Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Amazon Fire 8.9 HDX 2014 Review


Amazon has just released their 3rd generation flagship Fire 8.9 tablet and it has a new naming convention. The company has dropped the name Kindle and the device is just known as the Fire HDX 8.9, a bit simpler.

The 8.9 edition has always cost the most money and this time around it is a staggering $379, which puts it in the same territory as the iPad. The question is, if you have last years HDX model, is this worth upgrading? Additionally, many Fire HD owners may want a bigger screen to play games, read books and watch movies, is this a viable investment?



One of the benefits of the entire Fire 2014 product line is that it is fully compatible with the Fire TV. IT has a feature called the second screen, which allows you to replicate exactly whats on your tablet on the television. This is similar technology that the iPhone and iPad employ to build synergy via Air Play to the Apple TV.

The 8.9 slate has a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels and 339 PPI. The screen composition is IPS LCD and features a capacitive touchscreen, able to display about sixteen million colors. One of the new graphical enhancements was the inclusion of “Dynamic Light Control”, which changes the white balance of the pages in reading mode to make it look more like paper depending on the ambient light conditions. That means it can go from cool to warm, from blue to nearly yellow.

Underneath the hood is Qualcomms Snapdragon 805 chip, which is top of the line. It clocks in at a staggering 2.5 GHz via the quad-core processor and has 2 GB RAM. Raw performance aside, Amazon is claiming 12 hours of runtime this year, roughly similar to its predecessor. In addition to that 805 chip, this is also the first tablet with Dolby’s Atmos surround sound technology.

In a side by side comparison with the 2013 edition of the Fire HDX, this new model blows it away with sound quality. You can really hear the difference and if you have solid Noise Cancelling headphones or high-end headphones you will notice an immediate difference with the clarity. You will NOT get the same audio quality using ear buds though, so don’t even try. I always thought the HDX 2013 model had the best sound in ALL tablets, but the 2014 version now takes the crown. If you want the best tablet audio experience, buy this ASAP.

The overall design has just changed from the one released in 2013 and the 2014 model. Side by side it looks exactly the same, all of the Micro USB, speakers, headphone jack, cameras and speakers are positioned the same. I could tell that it was a little bit thinner, and 30% lighter due to the lightweight nature of the new components.

To be completely honest, this is a solid tablet on a fundamental level. On paper the specs are crazy and can compete with anything currently on the market. The inclusion of a new line of Kindle Keyboards that attach to the Fire, much akin to the Microsoft Surface is welcome. The Sound, the design, resolution blow away anything Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Samsung or Google have done this year.



Amazon has never provided a cookie cutter vanilla Android experience like most of its competitors do. Instead, they have their own skinned version which builds upon familiarity the more time you spend with it. Previous Fire owners will feel right at home with Sangria, the name of the Android 4.4 OS.


There are a number of software enhancements not found on any other Fire HDX model. The first is Firefly, one of the core features that helped sell the Fire Phone. It basically uses the rear facing camera to scan books, UPC, or bar codes and pulls up the Amazon listing for it. Additionally, it borrows a page out of Shazam’s playbook and helps identify music.

Amazon has built quite a media empire with with their movies, television shows and music. They are really trying hard to compete against Netflix by doing a ton of original programming. One of the unique things that they do is invest in a series of pilots and then have the crowd determine what is good enough to warrant a full season. Building on this, the company has developed Advanced Streaming And Prediction (ASAP). What it does is buffer advance content you are watching. Lets say you are you watching Alpha House on Instant Video and check out episode one. It will buffer episode two and three in advance so you will not have to wait, and will be able to view the entire episode immediately.

One of the features that proved to be critically popular in the last generation of tablets was MAYDAY. This feature gives you free access to By 24/7, 365-days-a-year tech support at a click of a button. A small video chat window appears to a rep in the call center to assist users with hundreds of small issues. It is important to note that you can see them, but they cannot see you, only hear you from the built in microphone.

Lets talk about the main UI that the Fire HDX provides. First of all, there is a small carousel of apps, books or any type of new content you have accessed for the first time or stuff you bought from Amazon. You can quickly navigate to the store of your choice and access eBooks, music, videos, apps, audiobooks and other useful stuff like Cloud Photos.

Amazon has their own app store, which is your gateway of getting new content. This tablet is not compatible with Google Services, so Google Play is out. The Amazon App Store is growing, but it still does not have apps from people who compete against their own core business model. You won’t find Comixology, Kobo, Nook, Moon+ Reader or thousands of awesome e-reading, eBook, manga or comic book apps. You can load in your own apps by installing a 3rd party app market, like our own Good e-Reader App Store.

One of the drawbacks on the Amazon store is the data files, or OBB files. Amazon makes developers physically host them and this can rack up the bills with games that have 1.2 GB of extra assets to download. Many of the top developers simply don’t upload their content to Amazon, and instead use Google, which is on more devices.

e-Reading Experience


When it comes to eBook discovery and search engine algorithms, nobody in the e-reader space can touch Amazon. They account for over 70% of all digital book sales in North America and similar stats for the United Kingdom. One of the ways they have been so successful, is cornerstoning specific markets, like Audiobooks.

Audible is the most successful platform to ever be bought and incorporated into everything Amazon does. They not only have the largest library but they also are the ones that feed Apple content. When you browse the iTunes store for audiobooks on any iOS device, everything is sourced by Audible.


One of the ways Amazon has built synergy between audiobooks and their tablets is WhisperSync for Voice. You can purchase an eBook and the corresponding audiobook and actually read the book and play the audio edition at the same time. While you are doing this, the words get highlighted, which is excellent for someone learning how to read or learning a new language. Amazon also built technology that remembers where you are in the eBook and you can pick up where you left off while listening to the audio edition.

The core of any Amazon mobile device is reading. The entire process of reading is much akin to the Kindle App for Android, if you have used it. There are options to change the size of the font, change the font type completely or adjust the line spacing or margins.

X-Ray is one of the seminal Kindle reading features that is severely underrated. It basically gives you a rundown of the people, places and things in a an eBook. This is really useful for non-fiction that may throw a bunch of terms you have never heard before or historical fiction that will inevitably make reference to terminology that is beyond you.

GoodReads also plays a small role in your daily reading life. I find that reading digitally is a solitary endeavor. You aren’t going to a real bookstore and interacting with fellow book lovers. You buy and read by yourself, but GoodReads attempts to make this social. There are virtual bookclubs you can elect to join or even engage in Q/A with your favorite authors. There is also an option to develop your own reading lists and set personal goals for yourself.

Not only can you read eBooks, but there is a rendering engine for magazines and newspapers. Reading them have animated page turns with curl, which means you can swipe to peak whats on the next page. You can also initiate scroll mode, which gives you all of the pages within a certain issue to jump to a specific article or news item.

Wrap Up


The Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 may cost a pretty penny, but it is the best tablet they have ever made. It plays nice with the Fire TV and has enough innovative features that it makes a worthy upgrade from older models. This is one of the best Android tablets ever made and Amazon really hit a home run with their 3rd generation model.


Hardware is Amazing
FireFly and ASAP are welcome additions
Audiobooks and eBooks have the biggest selection anywhere
Audio quality is the best in class in ANY tablet


Amazon App Store lacks in specific areas
No SD Card
Can’t access the files via USB if the Tablet is in standby mode

Rating: 9.5/10

Amazon Fire 8.9 HDX 2014 Review is a post from: Good e-Reader

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 10.1 Review


Barnes and Noble has been making tablets since 2010 and designed all of them in-house with their RND team in California. After four generations and $1.2 billion dollars in loses they decided to outsource the hardware to Samsung and focus on developing apps. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 10.1 is the offspring of this new partnership, giving people the safety and security of being able to walk into their local Barnes and Noble bookstore to buy the device, but also take it back for tech support.

The bookstore as a primary vehicle to sell e-readers and tablets has always been B&N’s greatest strength. Often when you buy things from eBay or from Amazon, it is quite difficult to return products or get any type of warranty. Many users have stuck with the Nook brand over the years because if anything goes wrong, from a cracked screen or a faulty battery they often swap it out on the spot or assist you with common issues or firmware updates.

Is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 a viable investment? If you own the Nook HD+ or Nook Tablet, is this a good upgrade? Today, we evaluate this 10.1 inch device and answer all of your questions.



The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 10.1 edition has the largest screen found in any Nook device in the past. The Bookseller often just sold seven inch tablets and broke the mold with the HD+ which was nine inches. Having a largest screen displays more characters in an eBook and makes media content really shine. The resolution is only 1280 x 800 pixels at 149 PPI, which is a bit of a downgrade on paper from the Nook HD+ which had 1920 x 1280 pixels. In reality, if you put the two tablets side by side, the Samsung variant actually has a better screen. You simply don’t notice terrible resolution, in-fact the new model looks better.

Underneath the hood is a 1.2 GHZ Quad core ARM Cortex-A7 processor and 1.5 GB of RAM. This keeps things rather speedy overall, but I did find that some of the apps created by Nook actually took a few seconds to load, which was abnormal.

Nook owners have been clambering for years for the inclusion of a camera to be able to take pictures or shoot video. Their pleas have been heard and you now have a 1.3 MP front facing camera and 3 MP rear facing. This certainly won’t win any awards as more companies are touting their super high-end cameras, but at least you will be able to use apps like Snapchat, Instagram and Vine.

Make no mistake about it, this is a Samsung tablet with no Nook branding on it at all. The only thing that makes it feel like a Nook is the logo on the boot screen and some of the customized widgets and apps that are on your home screen. It may have made economical sense to source the hardware to Samsung, instead of developing it yourself, but its at the expense of brand recognition.



The Samsung Nook 10.1 tablet is running Android 4.4, otherwise known as Kit-Kat. There is no word on whether or not it will receive the latest Lollipop update to provide further enhancements to the OS.

When you turn on the tablet for the first time there are two main widgets on your home screen, one that accesses your library and the other to visit the store. This provides easy access to all of the new purchases you have made, but also if you are upgrading from an older tablet or even the Nook line of e-Readers, everything is stored in the cloud.

There are three app stores packed on the device, the Nook App Store, Samsung Galaxy App Store and Google Play. All three require you to register and make a new account, but I think Google is the logical choice. There simply are better quality apps available, chiefly because the Samsung store is fairly woeful and only has a few thousands. The Nook App Store does not allow any apps that compete its core business. You won’t find Comixology, Amazon, Kobo or any other magazine, newspaper or e-reading app.

There are a few customized apps that Barnes and Noble has made to give distinctiveness to the user experience. Lets take a look at all of them.

Nook Library


The Nook Library houses all of the purchases you have made from Barnes and Noble. This includes eBooks, comics, magazines, newspapers, television shows. There is a shop button on the top right hand corner, which opens up their online store that sells all of the content.

eBooks are opened by the quintessential Nook app for Android, which has been available on Google Play for years. One of the things I always liked about reading on the Nook is the different backgrounds. Kobo and Kindle have always just had three different background colors, but Nook has six. You can easily change the bright white background to Sepia or different shades of off-white. This makes it easier to read in the dark, without having to strain your eyes. I also dig the way Nook handles animated page turns, wikipedia lookups and built in dictionary.

Magazines and Newspapers are opened via a special Nook for Magazine app that has been completely revised for this new Samsung model. The one thing I really like, aside from the animated page turns is "article view." This strips away all of the images and CSS and turns a magazine into an eBook.

Nook Shop


The Nook Shop was designed as a standalone app that lets you browse books, magazines, movies & TV, Kids, Apps, Newspapers and Comics. The only thing international users cannot access is media content, but all others are completely viable. The Home screen is curated content by the Nook team, currently they are hyping "Passion for Passion" and "Your Favorite Heroes."

Nook Search


Nook Search is a standalone app that allows you to type in key terms that you want to look for in the shop. You can look at specific keywords, such as "post apocalyptic" or "Potter." It will then give you a huge list of titles matching your search results in everything B&N offers in their store.


Nook Settings


The last unique aspect of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is the customized Nook Settings. Now it is important to note that you do have access to traditional Android settings too.

Nook settings allows you to control the way all of the dedicated Nooks apps behave. You can download alternative dictionaries and make them your default. Right now there is only six, but I was told more are on the way.

Reading Experience


This tablet really shines when reading the average eBook title. Ideally, you want to read eBooks in portrait mode because in landscape it gives you a two column view. To be honest, I prefer to read in landscape mode, but was disappointed that there was no way to  remove the two column reading experience and instead was relegated to reading in portrait.

There are eight different font sizes to choose from and six font types. There are plenty of options to optimize the line spacing, margins and themes. I like the way the themes work on this device. I am sure we have all tried reading on a smartphone or tablet and the black text on bright white background can be straining on the eyes. The inclusion of themes mutes the background color into all sorts of off-whites that remind me of vellum and Sepia.  Switching between any of the reading options is really inutitive and easy to determine what setting you want to tweak. This is a stark contrast to the new of Fire Tablets where nothing is labeled, and you have no idea on what setting does what.

This tablet falls off a cliff when it comes to comics, magazines and newspapers. The rendering engine they use does not really give you much zooming options, and often the text is too small to read. You will have to rely on ArticleView, which is the option to strip away all of the CSS elements, and give you pure text. This is useful, but for example with a newspaper, you have to do this every single page, and gets really tedious.

I think the problem is that it is using the magazine rendering engine for all content and  newspapers and comics are not optimized properly. I would firmly encourage everyone to not buy this content from Barnes and Noble and instead do business with a company specializing in it. If comics are  your thing, Comixology. Marvel, Dark Horse, Made Fire and plenty of others have excellent user experiences. If you are into Manga, Chrunchyroll Manga and VIZ are two solid ecosystems to buy and read. For newspapers, I would firmly recommend Press Reader, as they  have replica editions of thousands of newspapers from around the world. Finally, if digital magazines are your bag, Zinio continues to be the best value for Android.

So aside from eBooks, you ideally want to do business with different companies, but what about audiobooks? Barnes and Noble has just unveiled their new Nook Audiobook app that is available on Google Play, Good e-Reader and the Nook App Store. It has 50,000 titles, which has something for everyone. The app is really solid, has a great interface and another reason to buy into the Nook ecosystem.

Wrap Up

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 10.1 edition costs $319 dollars and provides huge screen real estate for all of your reading needs. There is more text on the screen at once when compared to the seven inch version released last month.  The speakers are actually really nice too,  they are placed on the top right and left corners,  ensuring that you will never be muffling them when holding the tablet with two hands.

After using this 10.1 inch tablet for a few weeks, I have actually grown to really like it. Living in Canada the only restrictions that Nook places on me is the ability to rent or buy television shows or movies. This content is geographically locked, so you can’t access content unless you live in the US or UK.  Really, I wouldn’t even buy this type of content from Barnes and Noble anyways because I have a subscription to the WWE Network, Netflix and Crunchyroll. If I need to buy a movie, I’ll just get it on iTunes and sync it to my iPad or Apple TV.

The question is, should you upgrade to this model if you have an older Nook tablet. I would, it is very modern and will easily last you a few years of constant use. Nook HD and HD+ owners will get value, but if you have any of the older models, this will be a night and day experience.


Giant 10.1 inch screen
Great Speakers
Excellent eBook experience
Google Play makes it easy to download new apps
Two Cameras
Huge Keyboard makes typing easy


Exclusive two column view on eBooks
Comics, Magazines, Newspapers viewing is weak
Takes 8 hours to charge it from max power when battery is drained
Does not feel like a Nook Tablet, no Nook branding

Rating: 8/10

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 10.1 Review is a post from: Good e-Reader

Barnes and Noble Launches New Audiobook App


Barnes and Noble has just unveiled their new Nook Audiobook App for Android. It is currently in beta and should be ready for prime time in the next few weeks. The service is launching with over 50,000 bestsellers, so there should be something here for everyone.

This is not the first time that Barnes and Noble has gotten into the audiobook game. In July, they shut down their old service that relied  on Overdrive to provide  all of the content. It was counter intuitive for users to buy the audio editions from the Nook website, only to be forced to download the Overdrive Media Console app, register an account and listen to content.

I have been tracking the e-reader and eBook industry since 2008 and Barnes and Noble has never sent out a press release or given media any sort of updates on what they were doing in the audiobook arena. The new app should change all of that, as the Nations largest bookseller makes a serious play to incorporate audio into their extensive library of eBooks, magazines, newspapers, graphic novels and movies/television.

Barnes and Noble Launches New Audiobook App is a post from: Good e-Reader

Collection Highlights: Trending Titles for November

Join us for the latest edition of OverDrive Collection Highlights, Trending Titles for November, where we dig into dozens of new releases in popular genres and provide quick links that make it easier than ever to shop for these titles in OverDrive Marketplace. Just click the Prezi above to hear all about our favorite recent releases for kids and young adults, new romance reads, newly available streaming videos, eBooks about food and cooking for the holidays, and much more. Note: For the best audio experience, we recommend watching this presentation in Chrome.

Carrie Smith is a technical writer at OverDrive.

6 Gift Ideas for the eReader Who Has Everything


Are you struggling to think of a gift for the avid reader in your life? The obvious choice is to buy him or her an eReader so that buying and storing books is easier and cheaper. But what do you do when your loved one already has a quality eReader along with, it seems, all the accessories he or she needs with it? Check out our top six picks for gift ideas!

1. Gift Cards


Any avid reader will thank you for the opportunity to buy and collect more books. But gifting books through places like Amazon can get tricky since you don’t always know which books your loved one wants. That’s where gift cards come in handy, since he or she can choose the books at his or her leisure.

When you buy gift cards, make sure they’re compatible with your loved one’s eReader. Amazon gift cards will work for Kindle while Barnes and Noble gift cards are for Nook eReaders. Kobo is another eReader app you can buy gift cards for that allows readers to purchase magazines, books, and more. You can even add a personal message to a Kobo gift card.

2. Chromecast


If the reader in your life has more of a tablet than an eReader (like the Kindle Fire opposed to the Kindle Paperwhite) where they can browse the web and download new apps, then he or she might find a Chromecast device useful.

Users simply plug Chromecast into their TV through the HDMI and USB ports, and then they can use their eReader tablet to play videos straight on the TV through apps like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. Best of all, this little device turns your TV into a smart TV for one low price of $35.

3. An Upgrade

So it seems the reader in your life has everything, huh? Well, does he or she have an iPhone 6 Plus? If the answer is no, then a technology upgrade could be exactly what he or she needs. Not only is the iPhone compatible with eReader apps like Kindle so that the user can still take their books anywhere, but it can do so much more than a regular eReader can.

Plus, it features a 5.5-inch display, making it easy to transport in your pocket while still offering a big enough screen for reading.

4. Accessories

Maybe it seems like your loved one has all the accessories he or she needs, but there are always more designs to choose from. Here are a few accessories for an eReader you might consider:

  • Cover or skin
  • Screen protector
  • Stylus
  • Car charger
  • Tablet stand
  • Compatible wireless keyboard
  • Headphones

5. An Autographed Book


Even readers who prefer digital format can’t pass up an autographed print copy of their favorite book. Sure, they can’t store it conveniently with the rest of their digital bookshelf, but an autographed book means so much more than just the words on the page. Find out what his or her favorite book is and try to track down a first edition copy or an autographed copy he or she can treasure forever.

6. Solar Charger

Of all the accessories your friend or family member has, does he or she already have a solar charging eReader cover like this one? When taking long breaks outside at the park or on the beach, an eReader’s battery can feel like it drains too fast. With a solar charging case, readers can enjoy the sun and their book without worrying about draining the battery so fast. Simply plug in the case to the device via USB.

As an added bonus, solar charging covers like the one mentioned come with an LED light that can help make it easier to read in the dark.

While you may be struggling with what to get an avid reader for a birthday, Christmas, or Valentine’s day, you should now have a better idea of what he or she might like. What gift from this list will you buy the reader in your life?

6 Gift Ideas for the eReader Who Has Everything is a post from: Good e-Reader

Sonic Dreams with Meta-eX and Sonic Pi

Dr Sam Aaron is the creator of our musical programming environment, Sonic Pi, and a researcher at the University of Cambridge Computer Lab by day. By night he’s something else altogether. The music from this video by his band, Meta-eX, was all composed on a Raspberry Pi using Sonic Pi.

Sam’s hoping to make a making-of video – we’ll feature it here when he does. In the meantime, dim the nights, put on some headphones and enjoy.

Have you checked out our Sonic Pi competition? Your UK school can win a half-day workshop with Sam and Juneau Projects, Raspberry Pis, and more. You’ve got until January 9 to enter – learn more here!

Slotomania Game is Now Slots of Fun for iOS Devices


Few things are more addictive than a quality slots game, which is a formula made more enticing when you also add a competitive social component. First made famous on Facebook, Slotomania free video slots games is the number one free slots game in the world –and for good reason. Developed by Playtika, Slotomania has shown a commitment to ongoing content development and improvement, being able to boast over 55 slot games to choose from that are enhanced by countless bonus features and hidden mini games… and now it is all available on iOS to be played on your iPad and iPhone devices.

You begin by choosing one of the unlocked games, understanding that there really isn’t such thing as a bad decision here (even though each game is a little bit different, with unique ways to earn free spins, launch attacks, and make matches). Choose how many lines you want to play, place your bet per line, and spin the wheel! You can hold the button to select auto spinning as well, but that takes all of the fun out of it if you ask me. For those of you that have never played slots before, it can take a little while before you really have a handle on how the patterns are matched and see them easily –but you will be a pro in no time. Truth be told, watching the dials spin is really rather relaxing.

Beyond trying to earn coins, is the need to accumulate XP in an effort to level up (just in case you needed any additional motivation to keep playing a few minutes longer, higher levels unlock even more games –though some have to be purchased instead of earned).

Feeling like a winner? Try your hand at playing in the live tournaments, playing your favourite games against hundreds of other players in an effort to win the growing prize pool! Feeling social? Send gifts of free coins and free spins to your friends (and hope that they reciprocate)!

The graphics in the game are high contrast and alive with colour, with each slots game complimented by its own sound effects that you will find are equal parts hypnotizing and entertaining (as long as you tend to enjoy maniacal laughter, and the sound of bells and some sort of twinkling).

Whether you find this to be good or bad, Slotomania offers a near constant stream of in-app purchase incentives and special promotions primarily promising deals on coins (you may choose to buy a little stock pile of virtual currency to begin with, even though there are plenty of opportunities to win and earn it as you play).

If I had to point to a negative aspect of the game, I did find it quite annoying that there was no way to connect the game to Facebook but then choose to turn off the frequent pop-ups asking to contact your friends or post achievements and bonus offers on your wall.

Slotomania Game is Now Slots of Fun for iOS Devices is a post from: Good e-Reader