Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kindle Fire fizzles

Long-time readers of my blog may already know that I'm not a fan of Amazon.  I don't like their business practices, which generally include bullying both publishers/authors and customers.

Sometime I'll have to a comprehensive list of my various reasons, but for the purpose of this post, one of my biggest beefs is that their device essentially ropes you into buying content (books, movies, etc.) from them instead of enabling sideloading.  Plus, unless you figure out how to remove the DRM, you are essentially locked into always owning a Kindle if you want to keep your ebooks.  (They do have apps for your computer and various smartphones, but you still lack the freedom of being able to put your ebooks on any ebook reader you'd like to... unless you strip the DRM, of course, which Amazon's rules say you're not supposed to.)

My complaints about Amazon aside, I was thrilled to see that the Nook Tablet is outperforming the Kindle Fire, according to a couple of articles.  One is an article on the New York Times, which makes it sound like the Fire has completely fizzled: Amazon Kindle Fire Faces Critics and Remedies are Promised.  It sounds like the hardware has a lot of problems — the touch screen doesn't work well for people with bigger fingers, there aren't any volume buttons (sounds like it has to be turned up or down via the software), the off button is too easy to press (causing people to inadvertently turn the device off while they're browsing), and the Internet browser, aside from making snooping extremely easy, is slow.

Speaking of a slow Internet browser, the article concluded with this amusing observation:

The device does do one thing well, he said. Shopping on Amazon is a breeze. “If I were given to conspiracy theories, I’d say that Amazon deliberately designed a poor Web browsing user experience to keep Fire users from shopping on competing sites,” Mr. Nielsen said.

I don't think it takes a conspiracy theorist to realize that Amazon is going to spend a lot more time getting the Amazon store to run just right on their tablet, than perfecting the device's other features!

In sharp contrast to how the Kindle Fire has been received, the Nook Tablet made it onto CNet.com's list of the best 5 tablets.  The iPad is, of course, first, followed by three equally-expensive 10-inch tablets.  The Nook Tablet is last on the list, which I think is to be expected considering it's much smaller than the others and an e-reader.  However, it's also half the price of the others, which I'm sure is part of what landed it on that list.

The full review of the Nook Tablet is largely positive, especially when comparing it to the Kindle Fire:

It costs the same $249 as the original Nook Color, which remains on the market for $199, but adds more storage (16GB, plus a microSD expansion slot), a faster dual-core 1GHz processor, a beefy 1GB of RAM, and an integrated microphone. In short, except for leaving out Bluetooth, Barnes & Noble has addressed many, if not most, of the Nook Color's weak points and put out a strong product that's easily recommendable at its price point.

The review also approves of the Nook Tablet's larger internal memory and expansion card slot (the Kindle Fire has half the memory and no way to expand it).  And if you want a tablet for movie viewing purposes, the reviewer says the Nook Tablet wins that contest hands-down.

Finally, CNet.com published a Nook Tablet vs. Kindle Fire guide to help shoppers choose.  On most things, such as screen, memory expansion, operating system, and battery life, they rate the Nook a little higher.  They do admit, though, that there are reasons why the Kindle Fire might be better for some people, including the ability to download movies for playback later, when you don't have a wifi connection.

If you are thinking of getting an e-reader tablet, both of these articles are good places to start your research!

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