While the early reviews for Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet have been less than glowing, they all agree that the device has the virtue of being cheap.
One of the chief problems that some reviewers have identified with the tablet is that its 7-inch display screen is just not optimal for reading online magazines. Engadget's Tim Stevens, for instance, said that he and his team "constantly found ourselves zooming in and out to read" on the device while The Verge's Joshua Topolsky said that the pinch-and-zoom functionality "lacks a smoothness that would make the experience more enjoyable." The Chicago Sun Times' Andy Ihnakto was much more complimentary of the Kindle Fire but also conceded that it was mainly for users who are "not terribly interested in much more than content consumption," whereas the iPad "does everything and ... does books exceptionally well."
FIRST LOOK: The Amazon Kindle Fire
Mashable's Lance Ulanoff also said that the Kindle wasn't up to the iPad's standard and said that its overall design was more reminiscent of RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.
"When you use an Apple iPad, iPod or iPhone, it's clear that every bit of it was built with the hardware in mind," he wrote. "As most people have heard, Amazon reportedly took a shortcut and used the Research in Motion PlayBook's reference design. The Kindle Fire looks almost exactly like it except for the lack of cameras and, obviously, the operating system."
But while the consensus was that the Kindle Fire may not be in the same league as the iPad, the reviewers also said that it didn't really need to be since its $200 price tag alone could be a big differentiator.
"[The Kindle Fire] doesn't have the iPad's extra layer of polish and sheen, but with the Amazon brand, a wide ecosystem of services at its disposal, and that $199 price point it doesn't really need it," wrote Fortune's JP Mangaliden. "In that sense, Apple's tablet just met its first competitor."
CNET's editorial team also said that the tablet could be a hit for bargain shoppers who just want a tablet capable of helping them surf the Web, since it performs fairly well given its low price.
"In the world of tablets, there are great products and there are cheap products, but very few great, cheap products," the editors wrote. "Fortunately, for those of you unwilling to shell out $500 for an Apple iPad 2, and wary of buying a piece of junk, Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire tablet should be at the top of your wish list."
Not all reviewers felt that the low price justified the inferior screen size and user interface, however. The New York Times' David Pogue wrote that paying a premium for a quality device is sometimes worth the money, especially if the cheap device you're using is driving you crazy due to its sluggish performance.
"You feel that $200 price tag with every swipe of your finger," he wrote. "Animations are sluggish and jerky. ... The momentum of the animations hasn't been calculated right, so the whole thing feels ornery."
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This story, "Kindle Fire consensus: It's no iPad, but hey, it's cheap!" was originally published by Network World.