Amazon had a couple surprises in store for us today. They've launched their new tablets, only it is not quite what we were lead to expect. There are three new tablets, not four, and we already knew all about them.
Yes, there was a $50 Fire tablet, and yes, there was a 6" Fire tablet, but they weren't the same device.
That tablet will still cost $99, and you can read more about it in last year's launch post.
The Fire HD 6 is no longer Amazon's budget model; that position has been filled by the new Fire tablet, which as you can see has the new interface that leaked yesterday:
This is the 7"
6.7" tablet whose specs leaked last week (the screen size was off), and yes it does cost $50 (with adverts). It sports a low resolution screen (1024 x 600), and runs Amazon's version of Android 5.1 on a 1.3Ghz quad-core CPU with a Mali-450 quad-core GPU.
It has 1GB RAM, 8GB internal storage (only 5.6GB accessible), Wifi, Bluetooth, and a couple relatively low resolution cameras (VGA and 1.8MP). And to top things off, the new Fire has the microSD card slot we were expecting.
It's not much of a tablet, but it is about what you would expect for $50. If you like it, you can order it today and get it on 30 September.
You can also buy the Kid's Tablet variant for $99. This tablet has the same hardware as the new Fire tablet and comes with a rubber shell, a two-year warranty, and a one-year subscription to Freetime Unlimited, Amazon's kid's subscription service.
The new kid's tablet is a damned good deal, but if that's not your thing then Amazon's new 8" and ten inch tablets might draw your interest.
Both of the tablets that showed up in yesterday's leak are real, and their screens are as unimpressive as the specs suggested.
The Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 run Amazon's custom version of Android on a quad-core MediaTek MT8135 CPU with PowerVR Rogue G6200 graphics, 1GB RAM, 8Gb or 16GB internal storage, a pair of cameras (5MP and 1MP), Bluetooth, and Wifi.
Both tablets have screen resolutions of 1280 x 800, and they both have a microSD card slot, an accelerometer, pedometer, and a gyroscope.
To put it simply, Amazon took the guts of last year's Fire HD 7, added slightly improved cameras, and then stuck it all behind two larger and unimpressive screens.
These are almost literally the same tablets with different screen sizes (even the screen resolutions are the same), so if you are in the market for a tablet then you should ask whether the larger screen is worth it.
I would say no; rather than buy the Fire HD 10, I'd get a $400 iPad. It costs a little more but is about five times as good.
All the new tablets are running Fire OS 5, which features a slew of new features including the option to download videos and store them on the microSD card, Amazon Underground, and Word Runner.
Do you know how Spritz and similar speed reading apps help you read quickly by flashing a single word at you at a time? That tech is called RSVP, and Word Runner is Amazon's take on the idea.
Amazon is also introducing a feature called On Deck in the Fire HD 8 and HD 10. This is a predictive download feature which is intended to make sure you never go without a video to watch.
Amazon told Ars Technica that user feedback indicated that people were frustrated when they got to an airport to realize that they forgot to download movies or shows onto their tablets. Amazon's solution is to have the new tablets automatically download a variety of movies and shows when the tablet is plugged in.
This will chew up your storage (and your data plan), but Amaozn also says the content will be deleted automatically if the user is trying to download something and running into storage limits. It can also be disabled.
Now that is a nice feature; it has its downsides but there have been times I would have wanted it on my past Fire tablets.