Friday, 23 September 2016

Amazon Fire HD 8 is now the choice Amazon budget tablet

Amazon updated the Fire HD 8 and judging from the changes, it seems we have acknowledgement that they got it wrong with the previous iteration of the device. Below is a summary of the changes:
  • First, Amazon got the pricing wrong with the 2015 Fire HD 8, with most vendors offering tablets with similar specifications at a lower price. The price of the Fire HD 8 has been slashed from £129.99 to £89.99. I think the lower price with the specifications offered now makes the Fire HD 8 a more attractive budget tablet than the Fire 7. 
  • The anaemic battery of the previous generation (advertised as ‘up to 8 hours’ but in real world use it was significantly less) is upgraded to an estimated ‘up to 12 hours’. 
  • The glossy back (a finger print magnet) is now replaced with a matte finish, similar to the Fire 7. 
  • The back camera has been reduced from 5MP to 2MP. This is a good compromise, considering many users don’t use their tablet’s camera. 
  • The processor is slightly bumped down but RAM is increased to 1.5 GB. The previous generation, while not unusable, did suffer from lags and delays when multi-tasking or opening new files or applications. The extra RAM should help with performance.  
  • The entry level storage is doubled from 8GB to 16GB. I found 8GB to be manageable on Amazon devices, as they are not bloated with Google apps and services that comes with standard Android (Fire OS is based on Android).
  • Amazon is further moving forward in the integration of its services (in my opinion, Amazon is well ahead in service integration across devices), with Fire HD 8 advertised to soon receive Alexa support. This move makes sense in the context of Amazon releasing for the first time, outside the US, updated models of the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot.

Monday, 5 September 2016

What is the right e-reader size for PDF files?

The release of the 7.8 inch Kobo Aura One raises the question on what makes the right size to read PDF files. The answer depends on use-case scenarios. For example, many humanities books come in an A5 size and the 8 inch form factor is ideal for these books. On the other hand, science books and complicated PDF files, with a two column layout, require closer to 10 inches to be comfortably read. Similarly complex magazine pages are better suited to larger colour tablets.

Personally, I find the eight to nine inch e-reader to be the right size. At this size there is the right compromise between size for comfortable reading and portability. It is not too small, e.g. six to seven inches, but not too big for one-handed reading. The portability and convenience of a smaller form factor makes a big difference for long reading sessions, especially outdoors or in tight spaces on public transport.  I prefer to read in portrait but can switch to landscape, if half a book page is viewable and text size is legible. With six inch e-readers the landscape view often gives you snippets or small text and it is easier to lose your place within a larger book.

Another important factor to consider, especially with the eight inch e-reader, is the right software to optimise reading with an eight inch screen. With KOReader, for example, it is possible to set reading to scroll mode and alter PDF page margins. Accordingly, many PDF files can be comfortably viewed and navigated, considering the restrictions of a smaller eight inch screen, in portrait mode.