November 15th, 2011 (local MST).   Part I

They delivered it a day early.. dropped at my door before 10am.  The plain brown box with nothing more than a 3x5 "getting started" card, a charger, and the tablet inside.  Exactly how you've already seen it on line.
Unfortunately..

 

They delivered it a day early.. dropped at my door before 10am.  The plain brown box with nothing more than a 3x5 "getting started" card, a charger, and the tablet inside.  Exactly how you've already seen it on line.

 

I had arranged a visit to the optometrist this early AM.. needed to get my ticket okay'd and I was thinking about a pair of computer specs to sharpen things up a bit.   But.. as a result of this visit they blew my pupils bigger than the moon.  I drove home using two pairs of sunglasses, my own pair and that cheap pair they give you.  I'm still not seeing well.. the last 4-5 hours have been uncomfortable.

So.. the new Kindle Fire patiently sat on my desk waiting for my eyesight to return.   Once it did, it took all of 2 minutes to register my home wifi network, change the settings to my preferences (font size, reader background color, browser type (desktop or mobile), and more.. and I was cooking with gas.

 

So.. the new Kindle Fire patiently sat on my desk waiting for my eyesight to return.   Once it did, it took all of 2 minutes to register my home wifi network, change the settings to my preferences (font size, reader background color, browser type (desktop or mobile), and more.. and I was cooking with gas.

 

Obviously I don't have enough time using it to have a thorough take.. but I can say each and every function I've used has been smooth, flawless in operation, and the screen (after adjusting font size, etc) very usable.  I will be able to comfortably read books on this device, where my 4.3" HTC Desire smartphone was a type of last resort the Kindle is actually enjoyable. 

I will be able to read magazines, but the Kindle isn't nearly as smooth with magazines as with books, because the books can self-adjust their format for each page, while a magazine only allows you to zoom in/out and them move around the page.  Still, it's usable.  I'd put PDF's in the same category as well as spreadsheets, they’re limited by a small screen size, but anything other than a full size desktop monitor would be.

 

I will be able to read magazines, but the Kindle isn't nearly as smooth with magazines as with books, because the books can self-adjust their format for each page, while a magazine only allows you to zoom in/out and them move around the page.  Still, it's usable.  I'd put PDF's in the same category as well as spreadsheets, they’re limited by a small screen size, but anything other than a full size desktop monitor would be.

 

Music.. it alllowed me to put my 180gb of itunes library in their cloud (for free), mark the music I want to always be in memory, and then clouds the rest.  Sounds as good as any Ipod too.

Browser.. wow.   I like the desktop browser format the best, but this still means it's one page I can zoom in/out and then move around on.. like a magazine.  Still, it's big enough to be usable and to easily update the sites I read regularly, but it's not a full size desktop monitor.   Their "Silk" browser is hot, smooth, fast, intuitive.. very nice.  In fact, the feeling you get from this device in any mode is "Zippy."   It feels like a well spec'd laptop and not a tablet.

 

Browser.. wow.   I like the desktop browser format the best, but this still means it's one page I can zoom in/out and then move around on.. like a magazine.  Still, it's big enough to be usable and to easily update the sites I read regularly, but it's not a full size desktop monitor.   Their "Silk" browser is hot, smooth, fast, intuitive.. very nice.  In fact, the feeling you get from this device in any mode is "Zippy."   It feels like a well spec'd laptop and not a tablet.

 

Amazon ordering.. hehe.. this is where Amazon wanted it to shine and it does.  What a superb online shopping utensil!   Checking past orders, tracking shipping, ordering new stuff.. very easy and totally intuitive.

Amazon Prime.. their videos, series shows, all the content they give you in their $79 a year Prime Membership.  First, let me say I'd pay the $79 just for the free two-day shipping and $3.97 overnight shipping charge.   I shop on Amazon enough to make the $79 the best bargain in town.   But now with this Kindle Fire I get all their series shows, movies, specials, and it's very easy to use and very fast to start playing.   And the quality is superb!  Easily big enough to enjoy as a personal device.  I can't wait for Amazon Prime to support my WD Hub for my big tv at home.  This is a really nice service.

 

Amazon Prime.. their videos, series shows, all the content they give you in their $79 a year Prime Membership.  First, let me say I'd pay the $79 just for the free two-day shipping and $3.97 overnight shipping charge.   I shop on Amazon enough to make the $79 the best bargain in town.   But now with this Kindle Fire I get all their series shows, movies, specials, and it's very easy to use and very fast to start playing.   And the quality is superb!  Easily big enough to enjoy as a personal device.  I can't wait for Amazon Prime to support my WD Hub for my big tv at home.  This is a really nice service.

 

What you don't get?  You don't get a camera of any type, not a still and not a movie camera and not an IP camera for video chats.  I won't miss these at all.   You don't get 3G mobile network access to watch the videos with, browse the web, and access the cloud.   For me personally, I'm around a wifi network most of the time so no biggie.  If I'm going to use this on a plane or be away from wifi for a while, I'll need to remember to 'load to local' the content I want to use during that time.  You don't get the Apple store or the number of Ap's Apple has, but you do get the Amazon store which is second only to Apple and whatever aps I'll need I'm sure are available.

You get a feeling of real quality.  The gorilla glass is strong and less reflective than normal glass, there is only an on/off button, everything else is done by touch screen, and the only port/button/whatnot other than the single on/off button.. is the mini-usb port for charging and transferring content.

 

You get a feeling of real quality.  The gorilla glass is strong and less reflective than normal glass, there is only an on/off button, everything else is done by touch screen, and the only port/button/whatnot other than the single on/off button.. is the mini-usb port for charging and transferring content.

 

I'll know a lot more in the coming days as I use it.. but I can say without reservation, other than an Ipad, this is the best tablet I've used with the most intuitive and useful feature set.  And let's be clear, it's not an Ipad.  It's a $199.00 Amazon Kindle Fire.  If you don't need the cameras, 10 inch screen, and 3G.. the Kindle Fire is without question the best deal going and sits alone from any competition.  I’ll be updating this running review as I use the Kindle over the coming days.  Check back for more updates.

 

I'll know a lot more in the coming days as I use it.. but I can say without reservation, other than an Ipad, this is the best tablet I've used with the most intuitive and useful feature set.  And let's be clear, it's not an Ipad.  It's a $199.00 Amazon Kindle Fire.  If you don't need the cameras, 10 inch screen, and 3G.. the Kindle Fire is without question the best deal going and sits alone from any competition.

 

November 16th, 2011 (local MST). Part II (part III below)

Now that my eyesight has returned..

 

 

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Email Client: I added my email accounts which was pretty much straightforward.  Normally I use Outlook 2010 as my email client which also keeps track of my calendar, contacts, and more.  My email servers are private servers from Secure Server and compatible with SMTP, POP3, and IMAP.

Web based accounts like Yahoo, Gmail, Live, and others keep your emails on the server accessible through a browser client provided by the email server.  We’re all probably familiar with Yahoo Mail or Gmail browser clients?  Your emails will stay on the web based server until you delete them.

SMTP/POP3 are what you’d normally use with an email client like Outlook.  Outlook takes the messages off the server and puts them in your local client (Outlook) and you have the option of telling the server to keep the read email messages for a certain length of time.  Keeping your emails on a local client like Outlook allows you to process your emails off-line, or refer to them when off-line, and then send or receive the messages once you go online.  Full featured email clients like Outlook serve as virtual file cabinets for all your emails and your archives if you wish.

IMAP protocol because necessary when mobile phones became able to retrieve emails from the email server.  A mobile device such as a phone and many tablets are IMAP capable only and allow a user to receive ‘copies’ of their emails from the email server without taking the messages off the server.  They remain on the server until deleted via a web based or SMTP/POP3 client, or automatically via a time based deletion (i.e. delete all older than 2 weeks)

Email servers can allow all client types, web based, SMTP/POP3, or IMAP, or a subset of types.  Because they work independently and differently from each other, it’s possible to use a server which supports all three client types across a wide variety of devices.  Home computers, laptops, mobile phones, Blackberries, Iphones, Ipads, Android devices, and more.

Free email servers like Yahoo or Gmail normally only allow web based access unless you purchase a premium account and then they’ll allow SMTP/POP3 and possibly IMAP.  ISP’s also provide email server accounts or you can purchase your own if you own your own domain.

The Amazon Kindle Fire supports both SMTP/POP3 and IMAP clients.  The default installed email client can support multiple accounts (up to 25) of all or a mixed SMTP/POP3 IMAP variety.  This enables you to use the Amazon Kindle Fire as you would a laptop computer, or as you would a mobile device. Or both at the same time.  Your choice.  I like this.

I use I'm not yet sure if I like the already installed email client, but if not I'll check out a few of the hundred or so available on the Android Market Place.. which are free.  I had nine email accounts to setup which took about 20 minutes.

Importing my contacts was another story.  I use Outlook 2010 as my email client, calendar, contacts, etc.. and the Kindle requires Vcards.  Outlook doesn't export batch Vcards, just CSV, excel, Word files, and individual Vcards. A single contact per processing step can take a long time if you have a lot of contacts.

There are many Vcard Outlook plug-ins available online and it didn’t take long for me to find one which batch processed all 610 of my contacts at once.  Minutes later these Vcards were imported into my Kindle and my contact list was transferred.

 

 

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Pictures are easy.  No matter what resolution, size, etc.. just dump them in the pictures folder and they show up in the installed gallery which is nice enough.  It auto-sizes, flips, twirls, stacks, and arranges your images every which way.  Tomorrow I'll play around and find an ideal resolution and compression ratio for images on the Kindle.. which will allow you to maximize storage while still seeing a nice pretty picture with no artifacts.

Books. This reads Kindle books nicely.  Love it.  Still not impressed with magazines and PDF's..  I'm sure you can picture this:  A book/novel.. is just a string of formatted text that can resize the font type/size/line spacing as you like.. and only X amount of data shows up on a single page.  With my failing eyesight that's still more words, easy to read, than a typical paperback book page.  So I'm okay with books.  Because they're backlit.. easier to read than printed books.  But a magazine or PDF is different.  A page is a page no matter what you view it on, the same amount of information and pictures is on that page.  They don't get broken down into more pages.  So.. as you pinch zoom in/out.. to a comfortable reading level.. you can only see so much of that page at once. Mostly this is okay once you learn the format of your particular magazine or PDF.

Movies.  Wonderful.  No matter what I choose from the Kindle Prime service..  It starts right away and is HDTV quality.  Nice sound too.  You can dump torrent movies right in the movies folder with your PC connected to the Kindle and watch those too.  I think they made a big mistake in not including a SD card slot, it would have made the Kindle immensely more useful as a video viewer for those who download torrents, which I guess would have discouraged users from paying the $79 annual fee for Amazon Prime.  So maybe it wasn't a mistake.  I suppose it depends on where you sit.

The weather channel icon is useful.  All the installed aps are well chosen and useful.

 

 

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The battery came charged and is still showing full bars.  I'll eventually need to take the plastic off the charger and use it.

Network capability.  The Kindle isn't "discoverable" as a network device, which is great for your security, especially if you dump your CC info on the Amazon shopping ap.. but is bad if you want to have a type of "public folder" like in Windows where you can wirelessly transfer files without the aid of a USB cable.  Nitpicking I know..

I bought the cheap leather $9.95 case from Elsse (which is now $6.49) instead of the $39.99 case, and it works great. I ordered some screen protectors but they're not here yet.

 

 

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At first.. I thought the Amazon Kindle Fire would earn it's keep by being a decent reader able to download

ebooks and other Amazon content easily and inexpensively.  It does all that, very well.  But after a few hours with the thing I’m finding it's very competent with email, watching videos, listening to music, running aps, and more.  Now I can see it's essentially a $199 pocket computer that can do all the browsing, reading, viewing, emailing, instant messaging, etc, etc, that I want.. in the background while I read.  I think for many people who only use a computer/laptop for these things it might be all they really need.  It is unmistakably an "consumption" device.. not a "productivity" device like a laptop or desktop computer would be.

 

 

November 22nd, 2011 (local MST) Part III (parts I and II above)

I’ve had enough time with my new Amazon Kindle Fire to be familiar with most of it’s functions and to decide where it places in my personal hierarchy of electronic devices.  Read on to find out.

 

Last Functions Discussed

First, I want to touch on a few areas of function starting with Amazon’s included Silk browser.  Amazon tells us by storing our most commonly used pages in their Silk cloud that we’ll draw less bandwidth in less time.  So far they’re only half right.  Testing by several top sites reveals there is roughly a 30% bandwidth advantage, but no time savings.  In fact, the Silk browser appears to add about 40% to each page load.  We don’t yet know if this will be improved through tweaking, which would make sense when you consider we now have millions using this cloud since the Kindle Fire’s introduction which wasn’t there before it’s launch . Time will tell.

Battery life is very good.  We’re getting about 6 hours of video use and close to 14 hours using the ebook reader.  It’s important to note that the battery is so large and draws so much power when charging, that the included AC adapter must be used to charge the device in any reasonable amount of time.  If you try and charge the Kindle Fire through your computers USB ports you’ll need almost 24 hours.

The display is excellent.  I love the speed with which it orientates itself to any position you set it in.  There’s just a moment of hesitation.  Color accuracy appears well matched to my standard Srgb image profiles.  Any image I make for my website looks well matched on the Kindle Fire.

 

 

Value

The Kindle Fire is worth every penny of it’s $199 purchase price and I’m not surprised it’s breaking all sales records for tablets.  This includes Apples Ipad and Ipad2. The Amazon Kindle Fire brings a combination of features and value unmatched by any other tablet. Yet, it’s not an Apple Ipad2 and it doesn’t replace a laptop computer.  The Apple Ipad2 is bigger, more elegant, and it’s ap store much more capable.  The Ipad2 also had 3g and cameras.  But it’s also 4 times the price in it’s time configuration.  Let’s be real, for the $800 price of a top Ipad2 you can get one of the new Ultrabook thin and lightweight laptops which blows away ANY tablet in function. For the price of a single top equipped Ipad2 you can get FOUR Amazon Kindle Fires.  Value re-defined.

 

 

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Is The Kindle Fire for You?

If you must have 3g and you must have cameras then the Kindle Fire isn’t for you. But if you need a very high quality 7” tablet with one of the best video and ebook content libraries available then maybe a Kindle Fire has your name on it.

Tablets by design are consumption devices. They’re designed expressly for you to consume content, watch movies, read books, listen to music, view images, browse the web, and shop online. They’re great for these functions. They’re not bad for receiving/viewing email, but they’re a major hassle to return more than a couple lines with. You can use any number of aps to open Word documents or spreadsheets, but I pity the person who tries to compose a full length memorandum using one. Their touch keyboards and small screens just aren’t up to the task. In contrast even a small laptop is a production device with it’s full size keyboard and useful bigger screen.

This is why you must ask yourself this question:  “Do I need a consumption device, or do I need a productivity device?”  "And am I limited to just one?”  Some people will need both, some will only be able to afford one, and some will have their own IT department.

 

Is The Kindle Fire for Me?

Me? I’ll be passing my Amazon Kindle Fire to a family member.  For the last 18-19 months I’ve grown used to my Lenovo x201s.  This is a 12.1 inch LED backligt 1440x900 display with a 2.13ghz i7, 8gb’s of RAM, and a 256gb fast SSD.  It has a full size Thinkpad keyboard which is the best laptop keyboard period.  With a battery life ranging from 5-10 hours (5 for video watching,10 for reading, somewhere between for production work) for the standard battery, a 2.4 pound weight, and a super tough water/dust/shock proof Kevlar coated case.. this just can’t be beat for my specific needs.

 

 

Me?  I’ll be passing my Amazon Kindle Fire to a family member.  For the last 18-19 months I’ve grown used to my Lenovo x201s.  This is a 12.1 inch LED backligt 1440x900 display with a 2.13ghz i7, 8gb’s of RAM, and a 256gb fast SSD.  It has a full size Thinkpad keyboard which is the best laptop keyboard period.  With a battery life ranging from 5-10 hours (5 for video watching,10 for reading, somewhere between for production work) for the standard battery, a 2.4 pound weight, and a super tough water/dust/shock proof kevlar coated case.. this just can’t be beat for my specific needs.

 

 

Whatever the function, this laptop does it better than a tablet.  Any tablet.  And it does it at a very light weight with a very long battery life and an amazing amount of power that puts many desktops to shame.  A tablet must be carried, if this laptop of a tablet is in my hand, stuffed in my knapsack, or laying in my luggage, there is no appreciable difference in size or weight.  But there is a heck of a difference in function.  My Lenovo x201s is a productivity device and a consumption device.  To date, it’s the perfect blend of form, function, and performance. It’s also 10x the price of an Amazon Kindle Fire.  I’m willing to pay that price, but millions are snapping up Amazon Kindle Fires as fast as they can build them because they’re not willing or able to pay the entry price of such an amazing laptop.  And this is the segment of the tablet market the Amazon Kindle Fire does better than anyone else.

 

 

Future Uses For The Kindle Fire?

Is that the end of the Kindle Fire for me? n Not by a long shot. Since it’s introduction the Kindle Fire has been easily and successfully rooted.  What this means is the Amazon modified Android operating system has been removed and a generic Android operating system installed in its place.  When I get some time I’ll order a Kindle Fire, root it, install a generic Android operating system, and then turn it into a production device for my photography.  I’ll use the excellent 7” IPS color display to preview images in live view, to bracket exposures for HDR, to bracket for focus, and to control my camera either tethered outside of the studio or for time lapse photography.  The Kindle Fire’s duo-core processor and long battery life are ideal for these purposes.

I continue to think some enterprising individual could do quite well marketing a tablet aimed at and supporting photographers as it’s primary function.  A small tablet like this could go almost unnoticed in most camera bags, it’s generous lithium-ion battery will stay topped up for weeks on end and once powered up will last forever.  I’d like to see such a device with focus and exposure bracketing software, tethering software, review software for raw images, and viewing software when shooting video or setting up for macro shots.

A purpose built tablet could also serve as an Ad-hoc networking device during a shoot to send images back to a server or bigger viewing monitor.  I have dreams that Quantum will interface their excellent portable flash products with a tablet to serve as a lighting controller.  Imagine being able to control all the output level of all your lights, enable or disable just one or all your lights, to be able to set one light for ETTL and another for manual.  And with Quantum’s Pilot or Trio devices this could all be done wirelessly.

There is no doubt in my photographic mind that a tablet such as the Kindle Fire could be immensely useful if properly configured as the ultimate photographic and lighting tool.  Imagine such a device loaded with depth of field conversion tables with visual graphics.  Model releases, print order, and all your other most used forms could be displayed, signed with a stylus, and stored in the device for later syncing to your office computer.  The Kindle Fire is an excellent ebook reader, so keeping copies of all your camera and other device manuals for easy field reference should be obvious.

Will we ever see such a tool?  Check back on Bangkok Images in a few months and let’s see how close I come just loading a $199 Kindle Fire with currently available aps. You might be surprised.

 

 

Last Words

The Amazon Kindle Fire is going to be very popular and we’ve already received word larger more capable versions are on the way while respecting the current emphasis on value.  With over 4 million already sold there is zero doubt the Kindle Fire is a strong success.  Check on the Kindle Fire’s sales page and with 2500+ reviews already in (more customer reviews than I’ve seen for any product previously) 1200+ give it five stars, 500+ 4 stars, and 300+ 3 stars.  Very strong overall reviews!

I think the future of the Amazon Kindle Fire will depend heavily how fast Amazon is able to expand it’s content libraries.  Content is king on websites so it’s no surprise content is king on a consumption tablet device.  The faster Amazon grows it’s libraries, the faster Kindle Fire’s will fly off the shelves.  With Christmas coming I suspect the Kindle Fire will be the number one gift under the tree this year.

What a superb overall effort.  Only a company with Amazon’s resources could pull it off, assuming they also had Amazon’s vision.