let me stand next to your fire

Last month I picked up one of those Amazon Kindle Fire tablets you may have heard about and I’ve used it enough so that I think I can give an official TwShiloh review of it by now.

The Fire, in case you haven’t heard, has been described as a sort of poor man’s iPad.  It lacks some core components of an iPad (cameras, microphone, significant internal storage, 3G connectivity) but it also clocks in at a fraction of the iPad’s price (around $200).  So, if you’re not sure a tablet is a good fit for you and don’t have $700 to kick around on an experiment (which pretty much describes me) the Fire begins to look like a decent alternative.

That being said, the Fire still was a bit of a holiday gadget purchase.  After all, I just had no real idea what I’d do with this thing.  I therefore spent my first few weeks with the thing avoiding the games available in the app store (and they do seem to predominate) and looked for things that I could actually use.

And here allow me to recommend a mix of apps that really make the Fire shine for TwShiloh.

Readitlater allows me to snag articles and websites that I want to read later from any platform (work and home computers and tablet) and then lets me view them at my leisure, regardless if I have an internet connection.  Hugely valuable for me since I don’t like reading long pieces on a computer screen and frequently find myself out of wifi range.  In ye olde days (back in September) I had to convert articles to a pdf and save them on my laptop or save them as whole webpages.  The system was clunky and (call me lazy) but sometimes I want to read a couple of pages without having to set my laptop up and be tied to where ever that is.

Pulse is another nice app which is sort of like an RSS reader.  The good news is it’s set up quite well and is easy to use (I find its layout to be simpler and more easy on the eye than the RSS reader apps out there).  The bad is that you can only access a select group of websites.  They do have a nice range of sites to choose from though so just rummaging through that will keep you more well informed than most of your colleagues.

The streaming content (video and music) is nice and I’ve used it more than I thought I would.  Quality is very good but you will need headphones or an external speaker if you’re looking for rich sounds.  Games are fine and I’ve wasted my share of time on them but I’d be loath to recommend solely on that basis.  I do very much enjoy the comic book reader and I may just be picking that hobby back up again.

Now feelings about the Fire are most definitely mixed.  This recent article almost made me ashamed to say I owned one.  On the other hand, I suspect some criticism is due to setting too high a bar on what it’s supposed to do.  While I’m sure the iPad has tons of cool things you can do with it I wonder what percentage of that potential is being used by the majority of customers.  If, as I suspect, most people think about tablets like their computers (they usually get more machine than they really need) then the Fire may be, in fact, a good (not great) product for most people.

The tablet is certainly more convenient than a laptop for many things and I could see throwing one of these in my bag in lieu of a laptop for some trips.

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