Screenshot_2016-01-03-10-23-39For all those of you who got or bought a $50 Amazon Kindle Fire tablet over the holidays, which way round do you prefer to use it? Which way works best?

For me, it’s fairly obvious that the Fire’s  design leans heavily towards portrait mode. You’ve got the power and volume rocker buttons along the top edge, instead of the side of the tablet. You’ve got all the ports there as well, plus the microphone and the cameras, and the Amazon logo along the back oriented portrait-wise just to drive the point home. You’ve got the categories of the Fire Bellini 5.x OS, which although it looks okay in landscape mode, serves up a beautifully compact portrait layout, especially in Books. (The landscape layout just feels looser and more gappy in comparison, at least to me.) And even though the Fire is not the lightest 7-inch tablet in the world, you’ve got a nicely beveled case design which makes it fit comfortably in the hand – more so than lighter, thinner devices like my Lenovo A7-10.

That said, there’s nothing in the Fire’s design to actively handicap one usage scenario versus another. The Fire’s one-edge layout may have been a simplifying design compromise that helped drive its price down, but it hasn’t worked badly as a usable form factor either. So far, I’ve found only one disadvantage to this layout – that it makes life far more difficult with a portrait docking station. I’ve yet to find a cradle with a micro USB charging dock that doesn’t cover the Fire’s buttons while in use, or turn it off in the process.

So which orientation do you find most comfortable with the Fire’s design? Do you find it pushing you towards portrait rather than landscape? Comments invited.


  1. This seems like kind of a silly question. When I use my Fire, I use it the same way I use any other tablet: in portrait mode most of the time, because that’s the shape generally associated with the type of reading tasks that are what tablets are for. You only very rarely run across books with landscape-shaped pages, and usually those are outliers like coffee-table books that aren’t meant to be read in the same way as a “normal” book.

    But some apps, such as viewing properly-shot video or playing a lot of games, require a landscape orientation. So when I’m playing Hearthstone, I hold it in landscape mode.

    And Amazon does seem to have put some thought into designing the tablet to be useful either way. There’s a specific “correct” way to hold the Fire in portrait mode. If you rotate the tablet 90 degrees to the left, then you’ve got your camera at the upper left corner and the speaker at the upper right corner, where you’re unlikely to put your fingers over either one of them while holding the tablet normally, and the volume control is right under your left thumb. Holding it the other way, your hands cover them up and it just doesn’t make any sense.

    But that being said, I wouldn’t let the positioning of controls and such dictate the way I used the device. I’ll use it portrait for reading and landscape for things that require it.

  2. Interesting, Chris, because I tend to use almost every tablet I have in landscape mode for ereading except when convenience dictates portait. Of course it isn’t always so, but that’s my default preference for ebooks. Maybe that had something to do with early days reading onscreen on laptops and (very early) tablet PCs.

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