Joining the tablet revolution.

November 22nd, 2011 | Posted by administratrix in Gadgets | Reading

In which I accidentally buy a Kindle Fire.

I did not need a new device. My Kindle 3 (the model now known as the “Kindle Keyboard”) isn’t even a year old yet, and it works just fine. After I sprung (sprang?) for the expensive but elegant and cleverly-designed OEM leather cover with the built-in light, I could even read in the dark. It’s eminently portable, wireless, holds 1500 books, and I’d hacked it to display custom screen savers. It did not need to be replaced.

It’s just that I have a job now, and therefore there was money in my account on the day my clicking finger went ahead and decided for me. And now I have the Kindle Fire!

Kindle Fire 1st gen

The Fire is a seriously great deal for two hundred bucks. The hardware is really nice for such a low price point — I hear they’re being sold at a loss (Amazon’s favorite market-cornering trick, see: the entire ebook industry). The device is fast, responsive, and has very nice screen resolution. It’s many, many times more elegant than that knock-off tablet I had briefly last year.

The operating system is a custom distro of Gingerbread, I think. It’s a little weird at first because of the way they locked up the main screen with their big asphalt-colored bookshelf, but it’s possible to learn in moments if you’ve had any previous Android exposure. (If not, good luck ever finding the volume control!) (Srsly. Not intuitive for n00bs, and the Fire has only one hardware button — power — on the whole thing.)

The Amazon App Store is a walled garden just like iTunes: only the applications Amazon approves are available. This means a whole bunch of apps you want aren’t there.

Best thing: There’s a Netflix app! I can watch videos directly on my Kindle Fire!

Worst thing: There’s no Google Music app (probably because Amazon wants you to use their own cloud-based music storage instead) but, yay, you can use the browser instead.

The browser is pretty fantastic for a mobile device. It displays web pages properly. You can watch embedded YouTube videos. It looks great. It hasn’t crashed yet.

The screen savers are awesome. Full color images of vacuum tubes, old film cameras, graphite, macros of printing presses. (They learned from the Dead Authors debacle, one assumes.) I am not burning to figure out how to replace them.

Battery power is better than a phone, and much, much worse than the e-ink Kindles (which go for weeks without needed to be charged). I used it pretty heavily after I got off work at 6 — read half of Zendengi and watched 3 episodes of 30 Rock — and it had to be plugged in when I went to bed at 11. Apparently there will be no traveling without the power adapter.

Speaking of which, the nifty two-piece power adapters I’m used to is no longer included. You have to buy your own USB cable if you want to connect your Kindle Fire to your computer.

Once you do, though, you can still use the excellent Calibre to manage your library.

It’s still just a tablet, though. While it’s handier for checking facts on Wikipedia than the tiny form factor of my phone, and it has email functionality, it’s still — like all tablets — primarily a data consumption device. Selling it as a full-featured ebook reader is the perfect market niche for the tablet form factor, since it’s not trying to be a netbook or a laptop or a giant phone: it’s just a really freakin’ tricked out ebook reader.

Anyway. It’s way cool, I like it, and now I have two Kindles. Which means that my K3 is for sale. Any takers?

Kindle Fire App Sideloading in 3 Easy Steps
I’m going to see if I can get the Tricorder app, the most important app ever, on to the Fire using this method.

How to Root Your Kindle Fire
A project for the weekend? Perhaps!

Update: I fucking love this thing, even though I don’t like the homescreen layout. And G’ma has the Kindle Keyboard since nobody else wanted it. – 12/7/11

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5 Responses

  • NLW says:

    Yay! I have one too thanks to getting an early bday present because I looked so pathetic sick on the couch! You’ve probably caught this by now, but if you go to settings, device there is a setting there to allow things to be installed other than from the Amazon store. I’ve sideloaded a few apps (like Dropbox and Zinio) that way that aren’t in the official Amazon store yet. It is an awesome media consumption device, but I was surprised I liked the keyboard as much as I did. Held sideways I can do a fast thumb type – enough that it’s also becoming my favorite email device too. 🙂
    And the guided view for comic books – wow!

    I, too, am somewhat surprised at how well the keyboard works. The one on my Android phone makes me want to scream. -m

    • NLW says:

      I was totally bummed that they didn’t have swype for the fire to begin with, but I’m actually typing faster with my thumbs than i do with swype. All those years on the crackberry weren’t wasted!

  • Adam says:

    Ooooooooo pretty. Alas, I have a Kindle 2 (that I love!) … and a pathetic bank account.

    Yeah, my account’s pretty much empty now that I spent two hundred bucks on hardware I didn’t really need. Yay! -m

  • Alex says:

    Rooted Kindle Fire in 3… 2… 1

    Done! *raises hand*

    Nah, jk. Prolly not gonna root it; no real need to. -m

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