Where tablets are concerned, it’s all about the display, the primary part of the technology we interact with. The new kids on the block are Amazon’s Kindle Fire and its direct competitor, the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet, which feature smaller seven-inch screens at a more wallet-friendly price. But are they a match for Apple’s market leading iPad 2?

That’s what Dr. Raymond M. Soneira at DisplayMate Technologies Corporation wanted to find out for his latest IPS Tablet Display Technology Shoot-Out, dropping the inexpensive Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet into a cage match with the iPad 2 to see which display comes out on top.

Surprisingly, the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet landed in first place, with Dr. Soneira rating it highest in both lab measurements as well as viewing tests. While he touts the iPad 2 as having a “great display,” the reality is that the tablet is “starting to show its age” as newer, cheaper and smaller displays begin to swoop in and outperform the market leader — a gap that’s sure to narrow within months as Apple introduces the iPad 3.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire came in dead last for what DisplayMate calls “serious flaws” with a very high screen reflectance — despite Amazon’s insistence that the device features an “anti-reflective screen.” Dr. Soneira also called out the Kindle Fire for a major flaw in the Gallery photo viewer which washes out images, while noting that such issues will likely be addressed in a promised software update coming soon.

DisplayMate cautions that there is “no absolute winner” with this latest Display Shoot-Out, with all three tablets exhibiting flaws in many categories. Dr. Soneira also blames manufacturers rushing to meet the holiday season as part of the problem, with both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet shipping before Thanksgiving, then allowing Amazon and Barnes & Noble time to provide “patches, tweaks and enhancements later.”

While it may be too late to use DisplayMate’s latest shoot-out as a buying guide for this holiday season, the full report is a worthwhile read for anyone in the market for a tablet, especially Dr. Soneira’s companion piece on the Next Generation of Tablet Displays which may provide a few hints as to what we’ll see next year.

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