Amazon on Thursday introduced three new media tablets and updated the one that it launched a year ago with new hardware and software capabilities. The fresh breed of Kindle Fire HD tablets boast with custom high-definition screens, powerful system-on-chips, high-quality audio, 4G/LTE support and improved battery life.
The new Kindle Fire HD tablets come with 7" (1280*720) and 8.9" (1920*1200, 254 ppi) high- definition screens with 10-point multi-touch and are powered by Texas Instruments OMAP 4460 and 4470 system-on-chip devices with two ARM Cortex-A9 cores and PowerVR SGX 540 graphics adapter. The new Kindle Fire HD tablets also come with 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage, which puts them into the same row with Apple's high-end iPads. All of Kindle Fire HD are equipped with improved 802.11abgn Wi-Fi, front-facing cameras for communications, more advanced audio processing capabilities with Dolby Digital Plus support and so on. Finally, the most advanced Kindle Fire HD 8.9 models also support built-in 4G/LTE module (wireless Internet access contract costs $50 at Amazon) that works out-of-the-box.
Kindle Fire HD slates have custom-made screens that provide wider viewing angles and reduce glare without sacrificing superior strength and reliability. Most tablet displays are made up of two pieces of glass - an LCD on the bottom and a touch sensor on the top, separated by an air gap. This air gap allows light to come through the touch sensor and reflect off the LCD, which causes added glare for the user. Fire HD laminates the touch sensor and the LCD together into a single layer of glass, creating a display that is easy to view even in overhead light, and reducing glare by 25% relative to the latest generation iPad, according to Amazon. Fire HD also features a polarizing filter that is applied directly to the LCD panel, which results in a display that shows the same deep contrast and rich, detailed color from any angle. Finally, like virtually all tablets, the Fire HD uses Corning Gorilla protection glass.
"We are taking on the most popular price point for a tablet, $499, but doubling the storage and incredibly, adding ultra-fast 4G LTE wireless. Kindle Fire HD is not only the most-advanced hardware, it’s also a service. When combined with our enormous content ecosystem, unmatched cross-platform interoperability and standard-setting customer service, we hope people will agree that Kindle Fire HD is the best high-end tablet anywhere, at any price,” said Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon.
In addition to introducing the new Kindle HD, Amazon also revamped its good-old Kindle Fire 7" with a 40% faster processor, twice the memory and longer battery life.
... Comes with Limited Software
Amazon has done a lot to make Kindle Fire HD competitive with Apple iPad and in many ways it greatly succeeded: the tablets have very potent SoC, excellent anti-glare screen, powerful Wi-Fi, advanced DD+ audio and so on. Unfortunately, since the company wants to make money primarily on software, not hardware, it still cut many corners to make the device less expensive to manufacture and therefore sell it for sweet $199 - $299. As a consequence, the tablets lack back-facing cameras, Bluetooth 4.0, they are still made of plastic and they still have some restrictions related to software. For example, a special version of Skype is needed for the Kindle Fire HD.
Without any doubts, Kindle Fire HD will be much more successful than their predecessor, which alone had to fight not only advanced yet expensive Apple iPad, but also less expensive offerings from Asustek, Samsung and many others. What remains to be seen is whether Amazon manages to make its partially-closed eco-system as popular as Apple iOS and Google Android. Given the high-end hardware and reasonable prices, the main drawback of Kindle HD will be its special version of Amazon's Android operating system.