Going only from what is advertised about the Kindle, it seems like a cost-effective way to do all the things that you’d want to do if you had the slightly more expensive iPad-mini. The reality is not quite, unless you’re willing to spend a bit of money in addition to the cost of the tablet. Fortunately my Kindle was kindly gifted to me as a farewell from Organic Development Ltd.
Powering the kindle up
Every-time you power the Kindle up or get it out of sleep-mode it shows an advert. Even though my Kindle was a gift, I can imagine that this would make paying customers feel nickle and dimed, especially when it’s what you see when switching it on for the very first time.
My only main gripe with the Kindle is that you can’t create or write documents and spreadsheets without paying for an app to do it.
It does come with the OfficeSuite app which lets you view such documents, but you need to pay (currently £9.36) to upgrade to the Pro version to let you create and edit them.
There are cheaper alternatives available such as “Olive Office premium” for £1.31 but they’re usually missing features. Olive for example does not allow editing of Publisher files.
If you simply want to view your word documents and spread-sheets, great, plug your tablet into your laptop or desktop and transfer away.
Charging the device and battery life
The Kindle only comes with a USB cable for charging the device, which means you need a laptop or desktop computer nearby when the battery gets low. This isn’t great if you plan on taking the Kindle on holiday, unless you spend £15 for a power adapter.
The Kindle goes into sleep mode after leaving it on for a few minutes, but even then the battery life will only last a day or two. Many times I’ve left it in sleep-mode for the day, only to come back and feel frustrated that I can’t use it straight away again without charging it. I recommend shutting it down fully if you don’t plan on using the device within the next 12 or so hours.
The built-in camera is great for taking self-portraits or for web-cam purposes via Skype, but there is no camera on the other side of the tablet, so don’t expect to take photos of anything apart from yourself!
An odd quirk is not being able to watch Youtube videos or BBC iPlayer straight away. Youtube came up with a message saying I needed to update my Flash player, which I did, but then the video still wouldn’t play until I turned the Kindle off and on again, which I found out after a few minutes of scratching my head and Googling.
To get iPlayer videos to work, I had to Google (again) how to do it. This involves downloading two separate apps, one called “BBC iPlayer (Kindle Tablet Edition)” and another one called “BBC Media Player”.
Getting e-books for free from the Amazon Store is great when limited offers happen. For example, I got Ian Hocking’s Deja Vu and several others to read for my next holiday.
The Kindle Fire HD is a cost-effective way of consuming media if you want the basics, such as emailing, browsing the web and buying e-books and movies. There are plenty of games that have free versions to download such as Angry Birds. The tablet is good for entertainment purposes and for spending more money in the Amazon Kindle store.
For productivity purposes and to remove the inconveniences (such as only being able to charge via USB) you will need to spend around £50 extra to get some of the necessary apps and the cable.
Setting the Kindle up and using some of its features isn’t very intuitive so don’t buy one for someone at Christmas who isn’t at least a bit tech-savvy, unless you’re prepared to spend an hour or two setting it up for them.
How responsive is the Kindle?
As expected, not quite as quick as the iPad mini. It takes several seconds after switching it on for the icons to react when touched. Sometimes when loading a heavy duty site, the screen can freeze for a split second.
Can you customise the background display?
No. On start-up the background shows a random stock photo, or an advert. Once you get to the main screen, it displays the sliding carousel with a black background