NY Times’ Pogue reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Sluggish, ornery, unpolished

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire is “a chunky-thick, seven-inch, shiny black tablet. It’s actually running Android, the Google software that powers a lot of cellphones and other companies’ tablets, but you’d never guess it,” David Pogue reports for The New York Times. “Amazon has plastered over the Google design until not a speck of it is left showing.”

“The Fire is not nearly as versatile as a real tablet. It is designed almost exclusively for consuming stuff, particularly material you buy from Amazon, like books, newspapers and video. It has no camera, microphone, GPS function, Bluetooth or memory-card slot,” Pogue reports. “There is a serviceable e-mail program, but no built-in calendar or note pad.”

Pogue reports, “Most problematic, though, the Fire does not have anything like the polish or speed of an iPad. You feel that $200 price tag with every swipe of your finger. Animations are sluggish and jerky — even the page turns that you’d think would be the pride of the Kindle team. Taps sometimes don’t register. There are no progress or ‘wait’ indicators, so you frequently don’t know if the machine has even registered your touch commands. The momentum of the animations hasn’t been calculated right, so the whole thing feels ornery… It needs a lot more polish; if you’re used to an iPad… its software gremlins will drive you nuts.”

Read more in the full review here.

MacDailyNews Take: One naturally thinks that a 7-inch screen would offer 70% of the benefits of a 10-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. The screen measurements are diagonal, so that a 7-inch screen is only 45% as large as iPad’s 10-inch screen. You heard me right: Just 45% as large.

If you take an iPad an hold it upright in portrait view and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down the screen, the screens on these 7-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the ipad’s display. This size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion. While one could increase the resolution of the display to make up for some of the difference, it is meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of their present size.

Apple has done extensive user testing on tough interfaces over many years and we really understand this stuff. There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touchscreen before users cannot reliably tap, flick, or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps… The 7-inch tablets are tweeners. Too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.

These are among the reasons we think the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA. Dead On Arrival. Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning both customers and developers who jumped on the 7-inch bandwagon with an orphaned product.

Sounds like lots of fun ahead.Steve Jobs, October 18, 2010

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Wired reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Web browsing sucks, emotionally draining, makes reading a chore – November 14, 2011
The Verge reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Uninspired, confusing, incredibly unoriginal – November 14, 2011
Engadget reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Sluggish, clunky, too limiting and restricted – November 14, 2011

PC Magazine reviews Apple iOS 5: The best phone and tablet OS, Editors’ Choice – October 15, 2011
The Guardian reviews Apple iPad 2: Ahead of the pack – March 25, 2011
The Telegraph reviews Apple iPad 2: Does everything better; now’s the perfect time to join the iPad club – March 25, 2011
Computerworld reviews Apple’s iPad 2: ‘The Holy Grail of computing’ – March 16, 2011
Ars Technica reviews Apple iPad 2: Big performance gains in a slimmer package
Associated Press reviews Apple iPad 2: Apple pulls further ahead – March 10, 2011
PC Mag reviews Apple iPad 2: The tablet to get; Editors’ Choice – March 10, 2011
Associated Press reviews Apple iPad 2: Apple pulls further ahead – March 10, 2011
PC Mag reviews Apple iPad 2: The tablet to get; Editors’ Choice – March 10, 2011
Pogue reviews Apple iPad 2: Thinner, lighter, and faster transforms the experience – March 10, 2011
Baig reviews Apple iPad 2: Second to none – March 10, 2011

24 Comments

  1. When your going against your biggest competition, would you not compare its performance first and think “how are people not going to notice this?” back to the drawing board (can you do that one kindle?)

  2. “Amazon has plastered over the Google design until not a speck of it is left showing.”

    That ain’t necessarily a bad thing….

    “It needs a lot more polish; if you’re used to an iPad.”

    Now, _that’s_ true of just about everything.

  3. Those who are unfamiliar with the iPad or who want something smaller and cheaper will probably bite on the Fire or the Nook Color. Most of those people will probably regret the purchase when they have an opportunity to compare.

    I am of the opinion that a well-engineered 7″ tablet (i.e., one designed by Apple) would be a good thing. It could be more limited than the 9.7″ iPad 2 and still offer a lot of value to many people.

  4. Not looking like Android is a good thing. More limited functionality for a $200 price tag is an acceptable trade-off. However, “sluggish, ornery, unpolished” is VERY bad.

    If it’s more limited in functionality, it should be BOTH less expensive and “snappy” in performance. And it should be easier to make what’s available more “polished.” It should have the advantages the more limited less expensive Palm Pilot had over Newton MessagePad.

    But Kindle Fire sounds disappointing.

  5. One only needs to witness the tremendous financial success of Microsoft – with its endlessly crappy and derivative products – to know that there are plenty of idiots out there who will buy one of these devices based on the price and little else.

    1. I’m not necessarily arguing against you, very often cheap crap will outsell quality, but I think the success of MS is a more complicated story. When you look at just consumer purchases in the US Apple is doing quite well selling laptops. Where MS got very lucky was that MS Windows became a de facto standard for business and businesses bought most computers. It wasn’t a question of whether Mac OS (or Be OS or Linux or Unix or anything else) was better than MS Windows. Businesses were using Windows and to integrate with businesses you needed windows. In a way, the requirement to run windows pushed the market towards cheap crap. If you were a purchasing agent you only needed a box that ran MS Office. The second requirement was that it be cheap.

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