Last year, the consensus was that the Fire HD was a good media consumption device, but if you wanted to do anything else, good luck. Amazon wants to change that this year. It’s made some significant (or, less generously, insanely tardy) additions to Fire OS (we’re officially calling it that now), if not quite enough to really punch weight with iOS and Android and even Windows Phone for pure productivity.
Fire OS 3.0 was almost totally rewritten from last year, and is now running on Jelly Bean 4.2.2. That’s a huuuuuge upgrade from 2.0, which was running on Ice Cream Sandwich, and combined with the hardware bump makes the HDX feel far smoother than the HD did last year. Games looked good, and rendered well on the screen, but we didn’t get to put it through the paces quite as much as we’d like, loading heavy movies or just popping in and out of apps quickly, so we’ll let you know how that looks when we get a little more time with it.
You can also swipe up from the main “Carousel” screen and come to a familiar Grid. Instead of being nothing but apps and folders, like iOS, you can pin books, movies, shows, documents, or anything else you want there, almost like Windows Phone, just less information-dense.
Other improvements include threaded email, at last, starring and tagging in Gmail, and additional syncing options for the calendar. There are also a load of new Enterprise security features.
And it wouldn’t be an Amazon software update without some stuff that’s very cool on paper, but won’t use all that much. Here, it’s X-Ray for Music, which shows you all the lyrics in a song you’re listening to, and lets you skip to certain sections. X-Ray for movies also got improved, with trivia from IMDB, and the songs playing on-screen (or in the entire movie) added to the overlay. X-Ray is, as always, very cool, very useful, and something a lot of us will forget exists most of the time, but use for five hours in a row when we remember.
Fire OS 3.0 also adds multitasking, which, it’s about time! You get at that by swiping from the right side of the screen (or the bottom in portrait mode, which seems overly confusing) and you can see recent items. Unlike other multitasking, though, it’s content-level, not app-level. That means you’ll see several different books, or several movies, instead of just “Books” and “Movies” there. It’s a smart tweak for something used to read and watch stuff as much as a Kindle Fire.
This is the first smartphone to use an AMOLED display with a Full HD resolution. Measuring 4.99in across this gives it an on-paper pixels-per-inch figure of 441, up from 306PPI on the Galaxy S3. As always, it’s worth noting that the display uses a pentile arrangement of subpixels - with two colours per pixel, rather than three – which means its actual resolution is less than equivalent LCD displays.
This is less of a problem on a Full HD display than it was previously. The incredibly high number of pixels-per-inch makes the lack of refinement, usually apparent on the edges of text, practically unnoticeable. Furthermore, the incredible contrast you get from an AMOLED display more than makes up for any small perceivable loss of detail.
In practical use there’s far less difference between this and the LCD HTC One than their technology would suggest. The pentile pixel arrangement doesn’t seem to noticeably effect detail on the S4, while the contrast on the HTC One was also excellent. The colours on the S4 are a little richer at any given brightness, but then the HTC One is far brighter at its maximum setting, handy on sunny days - although run it that way all the time and your battery life will be severely diminished.
Speaking of brightness, Samsung’s controls are far better, with a brightness slider always present on the notifications drop down menu. This also lets you tweak the auto brightness settings, allowing you to have it a few steps brighter, or dimmer, than the variable default. By comparison the HTC One makes you dig in the menus to adjust it and offers no such tweaking of the auto setting
Having said all that, the biggest difference is simply that the S4’s screen is bigger. It’s not a huge deal when using apps day to day, sending texts, or hammering out a quick email, but for browsing desktop website sites, playing games and watching video clips it’s a big plus.
The Samsung Nexus 10 is easily one of the finest tablets on the market and this can be noticed as soon as the device is turned on. The vibrant colors shown on the display and the beautiful definition rivals the Retina screen found on the third and fourth-generation iPad. It’s cheaper price tag also makes it a bit more appealing for customers looking for a high-end tablet and don’t want to shell out $500 for a Wi-Fi iPad.
The Nexus 10 features a 10.1-inch Super PLS TFT capacitive touchscreen display with 2560 x 1600 resolution. This gives the tablet an impressive pixel density at 300 ppi. This is definitely the main selling point of the Nexus 10. The screen is arguably the best in the tablet market. Specification numbers and the actual screen helps one see that Samsung and Google have set a new standard for slates. Apple is certainly hard at work trying to find a way to one-up Samsung with the next generation iPad. And even with the more powerful display, the Nexus 10 never has overheating issues that the third-generation iPad sometimes has.
The Samsung Nexus 10 is also one of the fastest tablets on the market with its dual-core 1.7 GHz Exynos 5250 processor and 2GB RAM. Every task can be performed with great speed and it blows away other high-end slates such as the Galaxy Tab 2, third-generation iPad and Galaxy Note 2. Paired with the latest build of JellyBean, the Nexus 10 is one of the smoothest Android devices on the market.
The Google Nexus 10 comes with Android 4.2 JellyBean pre-installed. This is probably the best marriage of hardware and Android available. The software runs extremely smooth on the tablet and looks fantastic. The layout is simple and easy to use for anyone who is somewhat familiar with Android, and even those who are used to other platforms. The device can be upgraded to Android 4.2.1 and has an advantage over other Android tablets since it will always be one of the first to receive software upgrades thanks to its Nexus label.
The 9000 mAh Nexus 10 last pretty long with a full charge. With minimal use, it can even last over three days. The device’s display and ultra-fast processor do not tax the battery in ways that other high-end specs do on other tablets and smartphones.
The Nexus 10’s exterior definitely could hinder someone from being interested in purchasing it as it doesn’t differ enough from previous efforts made for the slate market by Samsung. Its outer shell is made of plastic and despite using lighter material, the device is still quite heavy. It is certainly not as sleek and sharp as the iPad and definitely could use a slimmer body if Samsung decides to create another model. Exterior design is easily one of the Nexus 10’s weakest points.
Aside from its high-end specs, the Samsung Nexus 10 is also a bit more affordable than the newest 16GB iPad, which costs $499 Wi-Fi only. Customers can save $100 and pick up the Nexus 10 for $399. However, the only drawback with the Nexus 10 is that there is no LTE model currently available. So even though the Wi-Fi model is cheaper, the LTE option is simply not there, hurting the overall appeal of the slate.
Samsung should consider continuing this line and adding LTE connectivity. Other than that, the Nexus 10 is perfect for consumers looking to purchase a high-end tablet and don’t have the need for a carrier connection.