Amazon wants to control all your media consumption, and with its new tablets and ambitious software features, it may just succeed. The company has officially unveiled its new line of Kindle Fire tablets for 2013. The three new tablets consists of the redesigned Kindle Fire HD (2013), the Kindle Fire HDX 7, and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9.
Preorders for all three are available now. Look for the Wi-Fi-only version of the HDX 7 to ship on October 18, with the 4G variant coming November 14. The Wi-Fi-only Fire HDX 8.9 ships on November 7 with the 4G version coming December 10. The newly designed 7-inch Kindle Fire HD ships on October 2.
The three tablets -- along with the new Fire OS -- are incredibly ambitious (check below to find out why), but until we spend more than just a few minutes with them, we won't know for sure how well they live up to their potential.
Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablets (pictures)
As with last year's stable, 2013's Kindle Fires will display full screen ads on the lock screen. Buyers can completely turn off the ads by paying an extra $15.
To make the pricing as clear as possible I've thrown into this handy chart below.
Each new kindle Fire gets a new design for 2013. Gone is the subtle curvature of last year's models in favor of a much more angular backside that maintains a clear space between the speakers and your coffee table when laid down flat.
At 0.82 pound, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is the lightest large-screen tablet I've yet heard of, and posts an even lighter load than the Sony Xperia Tablet Z's 1.06 pounds.
The power and volume rocker on each are no longer flush with the device and are now much more easily depressible.
That more angular design I spoke of.
The Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch features a 1,920x1,200-pixel-resolution screen (323ppi), whereas the 8.9 gets an even more impressive 2,560x1,600-pixel-resolution screen, with a 339ppi. Amazon also says to expect 100 percent sRGB color accuracy, reduced glare, dynamic image contrast -- which may be a first in a tablet -- and a higher brightness.
Each of the new HDX tablets houses a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU and an Adreno 330 graphics processor. Essentially, this means fast, fast, fast gaming performance, as the 800 is no joke when it comes to frame rates, even on phones. That, coupled with 2GB of RAM, and the Fire HDX might be the most graphically advanced portable device yet when it releases later this year.
Amazon says to expect up to 11 hours of mixed-use battery life and 17 hours when reading. While reading, the CPU goes into a low power state and awaits more stressful tasks before powering on again.
With its updated specs, the Fire HDX should be able to run any of those apps as well or possibly better than any Android tablet.
For my money, you don't get any better than the 2012 Kindle Fire HD tablets when it comes to sound quality, and fortunately, the HDX will inherit this oft-overlooked, but much-appreciated tablet feature.
Each HDX includes a front-facing HD camera, but only the 8.9 gets a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera, with an LED flash.
New Origami-style covers will be available for each tablet; they can be configured to stand the tablets up in portrait or landscape orientations.
Origami in effect, in a cover, on a tablet.
Get your 'Mojito' on
With new hardware also comes new software, and Amazon is keen on stuffing as many new features into its Fire OS 3.0 -- christened, "Mojito" -- as it can.
Amazon has plans to significantly improve the Kindle Fire OS with software optimizations across the board, including Goodreads integration, and better enterprise support, but let's talk about the major updates that are coming.
Accessed from the quick setting menu, the Mayday button is built-in and nearly immediate tech support like we've never seen before. According to Amazon, after tapping the button, a live tech support representative will appear on your screen within 15 seconds. The rep can draw on your screen, take complete control of your tablet, or simply coach you through difficult times. With the tablet, that is.
The service will be available 24-7, 365. Hopefully, Amazon has figured out an effective way of weeding out false calls from those of us simply looking for some extra company on a lonely Saturday night.
Amazon Prime videos, offline!
Amazon Prime videos can now not only be streamed, but also downloaded to your HDX device for viewing when you don't have an Internet connection. You know, like on long trips overseas or when visiting your cousins out in the sticks
X-Ray is now available for music. Expect synchronized lyrics that let you follow along with a song, even when offline. Also, X-Ray for Movies and TV now displays the name of the song playing in a given scene.
The 8-megapixel back camera. Curiously, it's only available on the larger 8.9.
Character backstory info will appear as the appropriate actor appears on screen. Bloopers and additional trivia are also new.
You can kick your video content from your new Kindle Fire to your PlayStation 3 (and later this year, PS4 and Samsung Smart TVs; Amazon made no mention of other devices, however). But, instead of simply mirroring your tablet, the Kindle Fire will be freed up to browse the Web, play a game, or whatever else you desire to do with it -- you can even leave the room with it -- while your video content plays on your TV with X-Ray info.
According to Amazon, the quality of the video will not be dependent on the tablet's processor load or connection.
Clearly thinner than 2012's Fire HD line.
Kicking your content to a larger screen is becoming quite the common feature in tablets, but Amazon appears to take the concept one impressively useful step forward.
Hands-on with the new Fire HDXes
In some ways, the 8.9 HDX is the more impressive device because it feels very light for its size -- and it's thin.
Both the 7- and 8.9-inch HD screens seemed very crisp, with excellent color saturation and good contrast. Most importantly, they seemed fast -- significantly more responsive than previous versions.
When you use the Mayday button, the tech support rep on the other end can coach you through any feature.
Amazon has also updated the UI. There's still the carousel view, but there's also the grid view and the left-hand nav view. It's built on Jelly Bean, so you could say Amazon made it more Android-like. You can also close out apps and see what's running in the background.
The Mayday feature is a key differentiating point. There's also the aforementioned second-screen feature. It's all done through the cloud and is pretty cool.
Amazon says the Silk browser is improved, but I didn't get a chance to test it. Also, battery life is better by an hour. The Origami cases are thin and nice but starting at $60, are fairly pricey.
The HDX 7-inch only comes with a front-facing camera for video messaging.
The entry-level Kindle Fire HD performs the same as the previous Fire HD, but its design is in line with the rest of the devices. No camera, but $139 is a great price.
The backs of the devices do attract fingerprints, as you can see from some of the pictures here. There's also some glare on the screens, though Amazon says they have the same lamination feature (no gap), which is supposed to cut down on the glare.
Overall, I was most impressed by the 8.9 because it so much thinner and lighter. From a design standpoint the 7-inch doesn't seem like a big leap, though I did like the button placement for the volume controls and power button, and it feels pretty good in one hand.
I'm impressed. Well, as much as one can be impressed by a specs and features list of devices he's never touched -- David Carnoy wrote the hands-on portion above.
Amazon appears to be firing -- pun intended -- on all cylinders with its new devices. The prices are low, the specs are high-end, and the feature set is incredibly ambitious, especially Mayday and Second screen.
Could this be Amazon's first big step towards taking over your living room? Maybe. If nothing else, the company has shown that it is at least attempting to move one step closer to creating that near-perfect all-in-one media device most of us seem to want.
Everything listed is no doubt impressive, but the proof will be in how well it's all implemented and working once you get it into your home. The company's devices have a pretty good track record for living up to hype, so I'm willing to give Amazon the benefit of the doubt for now.
Article source: http://reviews.cnet.com/amazon-kindle-fire-hdx-7-inch/