Tablet display shootout: Apple iPad ‘excellent,’ Amazon Kindle Fire ‘major flaws’

Dr. Raymond M. Soneira, President of DisplayMate, reports, “The two new Tablet stand-outs for this Display Shoot-Out are the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. It was nice to hear that they both feature IPS LCD displays like the iPad. But IPS displays are not all the same and do not perform equally because, like cars, they are actually complex assemblies that include lots of options and variables… We’ll begin with the iPad because it’s the standard that all other Tablets are compared to… The iPad 2 has an excellent display, virtually identical in performance to the impressive iPhone 4 Retina Display, with a somewhat higher pixel resolution but a much lower pixel density of 132 ppi due to its much larger screen size. The iPad 2 IPS LCD display is fairly well calibrated and delivers bright images with excellent contrast, reasonably accurate colors and very good Viewing Angle performance with small color shifts but a large decrease in Brightness, which is the case even for the best LCDs. A major shortcoming is a reduced Color Gamut, but the iPad 2 improves on-screen image color saturation by steepening its intensity scale.”

“In principle, the LCD on the Kindle Fire is a fairly good display, comparable in most respects to the Nook Tablet and iPad 2 – but it has two major flaws, and only one of them is fixable with a software update,” Soneira reports. “Amazon advertises that the Kindle Fire has an ‘anti-reflective treatment’ but our lab tests found it to have among the highest reflectance levels we have ever measured – it’s 70 percent higher than the iPad 2, and more than double the reflectance of the Nook Tablet. That may not matter much if you are reading in bed but it’s likely to be a significant factor indoors and especially outdoors. It’s also a surprising piece of puffery for Amazon – who’s generally a very straight shooter.”

Soneira reports, “Another big disappointment for the Kindle Fire is the Gallery, the native application that is used for viewing photos and images. First, the gray-scale is way off, and overdriven so hard that significant picture detail will be lost with bright images. It’s very similar to what happens with an over-exposed photograph – all of the bright content appears washed out or even lost all together – see the screen shots in Figure 4 below. Like the Nook Tablet, the Kindle Fire uses a version of Android for its OS, but the User Interface on the Kindle Fire is much closer to vanilla Android – and most of the time it’s much nicer than the Nook’s own UI. But the Kindle Fire still carries a major flaw in Android that I pointed out almost 2 years ago with the Nexus One, and which Google acknowledged. The Gallery provides only 16-bit color – that’s 65 thousand colors not the “16 million colors” that Amazon advertises. It also produces noticeable steps (called false contours) in some images. While the display hardware can do 24-bit color it doesn’t show up on-screen in the Gallery viewer due to the software design. It’s about time that Amazon and Google fix this… Fortunately, the Web browser on the Kindle Fire does support full 24-bit color for web images.”

“Another display related issue is that the chunky menus in the Kindle Fire Gallery eat up 100 pixels of the screen, so photos only get 500 of the screen’s 600 vertical pixels,” Soneira reports. “If you display a standard 4:3 digital camera photo it only fills 54 percent of the screen and a 16:9 photograph only fills 72 percent of the screen. To fix this the UI needs to be updated so that the menus disappear after a few seconds the way they do in other parts of the Kindle Fire UI.”

Much, much more in the full article here.

Related articles:
If Amazon’s Kindle Fire is so hot, why is it still in stock? – December 19, 2011
‘Kindle Fire: The Missing Manual’ author to return Kindle Fire, keep his ‘years ahead’ Apple iPad 2 – December 15, 2011
Amazon touts Kindle e-reader sales with few details – December 15, 2011
Amazon’s tiny screen Kindle Fire’s big security problem – December 14, 2011
Lack of parental controls on Amazon’s tiny screen Kindle Fire lets kids charge up a storm – December 12, 2011
Disgruntled early adopters of Amazon’s tiny screen Kindle Fire have slew of complaints – December 12, 2011
Amazon’s tiny screen Kindle Fire estimated to play distant second fiddle to Apple’s market-dominating iPad – December 6, 2011
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen tests Amazon’s tiny screen Kindle Fire: ‘A disappointingly poor user experience’ – December 5, 2011
Instapaper creator reviews Amazon’s tiny screen Kindle Fire: Bad game player, bad app platform, bad web browser, bad video player and bad Kindle – November 18, 2011
PCWorld reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Flawed, unimpressive, subpar; can’t hold a candle to iPad – November 16, 2011
Mossberg reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Frustrating, clunky, much less capable and versatile than iPad – November 16, 2011
Apple iPad 2 vs. Amazon Kindle Fire: Bootup, browsing, and Netflix streaming (with video) – November 16, 2011
Wired reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Web browsing sucks, emotionally draining, makes reading a chore – November 14, 2011
NY Times’ Pogue reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Sluggish, ornery, unpolished – November 14, 2011
The Verge reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Uninspired, confusing, incredibly unoriginal – November 14, 2011
Engadget reviews Amazon’s tiny-screen Kindle Fire: Sluggish, clunky, too limiting and restricted – November 14, 2011

PC Magazine reviews Apple iOS 5: The best phone and tablet OS, Editors’ Choice – October 15, 2011
The Guardian reviews Apple iPad 2: Ahead of the pack – March 25, 2011
The Telegraph reviews Apple iPad 2: Does everything better; now’s the perfect time to join the iPad club – March 25, 2011
Computerworld reviews Apple’s iPad 2: ‘The Holy Grail of computing’ – March 16, 2011
Ars Technica reviews Apple iPad 2: Big performance gains in a slimmer package
Associated Press reviews Apple iPad 2: Apple pulls further ahead – March 10, 2011
PC Mag reviews Apple iPad 2: The tablet to get; Editors’ Choice – March 10, 2011
Associated Press reviews Apple iPad 2: Apple pulls further ahead – March 10, 2011
PC Mag reviews Apple iPad 2: The tablet to get; Editors’ Choice – March 10, 2011
Pogue reviews Apple iPad 2: Thinner, lighter, and faster transforms the experience – March 10, 2011
Baig reviews Apple iPad 2: Second to none – March 10, 2011


    1. It’s a POP (a wireless point-of-purchase register connected to Amazon. What all these reviewers fail to understand is the only thing it was designed to be good at was buying stuff from amazon. 😉

        1. Oh, I beg to differ. Yes its pathetic, but it’s still funny.

          I haven’t seen one yet but when I do I am sure I am going to have to work hard to stifle the outright guffaw into a quiet chuckle.

  1. Even if the Fire is flawed there are consumers that really don’t care. They’ll buy anything as long as the price is low enough. Anything can be justified or excused if the price is low enough.

  2. Very interesting articles. I love digging down into the depths of technical analyses in different fields. The end of each article is a blatant advertisement, but that isn’t unreasonable considering the amount of effort they expended. You could consider these articles their technical portfolio.

    I would love to hear Apple’s technical explanations for the choices that were made in gamma, etc. Perhaps Apple should give these guys a few bucks for consultation.

  3. ∑ = Well DUH!
    If you’re going to compare the Apple iPad 2 to the Amazon Fire OF COURSE the Amazon Fire will FAIL! The thing was never intended to compete with the iPad in the first place.

    HEY TECHTARDS! The Amazon Fire is an eREADER! Getting the clue yet?! Sheesh. 😯

    1. But Amazon advertises the Fire not as an ereader but for “Movies, apps, games, music, reading and … revolutionary, cloud-accelerated web browser”

      e-reading is fifth in their list.

  4. I LOVE my iPad 2! When you own the best, there is no need to concern yourself with the rest. 😉

    I actually prefer using this to my MBP when it comes to surfing the web and reading news sites mainly because I really dig the iPad versions of sites like CNN, Politico, CNET and of course MDN. I find them easier to navigate and find stuff on compared to the standard web versions.

    I can’t imagine doing the same thing on these other devices with the much smaller screens and in the case of the Kindle Fire, the higher reflectivity issues mentioned in this article.

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