Amazon announced two new Kindle Fire HD tablets — a 7-inch model for $US139 and a 6-inch model for only $US99. Both options come in a fun variety of colours (blue, bright green, magenta, black, and white) and are a significant upgrade from last year’s $US139, 7-inch device.
Business Insider / Jillian D’Onfro
Two of the 6″ tablets flanking one of the 7″ models
Design and Display
Besides the fun colours, the new tablets also have a better display than their predecessor. Both screens look brighter with more vivid colours, and the smaller version has a crisper resolution than last year’s device (252 pixels per inch versus 216 pixels per inch).
The screens are Gorilla glass, which means they’re resistant to scratches or cracks, and you can drop the tablets from up to a meter without worrying about them shattering.
Because Amazon knows that lots of people use its devices when they’re at the beach or the pool, the company made sure the tablets could withstand sunscreen, and salt water or fresh water spray. But no, they’re not actually waterproof. Amazon even demoed the tumbler that it uses to test how the tablet would fare if it spent a year rolling around in someone’s cluttered purse:
The 6-inch model only slightly bigger than some of the “phablet” phones on the market, like Apple’s 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung’s 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4. It still fits comfortably in most pockets though, as with a phablet, it sticks out the top.
Amazon wasn’t shy about comparing these new models to its competitors: The new Fire HDs are apparently two times more “reliable” (read: break-proof) than the iPad Mini and 20 times more reliable than other similarly-priced tablets from other makers. However, it’s not really clear how Amazon is measuring that reliability. In the end, just know the new Kindle Fire tablets are very durable.
The speakers on the new Fire’s sound great too. They’re much louder and clearer than the ones on the Samsung device that Amazon compared it to in a demo. Amazon uses Dolby Digital Plus audio technology.
What’s On The Inside
Both new tablets have a quad-core processor and a battery that will last up to 8 hours, even when you’re reading, watching videos, and listening to music. The processor is great for playing games, and supports 3 times the graphics performance of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4 tablet, which costs more.
Plus, the tablets are running an updated version of Amazon’s operating-system, a forked version of Android KitKat that the company is calling Fire OS 4 “Sangria.”
One of the great features from Sangria is called Family Library, and it lets family members easily share content like books, movies, and games, even if they use different Amazon accounts. This feature could come in handy, for example, if you and your partner wanted to read an e-book at the same time, but only wanted to buy one copy.
Amazon is definitely marketing this device to families, so you can also create up to six profiles on each tablet — two “adults” and four “kids.”
Camera, Special Features, And Accessories
Like the last Kindle HD tablets, these two new versions have front and rear facing cameras, but they also come with free, unlimited cloud storage, so you don’t have to worry about running out of space if you’re a photo-fanatic.
Amazon is also selling a “Kids Edition” of both tablets. The device is actually the same, but for $US50 more, you’ll also get a special childproof case, a two-year warranty (if anything at all breaks, you’ll get a completely new device for free), and a free year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, the company’s curated selection of children’s content like books, movies, shows, and apps. A FreeTime Unlimited subscription usually costs $US4.99 per month for one child, but if you buy the kid’s edition Fire HD, you can support four different children’s profiles, a $US120-value.
Naturally, Amazon is also releasing a whole bunch of new cases for the Kindle Fires, so you can mix-and-match your colours.
If $US99 feels dirt-cheap for this tablet, it’s because it is.
“We make money when customers use these devices, not when they buy them,” an Amazon exec said during a product briefing with the press. “We sell at break-even prices.”
Both devices are available for pre-order today, and will begin shipping in October.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.