Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: Kindle Fire Web Experience

I've already reviewed the video and book reading capacities of my Kindle Fire. Time to turn to the web experience. How is it?

One of the things I was looking forward to when I got my Kindle Fire was being able to wirelessly surf the web while not being tied down to a desktop or laptop computer. I expected the experience to be somewhat slower but wasn't prepared for how much longer it seemed to take for a webpage to download into Kindle's Silk web browser. Not quite as bad as dial-up, but I wasn't used to waiting for (by today's standards) ages for a webpage to appear.

To get to a webpage, you can select Web in the overhead menu or select amazon, IMDb, or Facebook from the shortcuts at the bottom of the main page. Selecting Web opens the last webpage you visited, which in my case was I admit that one of the ideas I had was to be able to read comicbooks digitally using my Kindle Fire. I figured buying an annual subscription at Marvel would let me read all of the old comicbooks I loved as a kid but not take up any valuable storage space in the home (or costing me billions of dollars to replace everything I had when I was young).

But first, the general web experience.

To go to another site by typing in the URL, tap the URL bar to make the keyboard appear. Depending on your relative "texting" skills (mine are awful), you can type in the address of the site you want to visit. There's even a .com button so you are spared entering the suffix as individual characters. As you type, the history shows the URLs you've most recently visited, and you can select any of those if it's where you want to go.

While my fingers aren't overly fat, if there are a lot of links or buttons on the page I want to press, I tend to tap and miss the mark. Changing the orientation of the screen from portrait to landscape helps a bit, but of course, I sacrifice the length of the page. When I do "fat finger" the wrong link or button. I have to hit the back button, wait for the previous page to load, and then try again. I don't know if this is a problem in Silk, the website in question not being well designed for mobile web devices, or me being clumsy. It's just my experience. I do find that using a very gentle tap seems to work better in these delecate cases.

Now on to comicbooks at Marvel.

This one I blame on whoever designed Marvel's website.

I'd love to read 1960s vintage comicbooks. It was the silver age and my childhood and Marvel was just a lot of fun back then. You can read the first few pages of any comic for free, so I thought I'd try my Kindle Fire out by trying to read the beginning of an old Spider-Man comic. Here's what happened.
When the cover of the comic loads into the browser, there are two green arrows (no reference to the comicbook character intended) at the bottom of the screen for forward and back. To advance to page one, I have to successfully tap the right arrow. But nothing happens when I do. Or I get a white screen with an exclamation mark in the middle and have to hit the browser's back button. Unlike a book on Kindle, I can't just use a sliding finger motion to move to the next page.

I tried changing to landscape orientation to see if that helped. After multiple taps, page 1 finally appeared. Changing back to portrait orientation makes the page readable. At this point, I can use my finger to drag the page and move to page 2, but there's an annoying tendency to snap back to page 1 when I remove my finger. Frankly, the entire experience is more frustrating than it's worth. I don't want to have to sit at my desktop to read comics. It's something best done sitting in a living room chair or reading in bed late at night.

I don't know if Kindle Fire could improve this problem or if it's something the folks at have to fix. However, the Silk web browser, though passable, still leaves a lot to be desired. Or maybe mobile web browsing still needs to be perfected. In any case, as of now, browsing the web with my Kindle fire is not the main reason I'll be using the device.

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