Amazon Kindle Fire debuts to scathing reviews

Tue, Nov 15, 2011


Amazon, more than any other company, is uniquely positioned to give Apple’s iPad a real fight. Not only can Amazon leverage the popularity of the homepage to drive sales, it has a vast sea of media content at its disposal. From books and movies to music and apps, Amazon can distribute media to consumers directly whereas other tablet manufacturers are at the mercy of Android.

So it was with great fanfare that Amazon announced the Kindle Fire, and with early reports suggesting that users are bypassing tablet purchases so as to wait for the Fire, some were quick to herald the Kindle Fire as an immediate success and threat to the iPad.

Not so fast, folks.

The early reviews of Android’s Kindle Fire are scathing, and while I’m sure it’ll sell well initially, it remains to be seen if it has long-term staying power given the bevy of usability issues early reviewers complained about.

From Wired’s review:

The Fire isn’t a dud, but its real-world performance and utility match neither the benchmarks of public expectation, nor the standards set by the world’s best tablets.

The Fire’s 7-inch, 1024×600 screen is too small for many key tablet activities. The Fire’s processor, a 1GHz dual-core chip, appears all but insufficient for fluid, silky-smooth web browsing, an area where I found performance to be preternaturally slow. And unlike most of its tablet competitors, the Fire lacks a camera, 3G data connectivity, and a slot for removable storage.

As an assembly of physical components, the Fire lives at the bottom of the tablet food chain — and this limits what the Fire can actually do as a piece of mobile hardware.

Moreover, even everyday tasks such as swiping between screens were described as clunky. And then there’s the vaunted Amazon Skilk web browser, which Wired found to be prone to laying dormant in response to touch gestures. At best, actions would be recognized after a brief lag.

The Fire’s processor is a 1GHz dual-core chip, just like the iPad 2’s. And just like the iPad 2, the Fire comes with 512MB of system memory. So clearly something is amiss in Amazon’s tablet. It could be a shortcoming intrinsic to the core architecture of the Fire’s chip. It could be a software optimization issue. Regardless, the Fire’s web browsing experience is emotionally draining. It makes you work for your page view, and that’s a user-experience fail.

Meanwhile, David pogue of the NYT , who typically likes everything, was thoroughly underwhelmed with the Kindle Fire as well.

Most problematic, though, the Fire does not have anything like the polish or speed of an iPad. You feel that $200 price tag with every swipe of your finger. Animations are sluggish and jerky — even the page turns that you’d think would be the pride of the Kindle team. Taps sometimes don’t register. There are no progress or “wait” indicators, so you frequently don’t know if the machine has even registered your touch commands. The momentum of the animations hasn’t been calculated right, so the whole thing feels ornery.

Again, the Fire will probably sell extremely well given its spot on that prime piece of real estate known as the Amazon home page. But with Amazon rumored to be losing money with each device sold, how much longer can they keep this up in the face of what appears to be a horrible user experience?


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