REVIEW – AMAZON FIRE 10 HD (7TH GENERATION)

The Fire 10 HD is a tablet computer developed by Android. The one we are looking at today is the most recent iteration of this tablet, the 7th generation which was released in 2017.

The Fire 10 HD is a 10.1-inch tablet with a screen to body ration of approximately 71%. The screen is a 1920 x 1200 IPS LCD panel with a 16:10 screen ration and a screen density of 224 ppi. The screen is by far the best part of this tablet, it is bright, crisp and has a very large viewing angle.

 The Fire 10 HD has a Quad-core processor consisting of two 1.8GHz Cortex-A72 cores and two 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53 cores, making the tablet feel snappy and responsive. For a GPU the tablet uses the PowerVR G6250. The Fire 10 has 2 GB of RAM and comes in two variations for storage 32 and 64 GB but both can accept SD cards of up to 256GB.

The tablet has a VGA front-facing camera and a 2MP rear-facing camera which is capable of 720p video recording. The cameras are definitely the weak point of this tablet and to be frank they terrible to the point of being unusable. However, I have never actually used the camera functionality on any tablet I have owned so this does not really bother me.

The Fire 10 has a 3.5 mm stereo jack and the integrated dual stereo speakers implement Dolby Atmos Audio and they sound great, you can comfortably watch a movie without using headphones.

From a connectivity perspective the Fire 10 has dual-band Wi-Fi and built-in Bluetooth. The tablet has a micro USB connector used for charging the battery and data transfer.

The battery is advertised to last up to 10 hours and after 4 months of daily use I typically get 7-8 hours of usage between charges.

The tablet comes in three color options, red, blue and black and weighs in at around 500 grams.

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A customized version of Android, called Fire OS, is used by Amazon on the Fire product range. This means that the default App store for the device is the Amazon App Store, however the Google Play Store can be easily installed to get access to the entire Android app library.

This device is great for content consumption, and this is predominantly what I use it for. From Amazon Prime video, to Kindle Books and Comic books, to Audible Audio Books, to Magazines, to Podcasts this tablet does an exceptional job at offering a convenient way to get access to a vast variety of content.

Since acquiring this tablet, I read significantly more comic books and magazines as I can easily and relatively inexpensively get access to them.

Now given all this, the real surprise of the Fire 10 HD is the price, coming in at $150(USD) if you opt for the Special Offer option, which means ads will be displayed on the lock screen of the device, or alternatively $15(USD) more to remove the ads. And given that the cheapest variation of the latest iPad is over $300 at present, this tablet offers exceptional value.

From a content consumption perspective, the Fire 10 HD is faultless. With access to the entire Amazon library of content, the selection is endless. So, if you are looking for a cheaper alternative to the iPad with a well-established ecosystem, or you are just looking for a convenient way to read your electronic books, comics and magazine the Amazon Fire 10 HD is a perfect choice.

REVIEW – AMAZON FIRE 10 HD (7TH GENERATION)

WIND POWER BEAST MODEL KIT

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I picked up this model kit from AMAZON when I was in the United States recently. It is an inexpensive kit, priced under $10.

I have always been interested in the works of Dutch Artist Theo Jansen, especially his StrandBeest moving sculptures, and this model is a great way of gaining understanding of how the mechanics of the legs function.

The model is easy to assemble, taking me under 40 minutes to complete, requiring no tools or glue and once assembled the model functions surprisingly well. The one complaint I do have about the kit is that the provided instructions are not always easy to follow, this is in part due to the very poor English translation.

Even given this fact, I would still recommend this kit, not only because of the learnings it provides in walking mechanics, but also as it looks really cool when completed and to top that off it is really inexpensive as well.

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WIND POWER BEAST MODEL KIT

Nintendo World New York and A Quick Update

I recently had the privilege of a two-week holiday in New York City. During this time I visited Nintendo World (located in the Rockefeller Center) and it was a great experience. There were a lot of amazing displays, showing examples of every Nintendo console ever made and even a Gameboy that was damaged in a bombing during the Gulf war that was still functioning. Here are some photos:

If you are ever in New York, I would recommend going to have a look.

Here are some other photos from the trip:

While there I also picked up a few things that I will be covering on the blog over the next few months:

Nintendo World New York and A Quick Update

Review – RAZER MAMBA TOURNAMENT EDITION

Recently my Mad Catz R.A.T. 5 died after several years of great service, so I found myself in the market for a new mouse. After shopping around I decided on the Razer Mamba Tournament Edition as it is a larger form factor mouse which I find more comfortable.

From a feature perspective it measures up against the R.A.T.5 as follows:

R.A.T. 5 Mamba TE
Year Released 2010 2015
DPI Adjustable up to 5600dpi Adjustable up to 16000dpi
Buttons 8 9
Connectivity Wired USB (braided cable) Wired USB (braided cable)
Weight Adjustable up to 150g 133g
Sensor Lazer 5G Lazer
Additional Features Adjustable length, Aluminium Chassis, Removable Thumb Rest RGB (Chroma, configurable)

The Mamba TE does offer a lot less as far as configurability of the mouse’s physical attributes (e.g. weight and length) is concerned, however I do find it extremely comfortable. It is fractionally lighter than the R.A.T. 5 at its heaviest configuration (17g lighter) but in all honesty I cannot feel a meaningful difference. I find that the Mamba TE does feel like a more refined product, which is to be expected with a product 5 years newer.
I loved the R.A.T.5 and I loved that it was built like a tank, however I am really enjoying the feel of the new mouse and it also looks good, especially if you enjoy RGB.

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Review – RAZER MAMBA TOURNAMENT EDITION

A Look At The Leap Motion

The leap motion is a USB connected input device like no other. It allows user input through hand motion and gestures without any physical contact between the users’ hands and the device.

The Leap motion consists of a small flat device which is placed on the desk in front of your screen and to use it you simply hold and move your hands over it. The Leap motion contains Infra-Red Cameras and LEDs to track the position of hands as well as hand gestures.

It is a very interesting experience especially when combined with VR (I will cover this in a post at a later time).

The device can track both the user’s hands simultaneously, which results in a great and seamless experience. The included tech demos are also very impressive.

Here is a video showing the device in action:

The Leap motion is a bit of a novelty device and it’s won’t be replacing your mouse and keyboard any time soon. Also note that the sensing area in which your hands need to be isn’t that big, which is a bit restricting, however it does provide a great tool for experimentation with alternative ways of computer interaction.

I have some big plans for the device with my DIY VR headset version 2 in the future.

It is also worth mentioning that the Leap Motion prices have dropped since launch and I managed to pick one up from amazon for just over $60 when I was in the US last year.

A Look At The Leap Motion

A Story About A Game

15 Years ago I wrote a small game called Hellspawn and I rediscovered it again when I was going through some old backup discs. It is a top down shooter and was developed in Borland C++ Builder (I think version 6). It was a very basic game (especially looking back now) from when I was still a very inexperienced developer, still studying to get a degree.

So if anyone is interested here it is: HellSpawn

To get it working on windows 10:

Use Hellspawn.exe to start the game, but first in file properties:

  • Set executable to run in compatibility mode  – Windows 98 / Windows ME
  • Reduced Color mode – 16-bit
  • Override DPI Scaling Behavior, Scaling performed by – Application
  • Can also set to run in 640 x 480, however is best to change screen resolution in windows to 1024 x 768 for best experience.

compatibility

The controls are as follows:

  • Arrow keys to move
  • Left ctrl keys to fire weapon

Simply kill all the enemies to proceed to the next level.

On another note I have some Steam game keys to give away!

For a chance to win one simply email killerrobotics.me@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Killer Robotics Steam Giveaway’ and for the message content just be creative.

Winners will be randomly selected and announced via twitter.

A Story About A Game

Another VR post and some updates

VR3

In a previous post, DIY VR Part 1, we took a look at apps that allowed a user to stream PC games to a smartphone in stereoscopic 3D, which could then be used with a Google Cardboard compatible headset to experience VR.

This worked well, however the apps examined in the previous post did not support or were not optimized for games specifically designed for SteamVR. For SteamVR to start up a compatible HMD (Head Mounted Display, like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive) needs to be detected, something the apps covered previously did not support, with the exception of TrinusVR which does support this, however it does not support USB tethering with iOS which has a significant negative effect on the experience.

Today we will look at an app that does fully supports this functionality, iVRy.

iVRy is an iOS app that allows SteamVR games to be streamed to an iPhone, and as with the previously mentioned apps, utilizes the phone’s gyroscope and accelerometers for head tracking and movement.

iVRy comprises of a app that is installed on your iPhone and a SteamVR HMD driver to be installed alongside SteamVR on your PC.

The iPhone is then connected to the PC either via Wi-Fi or USB (preferably USB as the results are greatly improved). The next step is to start the iVRy app on the phone and then lastly launch

SteamVR (which will detect the phone as a compatible HMD) and you are up and running.

The app has various settings to optimally configure your VR experience, such as lens distortion correction and field of view settings, with a large list of Google Cardboard Compatible Headsets preconfigured for ease of use.

Another feature of the app is that it auto adjusts image quality to ensure a high frame rates, reducing VR sickness.

iVRy supports a lot of SteamVR titles, working with any game that does not require motion controls, so any game that supports a traditional controller should work. Saying this a controller is pretty much required and any Steam compatible controller will work.

iVRy has a free trial version that does not limit play time, but reduces color saturation after 5 minutes of play time, making the image appear in shades of grey. To unlock the full premium version of iVRy costs $6.99, which removes the 5 minute limitation.

If you are an Android user a similar app is available called VRidge by RiftCat, which costs $14.99. It does however offer a great deal more functionality, thus the higher price.

Now on a related topic, I recently had the opportunity to play around with a HTC Vive at the Microsoft Store at NorthPark Center in Dallas Texas, and it was an amazing experience. I played through a series of experiences, starting with a tutorial based on the game Portal and then flowing into The Blu, AudioShield and finally Space Pirate Trainer. The experience was extremely immersive and I got goose bumps, it was truly mind blowing. The motion controls and room tracking of the Vive work extremely well and helps greatly with the immersion. If you ever have an opportunity to use a HTC Vive I would highly recommend it.

While I was in Dallas I also went to see some interesting sights, like the Oculus VR Dallas offices, where John Carmack is based.

Now for a quick update on the DIY VR Headset Version 2. I have acquired the parts for the new headset, including two 1920×1280 (60 Hz) 3.5inch (89mm) displays (one for each eye) and a Leap Motion, which I will use to implement motion controls. I have decided for the version 2 to use two smaller independent displays mounted in portrait mode (similar to what is done in the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, post Development Kit 1 which used one screen).

I will also look at using iVRy with the Leap Motion to get motion controls working in Steam VR. So watch this space, some exciting things are coming.

Another VR post and some updates