Amazon has upped the ante in its bid to be a player in the media tablet market. The online retailing giant announced the Kindle fire HD Thursday with two flavors, a 7-inch device starting at US$199 and an 8.9-inch device starting at $299, with an additional $499 version that includes LTE.
Both devices are significant steps up from the original Kindle Fire introduced in the fall of 2011. At $199, the original Kindle Fire was notable mostly for being cheap, with all of the connotations that word carries.
Starting at the same $199, the new Kindle Fire HD is still inexpensive, but from a spec perspective, it significantly narrows the gap in quality to the Google Nexus 7, which is also priced at $199. We should note that the Google Nexus 7 still offers more in the way of gadgets, functionality, and technical features.
We also feel it's important to note that the Kindle Fire HD runs a forked version of Android (unknown version as of this writing) that Amazon has skinned to be a conduit to Amazon content. It doesn't offer users access to any Google services or apps.
Kindle Fire HD 7-Inch
The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD has a 1200 x 800 resolution and comes in either 16GB ($199) or 32GB ($249) models. Amazon is also offering free Amazon Cloud storage for the device, but only for Amazon content.
That resolution supports up to 720p HD videos, and notably, it now supports 10-point multi-touch, up from two-point multitouch on the original Kindle Fire.
It features a dual-antenna Wi-Fi that Amazon claims offers 40 percent faster throughput than the iPad, which the company called "the next fastest tablet."
It's powered by a Dual-core 1.2GHz OMAP 4460 processor, and Amazon claims it offers 11 hours of continuous use battery life.
The device measures 7.6 inches x 5.4 inches x 0.4 inches, and it weighs 13.9 ounces. For sound, it features Dolby Audio dual driver stereo speakers, and for wired connectivity it has a USB 2.0 micro-B port.
This model ships on September 14th.
Kindle Fire HD 8.9-Inch
Starting at $299, the 8.9-inch device offers a lot more bang for the buck, starting with the display. While Amazon doesn't tout the pixels per inch (PPI) rating of the 7-inch device, the company is quick to boast that the 1920 x 1200 resolution of the 8.9-inch model features 254 PPI, which is "indistinguishable to the human eye" (the company does not call it a Retina Display).
The device is also built with Gorilla Glass, the same substance Apple uses for the iPad. It weighs 20 ounces, and measures 9.45 inches x 6.5 inches x 0.35 inches.
It comes with either 16GB ($299) or 32GB ($369), and the LTE version has either 32GB ($499) or 64GB ($599). It also includes free Amazon Cloud storage for Amazon content, and includes the same Dolby Audio dual driver stereo speakers, and a USB 2.0 micro-B port.
Amazon is also quite proud of the IPS (in-plane switching) technology used for the display, what it calls an advanced polarizing filter, and anti-glare technology that it says, "reduces glare by 25% relative to the latest generation iPad."
It also has the dual antenna, dual-band, and MIMO Wi-Fi system. According to Amazon, "This is the first time this state-of-the-art Wi-Fi technology has been offered in a tablet, resulting in 40% faster throughput compared to the latest generation iPad."
The original Kindle Fire is now available for $159, even though the company announced in late August that it was "sold out."
We should note that Apple is expected to unveil a 7.x-inch iPad mini some time this fall, possibly in October.