Kindle Fire: Unboxing and First Impressions

As indicated in an earlier post, I pre-ordered a Kindle Fire.  It arrived safely today.  Here are a few photos of the unboxing process.  I was amused by the packaging which made it look as though it was packed specifically for shipping.  I was under the impression that these devices were also going to be sold at big box stores.  I expected a package with a bit more “store shelf” reading material, like specifications, warranty, etc…  It arrived in what looks to be a plain brown shipping box, form fit for the device.

An inside pocket on the cover holds a single card with basic operating instructions. Under the Kindle Fire, is a single micro-USB power cord in a cardboard sheath.  Although it supports a connection to a computer over USB to transfer files, no additional cable is provided.

Kindle Fire Open Box

Kindle Fire Open Box

 

Kindle Fire Tray

Kindle Fire Tray

 

The device arrived nearly fully charged.  After power up and setting up Wi-Fi, it new who I was.  It downloaded a software update and was ready for use.  Prior to writing this review, I spent roughly two hours with the device.  I didn’t have time to check out all of the functionality, but here are my impressions of what I did work with.

The Good

  • I really like the 7″ form factor.  It is easy to hold and although not sticky, it has a slip-resistant back.
  • The screen is quite crisp and video quality of several downloaded movies and trailers was quite good.
  • I was impressed by how fast content downloaded.  I am an Amazon Prime subscriber and I downloaded several movies and videos to the device to get some idea of the quality.  A full length video downloaded to the device, not buffering, in less than two minutes.  This allowed me to move forward and backward within the movie easily.
  • There is quite a bit of good content available for free to Amazon Prime members.
  • Battery life on the device seems to be quite good, as advertised.  In two hours of heavy use, it used roughly 25% of the battery. I do not believe that the battery is end-user replaceable though.
  • I like Pulse.  Pulse is the Fire’s news aggregator.  I like the layout.  Refreshing after adding content sources took much longer than I expected, however.
  • The browser is quite fast and allows for 10 tabs to be open at once.
  • The device is fast and scrolling is very fluid.
  • The device has the standard Kindle reading experience– no more, no less.

The Bad

  • There are some books that I have purchased from Amazon that I no longer want to see presented to me.  I was unable to find a way, from the device, to no longer show these items.
  • I was unable to find a way to perform a screen capture on the device.
  • When the device is powered up, it assumes it is in portrait mode.  If held in landscape mode, the screen orientation is incorrect at power up.
  • It feels a bit heavier than I expected it to be.
  • I still have security concerns over sending all of my browser traffic through Amazon servers.
  • Although you can password protect the device, there is no mechanism to wipe the device after a certain number of failed attempts.  This is quite standard on most portable devices today.
  • Many screens on the device support a “back arrow” to go back to a previous screen.  I often needed to tap it more than once to get it to react.  It is almost as if you have to tap once to de-select the current pane and then once to select the “back arrow” button.
  • In bright light, I found the screen to be a bit too reflective for my taste.  For ease of reading, I dimmed the lights and reduced the brightness on the device.

The Ugly

  • The email application provided does not support Microsoft Exchange.  This makes it a consumer-only device, not something a business person would be able to carry in lieu of a laptop or iPad.
  • I found no way to increase or alter the font within the email application.  This will significantly limit the use of this device as an email appliance for anyone without perfect sight. I found the font used to display the body of the messages to be very small and too hard to read for any length of time.  The application does not allow you to zoom in on content like many competitive devices do.
  • I connected the Kindle Fire to my Mac and transferred several PDF documents. When I view the Documents area from the Kindle Fire, additional files with similar names show up.  I didn’t spend enough time with it to determine what exactly these are, but they are pretty annoying.  It didn’t seem to generate a thumbnail view of the documents I transferred either.
  • After my two hours of use, my eyes are fatigued and I have a headache.  I’m not sure if it is because I spent too long trying to adjust the tiny font in the email application or if it has something to do with the font used throughout the device.
  • I found absolutely no features related to accessibility on this device.
  • The Fire doesn’t support many common video formats.  I transferred several videos in .m4v and .mov format which could not be played on the device. This appears to be a method for Amazon to force you to purchase content directly from them instead of using your own content or media from other vendors.
  • The Kindle Fire User’s Guide comes pre-loaded on the device.  Unfortunately, it isn’t complete and refers you to other online sources for additional information which I didn’t find to be complete either.  For example, there is very little documentation that I could find relating to the security settings of the device, credential storage and device administrators.

Conclusion

The Kindle Fire has some good points but it has a number of issues that would make me think twice about recommending it to the masses.  The biggest issue for me is the email client that is provided.  I would estimate that 50% of the time that I am using my iPad, I am reading or responding to email. The inability to adjust the look of the content on the Fire would prevent me from carrying this device regularly.

If you are already an Amazon Prime member, have purchased most of your content from Amazon already or are interested in purchasing future content directly from Amazon, this may be a good choice at $200.  If you are planning on using this device as a travel companion where a decent Wi-Fi connection is unavailable or cost prohibitive (like on a plane), this may not be the best choice for you.  This device is definitely not a replacement for a laptop and should not be considered a content-creation device.

I would strongly recommend borrowing a device from a friend or stopping at a big box store and giving it a spin before plunking down cold hard cash for it.  Since this device has very little (8 GB) storage capacity, I would also be certain that I had a very good Wi-Fi connection in any location that I wanted to use the device.  Without an internet connection for streaming media, this becomes a much less useful device.

In a nutshell, this is a version 1.0 device.  Due to it’s price, it will undoubtedly steal away sales from competitors like the iPad.  Although well built, I don’t believe it has the “fit and finish” or attention to detail that the Apple iPad has while providing only a subset of the functionality.

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