I like tablets. I like them so much that I wrote an [article] about them a few months ago. The idea of tablets, anyway. What they are, what they will become, and what the current problems are. The “TL;DR” version is that I want a Star Wars sort of future for them where everyone walks around with a datapad and whatnot. It’s very convenient and, judging by Nvidia’s Tegra chips, is completely believable.
Enough about that, though. Let’s talk about the Kindle. In a minute. See, there are a few things to cover first, which actually make a big difference. I wanted a tablet. I got a Kindle Fire. Why did I get a Kindle Fire? That’s the real question. It’s clearly not the best tablet out there. It doesn’t have a lot of features that tablets like the Eee Pad Transformer Prime (a fucking powerhouse) and the Acer Iconia A100/A500 have. It’s not the biggest tablet, nor is it the lightest. So why get it? This can be summed up simply in two words: For college.
Yes, people talk about getting laptops and stuff for college. They talk about needing one to do work and blah blah blah. That’s a bunch of bullshit, usually. Unless you’re doing some sort of CAD, graphic design, or you’re a nerd and actually know what you’re doing, you don’t need a high (or even mid) powered laptop/desktop. It’s just a lot of wasted money. You CERTAINLY don’t need a fucking overpriced Apple laptop or any form of ultrabook. Yet, anyway; I actually like the idea of ultrabooks.
What do people spend all of their time doing on their computers while they’re at college? I’d wager to say that less than 5% of total time spent on a laptop is doing any kind of school work. College students are talking on Skype, pirating stuff, watching porn, watching videos on youtube, or playing games. All of that is perfectly fine, and it’s completely normal. It also doesn’t require an i7 or i5 processor, much less an Alienware rig. All of the above can be done easily on a 1ghz dual core processor with integrated graphics (retail games excluded) and a gig of ram. Know what has that kind of specs? My fucking phone. My Motorola Atrix can do that shit and I got it for 100 bucks. Know what else can do it? My netbook, which cost under $300. Know what else can do it? My Kindle Fire.
Before we get down to the actual review, it’s important to know that there is a competing tablet released by Barnes and Noble called the Nook Color Tablet (not to be confused with the Nook Color). Compared, they’re basically the same thing, except the Nook has a microphone, a memory card slot, double the storage capacity (16gb to the Fire’s 8gb), a gig of ram (compared to the Fire’s 512mb), and a $250 price tag (compared to the Fire’s $200). Folks, the only bit of the above information that actually matters is the extra storage space and the memory card slot. I’m advocating getting one. I didn’t because I made a few newbie mistakes because I have minimal knowledge in the tablet field.
See, I was looking for a tablet so I could do e-textbooks. I always liked the idea because a tablet weighs a shitload less than actual textbooks and theoretically costs less in the long run. Sure, you don’t get to sell them back at the end of the semester, but it doesn’t matter because you can get a $140 book for $40. Aside from that, you can easily highlight sections of it, but much more importantly, you can set bookmarks and… search for specific text! This is a fucking life saver. How many times have you had an open book test and you had to scour through the pages looking for a specific keyword? Probably more than one. Yeah, e-textbooks can solve that problem.
And now, Team Asunder’s review of the Amazon Kindle Fire!
Hardware: As mentioned above, it’s clearly inferior to the Nook Tablet in a few areas. The Nook Tablet has more ram, more storage (plus a memory card slot), and a microphone. Why does all of this matter, though? Outside of the storage issue, it doesn’t. Yeah, it’s nice having more storage space, and even nicer to have expandable storage, but this isn’t a badass tablet, in the grand scheme of things. This is a practical tablet meant for school and whatnot.
So the Nook Tablet has 1gb of RAM compared to the Fire’s 512mb. You’re probably thinking “why wouldn’t double the memory be a clearly good thing?” The answer is simple, Android. Android is an amazing OS and it’s very smart about resource management. It’s smart enough to know what processes to shut down to keep everything running smoothly. While I personally use Advanced Task Killer, I use it only in the event that something gets stuck or I have to manually shut something down for buggy reasons. Android has thus far not let me down in regards to delegation of system resources and power management. To put it into perspective, the ipad 2 only has 512mb of ram. If 512 is good enough to run Apple’s clunky-ass iOS, it’s definitely enough to run Android’s open source glory. On top of that, the Fire has dual-channel ram, so it will have better throughput than the Nook Tablet.
Then there’s the storage issue as mentioned above several times. It’s a big deal, but it’s not a big deal. What’s up with that? Simple: You already have other things to handle whatever would take up all that space. You have 8 gb to work with. You’d fill it up with music, right? Wrong, you have an ipod or something for that. Nobody would use a 7” tablet as their primary media player. It’s just not practical. Ok, what about video? Who the shit downloads video anymore, especially on a college campus? These days they’ll kick your ass out for that. What does everyone do? They watch it online. Between Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime’s video service, you’re pretty much covered. Anything else, you can download or just stream from a website somewhere. It doesn’t total up to a lot of HDD space. I loaded my Kindle down with hundreds of digital comics and I’m not even using half of the available storage. For what this tablet is meant to do, 8gb is plenty. Again, to put it into perspective, an ipad 2 doesn’t have expandable memory, either.
If the microphone is an actual selling point to you, go fuck yourself and stop reading this article. Clearly nothing I say is actually going to sway you either way. I’m talking about practicality. Practicality means shit you’ll actually use. You will never use that microphone and you know it.
So what about the screen? It’s pretty. It’s very pretty. Video looks amazing. It’s a 7” screen with 169 pixels per inch. I’m not going to compare it to the ipad because the ipad is a physically larger tablet and has a slightly higher resolution. Anyway, it’s plenty bright, it has smooth motion/good refresh, and the glass is Corning’s gorilla glass, so it’s scratch resistant much like the badass tablets. This is actually where a lot of the weight comes from, but it’s totally worth it. There was also an issue with the screen not being as accurate as it should be. This was fixed with an over-the-air update, so it doesn’t play a factor in the review.
The last thing we have is battery life. Here’s the thing about tablets: They have great battery life. What’s great? More than 8 hours is great. That’s fucking fantastic by any standards. Don’t bitch about it. Even 5 years ago nobody would have believed that such a thing were possible; who would have thought that you could pull 8 hours of battery life while actually DOING stuff the whole time? That’s not 8 hours of standby, or 8 hours of “laptop life” where you have all your shit turned down. This is a legit 8ish hours of real use. Fuckin’ A. I love the future.
The Kindle Fire will give you 8 hours of continuous reading time and 7.5 hours of video watching time, provided your wifi is turned off. As mentioned before, that’s probably not going to happen, since you’re going to be streaming videos from the internet. Realistically, you’ll pull around 6.5 to 7 when watching video. The 8 hour figure for reading is pretty accurate, though, thanks to android. How does it hold up against the Nook Tablet? It actually comes in a little bit under. The Nook Tablet claims to give you 11.5 of reading and 9 of video playback with wifi off. Consider this: Let’s say you get a Fire and you have a full time job. Like, one of those nice jobs where you get a desk. You could sit there on your ass, do zero work, and watch shit on your Fire for an entire work day, excluding your one hour lunch break. That’s a long time. If the little bit of extra time matters to you, go for it.
The one thing I REALLY wish it had was haptic feedback. Neither the Nook Color nor the Fire came with it, and it’s weird getting used to. Haptic feedback is the vibration response to the pressing of a softkey on the screen. All phones have it, so it’s weird without it. I miss it, but it’s certainly not a deal-breaker. Just watch what you type or get a better keyboard.
Finally, I just want to talk about this thing as compared to my phone, rocking a Tegra 2. How does it measure up? Honestly, it’s about the same. I really don’t notice any differences. That’s a good thing because the Tegra 2 chip is pretty much considered to be the standard. Congrats, Texas Instruments.
Software: Fuck whatever Amazon threw on this thing. I took one look at it and thought “sure, I’ll give it a try, but I already know where this is going.” What is it? It’s designed to be like a bookshelf. A big stupid bookshelf that puts EVERY one of your apps on it, so you have to manually remove them. It’s clunky and confusing and flashy. Suffice to say, I didn’t like it. You might like it because it’s meant to be very user friendly, but I don’t like it because I like plain and practical front-ends and as few restrictions as possible. The Fire has one completely deal-breaking restriction, as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t let you use Google’s app store. What. The. Actual. Fuck. Why the shit would you restrict this? There is one major reason.
This tablet is underpriced. They are actually losing money per unit. Amazon is trying to make up that money by doing a bunch of e-commerce bullshit. They want you to only be able to use their stuff, so all the money gets funneled into them. This actually works out decently because the Amazon’s app store and Google’s app store share a lot of apps. But not all of them. And there’s the principle of the matter. Amazon, the Fire uses Gingerbread. It’s a heavily skinned version of Gingerbread, but it’s Gingerbread nonetheless. Google made it and it’s based on Linux. Why wouldn’t you allow it to be open source (like it’s intended to be) enough to use the app store that the designers made? That’s like getting a custom branded ipad that didn’t let you use the app store. Why would anyone want that? It’s fucking stupid. Bad Amazon. Bad.
It is a fairly straightforward OS, though, and it’s going to be nearly impossible to mess anything up, so for a casual user, it’s probably a great OS. For people like me, though, it’s garbage.
Anyway, there’s a relatively simple fix. Learn how to root the Fire. Do [this], then [this], then [this]. The first link is a video on how to root the Kindle so you can do the second video. The second video lets you make a backup of the OS and allows you to do the third video. The third video shows you how to install Cyanogenmod 7. Basically, it’s just series of videos to switch the OS over to standard Android. BE WARNED, THIS WILL VOID YOUR WARRANTY. Don’t sweat it, though. If for whatever reason your shit messes up, you can restore the stock OS at any time because of the second link. If your shit gets bricked due to an Amazon update or something, don’t sweat it. There will be guides on how to fix it within hours of the issue. The Android community is very wise and very fast.
Chassis: The first really weird thing about the Fire is the fact that it doesn’t have hardkeys. Most android devices have 4 hardkeys positioned under the screen when held in portrait orientation. This bitch doesn’t. This is easily remedied by adding some softkeys. If you stick with Amazon’s OS, they’re already integrated and you’re good to go. If you did my recommendation, they’re also included, but you’ll want to mess around with the settings until you get something that fits what you want. Either way, it’s an easy fix.
Second issue is the lack of a volume rocker switch. How are you supposed to work the volume without a switch? Again, it’s integrated into Amazon’s version. If you switch to CM7, it’s just an app away. I use a free app called [Volume Control]. Works like a charm.
Third “issue” is the positioning of the lock button. It’s just right down there on the bottom. You’ll end up locking it a few times accidentally, I guarantee it. Solution? Get the fuck over it and stop being a clumsy bitch. Or turn it 180 degrees.
That’s it for the problem areas. Time for the good stuff. The speakers, for example, are fantastic. They’re loud and they provide surprisingly good sound for their size. Plus they’re not positioned stupidly like the Acer Iconia A500 did. Good times.
Finally, its size. It’s a 7” tablet. It’s convenient. It weighs almost nothing. It fits in your pocket. My pocket, anyway. It will fit in any dude’s jeans, khakis, or cargo pants. I keep mine in the left pocket along with my wallet and a chap stick and it never feels snug. If it doesn’t fit into your pocket, you’re either a.) not a guy and therefore have a purse or b.) you’re wearing those fucking skinny jeans and you’re not going to buy this thing because it doesn’t have an apple on it, so why the fuck are you reading this?
It’s also important to mention that you should DEFINITELY get a case for it. Gorilla glass is good, but it’s not scratch-proof. I recommend [this] because it’s cheap, sturdy, doubles as a stand, and has a felt screen cover that also removes the fingerprints that you’ll inevitably cover the screen in. Plus it gets rid of the finger prints from just being in your pocket because of the slight shifting of your leg. How cool is that? 30 bucks on Amazon, dude.
Final Thoughts: If you’re still with me, congrats. I didn’t intend for this review to be so long. I’ve been doing that recently, though, and I feel bad about it. We’re at over 2,550 words right now. That’s 4 full pages. Ok, let’s wrap it up.
Does it do what I want it to do? Yes. Absolutely. And it saved me money. It literally paid for itself and then a little bit extra for just one semester’s worth of books. There’s a big movement out there to produce more e-textbooks simply because it’s cheaper. It can be a hell of a lot cheaper, really. As mentioned above, I rented a $140 textbook for around $40. That’s right, you can even rent the fuckers. It just gets deleted after whatever date you specify. Even after switching to CM7, it still does what I want it to.
See, that’s where I actually got roped in. The one major thing that the Fire does that the Nook Tablet doesn’t is e-textbook reading. Through a bullshit bit of misleading advertising, Barnes and Noble leads people to believe that you can do e-textbooks on the Nook Tablet and, in fact, offers a 10$ “gift card” toward e-textbooks with the purchase of one. Only their shitty ass OS doesn’t allow you to read fucking textbooks. The Fire’s stock OS does, plus it probably has a better selection. Amazon’s good like that. Yeah, I’m sort of a fanboy.
But as I said, I switched to CM7. Amazon has an app out called Kindle that lets you download books from your Amazon cloud and read them on your tablet. Any tablet. God dammit. I got this fucking thing so I could read e-textbooks, only to find out that I didn’t need this fucking thing to read e-textbooks. Am I upset about it, though? Fuck no. I love my Fire and so does my girlfriend.
I also like reading comics. I typically read them in bed on my netbook. This is inconvenient because you can’t really roll over with laptops because of their size/shape and cooling issues. Secretly, this is a big reason why I wanted a tablet. I mean, I knew I’d use it for other stuff, but really, I wanted a comic reader. I just couldn’t justify paying $400 dollars for one. $200, though? Plus it does my textbooks for me? Plus it paid for itself? Absolutely. Being that most comics are in .cbr format, you need a .cbr reader. The most stable one I’ve found is called [Perfect Viewer]. It’s free, easy to use, and you can lock screen orientation. Plus there are a bunch of convenient tap-controls built into the program.
The last thing I want to mention is that I really don’t care much for the stock android keyboard. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but it’s not the best. I use [Swiftkey X], personally. That’s a link to the free trial. Definitely try it. It links up with your social networking sites and learns your speech patterns, so the autocorrect is very accurate and it makes amazingly good predictions. It’s the most user friendly keyboard out there, in my opinion. Try it and you’ll probably end up buying it.
Conclusion: Everything’s laid out for you. Here’s the short version. The Kindle Fire may not look as good as the Nook Tablet on paper, but it’s just as good and 50 bucks cheaper. If you’re going to root it and go crazy with CM7, you would probably be better off getting the Nook Tablet just because of the extra space/expandable storage issue. For most people, though, the Kindle Fire is exactly what you need.
It’s not an Iconia A500. It’s definitely not a Transformer Prime. It is, however, small and extremely practical, particularly for a college student. Would I exchange mine for a Nook Tablet at the same price? Sure. Would I pay the extra 50 bucks for one? Nah. No point. There’s a certain threshold that goes into laptop territory, and the only one who really belongs there is the Transformer Prime because it can become a netbook.
Do I like it? Yes. Will you like it? Yes. If the stock OS doesn’t do what you want it to, switch to CM7 and it probably will. I’m Jaded Nostalgic for Team Asunder magazine. If you have any questions or comments in relation to games/tech or any particular questions about the Fire/apps for the fire, look me up on Twitter. @JadedNostalgic
I WANT TO MAKE IT ABUNDANTLY CLEAR THAT I DON’T GIVE A SHIT WHICH ONE YOU BUY AS LONG AS IT’S NOT AN IPAD.
>IMPLYING THAT THE NOOK AND KINDLE ARE THE SAME THING
>IMPLYING THAT YOU’D PROBABLY BE WASTING THE $50 ON A NOOK
>IMPLYING THAT $200 FOR WHAT YOU’RE GETTING IS A STEAL
>IMPLYING THAT YOU DON’T NEED CAMERAS OR MICROPHONES; THAT’S WHAT YOUR PHONE IS FOR
>IMPLYING THAT IF YOU’RE WANTING A GOOD TABLET FOR CHEAP, YOU SHOULD GET A FIRE