In a slightly surprising turn of events, Amazon decided to ship its highly anticipated tablet, the Kindle Fire, a day early. Those who pre-ordered the 7-inch tablet will receive theirs shortly. Others will have to wait later in the week to place an order. Announced a few months ago, the Kindle Fire has become the most buzzed about gadget going into the 2011 holiday season. Some say it's the first tablet that will give the iPad a run for its money. Other say it a full realization of what Amazon has been building over the past couple of years. Pre-orders for the device topped a million units, and analysts are saying it may even outsell the iPad 2 during the holiday shopping months. It's tall order for a device very few have used. 

To help consumers decide whether or not they should drop $200 on Amazon's newest gamble, a number of high-profile tech critics spent some time with the device and released their reviews this morning. To further help you, we picked five we thought best represented the gamut of tech reviewers. The consensus? The Kindle Fire is a good device; quick, light if a bit chunky, intuitive, and inexpensive. But it will have a tough time besting Apple's industry-leading iPad. To get more in depth, read the blurbs and reviews below. 

David Pogue, The New York Times 

"Most problematic, though, the Fire does not have anything like the polish or speed of an iPad. You feel that $200 price tag with every swipe of your finger. Animations are sluggish and jerky — even the page turns that you’d think would be the pride of the Kindle team. Taps sometimes don’t register. There are no progress or “wait” indicators, so you frequently don’t know if the machine has even registered your touch commands. The momentum of the animations hasn’t been calculated right, so the whole thing feels ornery.

"The Fire deserves to be a disruptive, gigantic force — it’s a cross between a Kindle and an iPad, a more compact Internet and video viewer at a great price. But at the moment, it needs a lot more polish; if you’re used to an iPad or “real” Android tablet, its software gremlins will drive you nuts." 


Joshua Topolsky, The Verge: 

"This isn't an iPad-killer. It has the potential to do lots of things, but there are many things I have yet to see it do, and I wonder if it will get there given the lean software support… Still, there's no question that the Fire is a really terrific tablet for its price. The amount of content you have access to — and the ease of getting to that content — is notable to say the least. The device is decently designed, and the software — while lacking some polish — is still excellent compared to pretty much anything in this range (and that includes the Nook Color). It's a well thought out tablet that can only get better as the company refines the software. It's not perfect, but it's a great start, and at $200, that may be all Amazon needs this holiday shopping season." 


Sam Biddle, Gizmodo:

"It's not as powerful or capable as an iPad, but it's also a sliver of the price—and that $200 will let you jack into the Prime catalog (and the rest of your media collection) easily and comfortably. Simply, the Fire is a wonderful IRL compliment to Amazon's digital abundance. It's a terrific, compact little friend, and—is this even saying anything?—the best Android tablet to date." 



Tim Stevens, Engadget 

 "When stacked up against other popular tablets, the Fire can't compete. Its performance is a occasionally sluggish, its interface often clunky, its storage too slight, its functionality a bit restricted and its 7-inch screen too limiting if you were hoping to convert all your paper magazine subscriptions into the digital ones. Other, bigger tablets do it better -- usually at two or three times the cost…the Kindle Fire is great value and perhaps the best, tightest integration of digital content acquisition into a mobile device that we've yet seen." 


Jon Phillips, 

" 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.

"The Fire’s 7-inch, 1024×600 screen is too small for many key tablet activities. The Fire’s processor, a 1GHz dual-core chip, appears all but insufficient for fluid, silky-smooth web browsing, an area where I found performance to be preternaturally slow. And unlike most of its tablet competitors, the Fire lacks a camera, 3G data connectivity, and a slot for removable storage. 

"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?"