Monday, 7 December 2015

Amazon Fire firmware update & Fire HD 8 Reader's Edition

Amazon updated Fire OS 5, with some extra features. The highlight is 'blue shade', which, in the words of Amazon, is meant to minimize blue light, reduce eye strain and provides low-brightness for reading in darker rooms (there are applications that offer something similar e.g. Twilight and f.lux). The feature is based on a study by the Harvard Health Publication and works to intelligently adjust the colour filtering to suppress the blue light:
Recent studies by the Harvard Health Publication have shown that evening exposure to blue light from electronic screens can suppress our bodies’ production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone. A lack of melatonin can prolong the time it takes to fall asleep, which in turn can delay REM sleep and reduce alertness the following morning. Blue Shade gives you the option to fine-tune the color settings, with the device intelligently adjusting the color filtering so that at any color or brightness, the blue wavelength light is always suppressed.
A nice perk, with the update, is open access to Washington Post content for six months (the newspaper is owned by Amazon). The interface of the newspaper is intuitive - articles are navigated by swiping to the right and swiping to the left provides access to the contents menu.

Finally, there is the introduction of the Fire HD8 Reader's Edition (currently only in the US). This is a bundled version of the tablet with a year subscription to Kindle Unlimited and a 'limited edition' brown rustic leather case. I think a bundle like this works better with a Kindle e-reader, while Amazon Prime, would be the better option with a Fire tablet. Kindle Unlimited, itself, is restricted in terms of choice and it would probably be a better idea to use the cost of a Kindle Unlimited subscription to select specific books that you actually wish to read from the Kindle store (only a small fraction of books in the store are available via Kindle Unlimited). In terms of the Fire HD8, then it is not a bad tablet but there are better options for its mid-range price. Amazon can be hit and miss with both their hardware and pricing; at the moment, the Kindle Paperwhite, basic Kindle, Fire HD6, Fire 7 and Fire TV Stick, are the best options for both hardware and value.  

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