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On the GeekWire podcast this past weekend, we discussed how’s new Kindle Fire tablet was coming on the scene with an attractive $199 price tag.

But we also pointed out some concerns of buying an “untested” device that had yet to be put through its paces in the wild.

Now, as the Kindle Fire goes on sale at retail Tuesday, some of the early reviews are coming in from the likes of CNET, and The New York Times. And the verdict?

This appears to be one gadget that has the tech press tied up in knots, with some loving the device and others saying it leaves a lot to be desired.

I’ve been reading the reviews today, and I’ve compiled some of the better insights below. Most interesting to me were the lackluster reviews from both Wired and The New York Times, both of which concluded that the Kindle Fire needs a lot of work.

David Pogue, The New York Times:

“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….

The Fire deserves to be a disruptive, gigantic force — it’s a cross between a Kindle and an iPad, a more compact Internet and video viewer at a great price. But at the moment, it needs a lot more polish; if you’re used to an iPad or “real” Android tablet, its software gremlins will drive you nuts.”

Full Review: “Fire Aside, Other Kindles Also Shine”

Wilson Rothman,

“So while we’re on the subject of iPad, let’s have the talk. No, the Kindle Fire is not anywhere close to being the precision machine that the iPad 2 is. There are no cameras and no microphone. The Fire’s screen is half the size of the iPad’s, and the Fire’s battery life isn’t as good, yet the Fire is still a hair thicker. The Fire interface, while seductively simple, lacks the nuances — the futuristic animations and fades — that keep Apple on top.

But for Apple, this still spells trouble. The Kindle Fire can handle about 80 percent of what I want to do on an iPad, for 40 percent of the price. And much of what’s missing won’t be missing for long. Even if you can justify buying one iPad, you may look to the Fire as a second device in your high-tech home. And if you can’t justify an iPad this holiday season, you might consider Amazon’s alternative.”

Full Review: “Kindle Fire Review: Yes, it’s that good”

Jon Phillips, Wired:

“At the end of the day, the Fire must be judged by how well it executes in terms of its Newsstand, Books, Video, Apps and Web features. It does nothing very well, save video playback, running various Android apps, and making the business of Amazon shopping alarmingly fun and easy.

If you already have $200 in your high-tech hardware slush fund, and you’re not willing to splurge one cent more, I suggest you wait longer before pulling the trigger on a tablet. Let that nest egg build. Let it grow interest. Wait for the Kindle Fire 2.

Or — yes, I’m going to go there — consider an iPad.”

Full review: “Is This Really the Tablet Everyone’s Talking About?”


“If you like what Amazon Prime has going on in the kitchen, the Fire is a terrific seat. It’s not as powerful or capable as an iPad, but it’s also a sliver of the price—and that $200 will let you jack into the Prime catalog (and the rest of your media collection) easily and comfortably. Simply, the Fire is a wonderful IRL compliment to Amazon’s digital abundance. It’s a terrific, compact little friend, and—is this even saying anything?—the best Android tablet to date.”

Full review: “The iPad Finally Has Serious Competition”

Joshua Topolsky, The Verge:

“If you’re thinking about getting the Fire, you have to decide not just whether you want a tablet, but what kind of tablet you want. This isn’t an iPad-killer. It has the potential to do lots of things, but there are many things I have yet to see it do, and I wonder if it will get there given the lean software support. It’s my impression that Amazon believes that the Fire will be so popular that developers will choose to work on its platform rather than on Google’s main trunk of Android, but that’s just a theory right now.

Still, there’s no question that the Fire is a really terrific tablet for its price. The amount of content you have access to — and the ease of getting to that content — is notable to say the least. The device is decently designed, and the software — while lacking some polish — is still excellent compared to pretty much anything in this range (and that includes the Nook Color). It’s a well thought out tablet that can only get better as the company refines the software. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start, and at $200, that may be all Amazon needs this holiday shopping season.”

Full Review: “Kindle Fire Review”

Donald Bell, CNET:

“Even more interesting (to me, at least) is what they left on the floor. There’s the obvious stuff, like GPS, maps, 3G, Bluetooth, memory expansion, cameras, and video output. But they also cut out the inane barrage of TOS and privacy agreements. They cut out the desktop metaphor. They cut out any chance of you lying to yourself about using the tablet for “work.” They cut out all of the features that your smartphone already does a better job providing. And let’s not overlook that they cut the price down to $199.

The end result is dramatic. It will leave Android fans scratching their heads, wondering how to fit it with a proper install of Gingerbread, and missing the point entirely. This isn’t a tablet for us geeks.

The Kindle Fire’s sole objective is to deliver entertainment with zero friction and zero complications. For $199, I’d say that’s enough. If you need more from your tablet, you’ve got plenty of options.”

Full review: “Amazon Kindle Review”

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