Kindle Fire HD Review

I’ve had three weeks to play with my Kindle Fire HD, enough time to come to a few conclusions. How about I get the negative points out of the way first? The on/off button and volume rocker. The former is flush, so you can’t see it. The latter has ever so slightly raised notches that remind me of Braille.  Braille is a wonder of the human world. All medicines in the UK have a Braille print. But my fingertips are just not sensitive enough. I can’t feel the notches on the Kindle either, and it isn’t something I’ve gotten used to. I have to move the Kindle about so I can look for and see the buttons. That’s sloppy design.

The interface isn’t terribly strong either. The text based menu isn’t customisable  and some lock you into Amazon. The video button for example, takes you to LoveFilm. Why not link to the videos I’ve loaded onto the device? Same with the Photo link – Facebook is the only online option. I’d like it to open Flickr. The carousel on the homepage is clunky. And you can’t have folders for apps, so if you download a lot of them, it gets messy.

There’s also the issue of the screen orientation. Some different apps decide they like to be oriented only in one way. So again, I have to move the Kindle about. The Kindle isn’t ultimately as responsive as an iPad, but to be honest that issue isn’t one that bothers me. The difference is noticeable, but not big enough to really affect my daily use of the machine. Lastly, and by far the biggest negative point is that, despite being based on Android, it locks you into the Amazon eco system and out of the Google Play system.

What does that mean for the user? There are a ton of apps on Google that aren’t available on the Kindle, including all the Google apps – YouTube, Gmail, Maps etc. Also, were I able to log into the Google Play store, I have a bunch of paid for apps that Amazon now wants me to pay for a second time. Nice. So this is the biggest negative point by far. Sort of. Actually, I had my Kindle rooted and Google Play loaded onto my Kindle within 10 minutes of having it out of the box.

That’s quite a bit of negativity. Are they Kindle killers? Let’s see. On to the plus points. The screen is beautiful. It’s iPad comparable. It looks good even in bright light. It’s genuinely fantastic. The device feels solid and made to last.  A week point in many app eco systems is app discovery. The Kindle is locked into Amazon, who are the masters of providing products and ideas to the paying public. The Kindle reinforces their place at the top of the tree. I’ve already bought two Kindle books based on their recommendations, according to what I’ve read before.

I love getting a free app everyday as well, through Amazon’s App of the Day. I’ve complained about the Kindle locking you into the Amazon network, but if you embrace that, then the device works very well. The Kindle book reader is brilliant. I’d always had doubts as to whether a Kindle could replace the paper book in my affection. It has. It achieved that within minutes.

The size of the device is perfect. I’d often wondered what the point of a 10″ iPad was. It’s too big to carry around everywhere, and doesn’t do anything that my smartphone can’t do. And it’s too small to compare to a laptop. It always seemed a pointless extravagance. A luxury device for those with more money than sense. I still hold that to be true. The Kindle has a 7 inch screen, so it not pocketable either. I wouldn’t take it every where with me. But its small and light enough to carry on bus journeys. And for books, movies and games, it’s so much nicer to use than my Samsung Galaxy S2.

Is the Kindle Fire HD an extravagance? Absolutely. Aren’t most electronic devices to some extent or another? But here’s the killer deal. It’s £159. That’s a very affordable luxury item. It’s a steal. For what you get, it’s an absolute freaking bargain. None of those negative points I mentioned at the beginning get you particularly frustrated. Even if the device cost more, they’e not deal breakers. You live with them. But at £159? I almost feel guilty for bothering to mention them. I love my Kindle Fire HD, and give it ten out of ten. I highly recommend the device. Which is why my mum bought one. And a co worker. They love theirs too.

The winner and loser of all this? Google and Microsoft. I wrote a number of posts about six months ago, having been thoroughly frustrated by Google+, Picasa and their storage upgrade. I attempted to wean myself off Google products full stop. Microsoft would have been the beneficiary. I liked the new Outlook.com and used it for several months. The Windows Phone 8 OS looked really appealing. And Windows 8 for the desktop looked promising. But then three things changed my mind. First, the Kindle Fire HD. Second, The Nokia Lumia 920, despite all it’s plus points, is just too big and clunky. I wouldn’t buy one. Thirdly, Windows 8 for my lap top. I bought it for £15, downloaded and installed it on day one.

I won’t bother doing a full review of Windows 8. I’ll sum it up here is a single paragraph. It starts and shuts down really quickly. It’s worth the upgrade for that. You turn it on. You get hit by the ‘Metro’ interface. There’s little to nothing in the app store worth having. There’s a ton of junk worth avoiding. Most apps do what you can do in a browser window, but more slowly. Much more slowly. App discovery in the store is appalling. So you hit the app that says ‘Desktop’, and the Metro interface is gone. You’re back into Windows 7. But there’s no Start button, and after a while that’s annoying. So you go get a new start button (I paid $5 for this one, although free options are available) installed, and forget all about the Metro nonsense. To sum up, Windows 8 is nice and quick, the Metro interface pointless.

I like Microsoft and the direction they’re going. But they haven’t sold me on the eco system. So Google wins. I give up, and return to the fold. My next phone will be an Android device. I’m back onto Gmail. It’s like I never left, quite frankly. I’ll just leave you with this thought…

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7 comments

  1. Cool. Was wondering about the Kindle Fire. I have the one with the keyboard and the biggest selling point for me is the matt screen. I’m not sure if I’m ready to move to an iPad-like screen yet and the only thing I want a tablet for or small laptop is for blogging. But… This is a good review. If I could test out the screen on it, I’d consider buying one.

    1. I suspect someone you know will have one soon that you can try out. Incidentally, I find it surprisingly easy to type (with two thumbs!) quite quickly, and this is the perfect sized screen for reading blogs!

  2. Between my laptop and my smartphone, I do not seem to have a need for a Kindle Fire. My Kindle Touch meets my reading needs, And I will probably buy the Kindle Paperwhite when the 3G version is released. My biggest complaint of the Fire is that the Melaque sun keeps its backlit screen from being a practical reader. But your review is making me rethink that point.

    1. This device is, as I mentioned, something of an extravagance. I can’t see that anyone really needs one. And yet, I find myself reaching for it regularly instead of getting up and sitting down at the laptop. And I find myself tucking it into my bag when I head off to catch the bus to work, because it’s just that bit nicer to use than my smartphone.

      It’s wifi only, although by setting up my phone as a Wifi hotspot, I got around that issue very quickly. The dual wifi antennae works by the way. I get a much better reception than either my laptop or my phone, and can get connected from much further away from the modem.

      I did find it surprisingly heavy when I first took hold of it. That’s not to say it is terribly heavy. Just that it felt heavier than it looked. But I’ve had no problems with weight. You’d have to have a poor set of wrists to find it difficult to hold even for prolonged periods.

      The screen – it’s great in the sun. I’ve had no issues. But I’m testing it in English winter sun. I make no promises about glaring Melaque summer sun!

  3. I am still on the first generation Nook. It was a refurbished unit (i.e. repaired and resold for very low price. I did not even pay for it as it was a hand me down from my wife.
    To me Kindles are way too proprietary! You are locked into Amazon and have little leeway on what you can do with one even at the lower prices being seen now.
    The ideal e reader for me would be a very light tablet that could run all the available formats. Androids would probably work for me but I hear the Microsoft is develop some hardware that might all work for those purposes. I want more choices!

    1. They are very proprietary! I rooted mine, which overcomes many of the issues the Amazon lock-in produces. But not everyone will want to root theirs.

      Having said that, the Amazon eco system is pretty expansive – being locked into a system that’s larger than you could ever explore is not necessarily a serious issue for everyone.

      And then there is that price. £159 Or $199 in the US, I believe. That’s a killer price.

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