Mossberg reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Frustrating, clunky, much less capable and versatile than iPad

“The Kindle Fire is much less capable and versatile than the entry-level $499 iPad 2,” Walter S. Mossberg reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“It has a fraction of the apps, a smaller screen, much weaker battery life, a slower Web browser, half the internal storage and no cameras or microphone,” Mossberg reports. “It also has a rigid and somewhat frustrating user interface far less fluid than Apple’s.”

Mossberg reports, “But the Fire has some big things going for it. First, the $199 price, though the Fire’s seven-inch screen is less than half the surface area of the iPad’s display.”

MacDailyNews Take: See, it’s a “big thing” the Kindle Fire has going for it that it costs less than half the price because it has less than half the screen of the iPad. With that limited real estate and the user interface problems it introduces, but doesn’t solve, not to mention all of its other problems, the Kindle Fire is actually wildly overpriced.

An aside: We know what we’re going to see in a Mossberg review now before we read them. That’s not a good thing.

Mossberg reports, “Second, the Amazon and Kindle brands, already known and loved for e-readers and more.”

MacDailyNews Take: See, because people have heard the names Amazon and Kindle before, this is another “big thing” the Fire has going for it. Only in Walt’s world – where concocted “positives” equal balanced reviews – does this make any sense whatsoever.

Mossberg reports, “Third, Amazon is the only major tablet maker other than Apple with a large, famous, easy-to-use content ecosystem that sells music, video, books and periodicals.”

MacDailyNews Take: See, it’s “famous.” Also, Amazon’s idea of “easy-to-use” is something Apple wouldn’t ever release. And, what about the Kindle Fire’s AppLack™, Walt, did you forget about that already?

Now that Walt’s listed all of the “big things” Kindle Fire has going for it. Let’s read on…

Mossberg reports, “While the Fire has a decent Web browser and a rudimentary email program, it lacks basic built-in apps, such as a calendar, notepad or maps. However, for people primarily interested in reading books and periodicals, the Fire may seem too heavy and costly when compared with a low-end Kindle or Nook… [which] appears to offer even fewer apps than Amazon does (Barnes & Noble doesn’t provide a number.)”

“The Fire’s hardware is plain and clunky,” Mossberg reports. “It’s a thick black box with zero style. There isn’t even a volume control or a physical home button, and the on/off button is a small thing hidden inconveniently on the bottom edge. In the quest to meet the $199 price point, Amazon omitted many features common on other tablets. There are no cameras or microphone, no GPS for determining your location, no Bluetooth for headsets or wireless speakers and no included earbuds. The Fire is Wi-Fi only—it has no built-in cellular connectivity. There isn’t even an included cable for connecting to a computer, something you may want to do to get photos into the Fire, since Amazon lacks an online photo service. There is just 8 gigabytes of memory, half the total of the base iPad or the Nook Tablet, and only about 6 gigabytes of that is available to store content. If you want to download movies, you won’t be able to fit many into the Fire.”

MacDailyNews Take: Like we said up in Walt’s concocted positives section above, the Kindle Fire is actually wildly overpriced.

Mossberg reports, “I became frustrated with the interface. There’s something off with the touch calibration on the top shelf, or Carousel, which scrolls through a seemingly endless stream of items. It can be difficult to get it to stop on the item you want and it takes more pressure than it should to open the selection… In my tests, the Fire’s Silk browser was noticeably slower than the iPad 2’s browser. This pattern was consistent over scores of Web pages, and on four Wi-Fi networks and two different Fire devices… I found magazines and newspapers looked better on the iPad, mostly due to the larger screen… In my standard tablet battery test, playing back to back videos with the wireless turned on and the screen at 75% brightness, the Fire lasted 5 hours, 47 minutes, or less than 60% of the iPad 2’s performance on the same test.”

MacDailyNews Take: Now get this, here’s how Mossberg wraps up his review: “At $199, and with Amazon’s content ecosystem behind it, the Fire is an attractive alternative for many people who might otherwise have bought an iPad or another Android device, especially if their principal interest is content consumption.”

Did Walt fall, hit his head, and then get back up and finish off his review? Sheesh.

The fact of the matter is that, if you’re on a budget, you’d do far better for yourself by getting a refurbed original iPad than by wasting your money on a Kindle Fire.

Full review here.

MacDailyNews Take: Alert, if you are a logical person, you run the risk of having your head explode by reading further:

Walt Mossberg concludes that Amazon’s Kindle Fire “is an attractive alternative for many people who might otherwise have bought an iPad” after reporting that the Kindle Fire:

• is much less capable and versatile than the entry-level iPad
• has a fraction of the apps
• has a smaller screen; less than half the surface area of the iPad’s display
• lacks basic built-in apps such as a calendar, notepad or maps
• for those who don’t care about the above built-in apps, the Fire may seem too heavy and costly (meaning every potential customer is now excluded)
• has hardware that’s plain and clunky with with zero style
• has inconveniently located or no essential physical buttons or controls (home, volume)
• has no cameras or microphone
• has no GPS
• has no Bluetooth for headsets or wireless speakers
• has no included earbuds
• has no built-in cellular connectivity
• has no included cable for connecting to a computer
• has limited memory for storing content such as movies
• has a frustrating interface
• has a problem with its touch calibration
• is difficult to stop scrolling on the desired item
• requires more pressure than it should to open selections
• browses noticeably slower than an iPad
• has inferior display of magazines and newspapers compared to iPad
• has only 60% of iPad’s battery life

Boca, Walt. Boca. Hand over the keys to Katie*. It’s well past time.

*As along as you didn’t teach her to concoct “positives” in order to feign “balance.”

Related articles:
Wired reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Web browsing sucks, emotionally draining, makes reading a chore – November 14, 2011
NY Times’ Pogue reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Sluggish, ornery, unpolished – 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


    1. Indeed.

      I have one major problem with all these reviews. They all talk about kindle and mention it alongside the iPad (of course, mostly thrashing it how it comes up short). The problem I have is, just mentioning it alongside the iPad elevates it to the level of a potential competitor, where in fact it really is not. It is just like reviewing netbooks and always calling up MBA in comparison. These are simply two separate worlds, and elevating Kindle to the level of iPad is in fact an attempt to actually devalue iPad, rather than artificially boost the Kindle.

      1. Agreed. I’m not sure if it is being done intentionally or not, but because of this I have already seen multiple articles about Apple being “pressured” to lower iPad prices because of the Fire. Seriously?

        As far as I’m concerned, the only thing the Kindle Fire should be compared to is the Nook Color. That’s it.

        Amazon themselves clearly never intended the Fire to be an iPad rival.

  1. I love MDN’s critiques of Mossberg’s reviews!

    MDN’s recognition of Mossberg’s tendency to “concoct ‘positives’ in order to feign ‘balance'” is so dead on target!

    Bravo, MDN!

    1. Head over to Wired for their review of the Kindle here.

      They NAIL IT, and I do mean, “Nail it.”

      iPad killer? No, the Kindle Fire is not. And it doesn’t even match the iPad in web browsing, the one area in which its hardware should have sufficient performance to compete. But the press has definitely supercharged Amazon’s product launch with a level of hype and enthusiasm that would make Apple proud.

      Small screen size and insufficient processing power. Crap browser performance. Near useless as a magazine reader, and roundly trumped by superb e-ink Kindles as a book reader.”

  2. MDN you are way over the top with your comments here. Why are going into overdrive on rhis piece of crap? Obviously you must be afraid of the Fire. I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole but lots of folk struggling to budget for Christmas may well buy it. Though I daresay many will return it in short order when they have educated themselves.

    1. “but lots of folk struggling to budget for Christmas may well buy it”

      Exactly the problem.
      People who don’t know, listen to these reviews. If someone’s in the market for an iPad, but buys this to save some money, I don’t think they’re getting a comparable experience (and that is implied in the review — that this an “attractive alternative”).

    2. MDN is more pointing out Mossburg’s weird logic then anything else.

      If the Fire had a lot less features then the iPad (and it does) but was a joy to use, that would offset most of the negatives. We all know that the iPad has lower specs then some other devices but it outperforms most of them and/or is just a much better experience to use. Walt failed to prove that the Fire was better even for the experience or performance. It was worse in every area. The only benefit it has is price, everything else is worse. This makes it not a valid alternative to an iPad. That sort of logic flaw needed to be pointed out.

      1. EXACTLY.
        When a review says, “Small screen size and insufficient processing power. Crap browser performance. Near useless as a magazine reader, and roundly trumped by superb e-ink Kindles as a book reader.” I won’t even spend $20, much less $200.

        Conceptually, I thot Amazon had the right idea–focus on the 3 or 4 things most people do with a tablet and leave out the rest so that they have a significant price difference between the iPad. But if the thing works like crap, it will just bomb or have mediocre sales at best. When you’re selling something at cost, you can’t afford mediocre sales or lots of returns.

  3. For those dumb enough to buy into this faux iPad crap, the best punishment I know for those who can’t see Apple’s superiority in all it chooses to offer us, is to not have the device and all the Apple ecosystem has to offer. The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has

  4. @CourtJester – the reason MDN is going big on his comments is that a bad tablet by such a big-name famous brand actually HURTS Apple and iPad. The awful experience may turn them off of tablets.

    The other reason he called out Walt is that it’s obvious Walt’s writing is mostly cloudy. Or is it partly sunny? Obfuscated at any rate.

    This makes me realize what a bargain the iPad is. BTW, I am still on iPad 1 and for a ‘first effort’ it’s a damn fine tablet.

  5. Lest we forget, the Mac was and is a much better computer system than Windows. However for 20 years the majority of people bought a computer based on price and adjusted their expectations accordingly. History has a way of repeating itself.

    1. That all happened for very specific reasons that are likely to repeat. I don’t want to go into all of them but a big one was people just not knowing what computers were. Another big one was a poorly written contract signed by John Sculley while Jobs was not at the company. Also Apple was a tiny company and they really couldn’t fend off something like Microsoft. All of the perfect storm stuff that had to happen back then is not likely to happen again.

      1. You didn’t read the book did you?

        If you had, you’d know that Jobs was personally involved in the deal btwn M$ and Apple, regarding the user interface of Macintosh.

        According to Steve himself, Gates was not to offer anyone a graphical user interface until one year after the Mac shipped January 1983.

        Because of Jobs’ outrageous management style, the Mac shipped one year late, giving the shrewed Gates a loophole out of the deal.

        It’s all right there on pages 275-276. Jobs fscked up, not Sculley as most people are fond of believing.

    1. For a while Walt was giving lots of positive (and deserved) press to Apple products in the early 00’s. I think some of the other companies or someone at WSJ complained and made him start appearing to be more balanced. So now it all seems forced.

  6. The kindle fire might sell good at first but it will go down in history as another poor excuse for a tablet when it earns it’s well deserved reputation as a laggy, inadequate device.

    I think its safe to say that Amazon won’t do financially well with it either considering most people that own one won’t purchase enough content to cover the loss associated with manufacturing the product. If its true that Amazon loses $50.00 on each one sold and then they make a 30% profit on content, it takes $166.00 of content sold for Amazon to break even on each device. That’s just not gonna happen.

    1. I’m not so sure about that. Amazon’s customers are voracious consumers – many of them spend as much if not more on current Kindle content as Apple customers spend in Apple’s ecosystem. Also don’t forget that many of these people will also buy Amazon’s $79/year Prime “service”.

      Of course, Apple actually makes money on the HARDWARE, but I’m not quite counting Amazon out on this one yet.

      Also, I think that the vast majority of people purchasing the Fire (non-tech people) will be getting exactly what they expect – I don’t think most of them are looking for a full blown iPad experience.

      I personally think that Apple’s business model it far better than Amazon’s razor thin margin approach, but this Fire may work out for them in the end.

  7. Anybody notice a pattern to most of the Fire reviews?

    The reviewers concede that the hardware is lousy, the user interface chugs and is difficult to use, web browsing sucks on it, and it isn’t very good for reading…

    Then they conclude the review by saying it’s a good, attractive tablet. Uh, what?

    Is this cognitive dissonance week?

  8. Here is the half- price validity test:
    If you buy two Fire tablets and can exclaim, “This is Awesome!”, then the the half-price “benefit” claim is valid.
    If, however, after buying your two half-price Fire tablets your first thought is, “Ah,sh!t, I could’ve had an iPad for what I spent in these.”, then clearly the Fire price is not a benefit. It is a lure towards regret and self-loathing.

    1. Project much?

      You do realize Walt’s audience can afford to set fire to Kindle Fire’s using hundred dollar bills and write it off as a rounding error, right?

      Anyone who has to weigh the possibilities before making a two-hundred dollar purchase, or even a six-hundred dollar one is not reading the WSJ.

      1. Your view of people with money likely reveals why you’re not a regular journal reader. Actually those of us who started with little and ended up comfortable took steps when we were young to start saving even a few bucks a months.

        And realize that the wisdom of the dictum of “watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves,” whereas (although you don’t say), you seem to be more in the camp that feels just a “few hundred billion” more in stimulus deficit spending will “help the economy.”

        The sad state of most people’s economic knowledge only hurts when I laugh…..

        1. Your comment was wonderfully on target about people’s pocketbooks and saving over time (loved the adage–“watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves”).

          However, you undermined your perspective by shifting into a political attack at the end!

          You’re revealing *your* sad state of economic knowledge by rejecting Keynesian economics. Spending several hundred billion does in fact stimulate the economy–and is what is needed to help put people back to work. Stimulus spending has a real impact on demand and growth, and is needed greatly.

          Cutting spending right now is the worse thing the government can do. It will further delate the economy and put more people out of work. Long-term deficit and debt control is important, but we need to ensure economic growth *now*!

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