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Shiny thing make it all better!
on 26 October 2012
First impressions - the Kindle Fire is slightly heavier than I anticipated, but has a well made feel, with a smooth rubberised back and concealed on/off switch. The ereader has good resolution for static images, and vivid colours which make web browsing a pleasure. However, the default brightness setting was quite hard on my eyes and needed lowering when in an ebook, probably due to the amount of white on the page. Standard touchscreen pinch/spread function allows you to adjust the text size to your own requirements when web browsing. I assume this is adjustable in the ereader function too, though haven't worked out how just yet. Having watched a few film trailers and Youtubes I think if you are planning on using your Kindle for videos and films you might be better off with the HD version as moving images didn't seem quite as crisp as static web browsing.
Kindle Fire has an impressively quick response time with minimal lag as you scroll through web pages (though whether this remains the case as content is added we will have to wait and see). It's easy to open new tabs, bookmark pages etc, and all the sites I've visisted so far - BBC News, Facebook, MSN and so on - all nicely displayed/configured for this size of tablet.
I will say that I did struggle to get wifi connected initially (the format of the wifi password seems more important to Kindle than it did to my laptop or iphone, both of which happily accepted the short code on the router/modem. For the Kindle, I actually had to find the full code on my laptop control panel and enter it in that exact format for authentication to work). Once up and running I didn't find all the features of the Fire quite as intuitive to navigate as I might have expected - even as a long time iphone user used to touchscreen technology. For example it took me a couple of hours just to find the settings menu! A paper guide (other than the very basic one included that only tells you how to charge the thing) would be useful for a lot of us.
Not sure how applicable some of the features are to UK users right now - got all excited about 'Newstand', but then noticed most of the papers and magazines were American (even though I had UK settings selected). And furthermore, many are only available to read on Kindle if you have the paper subscription first.
There's no charger, which annoyed me - and the wording of the Amazon listing implies there is, because in the accessories list there is mention of a super duper high speed charger, which kind of suggests that the Fire comes with a a bog standard charger and you only need pay extra if you want to upgrade. In fact, what you get is a USB cable so you can charge through your computer, but this takes an absolute eternity (11 hours+) and I really would have liked something that would plug directly into the power supply on my train so I could use it on the way to and from work without draining power.
On the plus side, I linked into my Amazon account very easily indeed, and was immediately able to see books already purchased (which I'd been reading on my iphone Kindle App). However I couldn't actually access some of them due to`DRM', which is presumably some sort of royalties issue. I was instructed to redownload or repurchase, which was to say the least a bit frustrating. Also, my Kindle was set to the US store by default so I had to change to the UK store to get personalised recommendations and prices in £.
Overall, although the Kindle Fire has a fair few niggly annoyances, I'm pretty impressed with the general build quality and screen resolution, and see this as an affordable tablet, rather than just another ereader. I would recommend anyone making a purchase to seriously think about getting a case though, as I can't see the screen surviving too many knocks, and also the high speed charger, as the computer charge thingy is driving me nuts already. Or, if you have an iphone, I'm guessing the Kindle cable may well connect to the iphone charger. And, yes, it really should have had 3G too.
Update 3 days after purchase:-
There are now a number of UK magazines and papers available with UK pricing - I've taken free trial subscriptions to Vogue and Olive. There's also Marie Claire and Ideal Home, and blokey stuff like Classic Car and Health and Fitness. Papers include Le Monde and The Mail Plus (not that I'd touch the latter with a bargepole!). So the Newstand situation is improving.
Still quite impressed with this little gadget, despite the niggles outlined in my review. And have discovered it's much easier to read in bed at night than a book due to the illuminated screen. I reckon this is a 3.5 star item at the mo. Will be a 4 star one when the Newstand and Apps options are wider.