Kindle Fire HD: first impressions
First, a little background:
I’ve had Kindles since the original Kindle 1, and I’ve been using a Kindle Fire First Generation (KF1) since its release.
For disclosure, Amazon gave me this Kindle Fire HD 7″ 16 GB. That is not because I’m a blogger, and it didn’t affect whether I would have gotten it or not. I actually had ordered one before I knew I was being given one for my help on the Amazon Kindle forums. I am not an Amazon employee, and I don’t believe that having been given it will affect these first impressions.
The first thing I’d say I noticed is the change in shape. The KFHD is not as thick, but is considerably wider. It’s wide enough that I can see how holding it with one hand with the thumb on one side and the fingers grasping the other is going to be difficult for some people.
It’s odd, but it actually makes the screen look bigger…I’m not sure why.
I found the physical on button more difficult. It is out of the way more, and some people had problems with accidentally putting it to sleep before. This will resolve that, and I think I’ll get used to it…but initially, it’s harder to use.
Update: this issue may matter less with a cover that automatically sleeps it and wakes it. Amazon makes those, but only with leather, which I don’t use. I ordered a non-leather third party one (thanks to the heads-up from reader Jands1515):
It was under $10 including shipping when I ordered it, and it is cheaper now. I should have it on Wednesday, and we’ll see how that feels.
There are physical buttons for the volume control…those work fine.
The screen looks much better! It’s sharper, and the illumination seems more even somehow. That’s definitely a plus.
One weird thing: the screen rotates even before you wake it up…no big deal, and some people will like that.
Oh, and it updated by itself very quickly after I got it…my guess was that it was getting the Special Offers, which showed after that.
It came at about 65% charged. I did buy the
and it didn’t take it two hours to charge from that point.
The homescreen navigation has significantly changed from the KF1.
There is no Settings Gear…you now swipe down from the top to get to those features.
The Carousel, oddly, started out just showing me e-books. As I opened other types of things, though, they did appear there.
The tabs at the top have changed:
That “Photos” one was a big improvement over the Gallery app. My photos from the Cloud just appeared there…easy to use.
No Favorites shelves on the homescreen…instead, you get “Customers who bought this also bought”. I don’t see any way to turn that off at this point…some folks will definitely be irritated by that one!
You can add things to Favorites by “long pressing” the icon. You can then access the Favorites many places (not just on the homescreen) by tapping a star in the corner of the screen. Again, that may confuse people…they may think they are tapping the star to add something to Favorites.
When I did check apps and games I downloaded, none of them seemed to have brought over game progress, favorites, that kind of thing.
I checked the text-to-speech right away. You do that with the Aa button. First, you turn it on, then you press play. It appears to be the female voice from Vocalizer…only one voice is available….however, you can move the speed up to four times the speed. I just checked in the Applications…this seems to be Ivona. I’ll research that later.
One problem: it appeared that once I had bought the audiobook, for an e-book I owned, I couldn’t use text-to-speech…only the audiobook. For me, that’s a considerable disappointment, since I prefer text-to-speech. I’ll have to check that out more.
The sound, by the way, is greatly improved…much louder and clearer.
I tried Skype, but I’m not a regular user…and I didn’t have anybody with whom to Skype. I couldn’t see an easy way to test the camera with that, so I switched to one of my favorite apps from my SmartPhone, Paper Camera. It changes the appearance of the world so that it looks like a comic book, or a pencil sketch (my favorite), or more. That looked fine.
Downloading does seem faster…for me, a movie was about three seconds per minute.
I have not been able to get X-Ray for Movies to work, despite trying it on Men in Black, which it tells me it should have the feature.
Let’s take a look at the menus, then I’ll do a brief tour of the tabs…I’ll write more about the device after I’ve had more time with it.
Swiping down from the top (the equivalent of the Settings Gear) gives you:
- Brightness (this has an Auto Brightness setting when you tap it)
- Wireless (tapping this gives you easy access to Airplane Mode, Bluetooth, Wi-fi On and Off, and Connect to a Network)
More gives you
- Help & Feedback (your User Guide is here)
- My Account
- Parental Controls (at this point this is similar to what we have on the KF1…FreeTime is coming later. E-mail, Contact, and Calendar have their own place to be blocked)
- Sounds & Display (this includes an Auto Brightness setting)
- Device (Storage is here, and is broken down by category, which is nice…it does not appear that the Apps & Games have a separated memory…it seems to all be the same. It takes it a while to calculate the memory usage, though…seconds for sure)
- Location-based Services (you can turn this on or off)
- Sound on Keypress
- Auto Correction
- Show correction Suggestions
- Spelling Suggestions
- Legal & Compliance
Now, for a quick run through the tabs:
- Shop (this is greatly improved, at least in appearance…the ad here scrolls on its own, showing you different “play now”/”watch now” options. You can really see the improved interface here. It’s fast and smooth)
- Apps (this also includes games…it’s easy to switch to List View, by the way. That was sort of hidden on the KF1)
- Audiobooks (nice to have these separated out and easy to find)
- Web (this now was a “Trending Now” section)
It’s a more elegant device, certainly…it’s cooler. The image is so much better (I’ll test out the glare factor), and the sound is better.
The interface will take some getting used to. One thing that throws me off is that the screen spins when it switches (on its own) from landscape to portrait. It doesn’t do 360s, but it’s some sort of effect.
Having text-to-speech for Kindle store books is great!
The keyboard has some new odd things. They’ve named the “enter” key “return”…so I think people will think it takes them back somewhere. I had a point where I could not get the keyboard to get off the screen…I had to hit the new tiny menu button, then hit back. That was not intuitive.
I’ll play with it more over the next few days, and I do think I’ll be carrying this one rather than my KF1 as my standard.
If you have any specific question, let me know, and if you want to share your impressions of yours, that would be great…just comment on this post.
Update: I know some of you are wondering what I’ve named it. I’ve listed the names for my other Kindles before. This one is Lucas, after George Lucas…wait, HD does stand for Howard the Duck, right?
Update: I am now typing this part with a Bluetooth (wireless) full-size keyboard. That is really going to work, although it does take a bit of adjustment. Sometimes, it types several of the same letter, but that’s just going to take a minute or two, I think, to get the feel of it. I got the Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 5000. I like the size and the feel of it…I haven’t used a Bluetooth keyboard before. I don’t particularly like that it needs batteries, but it was recognized reasonably easily (I had to type a code on it twice, but I think I might have waited too long the first time). It’s going to be small enough to take on trips…I do have a pocket into which I can put it in my “utility vest”, but most people wouldn’t.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.