Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Amazon Kindle fire misfires

Melissa J. Perenson | Nov. 16, 2011
All eyes are on Amazon's Kindle Fire to provide fresh competition for Apple's iPad 2, today's dominant tablet.

Other random issues I encountered: The keyboard in the Newsstand didn't work consistently when in landscape mode, it wouldn't always register various taps on the screen, and sometimes the interface ran away with itself (e.g. in one instance, when I zoomed in on a photo, the image moved every which way).

While many of those are clearly software bugs that annoy, but don't impede the use of the tablet, my bigger concerns lie with the image quality compromises I idenitifed with Kindle Fire .

Let's start with the image gallery. A tablet's gallery lets you easily show off photos of family and friends. But Kindle Fire's Gallery app, however, limits the usefulness of this indispensable tool: It resizes all the photos loaded into the Gallery app--regardless of whether you add them by dragging and dropping to the tablet when it's connected to your PC, or you download the image via e-mail. By resizing images, images become soft and pixillated, and you can't zoom in on them (and when you do, all you get is a hot mess of blockiness). One of my test images, for example, was resized to 486 by 324, from its original 3888 by 2592 pixels, which made for an unacceptable viewing experience.

The issue lies entirely with Amazon's Gallery app. That same photo renders well in a random but kludgey free image viewer I downloaded, with better color and saturation, and reasonably sharp detail. But in the Kindle Fire native image gallery? Not even close.

Knowing that Amazon has made such choices for me on the gallery makes me question what other trade-offs the company may have made in the name of Amazon's perceived greater good.

My experience with the native image gallery app makes me question other complaints I had with image quality; I can't help but wonder how much of what I saw was a design decision that traded off one thing for another. My streaming and downloaded Amazon Instant Videos always looked soft, and often pixillated; and text was soft, too--in the Newsstand, and in books at some font and text combinations. (I liked the Lucida font best, and even then it wasn't as smooth as I've seen on the most-capable Android tablets, including models with similar resolution and screen sizes). Even audio playback was wonky; audio reached a reasonable volume and body for music, but sounded downright anemic on videos played through the Amazon Video player, and via the Hulu Plus app (other apps had low-ish volume, too).

For me, those trade-offs are simply not worthwhile, even to save a few bucks. What's the point of being able to easily procure video, if my videos are going to be soft, have artifacts, and not sound great?


Previous Page  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Next Page 

Sign up for MIS Asia eNewsletters.