Scott Lowe, the Executive Editor of IGN Tech weighs in on the Kindle Fire
(written version below!)
On paper, the Kindle Fire is the perfect tablet. It’s compact, it’s got great specs, access to tons of content and at $199, it’s dirt cheap. In practice however, it falls short of expectations. The design is plain and uninspired, featuring plain black plastic casing with plain black trim and a plain black bezel. It closely resembles the Blackberry Playbook, but even RIM’s poorly received tablet is easier on the eyes.
To keep costs down, the Kindle Fire lacks nonessential features like a built in camera and 3G connectivity. While these are reasonable concessions, Amazon has also cut more basic features like dedicated volume and navigation control. In fact, aside from toggling power, all the controls are built into the onscreen software which can be cumbersome.
Amazon has taken Google’s Android OS, stripped out many advanced features and created a wholly new user interface. The user interface trades a static grid of app icons for scrollable rolls of graphic rich cover art. You can seamlessly peruse your most recently accessed apps and movies, select from a row of your favourite content, or you can browse by category.
The Kindle Fire cleverly combines both content you already own with what’s available on Amazon’s various digital stores. New music, apps, books and movies can be added to your collection with a few taps of the screen. The downside to the unique OS design is that third party app support is limited. Although there are plenty of big names on the app store like Angry Birds, Facebook, and Netflix, users can only access a fraction of the total Android market.
Where things really go awry is performance. Despite packing a dual core processor and plenty of RAM, the Kindle Fire is disappointingly slow. Navigating onscreen menus feels sluggish, videos load at a snails pace and the much touted Silk browser can be downright unresponsive. Fortunately, many of these issues can be resolved with a software update. But without confirmation from Amazon, there’s no way to be sure they will.
So does this mean you should skip the Kindle Fire? Not necessarily. If you’re looking for a basic tablet for casual use, it will work great. But those looking for more versatility might want to spring for a pricier solution.