Review: Kindle Fire

It began, as so many things do, with Star Trek. Premiering just days after my 9th birthday, Star Trek: The Next Generation instilled unto me to many of the core principles I still hold dear: people working together can solve anything; when in doubt, scan; and, of course, bald dudes rule.

It was the technology that really wowed my young mind: the ship, the transporters, the replicators, and especially the tricorders all were added to my permanent Christmas list. Sadly, none of those yet exist (damn you, science!), but the P.A.D.D., barely more than set dressing, is perhaps the first Star Tech that you can actually buy.

And by any measure, that makes tablets fracking cool.

Cool is one thing, but useful is entirely something else. All tablets can surf the web, do email, play music, etc. Who cares? My phone does all that too.

It’s the content that matters. If you’re anything like me (and in this narrow capacity, surveys say you are), you want to be able to watch stuff on your tablet. Catch up on a TV show, maybe watch a movie, somewhere away from your TV. Presumably, also away from your home.

And that’s the trick. It is staggering to me that with all the media coverage tablets get, it’s stupefyingly rare to hear about the fact that only two tablets actually have access to downloadable content (three, sort of, but you’ll read more about that in a big feature on tablets due out next week).

And that’s the Fire’s big claim to fame: access to Amazon’s video library, to buy or rent. If you’re a Prime member (and if you deal with Amazon at all, you should be), you can even stream those videos to the Kindle.

That it’s less than half the price of an iPad is a decided bonus.

Setup

You receive the Fire like the other Kindles: in minimalist recyclable packaging. I must admit to experiencing a big wave of excitement as I unboxed my Fire. You see, this is actually my Fire. I bought the thing. Amazon, presumably deluged with review requests, couldn’t guarantee us a sample. So I bought it because, like many, I wanted an iPad but didn’t want to spend the money.

The Fire is only a bit larger than a paperback book, 7.5-inches tall, 4.7 wide, and 0.45-inches thick. The screen is highly reflective, but gorgeous when on. It uses an IPS LCD (as does the iPad), so it has a decidedly un-LCD-like viewing angle. Tilt it whatever way, and the picture quality doesn’t diminish. The back is a rubbery material that is so perfect for a tablet you’ll wonder why all the others don’t have it.

This is the part of the review where most would talk about the bolts and bits, but honestly, who cares? Do you care that it has a 1,024x600 screen or a 1 GHz blubbityblub processor? I sure don’t, and I’m a computer guy.

It’s how it works that matters.

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