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On e-Reader Tech News we track down the latest e-Reader news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great e-reader tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest devices and accessories.

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February 2017
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Kindle Paperwhite Hands-On Review

Having used the Kindle Keyboard for quite some time and enjoyed it to the point of returning my Kindle Touch when it didn’t quite meet the same standards (it was fine and had its own perks, but wasn’t as strong in some of the areas I cared about), I didn’t jump on the Paperwhite when it was first available.  I’ve played with it enough to know what I’m talking about in various capacities, but only recently have I picked up my own.  Aside from one small complaint, it’s exactly what I was hoping it would be.

Screen Quality

The contrast of the Kindle Keyboard was pretty much ideal for me.  It created the experience of reading an old, familiar paperback.  The new screen was troubling at first because the contrast was actually too extreme.  I would say that it more or less resembles a newer high-gloss trade paperback.  Not my favorite presentation, but it was very simple to get used to and quickly became a non-issue.  All the other benefits of E Ink displays were naturally still around.

Lighting

The Paperwhite’s signature feature is obviously the front-lighting technology.  It was definitely an improvement over the Nook Simpletouch w/ Glowlight.  The light was more evenly distributed and brighter without creating a greater drain on battery life.  The issues with banding on the bottom of the display are not exaggerated necessarily, but they also have little effect on reading.  I found it somewhat annoying to have trouble seeing the progress bar at some points when reading in complete darkness, but the dark areas are still readable and don’t tend to extend into the text in any meaningful way.

Reading Experience

The overall experience beyond simply the screen is also worth noting.  The loss of 1.2 ounces compared to the Kindle Keyboard makes a small difference overall, but I could see it being meaningful over long reading sessions for some people.  As a reader used to holding the old model for hours at a time, it didn’t stand out as particularly useful (especially if you’re using a case anyway) but the reduction was still big enough to note.

The “Time to Read” meter is better than expected.  It comes up with an accurate measure of your reading pace after a few minutes, basically enough time to fall into a measured pattern, and generally gets things right from there.  Obviously it can’t account for breaks and distractions, but how could it?

Recommendation

If you’re in the market for a new eReader, the Paperwhite is the only real option at the moment.  Nothing else comes close to offering the same quality.

Is it enough to consider going out of the way to upgrade from a previous model?  Under most circumstances I would say yes.  The only really obnoxious shortcoming the device has is a lack of physical page turn buttons.  In every other way it’s a functional upgrade.  For me, the weight of the accumulated features made the Paperwhite an appealing option, but it isn’t at all unreasonable to consider that a make or break factor.  If you can, give it a try and find out for yourself.

Kindle Paperwhite First Impressions

The Kindle Paperwhite has finally shipped out and reactions are coming in quite rapidly.  While there are many customers who will be unable to get their orders until later this month due to the overwhelming demand for the new Kindle, it’s clear that the eReader side of Kindle products is hardly a thing of the past.

Since this was essentially Amazon’s big move to catch up with Barnes & Noble when it comes to front-lit eReading, it was somewhat difficult to see how things would go.  Once you’ve established a way to light up the screen without major problems or backlighting you’re basically set.  It turns out that I wasn’t the only one wondering and some of the reviews that have gone up so far make the comparison explicit:

“I cannot emphasize enough how brilliant the screen is and encourage you to find a display model to look at if you’re on the fence about it. I’ve used the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight and the Paperwhite display blows it out of the water.” – Scott

That isn’t to say that there are no problems.  While the majority of users report a nearly perfect experience with the lighting so far, some of these Kindles appear to be flawed:

“After all the raves about how invisible the LED light sources were, it was disappointing to spot them immediately out of the box at the bottom of screen. And then, as others have noted, the lower screen is also marred by shadowy areas between the LEDs that might be described as smudges or banding. This was definitely NOT the beautifully even glow of light across the screen that Amazon product photos have shown and which I was expecting.” – charlesn

If you have a similar experience, I strongly recommend getting in touch with Amazon’s customer service.  While it is possible that these flaws fall within acceptable ranges as far as the production is concerned, Amazon has spent a lot of time talking up the evenness of their new lighting and is likely to replace as needed should the problem on a particular unit be unusually bad.

In terms of general screen quality, the consensus seems to be that the blacks are blacker, whites are whiter, and everything is both crisper and faster.  Not unexpected to be hearing such things, but it doesn’t hurt to get some confirmation that this is a noticeable improvement for most people over the E Ink Pearl display that has been the standard for some time now.

The lack of speakers has not gone unnoticed (and who really thought it would be?) but it hasn’t come up much so far as a major problem.  Those reviewers who comment on it at all, however, are quite unhappy:

“The Paperwhite has no sound whatsoever. That means no text-to-speech, no blind-accessible menu options, no playing your audiobooks from Audible. I am incredibly disappointed that these features have been gutted” – Joan

It’s likely that Amazon is making an effort to get their accessibility features set up on the Kindle Fire in order to take advantage of the more powerful device’s ability to handle such things.  Does that excuse removing these standard features after once having tried to define the whole eReader line with things like Read-to-Me?  Nope.  The decision might make sense in some ways, but it’s not a good thing for customers.

Fortunately for Kindle fans, since that particular feature removal is unlikely to be reconsidered any time soon, there are enough positive impressions to indicate that an upgrade is worth the money.

Things like the progress bar enhancement seem to be going over really well, for example.  It’s gotten an overall better response, based on these first couple days’ worth of impressions, than X-Ray did when the Kindle Touch was announced:

“My favorite new feature is the “Time Left” calculation at the bottom left of the page. While you are reading, the Kindle calculates how long it will take you to finish the book or the current chapter based on the speed with which you have been turning pages. You just touch the bottom left of the page to toggle the different selections (also shows which location you are on).” – R. Toro “Tech Junkie”

The only real software-based complaints, in fact, seem to center around the inclusion of book recommendations on Kindle Paperwhite models with the Special Offers disabled.  Despite the toggle being off, only paid advertising is removed.  This means that book recommendations are still showing up on the home screen.  For some people that will be a valuable asset while others will find it obnoxious.  Personal preference will be the deciding factor since it’s a relatively unintrusive feature, but excluding that from the advertising opt-out on the Kindle Paperwhite is somehow more obnoxious than the similar recommendation section on the Kindle Fire HD.  Possibly just because the Kindle Fires cover a wider range of content and can genuinely offer you something you might not have thought of while the book recommendations are unlikely to surprise and impress with any regularity.

All told, I have yet to find a review on Amazon or any other site that claims the Kindle Paperwhite is second-best compared to the competing Nook Simple Touch w/ Glowlight.  That puts Amazon back on top in terms of hardware again.  Since they already had the best content selection, that’s going to be a huge advantage when it comes to holiday sales.

Is this upgrade enough to be worth buying a new Kindle if you already own an eReader?  For once, it just might be.  While E Ink screens have largely offered fairly small changes from generation to generation, the Paperwhite is the most extreme improvement we’ve seen since the first Kindle and the front-lit reading capabilities are amazing.  Assuming that there is an interest, it’s hard to argue against this upgrade.

Kindle Fire HD Software Improvements

The most obvious improvements coming in with the Kindle Fire HD are in the hardware.  It’s hard to get more attention-catching than the increased screen size provided by the 8.9” model.  Most of the really interesting stuff seems to be coming through the software side, though.  It’s somewhat harder to lay out in simple graph form, but it’s a lot more interesting.

Android 4.0

Where the original Kindle Fire ran a modified version of Android 2.3, the new Kindle Fire HD will be using version 4.0.  This is the first version of Android made specifically with tablets in mind as well as smartphones, so the inclusion on a larger device is probably an obvious move on Amazon’s part.  Between performance improvements and general compatibility issues, however, this is a big improvement.

Parental Controls

Maybe the parental controls weren’t the biggest issue that the Kindle Fire had in its software design, but the people who needed them were among the loudest of Amazon’s critics.  Over time there were various controls added in that more or less meet most needs, but this new version takes things a bit further.  FreeTime, as the new service is being called, will allow parents to set specific time restrictions on their devices.  This means finely grained control over all sorts of things.  Want your kids to be able to read on the tablet and watch the TV shows you’ve downloaded but not run games except from 6pm to 8pm?  You can do that now.

X-RAY

The X-Ray feature included with the Kindle Touch at its release was an interesting way to access details about your books at a glance.  It pulls up things like character names and bios, important locations in the plot, and an assortment of other information.  Useful for anybody who needs a refresher after putting down their reading for a bit, even if you don’t factor in the links to Shelfari and Wikipedia.

Now the Kindle Fire HD will have that feature for both books and movies.  Amazon is touting the ability of their X-Ray for Movies service to tell you who’s on the screen at any given time, link you to their other films, see anything related to the film or actor from IMDB, and more.  It’s a fun concept that might win you a Trivial Pursuit game some time.

Skype

One of the most anticipated hardware improvements in the Kindle Fire HD has been the camera.  To make use of this, every device will include a copy of Skype pre-installed.  This means instant access to that complete network.  Naturally this won’t be the only service you can take advantage of the hardware through, but it is almost certain to be the biggest.

Read-To-Me

Test to Speech software is back thanks to the Kindle Fire HD.  It was confusingly missing in the first Kindle Fire and there seems to be no way to get it out of any of the new Kindle eReaders either.  Fortunately now it will be present through the tablets, wherever agreements with publishers allow.

$299 Kindle Fire HD 8.9” Details

We’ve been hearing rumors for months now about a larger Kindle Fire that Amazon was on the verge of releasing.  Now that there is confirmation and information more substantial than supply-line gleanings, it’s probably time to start looking at whether the real thing lives up to the expectations.  Here’s what the new 8.9” Kindle Fire HD looks like on paper:

Display 8.9” IPS LCD1920x1200 Resolution

254ppi

Processor TI OMAP4470
Storage 16GB Onboard (32GB Model Available)
Wireless 802.11 b/g/n dual-band MIMOBluetooth
Camera Front-Facing
Battery Life 11 hours
Sound Dolby Audio optimizationStereo Speakers
Ports USB 2.0HDMI-out

 

Basically, this is a generally superior tablet in every way, compared to their previous offering.  Amazon claims that the processor in this new Kindle Fire will perform significantly better than the Nexus 7’s Tegra 3, for example, which puts them at the top again in terms of balancing price and power.

The improved storage space is a big step up over the often-problematic 8GB that the older Kindle Fire came with.

Wireless issues have been addressed and the speeds that are advertised, while dependent on the networks they are connected to, are ideal for HD video streaming.

Most importantly, the comparatively large HD display and HDMI-out make this a tablet better suited to video consumption than the company’s previous offering by a wide margin.  Both of these features were frequently requested over the past year and that was taken seriously.

The audio improvements may be equally impressive, but given how poor the performance has been in the past it might be better to avoid jumping to conclusions about Kindle Fire speaker quality.

As a communication tool, the front-facing camera should help a lot.  Every Kindle Fire HD will come loaded with Skype by default, tying Amazon customers into probably the most widely used internet calling service available today.

Even the battery life looks good, though that will take some hands-on experimentation to judge accurately.  So much depends on what tasks are being carried out on the device that any claim would be hard to take completely at face value.

Overall this is a strong offering that really demonstrates a commitment to continue creating excellent affordable tablets.  There are some issues on the software side of things, however, such as the advertising situation.

Kindle Fire tablets will now come with Special Offers.  This in itself is not a bad thing.  That’s how the price has dropped so low on Kindle eReaders after all.  Unlike on the eReader, Kindle Fire Special Offers cannot be removed.  This is a major imposition for many customers, at least at the moment of purchase, and has the potential to turn a lot of people away from the product.

While I will follow up more on the ad situation and other quirks in a subsequent post, overall I still believe that the Kindle Fire HD is a good product.  The option to root the device is always there and Amazon has proven in the past that they can display ads in a way that makes them fairly unobtrusive.  It’s an upsetting precedent and everybody is hoping that a change of heart will allow customers to buy out of the ads should they so desire but it isn’t enough to damn the product on its own.

State of the Kindle Wrap-Up Before Anticipated Sep 6th Hardware Upgrade Announcement

Amazon has arranged for a September 6th press conference that leaves a lot to the imagination.  The text of the invitation apparently reads, in its entirety, “Please join us for an Amazon Press Conference.”  It will take place at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica.  That’s really not much to go on.  Still, it is all but a given that the event will show off the latest generation of Kindle products.

About a year ago Amazon released an entirely new set of Kindles.  The Kindle Fire was the centerpiece, of course, but the then-renamed Kindle Keyboard was joined by a new basic Kindle and the Kindle Touch.  The Kindle Fire shook up the entire Android tablet world and changed the game entirely there.  It’s thanks to Amazon that we’re seeing truly useful tablets in the $200 range.

The newer Kindle eReaders did not enjoy as much success.  The basic Kindle is indeed the cheapest and most widely purchased eReader on the market today, being the first to get under the previously impressive $100 mark.  That is about all that has managed to impress people about it, however.  The Kindle Touch is an interesting device and brought a touch interface to the line, but that’s not been enough to really demand attention for a while now.

The speculation about what September 6th will bring for the Kindle is still rather varied despite the event being close at hand.  Based on the information available, however, we can make some fairly safe predictions.

FCC Filings

Using a front company, Amazon seems to have managed approval for new versions of both the Kindle Fire and the Kindle eReader.  This is not unprecedented and the last update to the product line involved three devices registered through three separate front companies in an effort to keep details under wraps.

On August 15th The Digital Reader reported a tip that led them to the new Kindle Fire.  It is less than informative, and certainly not as detailed as many would prefer, but some useful info can be gathered.  Judging from the dimensions, for example, we’re looking at a 4:3 device as opposed to the 16:9 aspect ratio used by most tablet builders.  It’s an interesting choice that may point to this being a larger tablet meant to compete directly with the iPad, since that is the same aspect ratio Apple uses in their own design.

The new Kindle eReader cleared in much the same way on August 21st.  A different front company run through the same corporate services provider registered an “electronic display device”.  While the testing doesn’t indicate a front-lit screen, which would be in keeping with certain delay rumors that have been floating around, it does point to something with both WiFi and 3G access as well as audio capabilities.

This does not mean that there will be no front-lit Kindle.  The three filings mentioned above from last year were all made the day before their official public announcements.  All that this indicates is that there will definitely be a version of the next generation that doesn’t have front-lighting.  Not really a surprise given that the inclusion of such a feature is sure to bump the price compared to unlit alternatives at least slightly.

State Dept Contract Cancellation Reinforces Front-Lighting Rumors?

There will definitely be a front-lit Kindle at some point, regardless of delays and pricing differences.  We know that Amazon is working on producing them thanks to leaks, property acquisitions, and basic reasoning (the light on the Nook Simple Touch is really useful and Amazon would be silly not to make one).

The fact that they have failed to land a proposed $16.5 million no-bid contract with the US State Dept might point to delayed releases.  The initial proposal required 2,500 Kindles with preloaded content and front-lit displays.  Since the document included the indication that the “Amazon Kindle [is] the only e-Reader on the market that meets the Government’s needs”, something came up in the meantime.  Production delays that would result in an inability to meet deadlines are not at all out of the question.

Firedock Trademark

In what will probably turn out to be another preparation for this event, Amazon has managed to grab the trademark for the word Firedock.  That was originally the name for a fairly impressive Kindle Fire accessory concept from Grade Digital Audio that is now going by the name Matchstick.

The Kindle Fire, despite its emphasis on media, is badly in need of affordable accessories.  An official charging station/speaker dock would sell amazingly well and clearly Amazon is aware of that.  The big question is “why didn’t they put something out sooner”, but with luck the wait will have been worth it.  Combined with a potentially larger display, this could completely change the level of utility for the next generation of Kindle Fire.

Nexus 7 and Nook Competition

With all the talk of a Kindle Fire meant to compete with the iPad, it’s easy to forget that the existing model is already enjoying some fairly stiff competition.  Google’s Nexus 7 is quite possibly the best tablet available for $200 right now; no matter what metric you are using.

Despite some supply issues, Google’s 7” tablet is enjoying a deserved surge in popularity.  Between allowing access to the wider world of Android content (including that offered by Amazon) and the more up to date hardware/software combination it ships with, there is little to recommend the existing Kindle Fire by comparison unless Amazon’s home-grown interface is a deeply desired feature.

On the eReader side of things, the Nook is still going fairly strong as well.  While device sales are down according to their most recent quarterly reports, content sales are up and the Nook Simple Touch is still setting the hardware standard.  Given that Barnes & Noble is about to begin extending sales of the Nook to Britain, opening the door to new and as-yet untapped customers, we can’t discount the potential for a sales boom in the Nook’s future.

Sources seem to indicate that there will also be a refresh of the Nook Tablet in the next month or two.  Given how forgettable the Nook Tablet has been in the current generation, despite its superior hardware specs compared to the Kindle Fire, this would initially seem to be a minor issue.  At the same time, though, there was nothing to really complain about with the existing device.  It just didn’t impress by comparison.  Barnes & Noble has invested the time and money necessary to improve things in the meantime and will almost certainly surprise to some degree.  Right now about all we know is that the intention is to have the new model improve the reading experience and show off a revolutionary new display technology of unknown capabilities.

iPad Mini Competition

The long-rumored iPad Mini seems to finally be on the horizon.  While I’m personally still quite skeptical about the existence of such a device, increasingly reliable sources seem to agree that Apple has finally caved in and decided to join the 7” tablet market.  The Kindle Fire, despite being updated, might have trouble competing in that segment should Apple really put serious effort into things.

At the same time, however, the objections that many have cited in the past remain applicable.  Apple is not known for their ability to sell things cheaply.  The least expensive iPad they have sold to date has made the company around a 50% profit at launch.  They will have to accept much smaller margins or furnish far less modern hardware if they are to get device prices down to the $250-300 range that they would need to achieve.  This doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, but take the rumors with a grain of salt.

Wrap-up

Right now, Kindles are getting hard to come by.  The Kindle Touch is completely out of stock.  You can’t get one in any form, with or without Special Offers and/or 3G access.  The Kindle Keyboard is similarly hard to come by, though the Kindle Keyboard 3G is still around.

Basically anybody buying one of the current generation devices can choose between the $79 Kindle with no real navigation and annotation capabilities and the Kindle Fire.  Unless you think that Amazon is getting people together on the 6th to talk about how they’re cutting back to just two models, it’s fairly obvious where this is going.

We’ll keep you up to date here when solid information as it becomes available.  This is the time when Amazon really has to come up with something big to stay in the tablet market and they aren’t known for disappointing customer expectations.  It’s going to be an interesting announcement.

Kindle Touch Travel Review

While I’m mostly a fan of the Kindle Touch, I’ve largely seen little reason to upgrade from the Kindle Keyboard in day to day use.  The darker frame is nice, the keyboard works well for any shopping I have to do, and it has generally proven reliable for quite some time now.  Since I knew I would be on the road for about a week recently, however, I decided I would give the Kindle Touch a thorough test.  You never know what you might learn by trying, right?

Connectivity

One thing that surprised me was that I was generally able to get a better 3G signal through the Kindle Touch than through my Kindle Keyboard.  The Keyboard model is definitely far more broken in, so I can’t necessarily count this as a side by side comparison of new devices, but I was able to get more reliable, faster connections at nearly every stage of a 3,500 mile trip with the Kindle Touch.

Screen Quality

I expected that the lighter case on the new Kindle Touch would be a pain compared to what I was used to.  This was somewhat accurate.  While reading in the majority of indoor lighting situations was fine with either eReader, I noticed that it was much easier to use my Kindle Keyboard in bright sunlight.  I’m sure this was an optical illusion rather than actual quality differences, but the lighter frame around the screen left the Kindle Touch looking washed out in truly bright light.

Reading Experience

Quite frankly, I love the physical page turn buttons.  I still get annoyed at Amazon for removing them.  That is literally my only complaint about the general reading experience on the Kindle Touch, though.  It is quick, light, easier to hold, and generally everything you want in a reading device.  The preference for physical buttons aside, I will admit that after a few page turns I stopped noticing that I was having to touch the screen and things moved quite naturally.  This could be a matter of my own preconceptions as much as anything.

Navigation

The place where I really appreciated having a touch screen was in PDF navigation.  Things went much more smoothly than I’m used to.  The same is true of in-line annotation in Kindle documents.  While it is slightly faster to type on the physical keyboard, that advantage is negated by the fact that the Kindle Touch allows for quick placement of your cursor rather than a slow movement via 5-way control pad.  The point here has to go to the Kindle Touch on both issues.

Battery Life

You can’t really complain about the battery life on any Kindle product.  I used each of my Kindles for about 4 hours per day across a seven day period.  They both still had just under half their batteries left when my drive was over.  The charger that was packed could have easily been left at home.

Conclusion

My Kindle Touch is going to be seeing a lot more use.  The lighter weight and smaller form made it stand out in a lot of ways and the fact that note taking was so much faster than I expected has persuaded me to make this my daily eReader.  There are still many reasons to prefer the Kindle Keyboard, the keyboard among them, but it is not as clear a choice as I had expected.  I will try to follow up on this in a few weeks to see if extended use is still preferable when both are available.

Kindle Fire Review – Half A Year Later

We can acknowledge that the Kindle Fire has already had a profound effect on the tablet industry at this point.  From the moment it was officially announced prices have been falling and everybody is scrambling to catch back up.  No other Android tablet has come close so far.  There has definitely been enough time now for the media tablet to have lost some of its novelty and it might be useful to look at how the Kindle Fire has fared in the meantime.

Image: Business InsiderI will admit that, as much as it makes little sense to me personally, the Kindle Fire has become a fairly common aspect of the eReading world at this point.  Maybe it’s the fact that there is no Kindle with GlowLight, maybe it’s the fact that the Android system allows for installing apps that will open any eBook regardless of the format.  Maybe I just over-value dedicated reading equipment.  Whatever the case, the Kindle Fire has proven a popular reading accessory with some surveys reporting that as the most common activity among all Kindle Fire users.

Durability has held up well.  While initial tests, such as that done by Andrei, indicated that the Kindle Fire’s screen was almost humorously scratch-resistant it is always good to see that sort of thing last.  The majority of Kindle Fire owners I have come into contact with indicate that their devices are in roughly the same shape today that they were when first unboxed.

The Kindle Fire’s Android fork has remained relatively successful.  Amazon’s Appstore for Android is still home to slightly less than 10% as many titles as Google Play, but more developers seem to be deciding that it might be worth jumping through some of Amazon’s hoops to get to a store that is more likely to attract customers to a given product and that can be trusted to reliably pay developers for those sales.  Google’s selection might be better and their update process more streamlined, but none of that matters if they continue to offer the lowest return on investment of any major app store.

The biggest failure is clearly the Silk Browser.  After the hype and high expectations right around the time that the Kindle Fire launched, there has been nothing good enough to be worth noting.  All of the improvements that they tried to bring to the table ended up serving to slow down the browsing experience far too much and it remains to be seen if any real effort is being made on an overhaul at this point.

I would say that, for what it is, the Kindle Fire has lived up to most of the hype.  It was always meant to aid in consumption and it does so admirably.  The battery doesn’t wear out particularly quickly, the device can take a beating, and the software is sufficiently diverse that you can load pretty much anything you might have an urge to take in.  Amazon is always looking for ways to bring even more to the table, of course, as demonstrated by their recent deal with Paramount, but that only emphasizes how valuable the small investment in a Kindle Fire can be.

Kindle Fire January Re-Review

Over the past several weeks several people have informed me that the most up to date reviews they were able to find regarding the Kindle Fire were a bit outdated, to say the least.  Looking over the links I was provided, it definitely seems like there is still some misinformation floating around.  This is mostly a result of failure to update after the performance patch, which did a great job of addressing complaints and ensures that new users won’t have nearly as many annoyances as they might have on launch day.  In the interest of clarifying, here’s what I would say is worth knowing if trying to decide on a Kindle Fire purchase today:

Pros:

  • Highly portable (noticeably lighter than any hardcover book I own)
  • Durable (Check out Andrei’s scratch/drop test)
  • Powerful for the $200 price
  • ~8 Hour battery life (I average 7 hours with WiFi on and brightness at a comfortable level)
  • Amazing video quality through Amazon Instant Video
  • Seamless integration with Amazon Cloud Storage for Amazon Purchases
  • Large, well-moderated App Store
  • Access to Amazon’s Customer Service
  • Easy WiFi Setup

Cons

  • Only 8GB onboard storage (6GB or so available, with just over 1GB reserved for Apps)
  • 2 Finger Touch screen not perfect for extended typing (not a netbook replacement)
  • Back-lit screen not great for reading
  • Some Kindle eReader functionality missing (collections, real page numbers, X-Ray)
  • No Text to Speech (in Kindle Edition eBooks, though some apps may make up for this)
  • No access to Android Marketplace by default
  • Netflix video currently only allows SD streaming
  • Limited Codec selection

Common Kindle Fire Software Complaints (Including Those Addressed)

  • Choppy navigation
  • WiFi connectivity limited
  • Overly fast browsing/scrolling
  • Unresponsive page turning
  • No Parental Controls
  • No way to choose favoring of mobile sites
  • Unintuitive cloud integration for personal documents
  • Caroussel Logs Every Activity
  • Purchased Apps always present in Cloud view
  • Silk Browser doesn’t live up to the hype

At this point, if you are interested in getting a Kindle Fire, I strongly recommend it.  This isn’t exactly a surprise coming from me given earlier similar declarations even before the big patch that dealt with so many complaints, but it remains true.

This is not an iPad killer.  It might have an effect on Apple, and will almost certainly spur Amazon to more direct competition, but they’re devices intended for different purposes.  If you want to watch movies, play Android games, access a wide variety of streaming content, and just generally consume media of various sorts, the Kindle Fire is the way to go.  I certainly wouldn’t replace my Kindle eReader with one, nor would it work as even a basic netbook substitute in the way that an iPad could once you get used to it, but what it does do is well done.

This is just a short overview, of course, and I would be happy to elaborate on any and all of these points should you be interested.  Let me know here or by email and I will either comment here or throw up an in-depth explanation as the situation demands. 

Kindle Fire Review Roundup

If you glance around the site here for any length of time, it becomes pretty obvious that we’ve had good experiences with our Kindle Fire testing.  Different people will probably assess the quality in different ways, though, especially given the variety of uses that it tries to make available.  As such, let’s take a look at what people are saying over at Amazon.com in terms of the pros and cons when it comes to their new $200 media tablet.  Many of the more helpful reviews are quite extensive, so feel free to click on the links for a more detailed view of what these reviewers had to say.  I’ll be avoiding outright pre-launch reviews and complaints about spec comparisons to the iPad, of course.

Video Viewing

Trevett:

As far as video, I have always disliked Amazon’s Video services. The prices are very reasonable and they now have a huge selection, but obtaining the videos [was] a huge pain due to Amazon’s terrible Unbox player. That changes with the Fire, as everything is native and streams/downloads beautifully.

Sid:

The video app is real snappy and I had no issues streaming video at home over wifi. I can honestly say that the Amazon video app is as good as the Netflix app on the Ipad.

Billy Radcliffe:

The biggest “unfinished” feature of the Fire is the Cloud integration; the Cloud doesn’t work hand-in-glove with the Fire in the way you think it might. In order to access features like the video or the docs, you basically have to go through a browser the way you would from any other device.

Reading

 J. Gower:

Kindle Fire’s weak spot, imo, and the reason I give it four stars. But to be fair, it was never going to compete with my Kindle 3. E-ink really is just that much more comfortable to read versus a (relatively low resolution) LCD screen

Raghee Horner:

I initially bought an iPad with the idea of using it as an eReader but after 15-20 minutes the 1.5lb iPad feels like it’s ten pounds and simply becomes too uncomfortable to hold like a nice light paperback. The Fire is much more realistic an eReader.

Apps

Michael P. Gallagher:

Speed of the apps as well as reading a book is VERY fast and responsive. I haven’t tried a a challenging spreadsheet or Word document with the Open Office app yet, but then again I can’t think of too many times where (based on my guesstimated usage) I will be doing those kind of tasks on my Fire: I like to keep my work separate from play.

Overall

Dubstep:

I put this at 5 stars because it MET MY EXPECTATIONS. I read all about this device before buying it, so I knew exactly what I was getting for $199 dollars. It has met all of my expectations of a small form factor tablet that is intuitive, media friendly, and has great processing capabilities. I did not expect an iPad, so there is no comparison in my mind.

Comdet:

None of the so-called limitations of the Fire detract from my using it. Yes it has limited onboard storage but with the way the Cloud is integrated, I’ve not had any difficulty using that as a way of storing content. Plus, when Amazon stores it, they deal with the issue of backup. I also don’t miss the 3G connectivity. Sure, I’d love to be able to connect anywhere, but I will not pay the prices charged for data connectivity.

To Touch, or Not To Touch: Choosing Kindle 4 vs Kindle Touch

Let’s say that you know you want to buy a brand new Kindle eReader.  It could be for a Christmas gift, a charity donation, or just because you’ve been wanting one.  Technically I suppose you could just have a desire to use the new Kindle to wedge under the leg of a desk to stop it from wobbling, but if so then we have different priorities and budgets.  Anyway, there are a couple options right now as far as which to buy, so it’s important to know what you want to get out of it.

Displays: Tie

This part doesn’t matter too much.  Basically any modern eReader will be making use of the E INK Pearl display and the Kindle family is no exception.  Unlike an LCD, you can read on this type of screen with no eye strain in any sort of lighting that would work with a normal paper book. In an extremely minor way the Kindle Touch might be at a disadvantage here since there is a likelihood of fingerprints, but in practice they are surprisingly minimal and don’t have an effect on anything that quickly wiping the screen down every couple days or weeks won’t fix.

Interface: Kindle Touch

The Kindle Touch is far superior in terms of interacting with your books.  If you have any interest in taking notes, highlighting, or just about anything else besides flipping pages while you read, then the touchscreen will be practically necessary.  The Kindle 4’s directional control is fine for choosing a book, but using the virtual keyboard is tedious at best and you’ll find yourself avoiding it quickly.

Storage: Kindle Touch (Barely)

The storage space on the Kindle Touch is effectively twice that of the Kindle 4.  While this might seem at a glance to be a big deal, in actuality it won’t come into play much.  There are only so many books you can easily navigate at a time anyway which means most people hit their limit well before the Kindle’s storage fills up and start archiving titles that aren’t needed.

Battery Life: Kindle Touch

The battery life is also doubled on the touch model by comparison.  Once again, however, it doesn’t much matter.  The cheaper model still gets a month of use in between charges.  When you hit the point where your biggest problem is remembering where the charging cable was after such a long time has passed, it stops mattering much which eReader wins.

Price: Kindle 4

Obviously the Kindle 4’s price is its biggest advantage.  An $80 price tag makes it the cheapest major eReader on the market.

Form: Kindle 4

The Kindle Touch weighs slightly over 25% more than the Kindle 4.  It’s a fairly negligible amount, and both devices are comfortable to hold in one hand, but every bit helps.

Extras: Kindle Touch

Hands-down, the Kindle Touch provides the most extras aside from simple reading.  It has text-to-speech, audio playback, optional 3G, simple PDF zoom and scroll control, and Amazon’s new X-Ray feature.  While none of these is likely to be enough to sell the device on its own, the ability to access audiobooks and PDF documents easily is likely to be important for some people.

Recommendation: Kindle Touch (Mostly)

Basically, the Kindle Touch has the most to offer you.  It does everything that the Kindle 4 can do and more, for just $20 price difference.  This isn’t to say that the Kindle 4 has many problems, because if all you want to do is read cover to cover in your favorite books then it’s wonderful, it just isn’t as versatile.  We’ve effectively reached the point where all new eReaders will be equally pleasant to use for basic reading, so I’m forced to weigh other factors more heavily.  Regardless of that, the Kindle will almost certainly be enjoyed regardless of which one is chosen.