I received Amazon’s new venture into the tablet market November 16, a day earlier than it’s announced delivery date. Here are some first impressions after moderate use for a little more than a week.
The screen is bright and clear. Colors are brilliant and sharp. Since it’s a touch screen device and said screen is a magnet for fingerprints, the first and absolutely essential accessory you’ll need is a microfiber cloth. Instead of the combination electrical plug and USB cord that the original Kindle came with, the Fire ships with a brick charger and no USB cable to connect the device to your computer. This is doubtless the result of cost cutting as the Fire is alleged to cost more than Amazon sells it for – $199. If you have a previous iteration of the Kindle its charger/USB cable will work with the Fire allowing you to put the brick in a drawer. If you don’t have this device you’ll have to purchase a USB cable if you want to connect your Kindle Fire to your computer.
As the Fire only has a seven inch screen, magazines are hard to read if you display the full page; the font size is just a little too small. You can’t change the font size on a magazine, but you can enlarge the screen so that half the page displays at a larger size. This makes reading easier, but you have to do it each time you go to a new page and the displayed page can easily be moved or resized accidentally. Thus, reading a magazine is more of a chore than it should be, though the color display makes the pages look vibrant and as good as the real thing.
The controls are a little klutzy. Sometimes tapping the screen elicits no response and the only way to return to the home page it to hit the setting icon at the upper right of the screen. But eventually you can get where you want to go. “Helpful” icons come and go without my understanding why. But they’re a minor annoyance.
There are two ways to add documents to the tablet. You can email them to an address that Amazon give you when you set it up online. Make sure that you send the email and its attachment from the email address that Amazon has as belonging to you, otherwise the process will fail. You can go to your Kindle account and add additional email addresses. The other way is via a direct connection to your computer with a USB cable. The Fire shows up as another drive on your computer. The first time I tried to move a document the process failed. I have no idea why. The second time it worked fine.
If you’re in range of a Wi-Fi connection the tablet will navigate the web with reasonable ease. It will also allow you to check your email. This is the only way to connect the Kindle Fire to the internet.
The demands of a color screen and the internet make battery life a lot shorter than the monochrome Kindle. I haven’t made any measurements of exactly what this lifespan precisely is. It’s smaller size makes it easier to carry and harder to use.
In summary, an interesting device that will probably appeal to a less demanding consumer than the iPad which costs more than twice as much. If you get one, be sure and get a case for it. It’s the kind of toy that many will want and which nobody needs. I like it. After all, you can play Plants vs Zombies on it.