November 17, 2011

Hands-on with the Amazon Kindle Fire


Yesterday was a pretty big day for me, as my Amazon Kindle Fire came. The image to the left is what it looks like when I opened the oddly-shaped box.

Just to let you know, it didn’t come with much. It was the unit itself, a charging cord, and a small brown card tucked away in a little pocket explaining what to do with each.

As per the instructions, I plugged it in, and the first thing it asked me was what wireless network I wanted, and then prompted me for my password on my home network that I selected. After that, it was about fifteen minutes or so of it downloading the latest software, and I was ready to go.

It’s version of Android is quite odd. I believe that it is supposed to be Gingerbread (Android 2.3), but it is like nothing that I ever seen. The home screen looks like a bookshelf, and it has a Carousel-like browser that shows what material you have been looking at, which is about everything from books to web sites. Above the carousel are the menu categories of Newsstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps, and Web. There aren’t the usual four buttons (Home, Menus, Back, and Search) on the bottom, but they appear at the bottom when the menu categories are accessed.

The Newsstand opens up to the same shelf-view that is on the homescreen, but mine was empty. However, thanks to Amazon Prime, I get access to a lot of magazines, some of them for free. As far as books go, I got a free dictionary, and Amazon Prime gives me access for some loaning.

There was no Music on the Kindle, but the store is always open, as for the video. I could seriously spend a whole lot of money here, let me tell you. By the way, you have to have your Amazon account logged in constantly to get any content, even if it is free.

As far as the Docs are concerned, there is only the Kindle Fire User’s Guide. I can add a lot more by simply plugging it into my computer. Oddly enough, the Kindle Fire doesn’t have a USB connector cable, but the one from my Droid X worked just fine. I don’t believe that the Fire’s charging cable doesn’t work like that.

As far as the Apps are concerned, you can only get the Android apps that are with Amazon. That is somewhat disappointing, and I am not certain what percentage of the Android Market you will be able to access with the Kindle Fire.

What is most impressive is the Web. I was very excited to see that it is quite fast, and that must have something to do with the split-level architecture that we discussed just after the Kindle Fire was announced.

I was also surprised that it could run YouTube, Crackle, and other video-viewing sites. It doesn’t seem to do Hulu, though. I believe that a subscription to Hulu Plus would be required. Considering that Amazon probably wants you to pay for their content, I’m not certain if that is a good idea.

I still haven’t accessed all the Cloud privileges of storing content, but I am going to spend a lot of time maxing it out, believe me.

If you are wondering how I feel about it overall, the Kindle Fire is more reader than it is tablet. After all, it doesn’t have Bluetooth, which it really should have. Maybe in the next version. Also, an HDMI port so I could put the content on a bigger screen also would have been good. Still, it is a product that gives a lot for the $200 pricetag, and as long as you have Wi-Fi, you have access to so much content, which is the real reason why Amazon is a success.

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