New Amazon tablet gets mixed reviews

Critics say the Kindle Fire is great for casual use, including watching movies and reading books. But it falls short on more advanced tasks.

By Kim Peterson Sep 12, 2012 12:04PM
As reviews roll in for Amazon's (AMZN) newest color tablet, critics are impressed but not blown away.

Amazon says the Kindle Fire HD, which comes in 7-inch and 9-inch sizes, is "the best tablet at any price." That's just not true, says Walt Mossberg of AllThingsD. "The Fire HD isn't as polished, fluid or versatile as the iPad," he writes.

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The Fire has just a fraction of the third-party apps that the Apple (AAPL) iPad and the Nexus 7 by Google (GOOG) have, he adds. He also says the device "assaults users with ads," which they have to pay $15 more to remove.

Kyle Wagner of Gizmodo says the Fire HD is beautiful, with a thoughtful, understated and comfortable body. But there are some truly obvious flaws. Perhaps Amazon designed it that way to keep users on track buying and digesting content?

Amazon has made it pretty clear that it's deeply subsidizing the Kindle Fire in order to sell more movies, music and books to users. The 7-inch version is a jaw-dropping $200, the $8.9-inch version is $300, and the bells-and-whistles cellular Internet version starts at $500. So maybe the decision to leave multitasking out makes sense, Wagner writes.

"How does such a core feature get left out of an OS in 2012?" he adds. "It's hard to explain, unless you really do buy into the notion that Amazon built the Fire HD specifically for consuming media." He also cites a "basic inconsistency" in the Kindle Fire that's frustrating.

"If you're already hooked on the Amazon ecosystem, by all means upgrade," he adds. "But if you're still shopping around, you should probably definitely wait at least a few weeks to see what the competition's got cooking."

David Pogue of The New York Times decries the Kindle's lack of a camera on the back, GPS navigation, speech recognition, a to-do list or notes app. Still, he says, "the Kindle Fire HD is not a disappointment. It's not! Or it won't be, once Amazon finishes polishing the software."

And even though the device is called "HD," the screen doesn't show hi-def movies, Pogue writes. Most of the screen pixels are dedicated to black letterbox bars.

The Fire is slightly slower than the iPad in Web browsing. Some apps take as long as 8 seconds to open. And there's still no app for the camera, so you can't take a picture. I've seen so many people using their iPads as cameras that this seems like a major deficiency.

"Over all, the tablet feels professional and elegant, but it still exhibits a few of the goofy hardware-design decisions that have plagued Amazon since Kindle 1.0," he writes.

Engadget is more generous in its review, calling the Kindle Fire "a huge step forward from that which came before." But even though the Kindle is in super-close competition with Google's Nexus 7, it still loses.

"We'd still take the Nexus 7," writes Engadget's Tim Stevens. "All that content can't make up for the distinctly limited offerings in Amazon's Appstore, most notably the first-party Google apps."

Stevens writes that he can't shake the feeling that the Kindle Fire is less a tablet and more of a shopping tool getting you to buy Amazon's movies and books.

"For casual users looking for an inexpensive yet powerful tablet, the Kindle Fire HD should absolutely be at the top of your shopping list," he adds. "But, for those looking to do more, and do more rapidly, the Nexus 7 is still the king of this diminutive hill."

At The Verge, Joshua Topolsky writes that the Kindle Fire is a "complete success" at offering fun stuff to users and getting them to buy more. "It's a really, really good tablet for doing some very specific things," he writes. But when you compare it to the iPad or the Nexus 7, it feels limited, responds slowly and makes you wait.

Sep 12, 2012 12:40PM
Many have lost sight of price and performance.  In the auto industry that decision is made by consumers who know how to make a product choice and trade off price and performance and balance those factors.  With consumer electronics so called analysts and marketers ignore the price and performance factor and focus in on one feature or another leaving less informed in the lurch.

Amazon is introducing products at a price point that is highly attractive and is up against critics who are in love with Apple and refuse to objectively evaluate products. I like Apples products but not to the extent where I ignore price and performance nor some of Apples flaws.
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