Review: Amazon — Kindle Fire

KindleWhen Amazon announced in October that they were releasing a new tablet computer, many billed it as a main competitor to Apple’s iPad. Now that the Fire has been out for several months and has already had one major software overhaul, we have found out that, while the Fire is perfectly functional for many things, an iPad it is not.

And Amazon should be completely fine with that.

Now, keep in mind that I am a Mac purist. I learned how to use computers on my father’s Mac Plus. My first computer was an Apple Performa. I got the first generation iMac. I had the first video iPod, and later ditched Verizon for AT&T so I could use the iPhone. I also have a first generation iPad and a Shuffle at my disposal. So when I first started using the Fire, I compared everything to the iPad I already owned.

Like many reviewers, I had trouble with the lack of a home button and external volume controls. Also, like many who came before me, I accidentally turned off the Fire when resting it on my lap. I struggled with the touch screen, which was not as precise as the iPad. I found little to no use for the carousel at the home screen, which is essentially an undeletable cache of the programs and apps that I have just used.

Since my first spin, Amazon has released a new OS which has addressed my issues with the carousel and also with the touch controls. I find the new controls to be more accurate and, while Amazon curiously decided to keep the carousel, at least users can now delete that trashy romance novel they may not want others to see that they’re reading. And there are work-arounds for the other aforementioned problems. The volume control is only two clicks away, and if you make a mental note of where the power button is when you pick your Fire up, then possible accidents become a non-issue.

All that being said, every comparison I’ve made to the iPad is completely unfair. The Fire isn’t catering to the iPad market and Amazon isn’t really competing with Apple. The Fire comes in at $199, which is $300 less than an iPad2. For that amount of money, you’d obviously expect the iPad to give you a lot more features, and it does. The iPad 2 has a camera, microphone, FaceTime, a much larger app store and easier and more intuitive controls. Simply put, the iPad allows for creativity that the Fire simply cannot do.

But that’s the whole point. Amazon has never been about creating. They are distributors. They want people who purchase the Fire to consume movies, books, music or games at a reasonable price. That is a different market than Apple. And that is why the comparison shouldn’t be made.

Relative to what the Fire is meant to be for, it is an excellent product for an affordable price. Aside from the Barnes and Noble Nook, there isn’t a better product out there in that price range (I am not taking a position on whether the Nook is better than the Fire or visa versa). I found the tablet to be powerful enough to run all of the apps that I was interested in. There are plenty of games, news outlets and music/movies for the average user to purchase. All of it runs fairly well on a tablet that is portable enough to fit in a jacket pocket. Had it not been for the iPad, the Fire would clearly be the standard-barer for all tablets out there.

The bottom line is this: If you’re looking for the best tablet computer out there with a larger range of possibilities and you’ve got some extra cash to spend, then the iPad is your tablet. If you’re just looking for something portable and relatively cheap that can take care of a limited range of things in an effective manner, then go for the Fire.

PROFILE

Distributor: Amazon
Product: Kindle Fire
Price: $199

Pro:
• Good price
• Compact
• Good for music, movies and simple games
• Comes with Amazon cloud

Cons:
• Has difficulty with more graphics based games
• External controls are lacking
• No microphone, camera or 3G
• Sluggish controls

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