From the get go, just holding a Kindle Fire at various points of interest in my town generated quite a bit of interest. People were asking me, “Is that the new Kindle Fire? Can I hold it?” It was like walking around with a new baby and everyone wanted to coo at it. Kids wanted to know if I had “Angry Birds” downloaded, while older individuals were more skeptical, preferring traditional books, they said. Personally, I became a Kindle owner because holding a book is difficult due to a joint disability, especially if it is a heavy book.
The following review is written based on using the device daily since its release on November 15, 2011. The following comments are what the average user can expect with the new Kindle Fire.
Kindle Fire Specs
To kick things off, I’m starting with the basic Kindle Fire specs versus the other Kindle models currently on the market:
- Display Size – 7” display (Kindle keyboard has a 6” display)
- Display – Vibrant color IPS (previous models have Ink Pearl); it is a backlit display, unlike Ink Pearl models. The font can be made larger or smaller, depending upon user needs.
- Actual size - 7.5" x 4.7" x 0.45"; comparable to previous models
- Weight – 14.6 ounces (Kindle and Kindle keyboard weigh 8.65 ounces)
- Connectivity – Wi-Fi (Kindle keyboard, Touch and DX have WiFi and Free 3G)
- Browser – Kindle Silk cloud accelerated browser. (Previous models have an experimental browser)
- Battery Life – approximately 8 hours before it needs to be recharged – depending upon whether it is being used to view videos or simply reading – it will last about 7 hours when being used just for viewing videos. (Previous models last approximately 3-8 weeks, depending upon WiFi and 3G connectivity). Tip: to save on battery life, disconnect from WiFi when you’re not using it.
- Other – The Kindle Fire has the following, which previous models do not – access to movies, television shows, apps, games and songs. (Previous models also offered access to books, newspapers, magazines, documents; 2nd generation and above models also offer audiobooks).
Pros of the Kindle Fire
- Touch screen – as someone who has rheumatoid arthritis, this is a big plus over the tiny keys on the Kindle Keyboard model. I can tap or swipe with my finger or a knuckle and still zip from documents to videos, music to apps, with ease.
- Display – the picture is crystal clear with very vibrant color. It is backlit, so books can be read in the dark, unlike previous Kindle models.
- Apps – many of the Android compatible apps are available for use on the Kindle Fire. This includes everything from Angry Birds to local weather reports. The Kindle Fire can store up to 80 apps. However, not all Android apps designed for use with a cell phone will work on this e-reader.
- Streaming video – if you’re someone who has to spend hours traveling to and from work on a bus or subway, or have to hang out at a doctor’s office, the streaming video function of the Kindle Fire can be a boon. This model can store 10 full-length movies, if you choose to purchase and download them.
- Book storage – this model can store 6,000 books, practically an entire library for most individuals.
- Music storage – store up to 800 songs to listen to on the Kindle Fire.
- Cloud storage – store any Amazon content you own for free.
- Charge time – approximately 4 hours to fully charge the unit’s batteries after they have been completely worn down. There is a car charger available, which is sold separately for those on the go. The unit is shipped with a plug-in power adapter for use in the U.S.
- Audio – the unit has top mounted stereo speakers, or you can use headphones to listen to music or audio books. Personally, I’ve found the sound quality to be better if you use headphones- it sounds less like it is being broadcasted from a tin can.
- Supported Formats – According to Amazon.com, the following formats are supported with this device: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV, MP4, VP8.
- Social networking - connect with a few or all of your social networking contacts on this device. You can even manage them with the Pulse app.
- Screen orientation - the screen automatically orients itself to you, whether you want to read a book width-wise, or watch a movie with the screen lengthwise.
Kindle Fire Cons
- Touch screen problems – while I listed the touch screen as a plus, there is one issue I have with the touch screen – using the pop-up keyboard. Perhaps using a stylus would make this issue better, but I’ve had to repeatedly tap a specific letter or number when I’ve needed to enter passwords for the apps I’ve downloaded. I wish the screen was a little more sensitive so that I wouldn’t have to tap hard to accomplish the task. No stylus is included with this unit, but it can be bought separately.
- Streaming video issue – if you’re one of the individuals who has a satellite hook-up at home, this could be a problem. In my experience using a satellite causes constant buffering of the streaming videos, which can become tiresome if you’re watching a movie. In addition, the streaming video will use a lot of bandwidth – for example, if you have HughesNet, expect to use up 75 percent of your daily bandwidth if you download one movie.
I also thought that after I downloaded a streaming video that I could finish watching it after I was out of WiFi range - unfortunately, it isn't actually downloaded in its entirety. I was hoping it would be stored in my video library, but only those that you actually purchase are saved to your unit or cloud storage.
- WiFi, but no 3G – WiFi is great, unless you’re traveling. I was hoping to use my Kindle Fire to keep my older children occupied in the backseat while traveling or for when I'm spending hours waiting around a doctor's office. Unfortunately you need a dedicated connection to watch streaming video. Previous models of Kindle have free 3G connectivity – an option that Amazon.com should definitely consider using for future models. I would willingly pay more for this option so that I could use my Kindle Fire wherever I go. Tip: Many hospitals now offer free WiFi Internet to guests, so use the Kindle Fire browser to connect to this service.
- Weight – the unit feels a little hefty, something that I realize probably couldn’t be helped because it is more like a computer than a simple e-reader. It is something that I probably won’t use much in bed lying down, holding it above me, as it is hard on my hands and arms.
- E-reader difference – I liked using my Kindle Keyboard in bed because it was so light. In addition, I didn’t have to remove my hand from the unit to turn the page – I just clicked on one of the side buttons to turn the page where my hand was already resting. With the Kindle Fire, I have to move my hand from the unit to swipe the screen to turn the page.
- Amazon Prime Membership - I use Amazon Prime, but it is pricey - at the time of this writing it is $79 per year. In order to enjoy free streaming videos and borrow from the free best seller books, you need to buy the membership. However, if you're someone who buys items frequently from Amazon and has them shipped to you, the membership does pay for itself.
If you have a Netflix membership and would like to have free streaming video from them instead, just download the free app to your Kindle - it takes less than a minute.
- Text to speech is not enabled on this Kindle model, however as previously stated, users can listen to audio books on this model. Otherwise, previous models may be a better choice for the vision impaired, such as the DX or Keyboard models.
I've had several people who have checked out my Kindle Fire say they thought they might buy this for their child instead of the more expensive iPad. I think this would be a good item for older children if they were familiar with touch keyboards and knew how to be careful with pricey electronics. I have two children aged 10 and 12 who love using this unit. They like watching the streaming videos and of course, love playing with the game apps available during long trips in the car. While they're getting too old for picture books which you may download, they enjoy being able to view the color periodicals that are available.
For homeschoolers that travel, this unit can be used in multiple ways - books, video and current events through periodicals. It will make traveling with heavy books a thing of the past.
I would suggest that you purchase a Kindle cover and screen protector if you will be allowing children to use this model. Screen protectors are inexpensive (usually under ten dollars), and will protect your investment from scratches and frequent stylus use.
Compare Prices on the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire accessories.