Kindle Fire Ships Early & (Surprise!) Receives Mixed Reviews

Posted by · November 14, 2011 1:03 pm

If you pre-ordered a Kindle Fire, you’re probably excited to hear today that your new tablet will be on your doorstep a little earlier than expected.

“We’re thrilled to be able to ship Kindle Fire to our customers earlier than we expected,” said Amazon VP Dave Limp in a statement released earlier today. “Kindle Fire quickly became the bestselling item across all of Amazon.com, and based on customer response we’re building millions more than we’d planned.”

Littered with impressive one-liners from publications like Chicago Sun-Times, Gizmodo, Fortune, and Mashable, today’s press release seems to be focused on one thing and one thing only: making sure the Kindle Fire lives up to the hype. Ever since the official unveiling of the new tablet back in September, there has been an incessant back-and-forth between fanboys (and girls) and critics over how Amazon’s alleged effort to challenge the iPad will ultimately fare when it hits the tablet marketplace.

Unfortunately, the general consensus among tech connoisseurs is no less ambiguous now that the Kindle Fire is actually reaching consumer hands.

Residing on one side of the debate are those like Wilson Rothman of MSNBC’s Technolog blog. Speaking matter-of-factly, Rothman tells readers, “You’re reading this to make sure that the Amazon Kindle Fire you already know you want is up to snuff, and well, it is.” After providing a laundry list of the Fire’s features with which enthusiasts, including the author himself, are anything but unfamiliar, Rothman wraps up his article by briefly taking aim at the frontrunner.

“[F]or Apple, this still spells trouble,” he concludes. “The Kindle Fire can handle about 80 percent of what I want to do on an iPad, for 40 percent of the price. And much of what’s missing won’t be missing for long.”

On the other side of the firing line, Wired magazine’s Jon Phillips had a different take on Amazon’s new tablet. He took several swipes at the Kindle Fire’s performance capabilities, as well as its overall construction.

“The Fire isn’t a dud, but its real-world performance and utility match neither the benchmarks of public expectation, nor the standards set by the world’s best tablets,” he wrote disparagingly.

After recapping some of the Fire’s specs, Phillips resumed his seemingly harsh criticism, writing, “As an assembly of physical components, the Fire lives at the bottom of the tablet food chain—and this limits what the Fire can actually do as a piece of mobile hardware.”

“But all those consumers who pre-ordered the Fire knew this going in, right?” he asks sarcastically.

And yet, this critic’s feedback wasn’t all negative. At one point, even he seems to be impressed with the Fire’s handling when it comes to video content: “For $200 you get a perfectly serviceable video player that can stream from three key, big-name sources.” Turning his attention to the tablet’s Amazon Shop feature, Phillips refers to the shopping experience as a “touch-control dream.”

Nevertheless, when it came to his final opinion of the Kindle Fire—especially matched up against the iPad—Phillips remained undeterred.

“iPad killer? No, the Kindle Fire is not,” he concludes with a clear sense of confidence. “But the press has definitely supercharged Amazon’s product launch with a level of hype and enthusiasm that would make Apple proud.”

Yet again, it seems we are left with a conclusion not unlike most situations involving consumer products. Mac versus PC, Chevy versus Ford, Colgate versus Crest—no matter what the matchup may be, consumers seem to possess an innate predisposition for taking sides, irrespective of which product, if any, the empirical data determines to be superior. In other words, consumer loyalty speaks more to the culture that has been cultivated by a company than it does to the specs of a given product.

Of course, there will always be critics who know which features they think consumers should give priority to, and if they’re good critics, they will be able to present their points-of-view in such a convincing manner that their opinions will seem incontestable.

But at the end of the day, that’s all they are—opinions.