Within half an hour of the earliest time it was possible to order a Kindle Fire on Amazon's web site, my one-click reservation had been made.
Within three hours of opening up the Kindle box after UPS delivered it yesterday, I'd decided to return the pseudo-tablet. Which I did this afternoon.
I'm sorry Amazon, but Apple has spoiled me.
I have a MacBook Pro laptop that I love. I have an iPhone 4 that I love. My wife has an iPad 2 that I sort of love, my limited affection for it perhaps being more a matter of our passing acquaintance relationship rather than an intimate bonding.
Apple products have a certain you can't resist me quality that I was hoping would be evident in the Kindle Fire. Sadly, no. I found the device functional, but not Apple oh-so-cool'ish.
My biggest problem with the Fire, though, wasn't a lack of lust but a deficit in usability. After I played around with the thing for a while my overriding thought was, "Why do I need it?" Not able to come up with a convincing reason, the Kindle Fire is on its way back to Amazon.
I tried reading a book on the Fire. Ugh. It was readable enough, but highlighting passages was annoyingly difficult, and I'm a habitual highlighter/note taker. It looks like paper books are going to continue to be in my hands rather than an e-reader.
Then I fired up the video section of the fire. It was easy to access my Amazon Prime free videos and start watching the first episode of the first season of "24," which I'd never seen.
After a few minutes though, I realized that I'd much prefer to watch TV on, well, a television. We have a nice big screen TV, and a bit of Googling led me to realize that it isn't possible to stream videos from the Kindle Fire to a television, which somehow I'd envisioned myself being able to do.
Well, I'd also not evisioned myself doing this, because I couldn't really see how the Fire would be able to get video directly to our television without an intermediary like the Roku. So I ordered a Roku as a streaming video backup plan. It came a day before the Fire was delivered, but I left the Roku in the box until I could test out the Kindle Fire and see if it could perform a streaming miracle.
It couldn't. I then had no trouble connecting the Roku 2 XS to our TV via a HDMI cable, and also to our wi-fi broadband connection.
Yes, it was kind of a pain to click out video searches with the Roku remote control. A tablet like the Fire would make that easier given its virtual keyboard. However, in short order I'd purchased the first episode of this season's "Survivor South Pacific." (Somehow our DVR had failed to record the series; naturally I assume it was DirecTV's problem, not mine.)
The Roku streamed the television program perfectly, in HD, without commercials. This, by the way, was much better performance than Apple TV offered when I tried to do the same thing with that device. Apple TV requires that a program be downloaded, rather than streamed.
I gave up when I saw that Apple TV had only downloaded 21 minutes of a one hour program after taking about ten minutes to do even that. Then, when I went back to see how Apple TV was doing, the download had frozen. I'll probably try to get my $2.99 or whatever it was back from iTunes. For now, I'll content myself with blog-bashing Apple TV. Roku is better, so far as I can tell.
Anyway, back to the Kindle Fire. Since I've never felt that I needed an iPad, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I wasn't turned on by the Kindle Fire. It was ever less gadget-desire-kindling than I anticipated it would be, though.
This review pretty much sums up how I feel. The Fire isn't really a tablet; it's mainly an Amazon content provider. And it's e-reading capabilities aren't as good as lower cost Kindle alternatives, if that's what you're looking for.
The review ends with:
Ultimately, the $200 Kindle Fire lacks many features I consider essential in a serious tablet: the ability to work on it using a keyboard, browse the Internet quickly, view whole magazine pages, and so on. But we can't fault it for not being an iPad. It's only a few hundred fewer dollars, and Amazon has never marketed it as a tablet. This is a basic media consumption device.
I wouldn't be discussing pricing if I didn't have some doubts about the Kindle Fire's value. There are no dealbreakers here, but the Kindle Fire is pretty pokey, and the browsing experience is not (yet) what was promised. The Kindle Fire operating system doesn't improve on Gingerbread in any appreciable way, and all it does is put Amazon's services and stores front and center.
I hesitate to recommend that people buy a product that is as unpolished as the Kindle Fire, particularly because I suspect it will end up often as a gift from early tablet adopters to late ones (but remember—this isn't a tablet!). With iPads setting the bar for consumer expectations, I don't like to see usability and responsiveness backslide just because the price is lower. It's not impossible Amazon won't further refine the Kindle Fire with software updates, but there's no precedent for that.
The best way to think of the Kindle Fire is as a decent e-reader that can do some extra stuff—namely, play videos and browse the Internet. For $200, that's not a bad deal—but just make sure that it's one you're willing to make.