Amazon Fire HD 7 Review

fire_hd7

Back in February 2014, I reviewed the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and I was impressed with Amazon’s top-of-the range tablet. Amazon has continued to push their Fire tablet range and the fourth generation of the Fire tablets came out in September 2014. Not only did Amazon bump the spec with the refresh, they bumped the Kindle moniker too, reserving that for the ereaders. On review here, is the Fire HD 7 tablet, Amazon’s offering in the 7″ market. Let’s take a look.

HD Fire 7

In the box there’s the tablet, a travel charger and a USB charging cable. This review unit (courtesy of Amazon) came with a US charger but I imagine that chargers will be supplied according to local requirements.

From the very start the Fire HD 7 is a little bit different from the average tablet with a choice of five different colours – black, white, cobalt, magenta and citron – and obviously this is the white version. I think it would be fair to call the Fire HD 7 as chunky – it’s a little over a 1 cm thick and weighs in at 337g, which specs it very closely to the Nexus 7 2012 but it looks a bit bigger – there’s a bit of trickery going on in that Google devices have narrow chrome bands with curved backs which make them look thinner than they are. Setting the figures to one side, the HD7 feels….fun.

Fire HD 7

Giving the HD 7 a once over, there’s not much to poke at. The front has the main screen and a front-facing camera, on the top side there’s the power button, micro-USB port and the headphone port, and on the left there’s a volume rocker. Round the back, there’s the rear camera and stereo speakers. The rear camera is 2 MP and the front camera is VGA, which seems a bit under-specced for a 2014 tablet but it does record HD video. There’s also a large Amazon logo emblazoned in the middle of the back and not everyone will like the plastic back, though it’s largely a matter of personal taste. Even though the back cover does have a matte texture, it’s not that grippy, so I’d be investing in some kind of case.

Fire HD 7 back

Geek Bench 3Performance-wise, the Fire HD 7 has a 1.5 GHz quad-core processor, with two 1.5 GHz cores and two 1.2 GHz cores. As a result, it scores 766 in single core and 1483 for multicore in Geek Bench 3, putting its performance close to the 2013 Nexus 7 (and much better than the 2012 one). Regardless of what the benchmarks say, the HD 7’s performance in the hand was great.

On powering up, Fire OS looks as good as ever, even on the 7″ display. The screen is 1280 x 800 pixels, giving 216 ppi, which might not be as detailed as some, but the display is good and bright with rich colours that aren’t over-saturated. The carousel style interface works well with apps and media all mixed in together. As before, there are some great touches to the interface with the soft buttons moved to the right-hand side, conveniently under the hand in landscape view but still at the bottom when held in portrait. It’s tempting to review Fire OS but given this is the fourth generation of the tablet, it’s probably unnecessary.

FIre OS Screenshot

However, it’s still all about the apps though, and it’s good to see that the range of apps available in the Amazon Store has increased in the year since I reviewed the HDX. For example, Zinio is now available (though it didn’t want to load on the HD 7) and Mailbox has been released as well, so there’s a great email client too. For the average user, it’s hard to see app availability as an issue.

More than apps, Amazon is about content and as with all Amazon devices, the Fire delivers well. Signing into the Fire HD 7 with your Amazon credentials instantly accesses all your books, music and video content. It’s easy to switch between content that’s on the device and content that’s still in the cloud – there’s a simple toggle on the top right – so managing storage is less of an issue, even on 8 MB devices. Audio playback is good and background noise is minimal, even when listening with earbuds in quiet environments. The rear speakers are one of the highlights of the Fire HD 7, giving surprisingly good sound and add to the atmosphere when watching video.

Amazon Music

For films and TV on demand, Amazon offers its Instant Video – playback of movies is as smooth as you’d expect. I reviewed much of GNC’s CES coverage on the HD 7 and it handled all the video I threw at it.

Amazon Instant Video

As with other Fire tablets, Amazon offers FreeTime, a parental controls app that lets Mum and Dad add apps and content to a child’s profile. Access to the web browser and social networking apps is restricted and the amount of play time can be controlled as well. It’s well done and increases the appeal of Amazon Fire tablets to families.

Turning to price, the base cost is GB £119 for the 8 GB wi-fi version with “Special Offers” aka adverts. Taking the memory to 16 GB ups the cost to £139. Removing the adverts costs an additional £10 in both configurations.

I’ve been using the Fire HD 7 for over a month now and I like it a great deal. It’s fun, robust, inexpensive and with the parental controls, makes a good choice for a family tablet. The screen might not have the highest resolution but if I hadn’t read the spec sheet, I wouldn’t know or care as it looks great. I enjoyed having the HD 7 around and there were plenty of times when I picked up the HD 7 in preference to my Nexus 9. If you are into the Amazon ecosystem, this would appear to be a no-brainer buy…….

….but the Fire HDX 7 is currently reduced by £50 to £149 for the 16 GB versions albeit with ads. This has a 2.2 GHz CPU and 1920 x 1200 (323 ppi) screen, so personally, I think this is the one to get. Tell you what, buy the HDX for yourself and the HD for the kids. Perfect.

Thanks to Amazon for the loan of the Fire HD 7 tablet.

GNC #1013 The FCC Brings the Hammer

The FCC has brought the big hammer and executed the nuclear option. Now it is World War III between the ISP’s, Mobile carrier and the FCC / People. Was this a perfect solution not by far. But if the ISP’s had not installed a Toll gate and become trolls this all could have been avoided.

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Robot Underpants: 02.25.15 (190) “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”

Baron Mat “Langley” Luschek, “Starman” Michael Gaines, Kathy Hopkins and “Karaoke” Bob bring you this week’s latest and greatest, including: Cleveland Comic Con review, Lou Ferrigno interview, Aquaman news, Alien news, Power Rangers short film, Oscars, new Duck Tales, new Pee Wee Herman movie, and more!

Interview with Lou Ferrigno
Karen Gillan Clip
Bruce Campbell Clip
Corey Feldman Clip
Billy Boyd and Graham McTavish Clip

Cleveland Comic Con

Power/Rangers
Aquaman
E Kiss
Alien Movie News
Jeb Bush’s Frank Zappa Wedding Photos

Google Changes Adult Content Policy on Blogger

Blogger LogoGoogle is making a change regarding what kind of content is allowed to be publicly visible on Blogger. Starting March 23, 2015, people who use Blogger will no longer be able to publicly share images and videos that are sexually explicit or that show graphic nudity.

There are some exceptions to this rule. Google will still allow content that includes nudity to be publicly visible on Blogger if it “offers a substantial public benefit”. The example Google gives clarifies “in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts”. In other words, it is the “not safe for work” content that is being removed from public viewing.

To be clear, Google isn’t going to start deleting blogs that contain nude images or sexually explicit content from Blogger. Instead, those blogs will be made private after March 23, 2015. In other words, the only people who will be able to see the content on those blogs will be the blog owners, the admins of the blogs, and the people the owner of the blog has shared the blog with.

The blog owner could invite people to view their blog by adding individual email addresses of each person they want to grant access to. The Google account associated with those addresses could then view the blog by signing into an existing Google account, creating a new Google account, or choosing to view the blog as a “guest” (which would not require an account). A “guest” account expires after 30 days and requires a new invitation before that person can view the blog.

There are some who have pointed out that blogs that have been marked private will be removed from search results. Obviously, this will result in much less traffic to the Blogger blogs that become private as a result of Google’s content policy change. There is another option. Affected bloggers can export their blog’s text and images and repost it on a personal website.

Level 257 Offers Dining Inspired by PAC-MAN

Level 257 logoWere you a big fan of PAC-MAN back in the day? Do you have fond memories of going to the arcade, putting your quarter in line to save your turn, and hoping to get the high score? There’s a restaurant and entertainment center that was designed with you in mind. It’s called Level 257, and it is located in Woodfield Mall, in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Level 257 is a 42,000 square foot entertainment complex that offers casual dining, craft beers, wines, and cocktails. It has its own bowling center, and, of course, plenty of video games for guests to enjoy. It was inspired by the very popular PAC-MAN arcade game.

Their Tumblr notes that Level 257 has a 180-seat dining room, 16 boutique retro-styled bowling lanes, table tennis, and pinball machines. It also has a games lounge with original arcade games that are alongside new titles. There are custom built game tables and free-to-play board games. It’s like a grown up version of the arcade we loved when we were kids. Their Tumblr also says:

Level 257 seeks to explore PAC-MAN’s impact upon our society and pop culture, reminding us all of the importance of play in our lives, while facilitating our desire to relive those times when beating the next level was the most important thing in the world. All while indulging that which we love now – great food and drinks with our friends and family.

The “beta period” (or soft-opening) is happening now through March 2, 2015. Those who want to know more can sign up for more information through Level 257’s website. Personally, I would love to check out this place out, and would happily do so if I still lived in the Midwest.

Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit Review

Devolo Logo

I’m a big fan of powerline networking and Devolo in particular because it helped me double the speed of my internet connection. It was simple; using one of their adaptors I was able to put my broadband router by my telephone master socket rather than at the end of a long extension lead. In one go, my download speed jumped from around 4 Mb/s to over 8 Mb/s. Result.

Obviously these speeds are trivial in comparison with data transfer rates achieved by gigabit networking and the limiting factor is the internet connection, but where a media enthusiast has set up a DLNA server in a house with multiple playback devices – smartphones, tablets, media streamers, smart TVs, games consoles – significantly higher data rates are needed and this is where the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Starter kit is likely to come in handy. Let’s take a look…

Devolo 1200+

For those who haven’t come across powerline networking before, it’s a way of using a home’s electricity sockets as a network infrastructure. A minimum of two network adaptors are required; plug one into a power socket near the router and connect with a network cable. Plug the other into a power socket near, say, your smart TV, and again connect via network cable. The two adaptors then communicate across the electrical network, connecting the smart TV to the router. It’s that easy.

Opening the box (courtesy of Devolo), there are two network adaptors, two network cables and a getting started guide. As can be seen from the picture, the adaptors aren’t small, but they do have power pass-thru, so there’s no loss of a power socket. Somewhat oddly the bulk of the adaptor points upwards, whereas the older adaptors tend to point downwards and were more discreet. These units are for the UK market, with different plug configurations available for other countries.

Devolo dLAN 1200

Devolo Hard to ReachBoth of the adaptors come with gigabit ethernet ports; there’s one on the smaller unit and two on the larger. The larger network adaptor takes the usefulness of powerline networking a step further with the incorporation of a wifi access point. It’s not just any old wifi either. It’s an 802.11ac implementation meaning that it broadcasts on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, supporting data rates of up to 1200 Mb/s, which is broadly “state of the art” as it stands.

On the box, Devolo helpfully points out some of the areas where ordinary wifi coverage may be less than ideal, including the smallest room. It gave me a chuckle.

Devolo 1200+ Network Ports

Devolo Adaptor AddGetting going with the Devolo dLAN 1200+ is easy. As these adaptors come pre-paired out of the box, all that needs to be done is plug them in and connect up. The LED “house” light on the larger unit will flash red until connection is made and then go solid white – perhaps taking 20 seconds. Introducing the adaptors into an existing network is straightforward as Devolo has great software that helps with this too.

Devolo provides three ways of interacting with the dLAN adaptors. First, there’s a desktop version of their Cockpit software for Windows, Mac and Ubuntu Linux.

Devolo Cockpit PC

Second, there’s an app for iOS and Android. There are currently two apps for Android, Cockpit and My Devolo, both of which do much the same in terms of the dLAN adaptors, but My Devolo appears to be the newer. The screen shots are from Cockpit.

Devolo Cockpit Devolo Cockpit Devolo Cockpit

Finally, there’s a web interface.

Devolo Cockpit Web

The impressive part about the dLAN1200+ WiFi adaptor is that it isn’t just a wifi extender: it’s effectively a fully featured router with DHCP, access control, parental control and guest setup, along with everything else needed to configure the wifi. If the non-wifi dLAN 1200+ adaptor was connected to a pure cable or broadband modem, there would be no need for any other equipment. Very neat.

Devolo Web

Performance-wise, the Devolo dLAN 1200+ seemed both fast and solid. For over a month, I used the dLAN 1200+ WiFi supplied network services for most of the devices in my house, including smartphones, tablets, ereaders, laptops, a Chromebook, Sky+ TV on-demand, and two Roku media streamers. No problems to report with connectivity or stability. In terms of speed, I was able to stream three different HD movies to three tablets at the same time without any glitching or stuttering.

In closing, there are two features of Devolo’s products that I think set it apart from the cheaper end of the market. First, there’s great backwards compatibility with older products; I was able to use three generations of Devolo products in the one network. Second, their comprehensive management software which is available as an app, application and web service.

Overall, the Devolo 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit is excellent. The devices themselves are well-made, though perhaps on the large side but it’s a great setup for those where the the living room is far away from the main router. There are two gigabit sockets on the adaptor for any equipment that doesn’t have wireless, plus fast WiFi for those devices that do. With the option of using the 5 GHz frequency for congested areas or to spread the load, the wireless performance is great.

The Devolo 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit is available online at around £160, which isn’t cheap but considering what comes in the box, plus the performance and the benefit of getting wifi where you need it, I think it’s value for money.

Thanks to Devolo for the review unit.

GNC #1012 The FCC Battle Draws Near!

The FCC battle / vote is this week and thus the lawyers are going to have a field day. Many a car and home will be able to purchased from the proceeds before this is all over.. I am sure a trip to the Supreme Court as well. Meanwhile my corporate taxes are in with the CPA Wahoooo.

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Cleveland Comic Con 2015 (Images)

Wizard World kicked off its first Cleveland based Comic Con this weekend with an impressive “thousands of fans” attending, according to Wizard World PR. Lou Ferrigno and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson cut the ribbon Friday evening to open the doors for the inaugural con. The event included celebrity guests (mostly from the West Coast) commenting on the record cold weather Cleveland was experiencing, but all in good fun. Notable attendees included Bruce Campbell, Joey Lauren Adams, William Shatner, Drea De Mateo, and Karen Gillan among others.

Wizard World has already announced dates for next year’s Cleveland Comic Con, which will be held Feb. 26-28, 2016.

Stay tuned for this week’s Robot Underpants show here on Geek News Central for audio clips from some of the panels.

MacKeeper Provides Human Tech Support For Your Mac At CES

mackeeper logo

Even though Macs are well-known for their security, it’s still important to keep tabs on your Mac’s security. With excellent anti-virus protection and built-in tech support capabilities, MacKeeper is the perfect Mac security and support solution.

Jamie and Nick talked to Jeremiah Fowler from MacKeeper about his product. MacKeeper is an application with a wide range of features to protect and enhance your Mac. You can connect with a real technician to troubleshoot and solve computer issues, manage and protect your Mac’s data against viruses and security breaches, clean up your system, and much more.

MacKeeper’s support staff are certified IT professionals, so you can rest assured that you’ll get expert assistance every time. MacKeeper runs quietly in the background of your system, so you won’t experience annoying lags in speed or performance. And with pricing as low as $7 per month, you won’t have to break the bank to get user-friendly all-in-one tech support for your Mac.

For more information, visit MacKeeper’s website.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Nick DiMeo of F5 Live.

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D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router

D-Link LogoWith wifi routers and access points, there’s a subtle game of one-upmanship based on the number of aerials sprouting from the device. If unit has only one aerial or it’s embedded in the unit, it probably comes free from the broadband or cable provider; two aerials is soooo 11g, three aerials and the router’s got some chops; six aerials….now you’re getting serious. Todd gets up to speed with the AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi router from Daniel Kelley, VP at D-Link.

The AC3200 is a serious piece of kit. To start with, it looks like something straight out of a sci-film, a red stealth fighter fully armed with six laser cannon. And while the laser cannon are really aerials, you get the point – it means business. The AC3200 is a tri-band router using one set of frequencies in the 2.4 GHz range and two sets in the 5 GHz. It intelligently assesses the bandwidth and QoS (Quality of Service) demands of the connecting devices and allocates them to the most appropriate channels, and if necessary, can aggregate all three bands giving a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 3.2 Gb/s. No matter that the actual data rate will be much lower, it’s still screaming fast.

Additionally, the AC3200 uses beam-forming technology to focus the wifi signal to where it’s needed, rather than transmitting uniformly everywhere. On the wired side, there are four gigabit ethernet ports and two USB ports (one USB3, one USB2) for connecting up storage (DLNA server built-in) or printers. The AC3200 can be the hub of a connected home.

The AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (aka DIR-890L/R) is available now on-line for around $300. It’s pricey, but you get what you pay for.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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