Thursday, January 12, 2012

Device Review: Kindle Fire blazes onto the scene

by Megan Greer

My first impressions of the Kindle Fire were for the most part positive. My initial reaction was that this was a super sweet toy. I was almost over-excited to get it in my hands; the day it arrived at the office was like Christmas morning to me. I’m not entirely sure if it was because I fell into the hype and early adopter reviews or if it’s just because I like new toys. More than likely it’s the latter.

When you first turn on the Fire, it seems magical. Once you start using the main carousel though, the magic slowly started to dissipate and reality set in that it isn’t as easy to navigate as I had hoped. Scrolling through the carousel, it isn’t hard to bypass the book, app, or video you want.  You get used to it, but I expected it to more responsive.

The 7” LCD screen has a resolution of 1024 x 600, which is great.  The colors are vibrant making it perfect for web browsing or watching videos. Amazon’s website states they included an anti-reflective treatment to the screen but I haven’t really noticed. Another pet peeve is that the screen gets really grubby with finger prints and other marks. I found I was constantly wiping the screen. Of course, an obvious fix would be to get a screen protector; and there are plenty of products to choose from.

Reading eBooks on an LCD isn’t my personal preference. The reading experience on the Fire wasn’t what I had expected either. I was really anticipating a new and innovative way to read eBooks and that is not the case. The reading experience on the Fire isn’t any different than any other tablet-like device. It’s not bad; it’s just not introducing anything new to the reading experience itself.

The Kindle Fire is running Android 2.3 Gingerbread but looking at the device you probably wouldn’t have any idea. I was able to cause the Fire to have a hiccup – I had the web browser running and then started reading a book. Trying to close out of the book caused the Fire to freeze for a few minutes while it thought about what it was going to do next. Granted this particular issue only happened once. Perhaps this is due to this particular device not having the software upgrade that was made available earlier this week.

Truly, the Fire is a cleverly designed multimedia consumption toy to make you buy more. It isn’t really a tablet like many consumers thought it was going to be. The Amazon buying portal is super simple to use and could easily cause your bank account to get depleted; rather rapidly if you aren’t careful.

I’ve been getting my music from iTunes for approximately 8 years now. I’m pretty much stuck with Apple and although I’m highly intrigued by the Fire, what will I do with all my music? I’m sure there are other customers out there who feel the same way. Sure I can convert but that requires work and I’m a lazy consumer.

As interesting as I think the Fire is, I wish it had a few additional features; primarily an HDMI out-put, SD slot, external volume controls, and a camera. Those would be my wish list items to add to truly make this a device that I’d run out and purchase. These additions, in my opinion, would make the Fire a true iPad/tablet competitor. In its current state, I feel that it is more of a consumption toy. While I am sure some of my comments above might not appear as positive, I did have fun with the Fire. And at $199 the price point is very appealing when compared to other true tablets. But that’s the key:  you’ll need to determine what you really want; a tablet or a really fun toy.

Megan Greer is an account specialist for OverDrive.

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