Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 31,
A little late, but happy thanksgiving everyone, or should I say, happy Black Friday?
Today is Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. It seems every-one loves shopping for the super deals, but not me. The deals this year seem ok, and while I do enjoy looking around and seeing what is all out there, I don't do well in crowds for some reason. Every year, my wife tries to drag me along, but I rather pay the full price on a quiet day than to go out and fight like hungry dogs over that last piece of scrap to save a couple of bucks. On top of that, it seems that with these Black Friday deals, you are often just settling for something because it is cheaper rather than getting what you actually wanted.
This week has been quite the week for me. With last week's release of the Kindle Fire and the NOOKtablet, I have been getting a lot of questions. In addition along with some Christmas gift shopping, I picked up a few more DVDs that people mentioned they had issues with. More on that later.
Actually nothing major this week. Last week had a few major releases, and as a result this week was more about Black Friday deals and reviews from last week's devices.
DVD Catalyst News:
Well, I couldn't resist. I mentioned last week that I would not pick up a NOOKtablet because it isn't that much different from the NOOKcolor in my opinion, but Sunday I had to pick up some lumber and when I drove past Barnes & Noble, I figured I might as well. This week I've been alternating between the NOOKtablet and the Kindle Fire for my own use, and shared my experienced on the website.
Aside from that, I have been doing some work on DVD Catalyst. I had a few ideas come to mind and am working on implementation of them.
A quick write up on unboxing the NOOKtablet along with some pictures of the NOOKtablet next to my other tablets.
NOOKtablet 1080p Sample Video:
Of course, after unboxing the NOOKtablet, I had to see if it could actually play HD video files.
NOOKtablet First Impressions:
The results of my first evening of watching video on the NOOKtablet.
NOOKtablet How To Guide:
Of course, a new device needs a new How To guide. Rather than simply copy & paste of the NOOKcolor guide, the entire guide is written from scratch, and contains some additional info regarding file-size, something not found in any of the other guides.
Kindle Fire Streaming Guide:
It basically works for everything that has a webbrowser and that plays MP4 files, so you can use it for the NOOKtablet as well. With the limited storage available on the Kindle Fire (and the NOOKtablet) streaming your own movies is more of a requirement rather than an option. The guide explains the steps in full detail.
Kindle Fire 1080p Sample Video:
Similar as with the NOOKtablet, I used a 1080p MP4 file to test the Kindle Fire's video playback capability.
As I mentioned earlier, I picked up a fair collection of "Problem DVDs", DVDs that some people reported as having some form of complication.
Kill Bill vol.1 (2004) DVD
Kill Bill vol.2 (2004) DVD
Both the Kill Bill movies convert just fine, however, I received some questions regarding the "forced subtitles", subtitles for only the non-English-spoken parts of the movies. Normally, these subtitles are enabled using a special setting, however, for these 2, similar as with X-Men First Class, the forced subtitles track are implemented a bit different.
Get Smart (2008) DVD
I haven't heard anything about this one for a very long time (DVD Catalyst 3) but I seen it sitting in the store when I walked past, and remembered a few people asking about it, so I picked it up.
GI Joe (2009) DVD
An oldie, and while I did have it on the website already, the information was for DVD Catalyst 3, so I figured I'd try it with DVD Catalyst 4.
Conan the Barbarian (2011) DVD
Conan converted without any complications.
Super 8 (2011) DVD
Also one of this week's new release movies. Super 8 is a little tricky, but if you follow the guide, it will convert without any problems. The movie itself is actually pretty cool. Sort of a mixture between "The Goonies" and "Cloverfield".
The Other Guys (2010) DVD
Someone asked about this one a last week, so I picked it up and ran it through its paces.
NOOKcolor vs Kindle Fire vs NOOKtablet:
I'll be writing more detailed reviews for the NOOKtablet and the Kindle Fire (hopefully) this week, I figured I'd at least share my opinion and experiences with these devices. Please keep in mind that my usage for my tablets is limited to mostly video. I do use them for visiting the web and checking email every now and then, but its mainly video playback for me.
All 3 tablets are pretty much the same size. The NOOKcolor is the oldest one of the bunch, so in general use it is a little slower, but overall, it holds its own quite well. At the moment, the other 2 have an advantage in that they support video streaming, which is a great way of discovering new shows and movies to watch that you would otherwise just ignore. But, an update is on the horizon for the NOOKcolor that adds support for Netflix though.
Since I don't play any of the fancier games on it, specifications under the hood don't really matter too much to me anymore. As long as it does what I need it to do in a decent manner, I am happy with it. Dual-Core/Quad Core, while cool, is not something on the top of my list when I look at tablets for my own use.
NOOKcolor: When I first got it, back in the beginning of this year, I was expecting a piece of ... that would just work decent with books, but I was proved wrong. Performance-wise, it was holding up with the most powerful smartphones and tablets at the time, and even now, it is still quite powerful. Video-wise, it has a resolution limit that prevents it from playing HD video files, but it is perfectly capable of playing video files that match and even exceed DVD quality.
NOOKtablet: I've had this one since Sunday, so I haven't had that much time with it yet. It is capable of playing HD video files, which makes it easier for me to just grab any video file I created for one of my other tablets and it will play. Aside from my own apps, I don't do much else with it than movies and development, but I did notice a nice performance increase with MovieGallery.
Kindle Fire: I've had this one now for a little over a week, and the combination of Netflix and Amazon Prime makes it easy for me to pick what I want if I somehow forgot to put the videos I wanted to watch on it. When I first got it last week, I found Top Gear UK on Prime, and been watching a few episodes of that at nights.
While all 3 devices run the Android operating system, the interface on them is customized to produce as much revenue from their companies as possible. The tablets themselves are sold by companies that do not actually see these tablets as a sales-product by itself, but more as a window that provides easy access to their other services. Similar as Apple with its integrated iTunes on the iPhone and iPad, the devices themselves are designed to make it as easy as possible to purchase stuff.
They provide functionality so you can add your own music, books and video content, however, the content you purchase through them is a bit easier to access.
With the original Kindle and NOOK, both B&N and Amazon provided a real easy way to purchase books. With the free 3G internet connection you could virtually purchase books where-ever you were, regardless of if you had access to a wifi connection or not. You wait on the train and finish a book, 1 tap, and you have another one. You see an advertisement for a new book in a waiting room magazine, and a few seconds later you are reading it.
With the growing popularity of tablets like the iPad, B&N decided to come out with the NOOKcolor, and while a great device, unfortunately, B&N just doesn't have the additional content to maximize its use.
Similar with the NOOKtablet, B&N is mainly specialized in books, and for a color device, books alone just isn't enough. While there are some apps (including 2 of my own) available, the pricing of them is often not the same as they are on other markets, basically stimulating people into unlocking (rooting) their NOOKs or even using a customized Android version (N2A) on it.
Amazon has the upper-hand here. Rather than bringing out a color tablet to counter the iPad, it first worked on its content. Aside from the book-market it created for the Kindle, it has its own music store, Android app market, and its "Prime" service that offers access to free streaming video as well as a discount on shipping for physical goods. The Kindle Fire is the only Android Tablet that has all these services tightly integrated.
At the moment, the Kindle Fire is the device I use the most. The size is just right, and with both Netflix and Amazon Prime, and with a side-loaded install of MovieGallery Free on it, it does all I need it to do. There are a few issues with it though.
* while it makes it really easy to access videos from Prime, it is not as easy to access videos you add yourself. Out of the box, the only way to access your own movies is by using the Gallery app, which unfortunately doesn't display any information regarding the videos you have, making it a trial-and-error process to find the movie you want to watch. When I ran into this, I tried to install my own MovieGallery Free on it, which works quite well, and provides you with an icon on the home-shelf to access your movies a lot easier.
* not so much a Kindle Fire issue, but Prime is a hit and miss when it comes to videos. It works really well, but it is designed to lure you into purchases. When I first got my Kindle Fire and dog around the selection of free videos available, I ran into "Top Gear UK" and starting watching it. After I finished one seasons, I wanted to continue to the next, and unfortunately those episodes were not free. Digging through previous seasons, I found a few more free seasons, but most of the seasons were paid. Thankfully, Netflix did have most of them available through streaming, so I moved to watch them on that instead.
* only about 5GB free space available and no way of actually expanding the on-device amount by means of a memory card of some sorts. The Kindle Fire is designed to integrate with the Amazon Cloud Services, so it is somewhat limited regarding your own content.
* a 2GB maximum file-size limit. While the Kindle Fire is playing HD video files at up to 1920x1080 resolution (1080p), unfortunately, it does not like video files that are larger than 2GB in size, so if you want to watch HD on the Kindle Fire, you will have to either pick one from Amazon's services, or setup your own "cloud" by means of setting up some form of video streaming. Of course either way requires access to an internet connection, which makes it a bit limited.
When it came out, I was really impressed by its capabilities. Its content limited to mainly books(no apps at the time) didn't seem to hurt it much, because the NOOKcolor was easily unlocked (rooted) and it was a modder's dream due to the way it was setup to boot from SD card first.
* the screen of the NOOKcolor is a bit finicky. Sometimes unresponsive, sometimes super responsive (breathing) and sometimes even stuck presses.
* no apps upon release, a 1.2 update that caused complications with video playback, but this all got fixed over time.
* screen-size limitation for video playback, limiting it to DVD-resolution size.
* lack of B&N-provided content. No movies, no music, and apps are often priced higher than for other Android-based devices.
The NOOKtablet feels a bit faster than the NOOKcolor, and the screen doesn't have the same issues, which alone makes it a better choice if you are thinking of picking a NOOKcolor or a NOOKtablet, but if you already own a NOOKcolor, I don't really see a reason to pick up a NOOKtablet to replace it.
* I don't know if it is just my NOOKtablet, but the headphone port is a pain. My first video playback experience using a high-end headphone (Bose QC) resulted in switching to the Kindle Fire after 1 1/2 episodes of a TV show due to terrible sound quality. The next day, I fiddled with it a bit more, and ran some tests with music, and found that the audio was a lot better, so I tried the episodes again. Switching between different devices to compare quality, the NOOKtablet sounded similar, but when I got back to the NOOKtablet again, the sound was as bad as it was the night before. After some fiddling with the plug, I managed to get the sound quality normal again. Because I did not encounter anything like this on my other devices, it is obviously an issue with the audio port on the device itself.
* 1GB of user-accessible memory on the device. Even though the NOOKtablet is advertised with 16GB memory, only 1GB can be used for storing a movie. The rest is saved for apps, basically forcing you to use an SD card if you want to store a couple of your favorite movies on it.
* 2GB file-size limit. While this is as big an issue if you don't use a memorycard due to the 1GB of free space, the NOOKtablet doesn't like video files larger than 2GB. Unlike the Kindle Fire, it does actually play the movies, but when you get near the end (the 2GB mark in the actual video file) it will simply stop playing without warning.
* lack of B&N-provided content. No movies, no music, and apps are often priced higher than for other Android-based devices.
All 3 devices are quite good, but unfortunately, B&N is missing a big opportunity with the NOOKcolor and the NOOKtablet. It is still trying to compete with the rest of the tablets based on specifications alone, and while there is a noticeable difference in performance (the NOOKtablet being the fastest of the bunch), having a tablet that doesn't provide easy access to content is a miss. Of course with Netflix and Hulu+ on the NOOKtablet and soon on the NOOKcolor, this gap has been partially filled, but these services are ran by other companies, so B&N doesn't get much of the revenue of these services, if any.
With Amazon's work on getting the actual content in place and then releasing a tablet that has full access to all this self-provided content, it will generate a lot more revenue than just the tablet-sale itself, and, similar as what Amazon did with DRM-free music, I would even go as far as predict that Apple will follow suit with releasing a $200 iPad3, and make up for reduced cost with its content.
Sorry for being a bit later than usual with the newsletter. Normally I start working on it on Thursday, but due to Thanksgiving, I didn't have as much time to spent on it as I normally would. I did got quite a bit done last night, but still spent most of this morning on the last portion.
On a final note, I know next year there will be at least one person less at Wal-Mart's Black Friday Sale. My wife came back this morning at 3AM, and while she did get the TV she wanted for the price she wanted it for, the Death Metal Concert-environment that was Wal-Mart on Black Friday got to her in a bad way. Aside from lines longer than the ones at Disney World without a "speed-pass" and protestors trying to beat-up Wal-Mart personnel, the ocean of people fighting over scraps like pit bulls really got to her. She didn't get hurt, but after she witnessed someone snagging a video game out of someone else's hand along with 3 fingernails, she had enough. I'm just glad I didn't go along, because I'd probably be in jail for a while.
Thanks again for reading the newsletter, and enjoy your weekend,
(receive the weekly DVD Catalyst newsletter by email)
(all the previous newsletters in a single location)
Tools4Movies Latest News section:
(the latest articles on the website, solutions for new-release DVDs if they are picky, release notes and new articles in general)
Kindle Fire Forum:
(the best user community for the Kindle Fire, if you have any questions it is a worthy visit for sure)
(the most friendly user community for the NOOKcolor and NOOKtablet)