Amazon had a big event yesterday where Jeff Bezoz introduced the newest additions to the Kindle line of products. And no, none of them turned out to be a Kindle Phone. Despite that, it was quite the eventful announcement with plenty of high points that are likely to rekindle (yes, pun intended) all of last year's talk about Amazon's future as the iPad-killer. The roster of new gadgets consists of two e-readers, one refreshed tablet and two new tablets, each of which we'll look at in detail below.
Kindle Fire 7 Inch
The entry-level Kindle Fire gets a 40% faster processor (now 1.2Ghz dual-core) from the previous version, along with twice the memory (now 1GB) and a better battery rated at up to 9 hours. The rest of the specs are the same as its predecessor, but it's also priced even lower at $159.
While the Kindle brings nothing novel to the table, the Kindle Paperwhite is arguably the most exciting e-reader today. Amazon's successor to the Kindle Touch now boasts a higher resolution (1024 x 768 pixels) and capacitive touch. Yep, unlike every touchscreen e-reader that came before it, the Paperwhite uses the same touch controls as your favorite tablet. That should make finger taps and swipes more accurate than practically every e-reader in the market.
More significant than those, however, is the embedded fiber optic light circling the Paperwhite's display. That light allows you to read your Kindle in bed without having to turn on the lamp. Heck, you can be trapped in the attic and still finish a book. Battery life is still impressive, as well, giving you up to two months on a single charge even with the built-in illumination (and, no, none of the frontlit e-readers in the market can match those two months).
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" and 7"
If it weren't for the iPad, the Kindle Fire HD just might be the boss tablet in town. Then again, there probably won't be a tablet market if it weren't for the iPad to begin with.
The feature-rich device runs Amazon's modified version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, with full access, of course, to the company's treasure trove of content stores. Since this is a heavily-altered skin, don't expect the same experience as you have with ICS on other devices. In fact, it's a lot different -- which is what Amazon is going for.
The Kindle Fire HD comes in two screen sizes: 7 inches (1280 x 800 resolution) and 8.9 inches (1900 x 1200 resolution). Both displays boast wide viewing angles, as well as 25-percent less glare than the original Fire from last year. Details include a dual-core 1.2GHz TI-OMAP4 CPU (4460 model on the 7-inch and 4470 model on the 8.9-inch), IT SGX544 graphics, an HD-capable video cam out front, dual-band MIMO WiFi, stereo speakers (with Dolby Digital Plus support), Bluetooth, microUSB port, microHDMI port and 11 hours of battery life (for the 7-inch version, at least).
The 7-inch version is WiFi only, while the 8.9-inch will have WiFi only and 4G LTE variants. For storage, the smaller tablet offers 16GB and 32GB, while the bigger model can have either 16GB (WiFi only), 32GB or 64GB (4G LTE only).
The Kindle E-Reader is, basically, the same thing as last year's model -- just slightly improved. If you have one from the last gen, upgrading may be optional, especially if the old version's display is perfectly fine with you.
- MIMO WiFi. If you're wondering about "MIMO WiFi," Amazon claims it's a modified WiFi receiver that allows the Kindle HD to transfer data 41% faster than the iPad's and 59% faster than the Nexus 7's respective WiFi radios.
- Dual speakers. The two speakers sit on either end of the device in landscape mode. That way, you really get sound from the two ends of the screen, just like the way you'd set up a conventional sound system.
- 4G LTE. The Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE version will have a data plan from AT&T. The killer part, though, is it’s an exclusive plan for this device only and it's very tempting: $49 a year for 250MB of data per month. How the heck do you top that, Apple? No, seriously, we want you to top it, Apple.
- Whispersync for Voice. A new feature, this lets you pause an audiobook and pick up where you left off in the e-book version. We're not sure why you'll be listening to the audiobook and reading the e-book at the same time, but we won't judge.
- X-Ray for Movies. Basically, this lets you pause a movie and look up the actors' information onscreen. Yeah, you probably won’t use this feature too much either, save for those "Who is that extra with the thick legs?" moments. On second thought, I'll probably use this a lot.
Summary, Pricing And Release Details
- Kindle E-Reader. A slight upgrade of last years basic e-reader, it gets an improved display. Despite the slight upgrade, it gets a price cut: $69 for the ad-supported version and $89 sans the ads. It's available now.
- Kindle Paperwhite. This new e-reader as two main features: (1) it is now the only touchscreen model in Amazon's e-reader line; (2) it has a self-illuminating screen, which eliminates the need for an external light source when reading indoors. It ships October 1st, priced at $119 for the Wi-Fi version and $179 for the 3G model. Both of those are ad supported, by the way -- no ads versions are $139 and $199, respectively.
- Kindle Fire. Definitely the entry-level tablet to beat, the refreshed model gets a new CPU and a new battery. More significantly, though, it gets a lower price, retailing for just $159 when it ships September 14.
- Kindle Fire HD (7-inch). This is a 7-inch tablet with a 720p-capable display and MIMO WiFi. It will be available in 16GB and 32GB version, priced at $199 and $249, respectively. It ships September 14.
- Kindle Fire HD (8.9-inch). The bigger Kindle Fire HD sports a 1080p-capable 8.9-inch display, with two options in connectivity: you can get it as WiFi only or with a 4G LTE radio. The WiFi version will be available in 16GB and 32GB, priced at $299 and $369, respectively. The 4G LTE models, on the other hand, are available in 32GB and 64GB variants, going for $499 and $599, respectively. All models ship November 20.
All of the gadgets above can be ordered (or preordered) from Amazon now.