When it comes to software for reading e-books or magazines, a better visual experience is key. After all, the primary purpose of such an app is to provide text or images in a digital format that can effectively replace its print counterpart. Software design is certainly one way to bring a pleasing experience, but software can also be limited by hardware. The latest edition of Zinio’s magazine software, however, taps into the graphics capabilities of Nvidia’s dual-core Tegra 2 chip to improve the app.
Zinio for Android tablets now supports hardware acceleration for graphics. This means a Honeycomb table can offload animations — such as page turns or page zooming — to the graphics cores of the Nvidia chip, which is designed specifically for detailed visuals. Here’s how Nvidia describes it:
This new version of Zinio for Android uses the power of Tegra’s GPU to leverage OpenGL ES acceleration, making complex magazine pages easy to navigate and pan around with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, and other Tegra-powered Honeycomb tablets. Unlike other magazine readers that only serve up magazine pages as slow, lower-resolution JPEG images, Zinio displays high resolution, zoom-able layouts and dynamically re-scalable text.
As a longtime user of Zinio’s software, I can easily see the difference the new app brings. Zinio for Android is far more fluid, and there’s less lag when changing pages or browsing a magazine. Zooming in on text happens faster. These subtle improvements add up to make the entire user experience much better than before. Rather than describe the changes, here’s a video with some background on the new software and comparison images of Zinio both with and without the new hardware acceleration.
While overall this hardware acceleration is welcome, it still raises the small specter of fragmentation in the Android world. Consumers don’t want to worry about which components are inside the device they’re buying; they simply want the best experience from the hardware and software. All the current Honeycomb tablets run on Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chip, but that will surely change in the future as tablets with multicore chips from Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Samsung and others arrive. (Note: Even Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 uses a Tegra 2, not a Samsung chip.) And I can’t help but wonder how a tablet owner will feel if she sees better performance in the same app on another extremely similar tablet, only because it has a different brand of processor inside.
That concern aside, I do expect other software development teams to work with chip providers to optimize their apps. Why not, when you can eke out better performance and improve the experience with a minimal coding effort?