Amazon Kindle Fire HD and new Kindle Fire announced
The new Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet and revamped Amazon Kindle Fire will be shipping to UK customers from 25th October, both costing under £200. If you're looking for a low cost, high quality Android-powered tablet that gives you access to tons of great content, this could be it. Good news for consumers, but can Amazon's gamble of offsetting hardware cost with content charges really pay off?
What are the Amazon Kindle Fire tablets?
Before the original Amazon Kindle tablet was released last year, getting powerful tablet hardware at a low price was extremely difficult. The entry level tablets were affordable but struggled to perform basic tasks, like application switching and running games. Some of them wouldn't even grant you access to the Google Play application store, because Google hadn't officially sanctioned them as Android-powered devices.
What this meant was that if you wanted an Android-powered tablet for watching HD movies, playing games and browsing media-rich websites, you had to pay a lot of money to get the right hardware. Another frustrating thing was the vast difference in power between most 7" models and 10" models, with manufacturers packing all their power behind big, heavy devices that most people wouldn't want to carry around on a daily basis.
As the months went on, Google released more and more powerful software for Android-powered tablets, which made most of the 7" tablets irrelevant for consumers who wanted to keep up with the latest features - if it didn't have a dual or quad core processor and heaps of RAM, plus a HD screen, it just couldn't cut Google's mustard.
Amazon changed that, by introducing an entry level tablet that could keep up with the more expensive models, but didn't cost the earth. Their plan was to offset the cost of the hardware with downloads, because, as content providers, they could recoup the costs of producing tablets with the increased amount of content being consumed via the Amazon app store, Kindle store and Amazon music. They also cottoned onto the fact that most of us simply do not have room for a 10" tablet in our day bags - we want portability, convenience and power. Cue the new Amazon Kindle Fire range.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD and new Kindle Fire take on Google Nexus 7 and Apple iPad
In the UK, two new Amazon Kindle tablet products have just hit the digital shelves. They are in direct competition with the similarly-priced Google Nexus 7 - another content vs hardware gamble, this time from the Search Engine giants themselves. Which device will take your fancy, and will they impact on sales of the mighty Apple iPad? It'll be an interesting race to tablet supremacy and a good question; which is more important to us as consumers, cost or brand? For me, the form factor of a 7" tablet is irresistible, I have been carrying a 10" tablet around for the past year and found it pretty frustrating, especially when attempting to use it on the train or bus.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet specs
Kindle Fire HD is a revamped, slimmer and slicker version of the original Amazon Kindle, with a 7" high definition display that's optimised for movies and entertainment - part of Amazon's plan to increase customers' levels of content consumption. Think about it, you're much more likely to download a HD game that costs £4.99 if you know it's going to look gorgeous on your tablet's crisp, sharp display.
As well as the great screen, it's got a slimmer and lighter body, made of high quality materials. The quality of the build is really important, as the last thing you want is to invest in a tablet that breaks because it's too flimsy to deal with everyday wear and tear. In the body of the Kindle Fire HD is a mini HDMI out, which means you can connect it to your TV for playback, and watch the movies you download from Amazon on a bigger screen.
The dual core processor is a big improvement over previous models, but doesn't quite match Google's quad core chip in the Nexus 7. It's good to see both Google and Amazon moving their hardware forward with better chipsets. Imagine having the power of a multi-core processor and the portability of a 7" device, plus lots of memory, plus the Android Operating System, which lets you customise it and add all kinds of widgets and applications to your tablet. Both devices have a lot to offer for consumers.
There's no access to the Google Play store - instead, you get a custom Amazon app store that has a selection of bestselling apps and games. You will see less available apps than you would on a device with access to the Play store, and you will be relying on Amazon to make new apps available for your device instead of being able to download them as soon as they appear on the general Play store. Will this affect your purchasing choice?
The Kindle Fire HD will be faster, smoother and slicker than a lot of more expensive, larger 10" tablets currently available. That alone makes it a serious contender. Then there's the HD front-facing camera - us Agents do like our Google Plus hangouts and Skype calls, which both require a functioning live webcamand enough pixels for people to be able to make out who you are. The custom Dolby audio and dual-driver stereo speakers promise to offer 'immersive, virtual surround sound', which would be great if they do deliver - let's face it, most of us are getting pretty fed up with the sound quality of previous tablets' tiny buit-in speakers. Finally, it's worth mentioning that this is the first tablet ever to have a dual antenna, for dual-band Wi-Fi that is supposed to be faster when you're downloading things or streaming HD content. Will these claims be justified? The proof will be in the testing.
Here is the Kindle Fire HD stacked up against the Google Nexus 7:
|Amazon Kindle Fire HD||Google Nexus 7|
|Tablet size: 193 mm x 137 mm x 10.3 mm||Tablet size: 198.5 X 120 X 10.45mm
|Screen: 7" 1920x1200p HD resolution with 254 PPI||Screen: 7” 1280x800p HD display (216 PPI)|
|Processor: Dual core TI OMAP 4470 chip||Processor: Quad core Tegra 3 chip|
|Operating System: Android 4.1 Jellybean with Amazon interface, Whispersync and Xray features||Operating System: Stock Android 4.1 Jellybean with auto updates|
|Content platform: Amazon music, app store, movies, plus Kindle eBook store||Content platform: Google Play store, plus Google Music, Books and Movies|
|Extra features: Mini HDMI out, full HD front-facing camera, 16GB or 32GB storage||Extra features: 1.2MP front-facing camera, NFC (Android Beam), 8 or 16GB storage
|Cost: £159 for 16GB model or £199 for 32GB model
||Cost: £159 for 8GB model, £199 for 16GB mode|
Interestingly, Amazon's price points directly match Google's, and the incentive for selecting a Kindle seems to be the additional storage space - it's down to you whether you think the enhanced screen resolution and memory are more important than the Nexus 7's faster process and stock Operating System, which will receive updates as soon as Google makes them available.
New Amazon Kindle Fire specs
As well as the premium Kindle Fire HD tablet, Amazon have also released an updated version of their standard Kindle Fire product, at a lower price point. It has a 1024x600p, 169 PPI 7" touchscreen, which isn't as sharp as the Fire HD's display, but is still impressive for the price. There is less onboard storage, at 8GB, and a single core, 1.2GHz processor instead of the Kindle Fire HD's dual core chip. It's great to see a tablet at this price point with the latest software and capable hardware, but considering there is only a £30 price bump between purchasing a Kindle Fire, at £129, and a Kindle Fire HD 16GB at £159, it seems like a no brainer to opt for the faster, slicker tablet with the better screen.
Final thoughts - Kindle Fire vs Google Nexus 7
We've taken a look at how the hardware stacks up, and identified where the Kindle Fire has an advantage over Nexus 7, with more memory options and a sharper display. But what will be more important to you in the long run, memory or speed? Nexus 7 has two extra cores, plus a direct link to the awesomesauce engine that pumps out Android updates - so you never have to wait for the manufacturer to release an Android update, you get it as soon as it's available. It's horses for courses, and in my view, both of these devices spell out really exciting developments in a burgeoning industry that has become exclusive to those with high disposable incomes. I think that the gamble of offsetting hardware costs with content will certainly pay off, for Amazon at least - the Kindle Fire is their number 1 bestselling device according to the website.