ALERT: Kindle Fire HD Takes Aim at iPad
Amazon updated its family of Kindle e-readers and tablets on September 6, 2012, fortifying its turf against an assault by Apple expected later this month. And will the high-end new Kindle Fire HD actually give the iPad a run for its money? Read on for my review and analysis...
The Next-Gen Kindle Fire is Here!
A year ago, Amazon shook up the tablet market by introducing the Kindle Fire, a 7-inch tablet and e-reader that also offers email, video, games, and apps. Despite the headstart that other competitors enjoyed -- such as the Barnes & Noble Nook and other Android-based tablets -- the Kindle Fire quickly grabbed the #2 spot in the tablet market, behind only Apple's dominant iPad.
And if you read yesterday's Geekly Update, you saw a notice that the Kindle Fire was officially "sold out." The reason for that confusing bit of news came later in the day, when Amazon announced new models of the Kindle lineup.
The Kindle Fire HD comes in two sizes, 7 inches and 8.9 inches. The larger one, with 1920 by 1200 pixels, comes very close to the iPad’s 9.7 inch screen. The screen resolution of 254 pixels per inch also rivals the iPad's "retina" display. And their new laminated touch screen technology promises 25 percent less glare than the iPad.
The Kindle Fire HD also has a front-facing camera with Skype integration, competing with the iPad’s camera and Apple’s FaceTime video conferencing feature. Like the iPad, the Kindle Fire HD comes with 16 GB of storage. Under the hood, the 8-9 inch model sports a dual-core 1.5GHz OMAP4 4470 CPU and an SGX544 graphics chip, which is 50% faster than the Tegra 3 chip in Google's Nexus tablet.
Kindle Fire HD: Price and Other Factors to Consider
The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD costs only $199. It supports 720p HD video and has a resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels. The larger 8.9 inch Kindle Fire HD costs $299, compared to the entry-level iPad’s $499 price.
Amazon is also offering a $499 version with 4G LTE cellular data connectivity; a similarly connected iPad costs at least $630. Oh, and Amazon’s annual service cost for a 4G data plan is only $50. Yes, that's ANNUAL, not monthly. Granted, there's a 250MB/month data cap, but users will have the option to upgrade to 3GB or 5GB monthly plans from AT&T.
All of that will surely put a dent in Apple's bottom line, and propel Amazon closer to the top of the tablet market. And just to muddy the waters a bit more, rumors have it that Apple will be announcing an iPad Mini next month. (I can't wait for the lawsuits to begin.)
Both Kindle Fire HD models include WiFi capability; in fact, their dual antennas provide streaming speeds up to 40 per cent faster than the iPad’s, according to Amazon. Also, the HD models support Dolby audio and 10 multi-touch points on their screens. The non-HD Kindle Fire only supports two multi-touch points.
For completeness, I should mention that the 7-inch Kindle Fire (the non-HD model) has also been updated, and the price on this model drops to $159. There's also a new feature called Kindle FreeTime, which is a customized "sandbox" for kids. Compared to the first generation Fire, the newer model offers 40% faster performance, longer battery life and twice as much internal memory. For those who got shiny new Kindles for Father's Day just over two months ago, this is happy, irksome or annoying news. Expect a flood of first-gen Kindle Fires to hit eBay about..... now.
The downside to the Kindle Fire lineup, as I've mentioned before, is the ecosystem. In Amazon's view, the Kindle hardware exists primarily to help them sell digital products. That means Amazon ebooks, magazines, movies, music and apps. If you're happy with the ebooks on Amazon, and the limited set of apps in the Amazon app store, then fine. But for consumers who like choices, a generic Android tablet such as the 7-inch Google Nexus will offer more. I love my Kindle Fire, but I do sorely miss the ability to pop into the Google Play store (aka Android Market) and download the latest apps. I'm also unable to view ebooks that I've purchased from B&N.
The final new entry into the family is the Kindle Paperwhite, a monochrome e-reader. Amazon has increased the pixel count by 62 per cent, and contrast by 25 per cent, making the Kindle Paperwhite display much sharper and easier on the eyes. The screen is front-lit, making it easier to read under different ambient lighting conditions. The basic Kindle Paperwhite with WiFi costs $119. The Kindle Paperwhite 3G comes with free 3G service at a cost of $179. Clearly, this is a shot across the bow of Barnes & Nobles' Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight e-reader.
Will you buy one of the new Kindle Fire HD tablets? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 Sep 2012
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