Mixed reviews for Amazon's newest Kindle
It's no iPad, say those who have used the device. But even with its limited functions, the Kindle's price is the star feature.
The reviews are perhaps not as glowing as Amazon would like. Critics hit hard on some hardware choices, like no button for controlling volume, but praised the Fire's display and navigation. The device goes on sale this week for $199.
Many reviewers agree that the Fire nicely accomplishes its main mission: Delivering the movies, newspapers and books purchased from Amazon's website. It doesn't have a camera, microphone, Bluetooth or other advanced features that Apple's (AAPL) iPad has.
"Most problematic, though, the Fire does not have anything like the polish or speed of an iPad," writes David Pogue of The New York Times. "You feel that $200 price tag with every swipe of your finger."
Pogue also laments the Fire's sluggish animations and unresponsiveness. The Fire needs a little work, he adds, and its software bugs could drive you nuts if you're used to an iPad.
Consumer Reports was more positive on the device, particularly when it's paired with Amazon's $79-a-year Prime service that offers streaming videos for no additional charge.
"In our first look, the Amazon Kindle Fire was a fine performer, especially if your priority is to get Amazon content including movies, TV shows, music, and books," writes Donna Tapellini. "The display is smaller than the iPad’s, and the app market is more limited, but for $200 you’re getting a full-featured tablet that performs well."
Influential technology site Engadget says the Fire is perfectly useable with a good-looking display. But the device simply can't compete with other tablets, writes Tim Stevens.
"Its performance is a occasionally sluggish, its interface often clunky, its storage too slight, its functionality a bit restricted and its 7-inch screen too limiting if you were hoping to convert all your paper magazine subscriptions into the digital ones," Stevens adds. "Other, bigger tablets do it better -- usually at two or three times the cost."
Wired.com was also critical of the Fire, saying the screen is too small and the processor isn't powerful enough. Jon Phillips calls the Fire "a fiendishly effective shopping portal in the guise of a 7-inch slate."
The magazine reading experience isn't comfortable enough, Phillips adds, but the video streaming and playing capabilities are the Fire's best features.
"If you already have $200 in your high-tech hardware slush fund, and you’re not willing to splurge one cent more, I suggest you wait longer before pulling the trigger on a tablet," Phillips writes. "Let that nest egg build. Let it grow interest. Wait for the Kindle Fire 2. Or -- yes, I’m going to go there -- consider an iPad."
But CNet cheered the Fire, calling it "an outstanding entertainment value that prizes simplicity over techno-wizardry."
The Fire "is not the best tablet I've seen this year, but I have to give credit to Amazon for seeing something that no other manufacturer -- not even Apple -- was able to grasp," writes Donald Bell. "When you look at the gap between what tablets are capable of doing, and what people actually use them for, you'll find that most people just want to be entertained."
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