With the supposed iPad killer making its debut
tomorrow today (surprise!), techies have gotten a day-early hands on look at the product, deciding that Amazon's tablet probably won't do too much damage to Apple after all. When Jeff Bezos unveiled the Kindle Fire six weeks ago, reviewers decided the tablet looked impressive. And for $200 could undercut the iPad. But that was without actually touching the thing -- Amazon had a look, don't touch policy at its unveiling. Now that the blogger masses have gotten some play time in, some of that wide-eyed optimism for a possible tablet blood-bath has faded. The Kindle Fire is a solid tablet, but there's a reason it costs $200.
First things first: Bugs aside, the Kindle Fire is still the cheapest thing around, explains The New York Times's David Pogue.
Actually, the big news isn’t the tablet — it’s the price: $200. When most tablets cost $500, a $200 tablet is rather a big deal ... At this rate, by next year, Amazon will pay you to buy a Kindle.
For that price, the tablet has a lot of great features. It runs on Android, but looks nothing like it, in a good way, points out Gizmodo's Sam Biddle.
The Fire doesn't feel like any other Android tablet—and that's a very, very good thing. From the minute you turn it on, the device is puzzlingly simple. Where's the home screen?, someone might ask you. All you see is a shelf, stacked with whatever you've looked at recently: novels, magazines, apps, TV episodes—everything. The emphasis is squarely on picking out stuff to stimulate your eyeballs (and ears) with—all else is secondary. This makes for a UI that's not only simple, but intuitive. You don't have to think about how to use the Fire, because unlike Apple's dodgy attempts at interface metaphors, Amazon's works perfectly: here's my shelf of things.
And it's not just about the device, as Amazon has emphasized. It's about all the great content Amazon offers via Prime. The tablet makes accessing the money makers easy, thinks Biddle.
Amazon has wrapped all of these things together into a rich, easy way to suck down almost every conceivable form of media with one key: Prime. But Prime has been stuck behind the tangled butterface of Amazon.com—the site is a mess, a cage. This Kindle is meant to change all that, to not only be a Better Kindle, but a direct conduit to all of Prime's awesomeness: the missing piece.
But, that's also the tablet's downfall, continues Pogue. It doesn't do everything an iPad does.
The Fire is not nearly as versatile as a real tablet. It is designed almost exclusively for consuming stuff, particularly material you buy from Amazon, like books, newspapers and video. It has no camera, microphone, GPS function, Bluetooth or memory-card slot. There is a serviceable e-mail program, but no built-in calendar or note pad.
Perhaps more problematic, the Kindle Fire doesn't have the smoothest software. It's slow, laments Endgadget's Tim Stevens.
Perhaps it's the step down from the standard 1GB, or perhaps it's the heavy-handed software overlay running atop Android, but the Fire never delivers smooth, seamless performance.
Then again, it's still probably worth it at $200, points out Mashable's Lance Ulanoff.
To fully appreciate the Amazon Kindle Fire, you have to step back and look at all you’re getting for $199 (the base 16GB iPad is $499, the Nook Tablet $249). This is a highly polished device and collection of services. It bakes in books, music, movies, apps/games, magazines, multi-tasking, universal search, easy access to anything you have in Amazon’s cloud, and a sense that this device and Amazon know you. It is the closest tablet I’ve seen yet to an Apple iPad: a consistent, well-thought out marriage of hardware and services that offer an almost frictionless environment for app purchase and content consumption.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.