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There was a time when it was easy to choose a Kindle; you’d pick the 3G or WiFi version, and that was that.
But after the release of the Touch, a few versions of the Fire tablet, the Fire HDX series, the Paperwhite, and the new Voyage, choosing the right Amazon tablet or eReader can be tough. To make it simpler, we’re going to look at the new entries in the lineup and break down the differences. (But first, you should decide if you want an eReader or a tablet.)
One of the most interesting new releases in Amazon’s lineup is the Kindle Fire HD 6, a 6″ Android tablet that starts at $99, making it one of the most competitively priced tablets out there. Although a 6″ tablet is pretty small (it’s not that much bigger than the 5.5″ iPhone 6 Plus), it does have a nice screen at 1280 x 800 (252 ppi). It’s likely that many consumers looking to get their first tablet or those who highly value portability will appreciate the size.
The Kindle Fire HD 7 ($139 and up) is a more direct replacement for the previous generation of Kindle Fires and sticks with the slightly more productivity-friendly 7″ size, retaining the 1280 x 800 (216 ppi) resolution. Both tablets come in 8GB and 16GB versions, which is nice, as 8GB doesn’t last very long.
On the inside of these tablets, Amazon has made some notable improvements. The new 1.5 GHz quad-core processor is up to twice as fast as the previous generation of Fire tablets, has three times the graphics processing power, and can handle “even the most graphically intense games.” The tablets both pack front- and rear-facing cameras, and you now have unlimited space on Amazon Cloud Drive for storing photos taken on Kindle Fire devices. The only place where the two tablets differ, besides the screen size, is in audio output; the HD 6 has a mono speaker, and the HD 7 packs dual stereo speakers.
While the software that comes on the HD 6 and 7 is relatively similar to previous versions, there are some notable updates. The Fire now supports profiles, so everyone in the family can use the tablet without getting their settings and app logins mixed up — and parents can put parental controls in place for each different profile, ensuring that kids only access what they’re supposed to, even if they have older siblings.
Amazon’s FreeTime subscription service means you can get tons of books, games, apps, TV shows, and movies for your kids with just a small monthly fee, and the forthcoming Family Library function means you can share purchases across Amazon accounts (meaning fewer issues with Amazon’s Kindle DRM). Between these two features, it’ll be almost impossible to run out of things to stock your Fire HD with.
On the productivity side, the Fire HDs now have the ability to create and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, which are automatically backed up to Cloud Drive.
At first glance, the Fire HD Kids’ Edition, which comes in both 6″ and 7″ versions and 8GB of storage, looks like an interesting addition to Amazon’s lineup. The 6″ and 7″ version are identical to the Fire HD 6 and Fire HD 7, but they cost $149 and $189 respectively. For the extra cash, you get a kid-proof case, a one-year subscription to FreeTime, and a two-year, no-questions-asked guarantee that Amazon will replace the tablet if your kids break it.
The Kids’ Edition Kindle Fire might not set itself apart with different specs or software, but the kid-friendly features might make it a worthwhile purchase for parents who want to get their kids started on tech early.
The new Fire HDX 8.9 is aimed less at families, and more at the work/play crowd. With a 2.5 GHz quad-core processor and 2560 x 1990 pixels (339 ppi, 30% more pixels than the iPad Air Retina screen), you’ll get an ultra-crisp image that’s great for watching movies and playing games. Like the Kindle Fire HDX, which remains unchanged, it’s available with 16, 32, or 64GB of storage, and in WiFi and 4G LTE options. The HDX 8.9 packs an 8 MP rear camera in addition to a front-facing one.
Some of the hardware improvements over the Fire HD models include dual-band WiFi for faster connections, a larger battery, a more advanced audio system (advertised as “twice as loud as the iPad Air”), and the Mayday button, one of the most interesting customer service tools that I’ve seen in quite a while. With a single button press, you’re connected with an Amazon customer service agent who can draw on your screen, walk you through a task you’re having trouble with, or just do something for you. It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Amazon’s stated response time goal is an impressive 15 seconds.
It’s clear that Amazon is taking aim at Apple with this tablet, and that they’re no longer pitching the Kindle Fire as an eReader “plus.” It’s a full-fledged tablet, great for games, working, and consuming media. And the $379 price tag reflects that.
Amazon revamped their base-model Kindle, and it’ll look really familiar if you’ve owned a Kindle Touch. They’ve done away with the page-turning, keyboard, and navigation buttons in favor of a touchscreen and a smaller profile. A faster processor makes for faster page turns, and the internal storage has been doubled, so you can store even more of your favorite books.
Software-wise, the Kindle now includes Goodreads integration, FreeTime, and a vocabulary builder. It’ll also include Word Wise, a quick-definition function, in the near future. And the new Family Library function will also be arriving soon. It’s still a great deal at $79.
The new base-model Kindle isn’t a huge step up, but the Kindle Voyage takes Amazon’s eReader collection in a new direction. At $199, it costs twice as much as the cheapest Fire tablet, but it comes packed with some cool features. The screen resolution has been increased to 330 ppi, making it even more like reading a book. The adaptive front light shines directly on the page and makes it easy to read, no matter what sort of lighting you’re in. And at 7.6mm, this eReader is really, really thin. The flush-front bezel, magnesium back panel, and glass front all come together to make this a gorgeous eReader.
The part of the Kindle Voyage that I’m most excited about, however, is the PagePress technology, a pressure-sensitive page-turning button on either side of the screen. You can keep your thumb on the button, and the pressure sensor won’t turn the page until you apply pressure with your thumb. It also provides haptic feedback when the page turns. No more moving your thumb to the screen to turn the page every few seconds.
Which Is Right for You?
With all of these new options, it can be tough to decide which Kindle tablet or eReader is best for you. Fortunately, with a wide range of price points and feature sets, there’s almost certainly a Kindle product that will meet your needs. If you’re looking for an eReader, it’ll come down to what you’re willing to pay. If you’re going to spend a lot of time reading, $199 for the top-of-the-line Kindle Voyage might be worth it. If you’re not ready to spend that much, the $119 Paperwhite will provide a high-quality reading experience without PagePress or adaptive lighting. And the $79 Kindle is still a great deal.
Choosing a Fire tablet is a bit more difficult, as there are so many options. The Kids’ Edition is great for sharing your tablet with children and not worrying about breaking or replacing it. On the other end of the spectrum, the Fire HDX 8.9 is a fantastic high-end tablet, on par with other tablets from more venerable manufacturers, and that’s reflected in the price tag. But if you want to do some serious gaming, document editing, photo and video collecting, or movie-watching, $379 might not sound so bad.
In the middle of the Fire lineup, there’s the HD 6, the HD 7, and the 7″ HDX. In my opinion, the only reason to go with a 7″ HDX over the HD 7 is if you want a better screen for watching movies or if you need 4G connectivity. The lack of a rear-facing camera is a big count against the 7″ HDX when the rest of the lineup has one. Choosing between the 6 and 7 really comes down to portability; the 6″ model will fit in a purse pocket or the side of a backpack without much trouble, but the 7″ is getting closer to traditional tablet size.
What do you think of the new Kindle lineup? Is there anything here that you’re really excited about? Will you be purchasing any of these in the near future? Share your thoughts below!