Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Four Tech Links of the Day for 11/30/2011 (Christmas Break Edition)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Four Tech Links of the Day for 11/22/2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Four Tech Links of the Day for 12/21/2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Four Tech Links of the Day for 12/20/2011

The Four Tech Links of the Day for 12/19/2011

Kindle Fire Review

First, let's just get this out of the way. The Kindle Fire is not an android tablet, it's a Amazon tablet that happens to run the Android OS. From the first power up, it's not a stock android UI, and if you're used to Android tablets, get ready for some re-learning. It doesn't come with the System bar of Honeycomb or the buttons of Pre-Honeycomb android. It has it's own bar at the bottom, similar but different. Don't expect a standard launcher, it's a custom UI focused on one thing, selling you things on Amazon. 

Let's start at power on, the launcher screen is the standard bookshelf look with across the top a search bar and tabs for Newstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps and Web. Only Docs and Web don't have a store associated to it. It also comes with Amazon's one click purchase already pre-enabled for your Amazon Account. Very slick, although this might be an issue for families with kids since it's real easy to buy things without any checks. 

The first thing I wanted to try was the Silk browser. The Silk browser uses Amazon's EC cloud servers to assemble pages for you in the cloud to speed up browsing. I did some rough timing tests on CNN, Sports Illustrated, and Ebay. I compared it to the performance of my Asus Transformer. Both have a dual core 1Ghz processor, the Transformer has the nVidia Tegra 2, the Fire has a TI OMAP.  Consistently, the Fireloaded the pages in about 2/3 the time of the Transformer. I was much more impressed when I thought the Fire had a single core processor but still not bad.  Of course, I was hoping for better with all the hype. 

Overall the Fire feels snappy, and quick. If you have Amazon Prime, you get free streaming right to the tablet and nicely integrated. The screen is bright and sharp. The video looks good and the sound is okay for this non-audiophile. Overall the device feels well made. For $199, it's not bad. 

There are drawbacks. The first is the lack of the Android Market. Only the Amazon Market is available out of the box. I know people have already hacked the Fire to install standard Android, but I'm looking at this from the standard user perspective, and I don't think they are hacking their tablets. Not only does the Amazon App Store limit the apps on the device, the Fire shows less apps in the Amazon App Store than the Amazon App Store on other platforms. For example, search for media player on the Fire and I get 7 hits, on my Transformer I get 15. For editor, I get 29 on the Fire, and 46 on the Transformer.  The apps that are in the App Store are nothing special, they are all available on the App Store on other platforms. 

The other thing I found is that it doesn't have the standard Google Apps installed or for installation from the App Store. I use Gmail and Google's Gmail app isn't in the App Store. None of the standard Google Apps are there, Gmail, Calender, Google Maps, etc. This is a big miss to me, although you can still access the web versions.  

I'm still not sold on the 7" display. It works well for ebooks, I could read web pages cleanly and even put a PDF magazine on the it and could read it in portrait mode. But I do like my 10" Transformer. It's a little easier on my old eyes. 

The other thing I found odd was that the Amazon store ( is not represented on the front page. There is a neat Amazon app for buying things, but it's not obvious on startup. I thought would be much more tightly integrated into the tablet. 

The biggest drawback for me is the fact it's not an Android tablet, I'm not a huge Amazon buyer so I'd prefer a stock honeycomb (or better, Ice Cream Sandwich) distribution. I find the differences between a stock android tablet and the Fire annoying. It's not hard but just different enough to be annoying. If I was only using the Fire, I sure I'd be adjusted in a couple of days. The lack of the Android Market and limited Apps is also a drawback for me, including no Google Apps. 

Should you buy it? Well if you are an Amazon person, yes. It's well tied into Amazon, it's a fast solid tablet, and it's inexpensive. It makes a nice e-reader and web browser, although the lack of an email program is limiting, but you could use a web based email reader. 

If you want an Android Tablet, I'm not sold. The price is right, and since it's already been rooted and Ice Cream Sandwich is released to open source, hopefully we'll see an ICS rom for it soon. but out of the box, it's not an Android tablet, and just too limited for my liking.

The Four Tech Links of the Day for 12/18/2011 (Weekend Edition)

The Four Tech Links of the Day for 12/16/2011

The Four Tech Links of the Day for 12/15/2011

The Four Tech Links of the Day for 12/14/2011

The Four Tech Links of the Day for 12/13/2011