Kindle Fire reviews roll in

Amazon's budget tablet wonder gets a somewhat mixed reception
Darren Allan

November 14, 2011
Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire is out this week in the States, and the initial reviews and reactions to the device are now filtering in.

You’re unlikely to have missed the announcement of Amazon’s 7 inch Android powered slate which has a budget price tag of $200.

It represents a price slash attack on the iPad, but the first thing that many reviewers are quick to point out is how it doesn’t stack up to a full-fat tablet.

Although we already knew that the Kindle Fire didn’t in terms of the basic hardware, but that’s not the complete story.

There were obviously corners that had to be cut to get that price down to $200, and even with those cuts, Amazon is still selling the device at a loss in an effort to get it established.

The obvious cuts are the lack of any camera (many slates these days have two), GPS or mapping functionality, bluetooth, memory card slot (for expansion) and HDMI output.

But this isn’t a tablet aimed at the tech savvy, it’s a slate which is firmly aimed at the consumer, and delivering a seamless experience which allows for e-reading and book libraries, music and videos all tied into the Amazon store.

The good news is that some corners haven’t been cut. C-Net’s reviewer notes that many budget tablets have a horrible touchscreen which is hugely off-putting in terms of the overall enjoyment factor of using a slate.

The Kindle Fire doesn’t sacrifice display quality – at least according to C-Net’s Donald Bell, although he does note it only supports two finger multi-touch, and the fact that it’s not hugely bright.

Which does suggest a little corner cutting on the screen. A New York Times piece points out that sometimes taps on the display don’t register, and there’s no indication of a loading time so occasionally you aren’t sure whether a tap has or hasn’t been recognised by the Fire.

They also point out that the performance of the device feels sluggish, particularly when it comes to animations and even page turns, something you’d expect a Kindle device to have down.

NYT argues that this cross between a Kindle and iPad still needs a lot more polishing, although of course Amazon will be doing just that post-launch.

Wired’s review is also somewhat downbeat, again citing the sluggishness of the processor and web browsing, and a screen which is a little too small for some “key tablet activities”. Indeed, they don’t see it as very suitable for e-magazines due to the screen size.

Wired doesn’t view it as anywhere near a full tablet in terms of usability or functionality, but does admit that it very elegantly repackages every strand of the whole Amazon shopping experience.

Reviewer John Phillips says: “Indeed, the Fire is a fiendishly effective shopping portal in the guise of a 7-inch slate.”

The reviewers seem to agree, then, that the Fire is slick in some respects, and certainly a worthwhile device at its price level.

But a full tablet or rival to the iPad, it most certainly isn’t. The Fire is more of a content delivery slate and Amazon shopping vehicle with tablet extras thrown in for good measure.

However, the comments on the sluggishness of the device and clunky nature for reading e-magazines are rather worrying.

Amazon will doubtless be hoping the reviews don’t put people off and leave the Kindle Fire’s sales as slow burning, too.


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