Books

This being the Kindle Fire, the Kindle experience is the central focus here (other than making boatloads of money for Amazon). Hit the Books library, and you see an option at the top for Cloud and Device. All of your purchased books are located on the cloud, and you can download them to your Kindle Fire's local storage as necessary. The Fire has roughly 5.5GB of free space to use for content, so some content management will be required over time, particularly if you download a lot of videos to local storage. The books you own are displayed in list form, on a dark gray wood background. You can choose how you want your books organized, whether by title, author, or recently viewed. 

The reader itself is pretty standard, very clean. You can tap on the left and right of the screen to move back/forward through pages, just like you can on a regular Kindle. As soon as you get into the book, the notification and navigation bars hide themselves, allowing you to view the pages alone with no UI elements to distract from the content. Tap once to bring up the nav bar, and you see five options: the standard home, back, menu and search, this time joined by an "Aa" button to configure font and text display settings. There are three different options for margins and line spacing, eight different text sizes, and a choice of background colour (white, black, and a poor approximation of parchment that comes out about three shades too dark). The default typeface is Georgia, other options include Caecilia, Trebuchet, Verdana, Arial, TNR, Courier, and Lucida. I found the default settings very comfortable for reading, only changing to a black background and white text when reading in the dark but otherwise leaving the options untouched.

Search works well, showing all the instances of the word you searched for with a two-line snippet of text, along with the chapter and location number. Beyond that, you can select text, highlight, and add notes. If a single word is selected, the dictionary definition is provided in the option box. The text selection works exactly as it does in standard Gingerbread, so you can pick out groups of text for highlighting. In addition, you can choose to search the selected text in Google, Wikipedia, or other parts of the book. It's actually pretty fantastic for studying and textbooks. 

The lone disappointment here is that the framerate of the page turning animation isn't really where you'd expect it to be given the quality of hardware on board here. It's not exactly choppy, but it's noticeably not as smooth as the experience on an iPad or other Android tablets. 

Newsstand

The Newsstand library works similarly to the Books library. You have every magazine issue arranged on a bookshelf similar to the one on the homescreen, again with options to view from the cloud or from local device storage and the choice to organize purchased magazines by title or recent viewing.

Once you pick a magazine, you're treated to a beautiful visual experience, with images rendering pretty crisply on the display. However, with the aspect ratio of magazines being different than the Kindle's screen, you end up with gray bars on the top and bottom. Also, the text tends to be impossibly small in page view. Zooming and panning a pain, and because the page is basically just an image object, the zoomed text isn't as crisp as one would like for comfortable reading. 

Thankfully, Amazon has tossed in a "Text View" option that functions similarly to the "Reader" function in the iOS 5 iteration of Safari, basically taking the text from the page and putting it in an environment nearly identical to the eBook reader environment. You can easily move between articles in the magazine with the menu button, so you don't need to leave text view to read the entire magazine. Tablets are supposed to give you the full magazine experience without limits. On the Kindle Fire, I found myself preferring to read magazine content in text view instead.

We see the same mild framerate slowdown from Books in the Text View mode, but it's in the actual magazine page view that you run into major issues (Get it, get it? No one? Sorry, bad joke.) It's way, way choppy - it's not even a lack of smoothness here, it's that page turns happen at something approaching 5 frames per second. Granted, given the image-rich nature of magazines, it makes sense, but that doesn't make it acceptable.

The Amazon Silk Browser Kindle Store & Prime Instant Video/Movies
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  • Reflex - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    No, part of the reason Amazon forked Android was to eliminate Google services and analytics. No Google account required, nothing is shared with Google unless you choose to install their apps and services. Amazon also has very strict privacy policies and does not share user information with anyone(even internally from what I understand). Reply
  • stationstops - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    As a commuter, I am on my iPad2 3 hours a day. I would love to try the Kindle Fire as a less cumbersome replacement (for me, it either fits in the pocket of the sport coat or it doesn't), but without 3G, there is absolutely no productivity for me here at all.

    Its kind of amazing how little importance 3G is given in the press when discussing Android tablets. They commonly get released with no 3G version at all, and when the 3G versions do come out, they have contracts and pricing which simply can't compete with iPad's liberal Verizon and AT&T month-to-month plans.

    Keep in mind that this great 2011 tablet computer has worse connectivity then a Gen 1 Kindle.
    Reply
  • melgross - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    It's interesting that most reviews from Anand pick apart even the smallest problems, but this review seems to gloss over them. Is it really possible that Anand and Vivek didn't have the problems that other reviewers had?

    Problems mentioned in other reviews include, turning off the tablet when watching movies, browsing, or doing any activity because of the poor placement and implementation of the
    Owner button.

    The need to often tap several times to get the screen to respond, or to find that the tablet did, after a lag, detect a tap, but now moves you to something else because you tapped too often.

    The lack not only of a microphone, but a rear and front camera, so no Skype possible.

    Also no gyro. Amazon doesn't allow apps in their store if it uses any of these features.

    Many side loaded apps either don't work, or have problems if they do. And sideloading apps isn't for the average user anyway, so most are stuck with what Amazon approves, which isn't much.

    Many tap points are small (and as mentioned, not always responsive), and so people with vision problems or motor control problems will have difficulty with this.

    Overall, this isn't such a great product. I'm surprised that Anand didn't go more deeply into this. There's no excuse that it's just $200. For that we should get something that lacks features, but it should still work well for what it does.
    Reply
  • Wizzdo - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    I agree. I feel this review isn't up to the usual high standards. The points melgross states are quite salient. Anand mentions that the Kindle Fire is no iPad 2 but this is for many more reasons than size and graphics horsepower alone. Reply
  • cat12 - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    I have own a older molder kindle (purchased 6 months ago) I was very pleased with it and still am. Well I had to try the fire. I did not like the back light at all. When you work on computers all day you eyes fatigue. With the older kindle seems like you are reading a book and is much easier on the eyes.
    As far as the internet web browsing it was redundant since I have laptop etc... The film quaility of the movies on the fire was excellent but again redundant.
    Also I could view my external mail account but could not open the messages, so it was useless as a business tool. The fire seems to be much heavier, and do not think for a moment that you can use your old protective cover for the fire. You will have to lay out cash for a new one to fit the fire.
    I returned the fire after a couple of days and am awaiting my refund from amazon. I will continue to enjoy my older kindle for the "book" reading experience, after all that is why I wanted a kindle in the first place.
    Reply
  • NCM - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    "Amazon refused to skimp in two areas: compute and the display."
    "this is more general purpose compute..."

    Please: "compute" is a verb, not a noun.
    Reply
  • bludragon - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    This is my single biggest gripe with the browser, especially in landscape, most of the screen is wasted on the buttons and status bar. Unless I'm being really dumb and missed the option to get rid?

    Aside from Netflix, nothing I searched for in the app store was there. I don't think I'm asking a lot...

    1. Zinio
    2. Google maps
    3. Yelp
    4. Firefox, opera or some other web browser to get around the browser irks and the few buggy web sites (typically where pop up ads prevent you from seeing the page, or you can't select things on pop up menus)
    Reply
  • Bazili - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    It's time to create a device with both displays and a simple smart cover that shifts the device from one mode to another.

    Isn't it possible, is it?
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    The NotionInk Adam is a similar idea to what you're talking about. Reply
  • geniekid - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    A lot of people say they don't understand the comparison between the Fire and an iPad, but I think there's value to such a comparison.

    Yes, I KNOW the iPad is obviously a superior piece of hardware to the Fire and it was designed to meet different needs. I need to know EXACTLY what those different needs are. What does that extra $400 dollars buy me? I would guess at least half the people reading reviews about the Fire want to know how it compares to the iPad, EVEN IF THEY ALREADY UNDERSTAND that the two are targeting different demographics.
    Reply

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