November 15, 2011, 8:01 AM —
The big news today, of course, is the release of the Kindle Fire. In fact, if you pre-ordered then you should get yours today, assuming you sprang for overnight delivery. Perhaps even if you didn't and you're near enough a distribution center. Anyway, yesterday Amazon issued a press release announcing that the Fire had shipped a day early.
So that's good news, right? Well it is unless you were thinking of canceling your pre-order, in which case you waited just a tad too long. Why would you want to cancel?
Maybe you read Jon Phillips' rather negative review of the Fire over at Wired. He likes the video playback and hates pretty much everything else about the device. I'm taking him with a grain of salt for now. He's in the "You can't read e-books from an LCD screen" camp, for one thing. I sure know I can; when the October storm knocked out power a few weeks ago reading a book off my self-illuminated tablets was the only thing I could do for fun! If you really can't read off an LCD display (I know some people who swear they can't even though they spend all day on the Internet) then you should take heed to Phillips' concern, though I don't think you need an Official Review to realize the Fire has an LCD screen.
Another flag? "Most Android apps are crapware." I suppose we could dance around the word 'most' but that just got me thinking that I was reading the words of someone with a bit of an axe to grind.
(Let's pause for a conspiracy theory: is this the real reason Amazon shipped early? Because they knew they'd be getting bad reviews and didn't want people to have a chance to cancel pre-orders? Anyway, moving on...)
So you didn't get a chance to cancel and now you've read Phillips review and you're feeling a little glum? Fear not! Sam Biddle over at Gizmodo loves the Fire! He seems to be approaching the Fire the way I do: as an Amazon Tablet, not as an Android Tablet. He loves how he can jump around from place to place in his Amazon media library all from one device. Book to movie to comic to music to magazine, all on one light, portable device.
Having spent much too much time yesterday reading reviews of the Kindle Fire, I was pretty surprised by how varied the opinions are. Plenty of tech writers love it, plenty seem to hate it. I think in some cases expectations aren't realistic. Anyone who thinks a $200 tablet will match features with a $500 tablet (the iPad) seems a little misguided to me. Of course there are going to be places where the Fire shines and places where they had to cut or scale-back features.
Probably the most balanced review I read comes from Joshua Topolsky at The Verge. If you haven't pre-ordered and are still on the fence, you should probably head down to a Best Buy or some other retailer and pick up a Fire and play with it for a few minutes. If that's not possible and you have to make your decision based on reviews, Topolsky's should probably be your starting point. My only real gripe with what he has to say concerns the Silk browser, of which he says "I didn't notice any page load times that I would consider noticeably speedier." I don't think we'll get a true measure of Silk until lots of people have Kindle Fires and are populating the Amazon-hosted caches. Maybe it won't make a difference and maybe it will, but I don't think we can tell for sure while only a handful of tech bloggers have review units.
I'll still be doing some kind of review, or at least a "Hands on" post about the Fire once I have time to play with it for a bit (I pre-ordered and paid for overnight shipping so expect to have it later today). Like you, I've got a 9-5 job so it may take me longer than it takes these professional bloggers who spend all day doing nothing more than lounging around getting massages, feasting on caviar and playing with gadgets. On the other hand, like you, I opened my wallet and pulled out $200 for mine. Was it worth it? I'll let you know.
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