For the price, it’s hard to beat this tablet

The thing to remember about Amazon’s new $50 Fire tablet is that it’s a $50 tablet.

It’s not as light or as thin as a tablet that costs five or six times more. The camera isn’t as good, and the screen isn’t as sharp. But it works well as a budget device for the basics.

The 7-inch tablet is bulky, about two-thirds as thick as a deck of cards. This runs counter to a trend of gadgets getting thinner and thinner. But this is reasonable for budget devices, as they use older, larger components to cut costs. At 11 ounces, the tablet also feels heavy.

Photos and video display fine. Where the lower resolution is most noticeable is with small text. When reading, some of the vertical lines in d’s and l’s look fat.

The main camera is just 2 megapixels, and the lens isn’t as good as in other gadgets. That said, most people already have smartphones with decent cameras.

The Fire also has an older, single-band form of Wi-Fi that doesn’t support the highest available speeds, but in testing, it did the job it had to. The tablet was fast for Web surfing, e-mail and other common tasks. It seemed to take an extra second or two to launch video on Hulu and Netflix, but playback was smooth once it started.

The display also has in-plane switching technology, which means it can be viewed from an angle, according to Amazon.




Zipping down memory lane of data storage

Back in the day, when 20-megabyte hard drives ruled the PC world, WinZip ruled, completing the necessary step of compressing large files for small hard drives. Fast forward to the 21st century, and surprisingly WinZip is still around. But is it still relevant in a world of terabyte hard drives? You betcha, as they say in Fargo.

Version 19.5 is slick and intuitive. It can compress an unwieldy JPEG photo file by up to 25 percent — essential if you’re sending photos via e-mail programs that don’t like huge files. Plus it will encrypt files and e-mails, insert watermarks, password-protect files and resize photos even after you’ve compressed the files. Clearly, WinZip — which comes in the $30 Standard and $50 Pro versions — has come a long way since the early days of Windows.