Amazon Kindle Fire: What the web is saying

Early reviews of Amazon’s(s amzn) Kindle Fire tablet appeared on Monday, in advance of the device being received by customers. A mixed bag of impressions round out the reviews, which isn’t surprising because of the varying use cases for Amazon’s 7-inch Android (s goog) tablet. Some are comparing it to the Apple iPad(s aapl), which makes sense to a point, although few will be likely to own both devices. The iPad offers far more capabilities due to the larger display and wider range of third-party apps. Amazon’s Kindle Fire has fewer functions, but to some, can perform those admirably at less than half the price.

The timing of the reviews coincide with my own decision to pre-order a Kindle Fire just yesterday: I explained my decision-making process of the Fire over the Nook Tablet here. If I like the Kindle Fire, I’ll end up selling my current 7-inch slate, a Samsung Galaxy Tab. But as I pointed out in my article, I don’t think consumers looking for a low-cost media tablet can wrong with either e-reading tablet. Yet discussion around the web seems pretty polarizing between the Fire and Nook Tablet today, based on the initial reviews.

At MSNBC, (s cmcsa)(s ge) Wilson Rothman loved the device and thinks Apple should be concerned that it has no similar form factor device to compete in the category. I’ve long craved a 7-inch iOS tablet for greater portability over the 9.7-inch iPad, but so far, it’s just a unicorn. Rothman points out that the Kindle Fire’s main features work well enough to provide an Apple-like experience:

I’ve had it [Kindle Fire] since Thursday — reading, watching video, listening to music, checking email, even playing some games — and I can say it’s tight. Turn it on and you know what to do, like with an Apple product. So much like an Apple product that Apple should be scared.

Over at the Chicago Sun-Times, Andy Ihnatko continues the Apple versus Amazon theme in his detailed review. Although Ihnatko sees room for improvement in the user interface of the Fire, he notes that with Amazon’s ecosystem, you get a capable device for $199. And buyers may find themselves in one of these two camps instead of choosing an alternative Android tablet:

The Fire is a marvelous device. And Apple and Amazon couldn’t have created a more complementary pair of tablets if they’d colluded on it. Want a tablet that does everything, and which does books exceptionally well? Buy an iPad. Want something more compact, and you’re not terribly interested in much more than content consumption? The Fire is aces. I feel as if every potential tablet consumer will recognize themselves in one of those two descriptions.

Not everyone is impressed by Amazon’s new tablet, however. Jon Philips of Wired offers a mostly negative writeup of the Kindle Fire suggesting the 7-inch screen is “too small for any semblance of an immersive reading experience.” After reading dozens of Kindle books on my 7-inch Galaxy Tab, I wholeheartedly disagree and wonder if Philips has ever read a book on a smartphone, where it’s even more cramped. Other than video playback, Philips just wasn’t impressed by the device’s functionality, saying:

At the end of the day, the Fire must be judged by how well it executes in terms of its Newsstand, Books, Video, Apps and Web features. It does nothing very well, save video playback, running various Android apps, and making the business of Amazon shopping alarmingly fun and easy. If you already have $200 in your high-tech hardware slush fund, and you’re not willing to splurge one cent more, I suggest you wait longer before pulling the trigger on a tablet. Let that nest egg build. Let it grow interest. Wait for the Kindle Fire 2. Or — yes, I’m going to go there — consider an iPad.

There’s no lack of other reviews today and once my own Kindle Fire arrives, I’ll share my impressions. And of course, the Barnes & Noble Nook(s bks) Tablet for $249 also arrives later this week, giving consumers another low-cost media tablet option. Between that forthcoming device and today’s reviews, commentary on Twitter is all over the map. Here’s a small sampling of the more interesting tweets I read today.!/davezatz/status/136116078127480832!/ldignan/status/136027859352436736!/willfanguy/status/136090141717573633