I expected the Kindle Fire to be good for books, great for magazines and newspapers, great for video, and good for apps and games.
In practice, it’s none of these.
It gets meaner from there.
What killed the Fire for me was its sluggish and often nonresponsive interface.
Try to think back to the first time that you used a computer with a mouse. Do you remember being somewhat tentative with your actions? Like, you moved the mouse around really slowly? How does moving this thing on my desk relate to moving the cursor on screen? You slammed your finger down on that mouse button when you had to click? How much force is required for this thing to respond? You stared at the mouse pad for a minute when the mouse reached the end of the pad but the cursor was still nowhere close to where you wanted to click? What do I do when this thing on my desk hits a limit that’s not on the screen? When you had to double-click, you did it like a starving lab rat on crack hitting the button for a pellet? How fast do I need to hit the damn thing? But, rather quickly, as you became familiar with its movements and saw that it was really quite responsive, you learned to actually trust the little thing?
The Kindle Fire is not like that. The Fire constantly ignored my taps, almost always showed a noticeable delay between sliding my finger and scrolling the screen, and frequently would indicate that a button had been tapped but then do nothing at all. I never felt like I could trust it. When using the Fire, I felt tentative and slow instead of confident. It never felt effortless.
If I want using a computer to feel like work, I have an underpowered, half-decade old work laptop with Windows XP and Lotus Notes for that.
More generally positive reviews (see Linda Holmes or Farhad Manjoo) focus on the relative value-for-money of the Fire. Manjoo calls it (paraphrasing) 70% of an iPad for 40% of the cost. But if that missing 30% of an iPad includes “not a total pain in the patoot to use,” then it still costs still too much. Not all value can be expressed in dollars.
(For point of reference, I do not own an iPad. In terms of touch-centric entertainment gadgets, I have an iPhone 4 and a first-generation iPod touch, gadgets that aren’t perfect but have never struck me as unresponsive or utterly frustrating.)