ALERT: Kindle Fire HD Takes Aim at iPad

Category: Gadgets

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.
Kindle Fire HD tablet

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.

See my review of the 7-inch Google Nexus tablet. WIll you live in Amazon's world of explore the larger Android universe?

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...

 
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Most recent comments on "ALERT: Kindle Fire HD Takes Aim at iPad"

Posted by:

Brad Tomlinson
07 Sep 2012

I would be reluctant to buy a Kindle since I have a Nook Simple Touch by Barnes & Noble, and Kindles do not support B&N e-books. Since B&N dropped the prices of their Nooks, I am wondering if B&N will be updating their Nooks soon.


Posted by:

Tom S.
07 Sep 2012

For me I just don't see why I would need any tablet, much less shelling out $500 for one, just to play games or watch a show or movie? That why I have a p.c. thats attached to my H.D. television.

As for e-reading; I've got an $80 Kobo that does the job that it was designed to do.

Recession? What recession?


Posted by:

Lorraine Rovig
07 Sep 2012

Thank you for a most interesting review, Bob. I noticed you did miss one important feature in comparing Kindles and Apple i-products. The National Federation of the Blind (I work as a proofreader for the NFB) just published a press release on the lack of a feature that prevents many people from buying or using any of the Kindles--from their first machine sold to the newest iteration. Amazon has not built in accessibility for those who cannot read print. (Once again, they are not in compliance with the Americans with Disability Act.) In contrast, Apple products ARE useable out of the box.

This is important because from lower-level schools up through all the levels of college, from our public libraries and places of employment - places that buy Kindles and other inaccessible readers like the Kindle) prevent blind and visually handicapped American children and adults from equally competing with folks who can use Kindles out of the box. This is so unnecessary and so wrong. Accessibility is cheapest when it is built in at the design stage; how to do this is already known; and it is good for a company’s bottom line too. Companies that build in accessibility are not only in compliance with the law and with good civic conscience, they are increasing their market. Every blind person I know either has a simple LG kind of phone or an iPhone. One more point to make, if I may. Here is a story on August 30 concerning inaccessible Kindles and a public library: http://www.nfb.org/national-federation-blind-settles-complaint-against-sacramento-public-library.


Posted by:

Joe
07 Sep 2012

Do any of the new Kindles come with a GPS and the other sensors that the Nexus 7 comes with?


Posted by:

Tom
07 Sep 2012

Interesting report, but I can wait. I have a Kindle DX and the next thing I will purchase will be after having examined all contenders. I like to read several books simultaneously (at different times of day)and find the Kindle operating system clumsy in terms of supporting having several books open. I would like a browser like option where each tab shows a different book where I am currently reading. I know about using a browser on the Kindle, but I think that means keeping my online continually open. In turn that uses power pretty quickly. I look for later versions of hardware to support easily having multiple open books.


Posted by:

Jlloyd10
07 Sep 2012

Great article, at a good time. I'm interested in getting a new reader/tablet. New dog literally ate the last one.


Posted by:

OJ
07 Sep 2012

I love my I-pad2. All the apps are sensational!!!!
And it gets books from my Kindle and has a nice bright screen.
Inwon't be wooooed away.
What would I gain?


Posted by:

ron
07 Sep 2012

very tempting if it had hdmi and bluetooth capability.


Posted by:

hank
07 Sep 2012

What a truly colossal waste of money! By buying and promoting any of these products, the continued exploitation of people and outsourcing of jobs where these products are manufactured is assured. How many more suicides will be triggered by the future Foxconns in Asia? I prefer spending $30.00 on a pile of used books that I can recycle and pass on to the intellectually challenged. I would like to know the process by which certain titles become approved and available for electronic perusal.


Posted by:

bb
07 Sep 2012

When will I be able to get a Kindle Fire of any type that has external storage. I store a lot of pictures on my Kindle and I've almost filled up my space aloted. I've been sending most of my pics. to my other account that goes to my laptop but that's a real hassle and I've lost a lot of stuff in the transfer.


Posted by:

Michael S.
07 Sep 2012

Was planning on purchasing one for my daughter for college. Probably the Kindle Fire HD with Wi-Fi, 7" screen. I've enjoyed my Kindle, and when the first one was damaged, customer service sent me a new one, no questions asked.


Posted by:

Barb
08 Sep 2012

I heard that the new Kindle Fire HD has built in parental controls. Is it true that a parent can limit game time while allowing unlimited reading time? Currently I can only control internet access, through our wireless router.


Posted by:

Ruth Brown
08 Sep 2012

As a satisfied Amazon customer and Gen 2 Kindle owner, I've been waiting for this week's unveiling of the new kindle Fire. I will definitely purchase one of the new Fires. Who knew we would have so many choices? Thanks for your article, Bob.


Posted by:

Arthur Perrow
08 Sep 2012

Kindle is for me!


Posted by:

Dave VanTress
08 Sep 2012

Still no SD slot?


Posted by:

Lorraine
08 Sep 2012

One important comparison for some folks that go on the Internet all the time, send emails, and download e-books to read-- Kindles are not useable by blind persons. Apple's iPads and iPhones are useable.


Posted by:

Dave VanTress
09 Sep 2012

Still no SD slot?


Posted by:

Ron
09 Sep 2012

I have had a Kindle Fire for almost a year. I use it mostly for ebooks, but I didn't like the fact that every download had to go through Amazon.
So I searched the web and found out how to root it. I can download Android apps from the Google store, and I get most of my ebooks from my local library.
I realize most people would not feel comfortable rooting their tablet, due to the fact that if done wrong, it could become inoperable. Plus rooting the tablet voids the warranty. But for me, I enjoy knowing I can download any app I want without going through Amazon.
That being said, I doubt that I would buy another tablet from Amazon or Apple for that matter, due to the fact one has to go through them to download apps.


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