Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Playing with Fire: Kindle Fire first impressions

I always did like playing with fire…. Now I have a whole new reason. My Kindle Fire arrived yesterday afternoon. I have only used it for a few hours, but so far it has been a whole lot of fun.

It's heeere!
(Pardon the cheesy iPhone snap.)
The Fire is a Kindle in name only, and I hope that prefacing the name with the word Kindle doesn’t confuse too many people. The Fire is not an e-reader. Yes, it can be used as such, but the experience of that aspect in no way lives up to the experience on an e-ink Kindle. Reading is workable for shorter time periods. I set the display to sepia, which helps, but I'm still mostly using the Fire for cookbooks and children’s books, where it’s a treat to see color pictures. I’ll leave the bulk of my reading for my Kindle Keyboard.

The form factor is nicely compact and simple—perhaps too simple, because I really miss having physical buttons for home and volume. On the plus side, I felt no strain from holding my Fire for extended periods.

This is my first Internet-capable device in quite a while without 3G, so I really feel the restriction. I hope future offerings include a 3G option. Meanwhile, I’m working on planning ahead a bit more. Part of my Fire playtime last night was devoted to downloading an eclectic collection of books, music, apps, and shows from the Amazon Cloud. The Cloud-focused device should at least help me keep my Fire tidy and uncluttered with unused files. On the negative side, the Fire’s performance was sluggish during media downloads.

The screen is very sensitive. At first it took a bit of adjustment to learn where to tap for certain things, such as pulling up a book from the carousel. The item would often scroll and snap back. After a couple of hours, I mostly get it right on the first go. Typing is requiring a similar adjustment. The space bar placement catches me out because it's slightly offset to the left. It’s one of those typing quirks that I never realized until now; I almost always hit the space bar with my right thumb.

I had a lot of fun exploring everything from books to video. I set up my email without any more trouble than it took to remember my password. My Words with Friends app took up where I left off on my iPhone—nice! Videos via Netflix and Amazon loaded well. I watched a bit of a few different movies and shows and later settled in for an entire episode. There was a slight pixilation a couple of times during the show, but mostly it looked great. The sound is definitely better with headphones.

Audio books work well. I was able to access my Audible account and download a book (The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery) that my hubby and I started listening to on the way to work this morning. Songs from the Amazon Cloud were there at a tap of the finger; I downloaded about 40 to my Fire. I purchased a couple of trial magazine subscriptions and was happy to see all the pictures available (National Geographic Magazine and Bon Appetit). I haven’t used the web browser much yet, but the couple of pages I looked at loaded quickly.

I still have a lot of exploring to do, but I would say that the Fire is a great first-generation device. Yes, there is room for improvement, but that will happen quickly. Meanwhile, those of us who are early adopters get a head start on the fun.

Deciding on the right case for my Kindle Fire is proving to be the hard part. (My Teal JAVOedge MiMo Flip Case for Amazon Kindle Keyboard is fabulous, so I hope that they come out with something for the Fire.) At the top of my wishlist is some kind of stand to prop up my Fire for hands-free use, and it would be even better if the stand could do both landscape and portrait. The stand could be integrated into the case, but it doesn't have to be. I also need the case/cover/skin to be protective (toddler in the house) and I would like it to be attractive. Bonus points if it's a fun color. If you have recommendations, please post them in the comments secton below.

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