The market might be saturated with a variety of tablet devices, and few have been as successful as Apple’s iPad. However, Amazon, who has long sold their Kindle E-Reader, entered the competitive tablet landscape last year with their Kindle Fire. And today, the company announced its successor, along with a new e-reader. We were on hand to view it in the flesh.

There were a total of four new devices introduced at today’s Amazon press event. These include the Paperwhite e-reader, the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD, and the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE connectivity. They’re priced very competitively and boast a variety of features that we’ve come to expect from Amazon.

The Paperwhite was the first, and probably the most lackluster of devices we saw today. That isn’t to say it isn’t worth its weight in gold. In fact, this will probably be the more successful of the four since its price point ($119 without 3G and $189 with) is lower, and addresses a much vaster need; reading of books and magazines. Compared to Amazon’s e-readers of a generation of before this one boasts 62% more pixels, a 25% high contrast ratio, a built-in front light, and a miraculously long battery life of 8 weeks. The capacitive touchscreen measures 6-inches diagonally and looks to be Amazon’s best yet. With a weight of 7.5 ounces, and a thickness of 9.1mm carrying, around this e-reader should be anything but a cumbersome experience. If you’re willing to pay the $80 premium, bringing the total price to $189, you’ll receive lifetime 3G connectivity, allowing you to download books any where in the US as well as listen to a good chunk of them in your car thanks to a partnership with Audible, something they’re calling “Immersion Reading” – the example we saw/heard included Sam Jackson as the narrator. Both versions of the Paperwhite begin shipping October 1st, while the cheapo Kindle, which dropped in price from $79 to $69, ships today.

Kindle PaperWhite time to read function

Following that the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, introduced the new Kindle Fire, the Kindle Fire HD. Honestly, this was no surprise and was predicted, though we didn’t know what specs to expect. As previously mentioned this tablet will arrive in two sizes; 7-inch and 8.9-inch. Both sport HD screens, though the 7-inch model includes a 1280×800 resolution, while the 8.9-inch a 1920×1200 display.

Back of the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD

Following suit, the smaller 7-inch Kindle Fire HD includes a 1.2GHz dual-core processor. On the other hand its larger brother has a slightly faster 1.5GHz dual processor. Despite Amazon focusing much of their time on the cloud, they believe that 8GB is just too little room in this day and age, especially when an HD movie can weigh in at over 2GB. As a result both Kindle Fire HDs include 16GB of storage, and for an added cost ($50 and $70 respectively) you can bump the storage to 32GB. And for a serious premium, $499 to be specific, you can be the proud owner of the Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE wireless connectivity. In a traditional Amazon like fashion, you won’t pay a monthly fee for the 4G access. But don’t get too excited, as there is a nominal, yearly charge of $50. This will provide you with up to 250MB of data per month (not sure how they’ll handle overages). Nevertheless, this is vastly cheaper than Apple’s offering, even if the bandwidth is significantly limited. Other features include Dolby Digital Audio, stereo speakers (suck it iPad), free unlimited cloud storage, dual-band WiFi with MIMO technology, a front facing HD camera, and I believe 1GB of RAM (this might be more).

Hardware aside, Amazon also introduced something they’re calling X-ray. It’s available on all Kindle’s moving forward, be it a book, movie or TV show. Within a book, readers will be able to view a character list, how many times they appear, as well as a variety of other information. Cool, but not as cool as X-Ray for movies. Partnering with IMDB, Amazon is able to show you the associated actors by displaying a small window laid over the movie. But instead of listing the entire cast, Amazon has somehow able to detect whose on screen and only show their information. It’s a remarkable feature and one that will surely see emerge in other tablets, provided of course Amazon doesn’t have a patent on the tech.

8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD

Following the press confrernce we headed out into the lobby area where a number of 7-inch Kindle Fire HD tablets were on display for our perusal, along with the new PaperWhite e-reader. Unfortunately, the larger 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD was reserved to just one executive, so we didn’t get time with that. That said, the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD’s screen is easily on par with Apple’s iPad. Bezos exclaimed during his presentation that these new Kindle Fires were extremely fast. Well, he could have fooled us. Now, to be candid the WiFi at the press conference was anything but stellar. However, that shouldn’t have impacted how it natively displays apps and images. As you’ll see in the above video, loading movies and magazines seemed a bit spotty, or for lack of better words, laggy. I found this ironic as during the presentation Bezos lamented about the dreaded loading symbol we’ve all come to hate. We’d gladly take a loading symbol over nothing, as the latter ultimately leaves the user in the dark and leads to frustration since it appears as though the system has frozen. That in mind, we tried to run a Javascript benchmark on the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, but was quickly wrapped across the knuckles by Amazon staff, even though they confirmed that this was a final build. I also can’t discount the overly stressed WiFi, and the device doesn’t officially ship for another 8 days. So there is slight chance they’ll apply an OTA update once it reaches consumers on the 14th of this month.

Nevertheless, the new Kindle Fires poise a significant threat to Apple and those alike. The vastly low price point, comparable feature set to any Android device, integration of Amazon services including Prime, and a 4G LTE offering that is the cheapest in the industry, sets a high, if not unsurmountable benchmark that no other competitor would dare try to achieve. If they do, they’ll probably lose their shirt.

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Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."