ACM papers are just more complicated to display than the PDFs I've been reading? Because I can't imagine how the Fire could be slower than my phone.

i've had mine for 24 hours now and my review is pretty much the same. too many software quirks make it annoying to use, and the lack of physical hardware buttons may be a fatal flaw. i do like the size of it, and it's easy to hold in one hand. i think the asymmetrical size of the screen bezel is so that it can be held in one hand without having your fingers/palm on the screen, and maybe that is also why there are no backlit-buttons under there like on many android phones.

i have a kindle 3 and bought the kindle fire as a general-use tablet (so no book reading on it) and my first tests were with the netflix and plex apps (plex had to be side-loaded since it is not in amazon's store). amazon's native video app has on-screen volume control, so adjusting it is pretty simple. any other app, however, expects there to be hardware volume buttons so changing the volume in an app like netflix or plex means:

- tapping once to take the video out of nearly-full-screen (every non-amazon app doesn't go full-screen, there is still a small bar at the bottom to bring up the soft back/home buttons)

- tapping again at the top to bring down the quick control panel, which makes netflix and plex pause (probably because they interpret it as another app getting focus)

- changing the volume is done by sliding the control in large steps (there are only like 8 steps for a control that goes across the entire width of the screen), which then plays the system default beep at that volume

- tapping again to focus the netflix app

- then tapping the app's play button to resume playing. since the video was paused, you won't know if the new volume setting is ok until you do all that and resume playing.

the power button being at the bottom makes me think i'm going to accidentally press it when the device is resting on something. the headphone jack there seems to be a poor choice as well. also, the charge led is very bright, so when it's charging on my nightstand, there is a bright orange glow pointing at things.

I second your comments. I'll add a bit to them.

The web browser is very slow. It's really bad. I try to scroll and sometimes have to really press hard with my fingers to get it to respond. Sometimes no response.

I thought reading a book would be easier. Looking up a word can be hard. Sometimes I hold my finger on a word and a whole line of text is highlighted and thus I can't look up the definition.

Browsing my queue on Netflix is a pain and searching for movies on Prime isn't great either.

Overall, I rate the device 2 stars out of 5. I wish I had not bought it. Wait for version 3!

From what I've read, the power button is on the bottom of all the new Kindles (Touch, Non-Touch, and Fire), so this seems to be a purposeful unifying design scheme.

it is, but on my kindle 3 it's a slide button so i'm less weary of hitting it by mistake. on the kindle fire it's just a simple push button.

If you want the power button on the top, then just rotate the device 180 degrees. It works fine that way.

The article specifically called out that some apps do not work in that orientation.

Kind of reminds me of how I like coffee (bear with me). I used to get coffee just about anywhere and thought it was good coffee. Then I started making it myself. Through thousands of repetitions I slowly learned all the distinct tastes - a little burnt, a little over extracted, a little weak ... I learned to taste and tell all the subtle flavors and overtones.

And now I can barely get drinkable coffee anywhere.

So what is my point? Marco just left his favorite fine restaurant and showed up at Burger King instead for a gourmet meal. Unsurprisingly, he declared the food inedible. And yet, mysteriously: Burger King does just fine.

I think you are backing him up. Marco didn't say it wouldn't sell, he said it wasn't especially good. The consensus of the reviews I've read is that the Kindle Fire is probably OK if you have low enough standards.

Of the people I know with various non-Apple readers/tablets, a recurring theme is making a purchase thinking it will be "good enough", then finding it isn't, and making another similar purchase or two to find a "good enough" that is ... spending enough cumulative $$$ to warrant just buying an iPad that they tried so hard not to.

There's a HUGE difference between an eReader and a tablet. People who don't regularly read don't understand this. Many people think the iPad is a good eReader. But that's like saying a Koenigsegg is a good commuting car.

Think about what makes a good eReader:

  * Very light
  * As small as possible (while retaining page size)
  * Long-lasting battery
  * Good reading screen
With this in mind:

  * iPad as an eReader = fail
  * Kindle Fire as an eReader = fail
  * Most tablets as eReaders = fail
  * Standard Kindle as an eReader = excellent
Personally, I can't justify a tablet, but I can absolutely justify an eReader for actual reading. As soon as I saw the announcements for the new Kindles, I saw that the $79 version was the smallest and knew it was the best of the bunch. The Touch is somewhat interesting, but every gram matters when you hold the device for 2, 3 or even 4 hours straight.

I bought an iPad 2 this year and haven't gone back to my Kindle DX since I got it.

The Kindle has a huge advantage in battery life and some advantage in weight, but neither of those are critical in my experience (iPad battery life is sufficient for a day's use, which is good enough for me, and weight is close enough).

e-Ink and LED screens each have advantages in some lighting environments. For my purposes (indoors, airplanes, low light), LED works better.

The iPad has a huge speed advantage over the e-Ink Kindle, which comes into play for any activity with an eBook that goes beyond "read a page/turn the page". Finally, the iPad has better fonts; especially for technical material, the fixed-width font on the Kindle is incredibly annoying (with e.g. the dot on the "i" near-invisible).

[Full disclosure: I work for Apple, but in non-iOS engineering]

Yes, absolutely - I'm not contradicting his assessment of it in his own eyes. I think if you've been fed a diet of continuous iPad for 2 years you're probably going to hate the Kindle Fire.

The only thing I disagree with is extrapolating this sentiment into any kind of prediction about whether the Kindle Fire will succeed or fail in the market (which is more related to what people are commenting on his post than what Marco says himself).

anything is OK with low enough standards, surely?

Sure, but this raises enormous questions of where, exactly, the spread of personal standards is distributed for the various demographics in one's target audience.

> And yet, mysteriously: Burger King does just fine.

Is it not a bit early to declare the Fire "does just fine" yet?

The author is in general fixated to love anything Apple and "hate" anything Android (rightly for the usability reasons). He prefers not to develop an Android version of his superhit app 'Instapaper', while every other iPhone only app is now being migrated to Android. With such bias, I was not expecting a fair review from him.

However, let's face it, if like phones, Android picks up on Tablets, cheap or expensive, Amazon or Google, market would have its say. 35-40 million current owners of iPad are just a fraction of world population who want to own a Tablet.

Btw, I have been playing with my Fire since a couple of days. Yes, there is a little lag during transitions, especially orientation changes, probably due to Android 2.2's lack of hardware accelerated graphics, but using various apps was easy and video streaming on Netflix and Prime was neat. Pulse, HuffPo, Kindle and Amazon's other default apps were smooth.

However, Silk gave me trouble when I chose the Desktop view for websites, with "Accelerated Page Loading" on. I got script not running errors when I loaded my the browser with tabs from gmail, facebook and g+

It is an absolute value for money and yes in that sense, especially when you think it gives you the same hardware and a much better experience than playbook.

I would venture to say that Kindle Fire just might be the trigger towards the end of the era of iPad dominance.

Sorry to disappoint you, but it is not the same hardware as the playbook. Playbook doesn't lack two cameras and a microphone and an ingenious functioning bezel.

Also if all the software quirks are true, then playbook has none of them, it being extremely responsive. I can bet you have never used a playbook.

I don't own a playbook, but did play around with it in a best buy. I don't think it beats iPad either and the price tag back then was not justified.

Also, agreed the hardware is not exactly same, though my reference was more to the processor, RAM, etc that contribute to performance. But am definitely sure those 2 cameras and a microphone are not worth the extra $300

>35-40 million current owners of iPad are just a fraction of world population who want to own a Tablet.

And yet those iPad owners are probably 90% of the population who have actually bought a tablet. What people want (or say they want) and what people will actually buy are often very different.

I have to admit, I'm actually enjoying my fire a lot more than I thought I would - I work for Amazon and got a chance to try a pre-release version of it and was less than excited. The interface still isn't quite as smooth as I'd have hoped (hoping they fix this or at least improve on it in a future update), but tolerable.

I used it on a cross country flight to read a book and watch a couple of videos, and it really did grow on me over that time. The size and clarity of the screen was great for watching a video, and the form grew on me in time for reading (it's still a back lit device, so it's not as nice as e-ink, but I didn't have any problems reading on my flight) - page turning needs work, but that's a software issue that (again) hopefully can get worked out.

It's not the iPad - but as someone who was already a prime customer - it does feel like a good device to me, maybe a little rushed.

I think for reading books and especially for watching videos on Youtube, it's stellar. I also enjoy watching my 1 year old daughter carry it around. I think when Steve Jobs declared the 7 inch form factor DOA, he wasn't thinking about a < 2 year old target market.

My wife and I got our Fire yesterday...and it's going back to Amazon. My two biggest disappointments:

1. No Gmail app (very obviously) and the built-in email client doesn't seem to support Google's 2-factor auth. It doesn't accept your account password nor will it accept an app-specific password. The web interface works fine, but the icon you get with a www bookmark is generic and boring. I know that sounds like a nitpick, but a favorites tray full of generic-looking icons does not a good experience make.

2. Scrolling sucks. It sucks in every sense of the word. At no time does scrolling through a web page, an app, or even the UI begin immediately and smoothly. And if that weren't bad enough, turning pages in Kindle books is equally frustrating. This is supposed to be the primary purpose for which the device is designed, and pages turn slowly and jerky, never glued to your fingertip. It makes the entire experience seem to lag behind your every move, and constantly waiting for the device to catch up to where you were a second ago gets annoying very fast.

Beyond that, every little thing seemed disappointing in some way.

My wife was hopeful that this would be an affordable alternative to a Galaxy Tab. I didn't expect it to be perfect at all, but I definitely expected more. My wife inherited my Kindle 3, so I'll be trading in the Fire for a Kindle Touch and saving my pennies for a real tablet...someday.

Point 1 just isn't right. I have 2FA on my gmail and am reading it with the default mail client just fine. "yr doing it wrong."

My only explanation is differing versions of software. I entered and re-entered both passwords to no avail, and for the app-specific password I did so with and without spaces (which they say doesn't matter). I'm quite sure I did it correctly, and that it didn't work.

I agree with everything he says. I'm returning it. It is very unpleasant to use - sluggish interface etc. I guess it was my mistake to order it before actually using it. I looked at the nook tablet today, 2 mins of using it at the BN store, I can tell you it is far better than the Fire.

Amazon had an amazing chance, but they blew it. My guess is the next version of Fire would be better, but I'm skeptical.

Funny thing is, I bought a Kindle before and I hated it. Buttons!? Up-up-up-up-left-left. Pah! But when the Fire came out I put it on my wish list and got one for my birthday. It's so much better than the old, flashy B&W Kindles, I kinda like it. (And I also have an iPad.)

The article isn't wrong about the dumb placement of the headphone jack, but I have to say the cloud music player sounds great. I've bought a lot of Amazon MP3s over time and it's great to have them instantly playable on my lap.

I like it well enough as a book reader, too. It's much easier to hold for sustained periods than the iPad.

My take: Fire has some bugs but they are all software, which can get better. Meantime, for $200, I'm keeping mine.

My wife played with hers for about 15 minutes: 'Meh, you can have it'.

The UI just isn't pleasant to use. Might make a decent Netflix machine but so far we're leaning toward returning it.

We got one for my tween daughter. All things considered, it's one of the nicer cheap Android tablets. The screen has great viewing angles. The lack of hardware volume controls is a pain. I didn't notice any video quality problems from Netflix or Amazon Prime but I wasn't expecting killer HD video from it, just something watchable. The reader seems servicable. I've been reading mobile ebooks since I had a Palm III, so I'm not real picky on the display, but to my eyes the text looks as good as it does on my better laptops.

The lack of the full app catalog is kind of a pain and would be a bigger problem if I bought one expecting to use it as a laptop replacement tablet, but I would never expect it to be that. It's a device for consuming media (books, movies, music, and I guess casual games) and isn't the top of the class device for that.

I could almost see adding one to my already full bag of gadgets, but I don't need to carry another wifi-only device unless I finally get a mobile hotspot device. It's the same complaint I have about the very nice looking ASUS Transformer tablet. I want those devices but with the iPad's contract-free AT&T deal.

It could be a great device for teens, tweens and even younger kids, but a lot of parents won't like the lack of parental controls. I keep saying there's room in the market for a decent kid-oriented tablet with parental controls. (There's also still a great opportunity for easy-to-configure wifi access point or other network device that can apply parental controls.)

OpenDNS can do filtering for you: http://www.opendns.com/web-filtering/

Am I the only one who finds the use of the term 'human' here to be really annoying? Like, anyone who actually enjoys using a Kindle Fire is somehow less human? The implication that 'humans' like a certain kind of device that works in a certain kind of way, and that 'humans' could not possibly like devices that fall outside these parameters is somewhat insulting to people who would like to make that choice for themselves. This review is Marco Arment's review of the Kindle Fire, not the final verdict of the entire human race.

(Disclosure: I own an iPad 2 and an old-style Kindle and won't be buying a Kindle Fire).

Yes, I also found that peculiar. I wish he had explained what he meant by that. Are all of the other Kindle Fire reviews not from humans? I'm confused.

I totally agree. As a competitor to to the iPad, I find myself entirely underwhelmed by the Kindle Fire. The UI is not as intuitive, responsive, or smooth. For me, given the choice between the iPad and Kindle Fire, I would take the iPad every time.

However, the Kindle Fire is not a direct competitor to the iPad. It's less than half the price. And if you're not willing to pony up $500 for an iPad, the Kindle Fire is good enough. Which is why they're going to sell millions of units this holiday season. And which is why I, as a developer of a fairly popular iPad app, will be developing a Kindle Fire version too.

Kindle Fire is gunning for the iPod Touch market. Yes, it's only got 8GB, but it costs the same as the lowest-tier iPod touch.

If I were Amazon I'd be courting the casual game developers heavily to promote their games on Fire.

Not an unfair review, but seems like he missed the killer feature: price tag.

Which should also color your expectations of the device. I don't think there are many people wouldn't rather have an iPad, or maybe even a Honeycomb tablet, but $200 with Christmas around the corner?

edit: Also, the complaints about interface seem very similar to ones about Android in general. Not to say that he's biased or wrong, just that those are things you can get used to, as many Android users will tell you. It's also something that a lot of full-time iOS users can't get past, which is understandable.

There are lots of bad $200 Android tablets out there. The Kindle Fire was supposed to be a good tablet, sold at low cost because it was tied closely to Amazon's digital products. Instead, the reviews are suggesting that it's just another bad $200 Android tablet, albeit one that aggressively pushes Amazon's products at you.

I've played with another $200 Android tablet. It wasn't bad. It was terrible. Awful. I wouldn't take it for free. If the Kindle Fire is as bad as that, then this review wasn't nearly bad enough.

While a bad price can ruin a good item, I don't think it follows that a good price can salvage a bad item.

I'm not inclined to forgive a crashy, recalcitrant device just because I'm only out $200 for it.

That's a total cop-out. $200 is a fantastic price, but at that price, wouldn't you agree that the device should at least work correctly? Constant crashing, missed touches, really poor and sometimes unusable default applications... do you really expect all that from a device just because it's priced to move? Comparing it to an iPad is unfair, and almost anyone doing it should immediately be dismissed, this much is true, but the device should at least be able to stand on its own merits.

If this were some no-name Android tablet ordered on some ugly website and shipped directly from China, sure, I'd say go ahead and expect these problems. But it's not, it's from Amazon, it's sold at a loss, it's their flagship to the tablet/media consumption world and it's currently their most marketed Kindle device... and it's not getting a lot of favorable response from real customers even at that reduced price.

Common failing of tech writers/bloggers/enthusiasts. A few hundred dollars is of little concern to us. For the average person $300 is a huge difference. They might be scared away of a no-name brand but with Amazon's logo on the thing they will buy it. Apple's going to have to justify why the iPad costs $300 more in a way normal people can understand.

it works both ways - for the average person $200 is still a lot to spend on a gadget they don't actually need for anything.

price is an advantage, only if nook wasn't around. I played with nook today, it is way better than Fire. after looking at both devices (I bought fire, without using it) I'd say it is worth spending extra 50$ on nook. Amazon has other advantages (prime, videos, better and bigger ebook store than Barnes etc) - but the hardware itself, is definitely meh. In short, play with both devices before deciding.

Except... almost all of the brokenness is with the software.

The hardware itself feels fine. A little plasticky, but surprisingly solid and well-made for $200. The screen is beautiful too - heads and shoulders above anything else seen on Android tablets yet.

This makes the disappointment all the worse. I was expecting corners to be cut on the hardware side to hit $200, but opened the box to find a perfectly fine piece of hardware crippled with atrociously bad software - the one component where there is zero marginal cost.

They've been rooted.

I think that point was addressed: Tablets are a hard sell. It’s not like anyone really needs them like PCs or phones. If they are not fun you might as well not buy them.

It’s nevertheless going to be extremely interesting to see how well they will sell. The Kindles are well loved so I think there are going to be a lot of people who blindly buy this tablet for Christmas. How the Fire will sell beyond that is anyone’s guess.

he missed the killer feature: price tag.

Recalls a radio ad that ended "...sure you could go somewhere else and get a burger for fifty cents, but then you'd have to eat it."

I keep seeing people get non-iPad tablets because of the price tag, and then discover "oh, now I have to use it" and soon don't. Would that a tablet come out true to its own goals and limits.

I suspect most of the buyers of the Kindle Fire are going to be 1st time tablet users unlike Marco who bought it just to compare against his iPad. I have been using the Fire for the last 2 days and I felt that it has really nailed what a tablet means to me - a consumption device. I started reading my books, watching tv shows, listening to music as soon I switched on the device. The browsing of some websites (cough techcrunch) was surprising quick too. Some of the software and hardware quirks were annoying but I didn't notice because it opened a new way for connecting with content for me....and I paid just 200bucks! There is a lot of focus on usability even compared to my Galaxy Tab with the Honeycomb build. The Kindle Fire is truly an equal to the iPad in an entirely different space -- inexpensive, smaller form-factor, relatively good content & ecosystem -- a space where Apple does not necessarily want to play in.

There are plenty of legitimate criticisms to be made of the Fire, but Ament's review fundamentally amounts to "I'm used to the iPad/iOS, and this isn't that."

My capsule review: it's got some rough edges, but it has a few big things that I enjoy already built-in, working out of the box. At $200 I will have no compunction using it in the kitchen, bathroom, cafe... wherever. And as an Android user, most of my familiar apps translate directly. It's a fine value.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I got mine and I like it just fine, for what it is. I have an iPad, and a galaxy tab 10.1. It's a tablet designed to work with Amazon content. That, it does just fine.

I streamed some Amazon Prime video content, and it did okay. I agree that volume control is wonky (it couldn't have been that hard to put a volume scrubber under the time scrubber, could it?) but performance wise it was just fine. Netflix streamed with nary a hiccup at all, perhaps Marco's network was a bit clogged at the time?

Music worked great. I didn't set up email because I use Gmail and I know all the Google services integration has been ripped out. I also have enough other things to read email on that I don't need to acknowledge notifications in yet another location.

Honestly though, I'm surprised that Amazon didn't do something like throw in more Prime membership time (A month doesn't seem like enough)...or maybe subsidize the membership price (make it $50/yr if you own a Fire)

In the end, if I could only have one tablet, this wouldn't be it. But I think it's well worth the price I paid.

His indictment of the tablet category is a bit silly. They way he describes the category is fairly accurate, but his conclusion (that this makes the category less useful) is incorrect. I don't take my iPad 2 anywhere: it sits by my bed, and I only use it in bed before going to sleep. That's an extremely limited (and not even mobile!) usage, and yet, I find that it fully justifies the purchasing price of the iPad.

Yikes. Mine has yet to arrive and I already don't want it. Great review.

This review is pretty over the top negative. Not saying it's wrong, but the product has over a thousand reviews on Amazon.com and the average is four stars.

You can always take a trip out to best buy/target/etc. to play with it.

That distribution of reviews doesn’t look very healthy. Compared to the other Kindles it’s doing badly as far as reviews are concerned.

So far I don't trust any kind of analysis of the reviews. One of the top negative reviews was, "Didn't have a camera. WTF. Returned."

That’s always going to happen. I think that looking at the distribution of reviews and also reading a few negative reviews (because it’s generally possible to figure out whether reviews are negative for valid reasons) is very helpful.

I know, but my thought is to give it a couple weeks, and the percent of noise should go down.

Really? How could someone be so stupid as not to check something like that if it was that important to them?

"Never underestimate the power of human stupidity" -- Robert A. Heinlein

Maybe you should wait until you get it and make up your own mind?

I haven't used it but I wouldn't put much faith in a "review" by an Apple fanboy who refuses to port his hugely popular instapaper app to Android because he hates it.

If Amazon hasn't shipped your Fire yet, you may be able to cancel your order. I did!

What an extremely negative review, it oozes negativity!

I was really worried after reading this that my Kindle Fire was going to suck. But when it arrived slowly but surely I started thinking that this article was over critical, lopsided, and just wrong. The Kindle Fire is a great product, I really like it. But don't take my word for it or Marco's, just look at the sales over the next few months to a year. If his article is anyone even remotely close to being true the product will fail miserably over the next year, I predict that won't happen, in fact I'm fairly certain it will do quite well.

I would have much preferred to here what you can do with this $199 one hand tablet than a page full of everything someone doesn't find perfect.

Hmm, well I like the fire quite a bit (I'm using it to play games,read in bed at night (the ipad has been pretty large to bring into the bed with a cuddling girlfriend) and having something larger then my phone to use while commuting); there are some minor software bugs here or there (which can be sadly expected a day or two into release) but nothing I don't think will be fixed in time as amazon has a lot of it's prestige riding on the fire

side note unrelated to this specific review.. a lot of the folks reviewing the fire have iOS and it's current ecosystem ingrained into their minds and switching to a different platform can be very jarring and confusing and I think a lot of that is slipping into these reviews.

I think Marco was trying, unsuccessfully, to be to the Kindle Fire what Siracusa was to the Jobs bio. He even got a nudge from Gruber, who called his review "scathing". "Bitching" might have been more apt. I can imagine him grimacing as he bared to open the UPS box.

Why do all the comments here say Marco is biased because it isn't an iPad? How does that make a computer which doesn't respond to touch reliably acceptable?

I played fast, responsive games in cga on a 4mhz XT, Doom was pushing responsive colour 3D on 386 and 486s, and now we have devices showing a static image with clickable points which don't click, and switching badly between two not animated images, and this behaviour is fine because only the industry leader can be expected to get this right, everything else gets an exception.

Windows Mobile was clunky but usable in 2000, its not acceptable for devices built for human input to ignore human input, for devices built to show an interface to people to do it badly. Loading animations are fine, being slow when doing work is fine, being slow when running a badly written 3rd party app is at least understandable.

But the likes of Amazon and Google pushing flagship products that perform worse animations than small games companies were doing 15 years ago on worse hardware, is totally pathetic.

And writing that criticism off as "Apple fanboy behaviour" is building a heck of an RDF field of some sort.

I'm not criticizing the review because of the author's Apple bias. I just don't think it's a quality review. He made no attempt to broaden his perspective widely and consider many types of potential users of the device, and then assess it against those different use cases. Instead it was basically: "It's complete crap and here's 30 things I don't like. The End."

I can imagine perhaps some real piece of $79 Walmart faux-tablet junk getting such treatment, but the Fire isn't that. It does have a lot of flaws, but it has a lot of good points too, which he made no attempt to discuss.

A much more useful review came from fellow Apple devotee Andy Ihnatko (http://www.suntimes.com/technology/ihnatko/8816567-452/revie...)

While I think of it, I'm a big Apple Fanboy and have a BlackBerry 9900 which annoys me every time I use it, but one of the things I can't fault it on is responsiveness.

Browser scrolling, app switching, main menu switching, all fast, there's no keyboard lag, no email inbox scrolling lag - that part of the otherwise-annoying-UI is all great.

Nobody has mentioned that the Fire is a great book _buying_ experience. I'm not a big fan of "we know what you bought so we know what you'll like" but the store app is smooth, keeps your context while you're browsing and, in general, way more pleasant than the website.

Out of curiosity, is it very different from the ordinary Kindle buying experience on Android (which I find very pleasant, especially the Honeycomb iteration)?

The Fire doesn't seem anything like an iPad competitor, nor was it meant to be. It's a Kindle for media that aren't books; or a re-take on the iPod for "the cloud", if you'd rather. IMHO, it fills that role very well.

I was excited about the Kindle Fire, even knowing that it wasn't meant to be a true tablet - but a media consumption device instead.

I'm still very disappointed. The bottom line is, the UI is barely serviceable, there are performance, stability, and battery life issues galore - serious, deal-breaking ones.

This goes beyond what the device is and isn't "meant to be". This goes right to whether or not it is a competent personal electronic device. My answer leans towards "no".

I had the Kindle Fire drain 50% of my battery idling over night. The culprit? I dared set up email on the device - yes, one of those big advertised features right there on the Fire's home page.

The UI is unresponsive. Not only is it jerky and laggy, but buttons routinely stop responding altogether. Using the device is a chore, since you're never sure if you hit a button it'll actually do something, or if you'll have to jab the screen again and see what happens.

We'll ignore all the myriad UI design problems with the device and excuse it, since it's $200 and apparently that means it's supposed to be able to get away with atrocious UI.

The music player is terrible. When reading books or otherwise moving about the device the music will cut out and randomly fast forward. That's disregarding the myriad of UI problems (including sorting "The Beatles" under "T").

The reader app, and the video app, are the only two things in the entire device that I'd consider a win. They're the only ones where I can genuinely think to myself "hey, this will help me buy content I want". The rest of the device fails utterly at this goal, which if you look at it, is the entire raison d'etre for the device.

Here's the thing: I remember that folks spent years and years trying to develop a useable technology for e-ink. "It reflects light just like paper", they said, "so it'll be much easier to read for hours without getting eyestrain". Then a few years ago, we finally got decent e-ink and could finally get e-readers.

But it seems like the latest generation of e-readers is just giving up on the e-ink idea altogether and going straight back to backlit LCD. What's the deal? Is e-ink not as good as we were hoping, or has LCD technology got that much better?

(fwiw I'm a big fan of my original-recipe Nook)

Dunno about others, but even awesome readability just doesn't trump that slow weird-flickery page transition.

This is what my reviews always look like: a bullet list of complaints I have with the product. I don't think those are very useful reviews though.

I think that’s pretty useful. I don’t much care for final verdicts that try to summarize everything for me. The author usually doesn’t share my opinion about what’s important and what’s not.

If there is a list of negatives I can check whether or not a particular negative matters to me or not. If I, for example, don’t read any magazines I can just ignore all that talk about magazines.

A useful review doesn't need to address too many positives. I generally expect the gadget to work, it's the things that don't work that are surprising. Reviews that tediously confirm each working feature are boring.

I wonder if Marco would have liked this more if it was called the "Apple Fire"?

iPad has caused Baby Duck Syndrome in most of it users. It is hard to imagine a person who has used iPad giving a review without bias. Reminds me when i first time used Mac OS after being exposed to windows first, it felt weird and not at all user friendly. I hope iPad Baby Duck Syndrom wears off quickly so that the tablet market can remain competitive.

A lot of this seems like nitpicking. A lot is more android than Fire. Still more is completely unrelated since he talks about 3rd party apps not functioning well on the fire.

I do have to agree about the hardware buttons however. I'm not a fan of any device with no hardware buttons much less the lack of even volume controls.

Too bad. I wasn't going to get one anyways (ipad and a nook color rooted) but competition is good and I love Amazon (love my eink kindle gen 2). Oh and welcome to Android. It's just not ready for primetime, but getting there.

IMHO this really shouldn't come off as a surprise, especially with Steve Yegge's rant a few weeks ago. :)

I wonder how much of the poor performance experience of Android is up to Java (and possibly too much abstraction layers), don't know enough about the Android architecture to form a good idea about this issue.

EDIT: Please disregard the below. I was wrong as pointed out by fpgeek.

The poor performance is probably mostly due to the fact that the version of android on the fire is version 2.2.

Version 2.3 is the one that got all the performance improvements. There's a very big difference between the responsiveness of a phone on 2.2 and the same phone upgraded to 2.3.

Actually, the Kindle Fire is Gingerbread (2.3) based. They make this clear in their developer guidelines. That being said, there's something odd going on here because B&N (among others) has been able to do better with the same baseline.

I want a 7" tablet that has a better screen; more pixels than my iPhone at least. The 10" tablets have this; I'd love to see that in 7" form.

"MP3 playback isn’t gapless"

I can't believe this is still occuring in this day and age. I wonder if the Nook Tablet has the same problem (it probably does).

It's cheap but I rather splash cash on an item that I actually use and feel pleasant.

10 years later, and gapless playback is still a thing. Heh.

The minute I saw it was going to be locked into Android 2.2 I knew it was done.

After using the iPad and iOS anyone who jumps on to the Fire, should not expect iOS like intricacies!

Is this human review? Looks like rant from apple lover.

  at first impression
  cold tone and sentence pacing
  suggests a haiku

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