REVIEW – The Kindle Fire

I pre-ordered my Kindle Fire the day they were announced and received it yesterday. I have a 3rd generation Kindle Keyboard, so I considered this an upgrade so my wife and I wouldn’t compete over the Kindle. I knew going into it that the Fire wasn’t an iPad Killer; it’s designed for a different type of user.

It’s my first time using an Android-based device. UI response can be a bit wonky, and like many reviews said, it’s sometimes a bit slow to reconnect to WiFi after being asleep, though I’ve noticed that it’s improved since yesterday (night-time OS patch, perhaps?). I figure UI wonkiness will get patched soon; it’s a new product, customized OS, so there’ll be wrinkles to iron out.

A lot of my friends are gamers, and I own a lot of gaming-related PDFs, so how it handled PDFs was going to be the big determinator for me on whether or not I would keep my Kindle Fire, or just get a Kindle Touch. Default PDF handling isn’t great. The screen makes them look pretty, but they don’t make good use of real estate, so you have to zoom in to read anything (unless you have electronic microscope eyes). There’s also no ability to search within the PDF (that’s a KILLER downside).

BUT, there’s an app for that. Since I didn’t want to invest any more money while I was evaluating the product, I went cheap and got Acrobat Reader for it (free). Sure, you now have to open a PDF while in an app rather than opening the file directly, but you have to do that on a PC anyway. Reader allows searching within PDFs. Navigation is better in Reader, as well. I’ve heard there are paid apps out there that do a better job with PDFs than Acrobat Reader, and since Reader is good enough for my needs, I think I’ll hang onto my Kindle Fire. If you’re using multi-column PDFs as a reference at a game table, it’ll work fine. Reading them might be a little annoying, but if you have a single-column layout PDF, there’s absolutely no problem reading them.

Reading prose isn’t as pleasant as an e-ink screen, but I knew that going into it. Video looks great. Web browsing works well; I understand that’ll improve as more people use it and the Silk servers get more info cached.

It’s not a perfect device, but the form factor is nice (it fits in the front pockets of my Dockers). It weighs less than a pound (not much, but still), and it’s easy to work with. File organization isn’t as robust as I’d like; I want to organize my bookshelf by Author within Genre, and I can’t really set up my own organization scheme (maybe I haven’t discovered how yet). For some reason, some of the books I sideloaded (ebooks I bought from Baen or Smashwords) show up as documents rather than books, and I can’t organize document within folders. Apparently, the issue has to do with tags in the metadata. The Fire categorizes these files as documents instead of books, despite the facts that they’re .mobi files. I can fix it myself with Calibre, but I shouldn’t have to. I expect some, if not all of these issues will be resolved with OS updates; I can’t imagine Amazon keeping the OS static.

The Fire feels sturdy, looks good, and fulfills my needs in a tablet device. I can see using this as a replacement for my laptop when I take short trips; unless I need to write extensively, I can do everything on my Fire I can do on my laptop. The 8GB is sufficient for me since I don’t plan on storing music on my Fire (I have an iPhone), nor do I plan on storing video; I’ll just stream what I need from Amazon Prime or Netflix (free app; and we already have a subscription).

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