Monday, October 3, 2011

Amazon's Kindle Fire. Is it Worth $199?

Kindle Fire
It's official.  Amazon has a few new Kindles, and one is the color Android-based Kindle Fire. The press was stunned when the Fire's $199 price was announced.  The hardware specs are competitive but missing a few standard components.  Some estimate 5 million or so will be sold before the end of this year. The Fire isn't the first 7" tablet out there, and it isn't even the cheapest one. has a half dozen 7" tablets available for under $200. You can buy the Maylong 7" tablet for as little as $97.

Here are a few:
So what magic makes the press think Amazon's Fire will sell better than any of these?  Sure, most of these have worse specs than the Fire.  Yet many also have hardware features (Cameras, HDMI-out) the Fire doesn't include. All have WiFi.  All are touchscreen Android tablets.  All run apps including all of Amazon's apps. Lined up spec for spec the Fire doesn't glow for what it can do.  It blushes for what it doesn't do.

So what is the secret?   I'm blaming it on Respect.  Amazon, like Apple, has built up a reputation for treating customers well. They have both simplified the process of buying media and products from them. We respect Apple and we respect Amazon. They are both American originals. We surrender our beliefs to Apple in exchange for designful and productive devices we didn't know we needed. The press and Amazon fans have done the same concerning the Fire. I've pre-ordered mine out of the same respect.

Let's do a reality check though.   The Fire is a first generation device.  Remember the first wedge Kindle?   Original, but far from evolved. The second and later generations were better in every way.  My experience repeatedly demonstrates that 1st generation devices are poor investments. This is more often true for ground-breakers, and Amazon is a ground-breaker. Late comers/Followers can learn from the mistakes made by others.  I expect the second generation Fire to be thinner, faster, and have a few more features than this first gen Fire.  It may also be less expensive.  Previous Kindles have gotten cheaper each year since the first one came out at around $400.

So is the Kindle Fire a good investment?  I'm going to rate it a tentative "yes". From what I can tell the hardware is similar to the Blackberry Playbook. Made by the same manufacturer I'm expecting the Fire to be similarly well-made. The dimensions are a little different, but the details are very similar.  Each specification the Fire lists is equal to or better than the competition. A 1024 x 600 screen when many have 800 x 480 screens. Capacitive multi-touch when many have resistive single-touch input. A dual core processor when many have single core chips.  The Fire will have a liquid user interface (UI) and shouldn't stutter or pixelate displaying movies or photos. The screen will react instantly to your touch, and using it should become a mere extension of your thoughts.   I expect Amazon to do it right.  The Fire should delight the user. Should it not you can certainly expect the 2nd generation to.

Yes,  I believe the new Kindle Fire is worth $199.   The Blackberry Playbook and HTC Flyer are more capable tablets, and at $299 they are also priced proportionally correct given their additional features.  If you think you might want a Fire, don't wait. Reviews will be out before new orders are shipped and you can always cancel should you change your mind.

Comments are welcome.  Feel free to contribute.

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  1. Thanks for the info! The price also reasonable, have to purchase this tablet!

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  2. Any chance of a Kindle review anytime soon? Always look forward to your gadget reviews.

  3. I did buy a Kindle Fire, but since I also own the more capable HTC Flyer I haven't spent much time using the Fire. They are selling well though, and other than the limits Amazon designed into it A Fire should satisfy anyone who doesn't mind Amazon being their primary app/music/video/shopping site.

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