Thursday, October 29, 2015

So, how is the battery life on this tablet?

I'll bet that a lot of people are curious how good the battery life is on this Kindle Fire, so I decided to do a "real life" battery test. To simulate a long car trip in the car, I fully charged up the tablet and started playing Disney movies until the tablet shut off.

After 90 minutes, we were down to 72% battery. Not bad. After 3 hours, we were now down to 42% battery life. The 10% low battery warning popped up around the 5 hour mark, and tablet finally died after 5 1/2 grueling hours of Disney movies. That should be enough for even the most demanding car trips to grandma and granddad. Nice work, Amazon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Time to try out the camera on the Kindle Fire.... Ugh.

I noticed that I forgot to try out the camera in the earlier sections of my Kindle Fire review. I really wasn't expecting the 2 MP shooter on this tablet to be all that good, but I still found myself disappointed with how this camera performed.

Once my daughter went to bed, I "borrowed" her new tablet and took a few indoor pictures. The results turned out to be pretty bad:

Note that these (unretouched) pictures are noisy, pixelated, and out of focus. The colors are off as well. The camera app does have to ability to touch a part of the image in an attempt to focus it, but it didn't really seem to help in this instance. The front facing VGA (640x480) resolution camera is just as bad:

Note that the picture is out of focus and the color is off. I know... I shouldn't expect much from a camera sensor that probably cost less than a dollar, but I can't really see a point in having a camera this bad on a tablet at all.

One nice thing that I noticed during this test is that it is relatively easy to e-mail photos from the photos app. Other than that, this was a pretty disappointing (but expected) result. Just to be fair, I'll try taking some photos outside and see if it does any better. That said, don't buy this tablet if you plan on using it for taking photos!

Monday, October 26, 2015

YouTube On The Fire revisited

The problem that I was having getting YouTube videos on the Fire to load has been vexing me, but I found a solution for it.

Since I couldn't get YouTube to load in Silk, I decided to install Firefox for Android instead. To do this, I had to do the following:
  • Under Settings, go to Security. Enable the option to install Apps from Unknown Sources. You will get an scary security warning. Don't worry... you can disable this once you installed Firefox.
  • Get the Firefox for Android .apk download file here:
  • Download the .apk file, and open it. You will be prompted to install the file.
  • Launch the Firefox shortcut (you might have to scroll down to the bottom of the application list) when you're done, and have fun watching YouTube from! Peppa Pig approves:

Victory is mine! I just wish that Amazon didn't make that needlessly difficult to do.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Let's Make This Fire Do Something Useful!

Now that I have the tablet set up, I thought that I would put some videos on it for my daughter to watch.

The first thing I tried was YouTube, which was much more difficult than expected. I tried playing YouTube in the built in Silk browser, but it wouldn't play anything until I told YouTube to display the site in desktop mode.

I thought that I could easily fix the problem by installing an alternate web browser on the tablet, but Amazon doesn't make that easy. The Amazon App Store doesn't have a copy of Chrome on it, OR a copy of Firefox or even the Opera browser. The App Store also doesn't have a copy of the official YouTube app from Google, and only has a few phony apps that do not seem to be much more than links to the web site.  Lame!

It looks like I'll need to copy the official Google .apk files over to the tablet and install it that way. I'm not going to do that now, since it doesn't seem like something a typical Fire Tablet user is going to attempt.

I had much better luck copying videos onto the tablet via USB. Once I got them copied over, I was able to play them with the built in Videos app without issue.

Here is my daughter watching Frozen on the tablet. She seems to approve!

I also had no trouble installing the Fisher Price apps that my daughter likes on this tablet, since they were available on the Amazon App Store. I guess that Fisher Price and Amazon get along better than Google and Amazon do. I didn't have as much luck installing the Seedonk video monitoring software for my nanny cam. It has an Android version available, but it isn't listed in the Amazon App Store.

While installing and trying out these applications, I noticed that the touch screen has some quirks. It doesn't always recognize when I press down on the screen, and I occasionally need to touch the screen a second time for the screen press to work. This is really noticeable in things like the calculator application, when something entered like "123456789" becomes "1245679" because it didn't recognize when I hit the 3 and 8 keys. I'd imagine that playing a game on this tablet would be nearly impossible due to this issue.

My opinion of this tablet hasn't changed much from this experience. It still seems like a decent low cost tablet, but it's being held back by some poor software design decisions from Amazon.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Tablet Has Arrived!

My daughter's new Kindle Fire arrived today. In came a fairly simple package like this:

"A Most Sensible Tablet", indeed. Inside was the tablet, a MicroUSB cable and AC charger, and... that's about it.

The tablet itself isn't much to look at. It's basically a black plastic slab, like most 7" Android tablets.

Here is what the back of it looks like:

I also noticed that the tablet is a bit thicker than my old Nexus 7. Since I'm going to put it in a huge kid proof case, that doesn't really bother me.

When I powered it on, it checked for updates and asked me to connect to my WiFi network. Then noticed that the tablet came pre-registered with my Amazon account (nice touch), and then asked me if I had any kids.

At that point, I saw my first ad. When setting up the account for my daughter, it asked me if I wanted to sign up for a 1 month trial of a service called FreeTime Unlimited. It looks like it comes with a bunch of free kids games and videos, and costs $4.99 a month. I decided to pass on this trial for now.

After setting up my profile, I then got hit with a second ad asking me if I wanted to sign up for a free trial of Amazon Prime. Tempting, but no thanks. Besides, I've been asked if I wanted to sign up for Prime at least a dozen times before from Amazon, and the answer is still no.

I've included a picture of the tablet below that shows what you'll see once you get to the lock screen.

I also included a picture of the tablet at the (Ad Sponsored) lock screen with the optional "Kid Proof" case installed. Game Of War... ugh. I hope that the ads get better from here on in. You can apparently get these ads to go away by contacting Amazon support and spending an extra $15.

The screen looks a bit dim when compared to my old Nexus 7, but it's usable.

I'll be putting this tablet through it's paces over the next few weeks, and will let you know what I think. So far, it seems like a nice piece of hardware with some somewhat annoying advertising on it.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The case has arrived!

The "kid proof" case for the new Kindle Fire has arrived! It's very big, very sturdy looking, and very purple!

It looks like this will do a good job of protecting this tablet, but I'm not really sure if this giant chunk of foam rubber is really worth $20. Only time will tell, I guess. The actual tablet itself isn't expected to arrive for another week.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I need a new tablet

Grr... My 2 year old daughter got a hold of my Nexus 7 tablet, and it went tumbling down the stairs. Now it has a cracked screen. It still works, but I'm worried that either me or my daughter is going to cut their fingers on this thing. SO, it's time for a new one!

Instead of getting another $200 tablet and watching it get destroyed by my toddler, I'm planning on getting one of those new 7" Kindle Fire tablets instead. They are only $49, and you can get them with an optional $20 "kid proof" case that should offer it some extra protection.

They also have a $100 Kids Edition of this tablet, but all that seems to include is the same 7" Fire tablet and case with an extended 2 year warranty and some extra kids games. I'm not sure if that's really worth the extra $30, so I'm going to hold off on that for now.

That said, I'm still a bit concerned about this purchase. Amazon has a habit of locking you into their app and media stores on their Fire products, and the spec sheet on this tablet makes it look like it has a pretty crummy screen. But, hey, it's only $50, right? If it sucks, I only lost enough money to buy a good dinner.

One other thing that I noticed is that none of the big tech sites have a review for the new 2015 Kindle Fire. CNet has one, but I haven't seen anything from the likes of Anandtech or Engadget or The Verge. Amazon (naturally) has plenty of reviews of this tablet on their site, but I'm always a bit wary of those since the average review score is higher than what I saw from CNet. Something fishy might be going on here.

I'll attempt to remedy this shortage of good reviews by reviewing this tablet and case once it arrives in about a week. I'll make sure to take lots of pictures, and let you know how it handles the abuse from a rambunctious 2 year old and her Dad.