For the past two years, I’ve carried an essential bit of kit along with me on flights. Given that I make at least one trip – two flights – per month (this year will actually work out at 38 flights all told for the year, so three flights per month), I actually spend a lot of time on planes. Not as much as some travellers, to be sure, but enough. To help pass the time, I’ve got into the habit of ripping and downloading DVDs onto a mobile device (or equivalently buying the download from Amazon) so that I can watch them on the flights.
Back in the day I used to do this on an iPod Touch, but then the Kindle Fire came out: a nice, if a bit heavy, 7 inch tablet. The software for it wasn’t that great (after all, two years ago it was brand new), but I didn’t really care. I needed it for video playback and for reading, the rest (games & productivity) I wasn’t too bothered about. In other words, I wanted to use it as a consumption device only. I bought the bottom of the range, an 8GB device, and it was pretty much ideal. For longer trips, say to Europe, I found I had to replenish the video files on the device before the return trip, but it wasn’t too onerous. The only real naff bit for me was the fact that, although nominally a stereo device, in landscape mode the speakers both pointed to the right. Bloody silly design.
Then, a year later, out came the Kindle Fire HD. This time, I decided to use some of my flight miles to buy one, so I obtained a 32GB version, still in the 7 inch format. This, along with the much better screen and the faster CPU and the lighter weight, was a great improvement: I could now preload every video I wanted to watch on the trip before the flight out. The speaker setup was better, one either side in landscape mode, but this time the speakers pointed away from you since they were on the back (the cover I used had little cutouts for the speakers). On a flight that was no issue since I was using earphones anyway, but later on in the hotel room it was noticeable I wasn’t getting the full aural benefit.
And now, I’ve just partaken of a 15% off promotion by Amazon to buy the Kindle Fire HDX, a 7 incher again. Again lighter than the previous version, faster chip, slightly smaller, a beautiful retina screen. I got the 32GB version again since it worked out so well before. The speakers are better still, and delightfully more audible, this time because the cover I bought for it (the origami cover) cleverly projects the sound forward. All told, a great buy, and I will be testing it out for real (as it were) with next week’s trip to New York.
Now, although I’d played around with some apps on the Kindle Fire HD, for the most part I didn’t particularly bother. I had Facebook, Twitter, gReader (an RSS reader) that I used fairly regularly, and I bought Documents to Go for some document writing, but not much else. For the HDX, the tablet is much faster and the screen is much better so I’m going to try for a more productivity-based usage. gReader has been booted (it hasn’t been updated for the Amazon AppStore for a year or more) so I’ve switched to the Feedly app (I purchased the premium version of Feedly anyway when Google Reader was chopped), so it’s no contest. I’ve finally married up Documents to Go with Google Drive, so I can just keep documents in the cloud. The ThinkOutside keyboard I have, although small and light, makes too many compromises as an input device, so I’ve ordered a Microsoft Wedge Keyboard to see how that works out.
Before anyone asks why I just didn’t go for the iPad Mini (as an example), the answer is simple: Amazon Prime. There really is no contest if you primarily want to use a device for consumption. Yes, sure, ripped DVDs play on any tablet. But downloaded videos? Amazon has no real competitor. I watched the first four seasons of Breaking Bad by buying the DVDs and ripping them. The final two seasons? I bought from Amazon and downloaded them. If I’m in a hotel room I can stream a gazillion videos for free from Amazon. And all because I use a Kindle Fire and paid the $79 for Amazon Prime. And I get free two-day shipping for a year to boot. So, nice device Apple, but I’ll stick with Amazon on this one.