Amazon Kindle Fire First Impressions: Not Smooth as Silk, but Nice

My bell rang and I found an Amazon box at the door with my long-awaited Kindle Fire. Thank you UPS. I pulled the little tab before I even went back inside. That’s how much I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on this tablet.

Long ago, when I first heard that Amazon would likely be producing an Android Tablet to compete with the Apple iPad, I wanted one. I’ve been a regular Kindle user for a few years now and my first two experiences with Android tablets were mixed – one good and one less than stellar. I also am a former Nook Color owner. That device was fun because it’s easy to root, but it still gathered dust most of the time.

I ordered the Fire hoping that it would measure up, at least to the Nook Color and ASUS. But will it take the place of my iPad or be good enough to make it into my weekly usage scenario? I’m going to give it some time before I make a final judgment, but here are my first impressions.

The first thing I did was plug it in to charge and then it booted up; not instantly, but fast enough that speed wasn’t an issue. I connected Wi-Fi and configured my time zone info, but I didn’t have to give it my registration details since it came preregistered with my Amazon account.

And then I waited: as it already required a software update. There didn’t seem to be a place to cancel this and wait till later. So I got some work done while it downloaded and installed the update. It took about five minutes, which isn’t bad. I just wish companies would get the latest software installed in the factory.

Kindle Fire

Once it finished loading the update, I was able to jump right in. After a few help screens (see above), I was greeted with a cover-flow-style interface with all of my books.

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I read a number of reviews that said the interface was a bit sluggish. I understand that description, however, by comparison it seems smoother than the Nook Color and compares well to the Acer Iconia Tab and the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer. The iPad however has a much smoother interface. Amazon has some work to do in this category. At 40% of the price of the iPad, I’m willing to give the Fire a pass on this, as it’s not bad enough to be annoying while using the general interface. That is until I fired up the Amazon Silk Browser.

The Amazon Silk browser is definitely not smooth as iPad’s Safari. It ran horribly. I doubt I will be using it much. The performance was very slow. It might take some time for Amazon to cache the pages, but the first few pages I surfed to loaded too slowly and the browser took a long time to respond to my input.

Another snag came when hitting the back button, which sometimes did nothing. It could be an issue.

I like the overlay interface Amazon put on top of Android. If you love the Android Gingerbread or Honeycomb interface, you’ll be disappointed. Maybe the only thing that tells me it’s Android is the notification sound and the hints of Android with the keyboard.

The hardware does what a good tablet should. It gets out of the way. It’s all about the interface and so long as the hardware supports the software interface and the function of the device, then you have a win.

I have one small complaint. The power button’s in the wrong place at the bottom. I noticed the same thing with the new 4th gen Kindle as well. It should be on the top or side.

Kindle Fire Power Button and Charger

I like the size, but was a bit surprised at how heavy it feels. Not as heavy as my iPad or Transformer, but noticeably more heavy than the older Kindle. We’ll see if that affects how enjoyable it will be to use.

The screen seems bright enough and sharp enough for reading. I’ve only watched one episode of The Office on Hulu Plus and started an episode of 24 using Amazon Prime Video, and both looked very good. Netflix works as expected too. Like most glossy screens it attracts finger prints easily.

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After a very short initial usage period, I’m pleased. Not wowed! But pleased. I think the Kindle Fire will compare very well to the Nook Color and at the price will draw a lot of people into the Amazon ecosystem. Both Barnes and Noble and Apple should be a little worried. However, even though this describes a large segment of the population looking at tables, I don’t see this as a good iPad replacement for those who want more than just a simple eReader with a few extras.

Comments

  1. Ricardo Tovar says

    Can you sideload (or download “legally”) another good web browser into the Kindle Fire?  I’ve got next to zero experience with Android devices and I don’t know if Opera or Firefox would be any good in a device like this…  It would be interesting to read how some other browser performs, since Silk is such a let-down.

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