World's largest online retailer Amazon has refreshed its Kindle Fire range of Android-powered tablets ahead of the holiday season in a hope that it can cash in on the irresistible pull that tablets currently have on consumers.
Not only did Amazon refresh the Kindle Fire HD tablet, but it also introduced a new Kindle Fire HDX tablet in 7-inch and 8.9-inch varieties, so there's plenty on offer for those looking for a tablet to put under the tree.
What's right with the new Kindle tablets?
The price is absolutely right: The price is so right. With the price tag ranging from $139 for the Kindle Fire HD to $229 for the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX ($329 if you want the 4G version), to the top end of $379 for the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX ($479 if you want 4G). At these prices, there's a Kindle Fire to suit almost all budgets.
Awesome screens: Amazon is putting considerable effort into creating hardware with superb screens. For $139 you get a 1280x800 HD display with a pixel density of 216 pixels-per-inch. The higher-priced Kindle Fire HDX gets you 323 and 339 pixels-per-inch for the 7-inch and 8.9-inch tablets respectively. On top of that you get a screen that offers perfect 100 percent sRGB color accuracy, reduced glare, dynamic image contrast, and improved brightness for better viewing under a variety of lighting conditions.
Lightweight design: The 8.9-inch weighs in at 375 grams, which is only 70 grams heavier than the iPad mini, and a good 300 grams lighter than the full-sized iPad.
Superb sound: All the new tablets come kitted out with Dolby Digital Plus audio and virtual 5.1 multi-channel surround sound.
Superb battery life: 10 hours plus means all day usage from a single charge.
The Mayday button: An innovative new feature that gives users access to free tech support for any Kindle feature 24x7, 365 days a year.
Enterprise support: The Kindle Fire HDX comes kitted with a raft of enterprise features, including data encryption, Kerberos authentication support, VPN support and more. This is a huge win for Amazon and brings the Kindle into the BYOD market.
Android, but not Android: Amazon's decision to not go with a stock Android version, and instead develop a highly customized operating system based on Android. People like the Fire OS and find it a lot easier to use than a stock Android.
Access to a mammoth ecosystem of content: Kindle Fire HD and HDX owners have access to a huge amount of downloadable content, ranging from books and music to games and apps.
Huge storage options: Ranging from 8GB to 64GB depending on device choice.
What's wrong with the new Kindle tablets?
Not stock Android: For some people, the lack of a stock Android operating system is a deal breaker.
Locked to Amazon: While a vast proportion of customers won't care that their Kindles are locked to the Amazon ecosystem, but for those wanting more choice, or who don't want to be locked into a walled garden (albeit a pretty garden), the one-size-fits-all Amazon-or-bust might be too restrictive.
No expandable storage: While there's no doubt that Amazon is hemorrhaging money at the low-end of the Kindle spectrum, the higher-capacity tablet offer Amazon a little more profit, so potential buyers are being steered towards spending more simply because the Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablets don't offer a way to expand storage.
Some tablets are a long way off: While you can pre-order these Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablets today, the ship dates are spread out over October to December. That's a long time for people to wait for their tablets, and may put some buyers off, at least in the short term.
The bottom line
It seems to me that Amazon has taken the original Kindle Fire HD tablet and performed a serious upgrade on the hardware, splitting the tablet into two different, and quite compelling, lines. Also, the price tag, which was already low, has been slashed considerably.
I'm willing to bet right now that these tablets are going to be a huge hit over the holidays, and is going to put pressure on other Android tablets.