The Kindle Fire… doesn’t burn so bright?

After perusing the various Kindle Fire reviews… I’ve suddenly lost interest. I obviously need to hit a Best Buy or Target and for some first hand tablet impressions, but my expectations of Amazon were probably too high. At the end of the day, what we’re dealing with is a skinned version of Android running on largely recycled hardware. Of course, going in, we knew that. Yet I’d hoped Amazon would transform the experience in more notable, integrated, and polished ways. Oh they’ll still sell a ton given Amazon’s exposure, via their own site and retail partners, and amazingly wallet friendly pricing ($199). But this gadget-loving Amazon Prime member who makes Kindle purchases is most likely sitting this one out (while continuing to pine for an Amazon Instant app on devices other than the Fire).

But if not the Fire, then what? For the interim, I’m sticking with my smartphone and second generation Kindle (while sneaking occasional usage from  my wife’s iPad). But there are those interested in economical tablets 7″ tablets. Barnes & Noble is refreshing their Nook Color as the Nook Tablet ($250) with a more distinctive look and beefier specs than the Kindle Fire offers. Like Amazon, they’re skinning Android mostly beyond recognition… but at this point B&N has a year more experience in ‘droid development and are also expanding their third party app ecosystem (to include familiar faces like Netflix). Like its predecessor, I expect you’ll be able to run stock Android off SD card should you so choose. And with Ice Cream Sandwich source code released, it may get even better. Speaking of a more traditional Android experience, the Lenovo IdeaPad A1 has been priced in the $200 – $250 range. The specs aren’t impressive, but it includes a front facing camera for video chat and 4 case hues to choose amongst.

16 thoughts on “The Kindle Fire… doesn’t burn so bright?”

  1. Smoke effect via Dan Barak on Flickr.

    Wonder how many Kindle Fire pre-orderers will be disappointed and how long before we see refurb Kindle Fire tablets on Woot? Then again, I’m sure Amazon has several software updates already mapped out. You know I’ll be tracking its development.

  2. Yeah, I’m not too excited by the curent Kindle either. There are also the rumors that the next version of the Kindle Fire will be out in the first half of next year. If you google, you can find the articles from weeks ago stating that this version is just a place holder that got delayed by a few months.

  3. Yeah, based on the recycled hardware it’s obvious they took a shortcut to get a product out this holiday season. Recycling a STB enclosure or remote is one thing, but with a high profile device like this it indicates something else entirely. Then again, most folks have never seen or heard of the Blackberry Playbook. ;) We shall see… I’d heard a Revue 2 was being developed, for example, yet now we know no such animal will ever see the light of day.

  4. Honestly, I’m not surprised by the lukewarm reviews. Most of these reviewers are iPad owners so they don’t really have the right perspective. I think customers who bought this coming from a e-ink Kindle they are going to be quite happy. And customers who have never owned a tablet will be as well. The Fire is good for what it is. If you want a high-end tablet you certainly won’t be satisfied however.

  5. I plan to get these for my kids, I thought they would be great for media consumption on a long plane flight we have planned for this summer. But how could they design this thing with no parental controls? I don’t want small kids to have unlimited web access or beable to start streaming any movie off of Amazon Prime. I will have to swith off all wi-fi connectivity to give these to small kids, and used that way they are extremely memory limited. Does anyone know if it is possible to add some level of parental control via a third party app?

  6. I’m a bit surprised by this, what has made you change your mind? The initial reviews? I already have a rooted Nook Color, so I won’t be getting one, but it still seems to me that the Kindle Fire (or the new Nook Colors, or the Kobo Vox, or the Lenovos) should all pretty much do what is expected: email, web surfing, video, light gaming and eBooks. The interface may not be nearly as slick or consistent as an iPad of course, but all of these will be rooted in no time, and you can tweak them to your heart’s delight.

    Personally I’m just happy that somebody finally figured out a way to do an Android tablet that will actually meet a market need: cheaper and smaller.

  7. Robert, yeah I have a work buddy who I’ve discussed this with for his kids given the size and price. But the parental controls and limited app selection (compared to iOS) did come up in conversation.

    Bruce, Bozzy, I agree the price and basic functionality will meet many people’s needs and expectations. As far as me, maybe I just don’t need a 7″ tablet… or any tablet. I’m probably also a gadget prima donna who requires a certain amount of polish and sexiness. The Nook Tablet is more appealing to me given the aesthetics, specs, and SD slot. (My brother-in-law has one he dual boots to and loves it.) I assume once they clear Nook Color inventory, Nook Tablet pricing will drop. I also saw a Black Friday ad which had the Nook Color down to $180 I believe and Overstock is currently selling refurbs for $150. (Related, the Nook Touch is more visually appealing and comfortable to hold caseless than the Kindle Touch – plus it’s $30 less or ad-free, depending how you slice it. But I’m mostly locked into the Kindle ecosystem at this point.)

  8. Since I already own an iPad, the Fire hasn’t really been a consideration for me. I suppose I might consider purchasing it as a gift for a family member. However, it seems to me this device targets a fairly narrow audience; an individual that is already an Amazon Prime member (or seriously considering it), is generally interested in consuming lots of content – via a tablet – in the home (the limited storage suggests hardcore travelers may not be that interested), and is looking for a low cost alternative to an iPad. Like Dave, I am waiting for Amazon to expand the Amazon Instant Video app to more devices; specifically, devices (e.g. PS3, Xbox, etc.) that are part of the 10′ experience.

  9. What I don’t understand is where is the TV/Media component to integrate with my home theater? I’d have thought that would be a natural for the Amazon cloud player and VOD/Free netflix like service that you get from Prime. I really have no interest in watching video on anything but a tv unless I’m at a gym, and 7″ might be too big for that…

    Without a tv device, it seems like it leaves too much of the market to Apple. I have a GoogleTV upgraded to Honeycomb and I’m underwhelmed by it (so far). My favorite internet connected device is my receiver. I play internet radio on it all the time and it does it very well. After that, my Roku really seems to hit it. If only it had netflix with 5.1.

    How about something along the lines of a chumby with hdmi? Price it at $99 just like the apple tv.

  10. Greg – Just an FYI, the Roku 2 (XS and XD models) support 1080p video and DD Plus 5.1 audio on selected Netflix titles.

  11. Dave, not at all surprised by the content of the reviews. Sounds like exactly what we were told the Kindle was. Don’t know why anybody expected it to compete with the iPad. Anybody who reviews it from that standpoint will certainly be disappointed. But then I don’t think that’s fair. Sure if it was $500, but its not is it?

    I think for a lot of people, the basic functions will be entirely adequate. A decent web browser, music player, email client, video player, magazine/eBook reader will cover must of their uses.

    The only things in the reviews that concerned me at all were the questions of U/I inconsistency (the home and back buttons hiding themselves for example) and stuttery responsiveness (sometimes not responding to touches). Have to see what I think once I play with it.

    We already have an iPad in the house. We belong to Amazon Prime. I’m comfortable purchasing things from Amazon, buying into their ecosystem for DRM’ed content like eBooks and so forth, something I wouldn’t be with a Barnes and Noble Nook. I don’t expect we’ll buy a lot of apps for the thing though.

    I could still be disappointed, will have to see once I play with ours. But I think its turning out to be exactly what we were told. If Amazon comes out with a 10″ tablet it will be a) more expensive and b) heavier, both bad things. I’m certain that future revisions of the Fire will be much improved from hardware and software standpoints, that’s part of the deal with technology.

    I worry about magazines on the small display, especially if the pinching and panning aren’t incredibly responsive. Have to see.

    Doubt we’ll be buying a lot of apps.

    And hey, it plays Flash (for now). Course I assume all the web sites will block it almost immediately if they haven’t already…

  12. I know, I do not own a Roku 2, I have enough boxes that do 90%. Maybe the GoogleTV will? There is no reason my 1080p Roku could not do 5.1, they just want me to buy another….

  13. Received my Kindle Fire last night. Initial impression is, “It’s a keeper.” I like it quite a lot and think it is a great value and very nice tablet. I have no problem recommending it to others.

    I will be doing a personal review in a day or two and post on my blog at

  14. I got my Kindle Fire Tuesday night. I don’t have an iPad 2, smartphone or any mobile devices beyond my 2nd gen iPod Touch. I’ve played around with other tables and readers before quite a bit though.

    I’ve been wanting a Kindle for over a year. I decided earlier this year I’d get the next release. When the rumors of a tablet version being developed surfaced I debated with myself over which did I want more– a dedicated ereader or one with tablet features. I went with the tablet after spending some more time with the Nook Color. Very glad I did.

    This Apple fan, with a top of the line Mac Pro, is very happy with his basic Amazon tablet. It does what I want without a giant price tag. I’ve already had a large number of people go nuts over mine after showing it to them.

  15. Geoff, what do you plan on using it for? I went the reverse, getting a traditional Kindle e-ink display since my ipad was so reflective when reading.

    Now if there was just dropbox for Kindle and a non flasing e-ink, I’d be all set.

  16. Love my Fire.

    Can read all my books, plus music, video, and light web browsing.

    At about 1/3 the price of an iPad.

    A lot easier to use than a 3.5″ display smartphone.

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