November 24, 2011 Leave a comment
This week my friend Ilana from Seattle was over in London – and had the courtesy to bring her brand-new Kindle Fire with her. At the quite affordable price point of $199 (or £130) I had been quite eager to get my hands on one – after all most of the other devices playing in this space cost easily $200 more than that.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Kindle – whether it was going to be a next-generation e-reader, a budget tablet, or simply a larger second screen for content. It turns out it’s all and neither of these.
The initial impression was quite good – it feels solid (almost to the point where it is quite heavy, actually) and it is an elegant device that feels polished. There is only a single hardware button at the bottom (power) and a USB as well as a headphone plug.
What I didn’t like was some of the look&feel – for example the animation that scrolls through the content library is neat, but burdened with a lack of precision. To open content I have to stop scrolling, wait for a second to let the animation finish completely, and only then can I tap on the displayed cover art. Tapping on a cover before the animation has come to a complete stop very easily opens the previous or next item, or I found myself tapping a few times on it before the Fire actually recognized my input.
Scrolling in general feels a bit jagged, which I wouldn’t expect from a device that is specifically geared to consume all sorts of digital content – including movies.
The reading experience is substantially less gratifying than on a traditional Kindle – the weight of the device makes holding it while reading burdensome, the touchscreen has a huge sensitive area that flips pages involuntarily back or forth, and changing pages doesn’t appear to be smooth. While this Kindle can finally be read in the dark (my biggest gripe with the traditional Kindle), it comes at a price of being substantially harder on the eyes. Maybe having a small external light is better after all.
Trying the New York Times app I was a bit disappointed – it was essentially a larger smartphone experience. With a 7″ screen a traditional Android Tablet app is unlikely to render correctly, but the screen is a good size bigger than a smartphone. If the Kindle shows that it can sell well over the holidays and establishes this new format, I’m sure publishers will have to start developing a new bespoke app in the new year.
All that said, playing Plants vs. Zombies on it was entirely enjoyable, and given the low price point I might still decide to get one for myself after all.