Even though I’ve had the Kindle Fire since November, I’m just now getting around to writing a full review because it’s taken this long to play with all the features to get a feel for everything it can do.
First of all, what the Fire is not:
It’s not an iPad. It’s not the one device that will solve all your problems and make everything else you own obsolete.
It’s also not $600.
For $199, the Fire is a very nice tablet that does really well with what it’s designed to do. It’s marvelous to have one device for reading books, checking email, playing games, watching movies and surfing the Internet.
The Fire is relatively small, about the size of the original Kindle, or slightly smaller than a paperback. It has a little heft to it, but something about it feels like holding a book and I like that.
  
Favorite feature: The Carousel.
The homepage has a sort of bookshelf with your latest books and apps on it. Flip your finger across it and you can scroll through every book you’ve downloaded in the last two years. I could do this for hours! It’s a great way to keep some of those books from sliding off into archive oblivion.
 
Reading: You can line up your favorites on the bottom row of the bookcase so you can find them easily, even if it’s not necessarily the last book you read. I love seeing the book cover every time I start to read, something I miss on the Kindle.
Lots of options for reading here: Black letters on a white background; white letters on black; or black letters on ivory. I like this one best; it’s also most like a printed book. Besides the typical font size options, you can also change the spacing and margins. Although the lighting isn’t quite as comfortable as the Kindle, it doesn’t strain my eyes like a computer and I can read for a few hours without any trouble. (Yes, I tested this for you.) It also doesn’t require a separate light, so that is a nice option when traveling.
My only pet peeve is that I often read lying down. When you move the Fire, it automatically changes the page orientation, so I have to hold it at an odd angle to keep the page upright. The Fire is wi-fi only, so you do have to be connected to the Internet to get new books and it takes slightly longer than the 3G Kindle.
 
Apps: Let’s get right to what we really want to know: Angry Birds (99 cents). The Fire is a hit! I’m blasting through concrete and glass like there was no tomorrow. A few times the game was jerky, but it seemed to be a low battery issue. Battery life is acceptable, but nothing like we’re used to with the Kindle.
The only trouble with Amazon apps is they send a receipt when you download a free one. I haven’t used all my apps, but just got hooked on Wordoku. ($1) Sodoku combined with words – this is better than peanut butter and chocolate!
  
Movies: I’m surprised how much I enjoy watching movies on the Fire. The colors are absolutely brilliant. It’s easy to shop and download a movie from Amazon. It comes with a free month of Prime membership, so I got a few for free. My wi-fi at home works for books and apps, but times out trying to download movies, so I took the Fire to the office one afternoon to download a 24-hour rental.
While fine for personal viewing, family movie night would not work too well with a 7-inch screen.
The Fire does not have an external volume button, so you have to maneuver the screen to find the volume to adjust it. This is a pain when watching a movie or playing games and doesn’t always work correctly. That would be the first change I’d make on the next generation.
 
Internet: The Fire came loaded with some apps. Facebook works great, much easier than on my cell phone. The keyboard has useful buttons “.com” and “search” buttons. Some other things aren’t so intuitive and it takes awhile to get used to them. The Fire is a unique Amazon product and doesn’t necessarily do things like other electronics. A few glitches have popped up and at times the device runs slow.
This would be a good introductory product for children and teens, but parents should be aware that when connected to wi-fi, it provides access to the whole internet.
 
Bottom line: A good device for the money.