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Amazon Launches Three New Fire Tablets, Reinvigorates the Fire HD 6

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. 

fire tablet family

Yes, there was a $50 Fire tablet, and yes, there was a 6″ Fire tablet, but they weren’t the same device.

Amazon is keeping last year’s Fire HD 6 around for another season. This is a decent enough tablet with a single speaker, quad-core CPU, a pair of cameras (2MP and VGA), and a relatively sharp screen.

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:

fire new tablet

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.

fire kids tablet amazon 7 2015

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.

amazon fire ten inch tablet

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.

Both of the new tablets are up for pre-order today, with prices starting at $149 (for the Fire HD 8) and $229 (for the Fire HD 10), and will ship on 30 September.

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.

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DaveZ September 17, 2015 um 11:05 am

How are you determining the screens are unimpressive? Pixel count alone? The 8″ model interests me… I’ve got a real heavy Asus of that size that does real poorly outdoors. The PR made is sound like these screens might do better.

Nate Hoffelder September 17, 2015 um 11:14 am

Yes, pixels.

I’d rather have a 7″ screen with the same number of pixels than an 8″ screen. I have 8″ tablets, and the larger screen just doesn’t appeal to me – not when the screen resolution is so low.

Steve H September 17, 2015 um 11:23 am

The only thing that interests me is the new Wordrunner feature(I actually requested a Spritz-like app on their feedback email address). I have a 8.9 HDX and can’t see downgrading to a low pixel display. What do you think the odds are of a software upgrade for the original HDX?

Nate Hoffelder September 17, 2015 um 11:34 am

@ Steve Not very likely. It’s just too old.

I’m expecting last year’s devices to get the new update, though.

Chris Meadows September 17, 2015 um 12:04 pm

You forgot to mention that Amazon is explicitly making the $50 tablet available as a buy-five-get-one-free six pack. So people can actually buy a six-pack of 7″ tablets for just a little more than they’d pay for one 10″ tablet.

It may not be the best tablet ever made from your or my point of view, but talk about your cheap ways to give every member of the family their own inexpensive media and Internet slate. That might just be a game-changer right there.

Nate Hoffelder September 17, 2015 um 12:13 pm

I didn’t catch that detail, thanks.

Patrick Grote September 17, 2015 um 2:46 pm

If I read the releases correctly, none of the tablets are a replacement for the HDX series. Is that correct?

Nate Hoffelder September 17, 2015 um 2:48 pm

The three tablets are newer but I don’t think they’re as good as the HDX models, no.

George September 17, 2015 um 3:00 pm

While the micro sd slot would be nice, I think I’ll stick with my HDX for now.

tubemonkey September 17, 2015 um 3:44 pm

Note that the $50 7″ Fire only has a 90-day warranty in the US & Japan. A 1-year warranty will cost you an extra $10.

Nate Hoffelder September 17, 2015 um 5:05 pm

@ tubemonkey Ah, so that’s how they got the price down. They’re skimping on the warranty.

This also not so coincidentally explains why the Fire tablet costs more in Europe; their laws mandate a longer warranty.

Rob Siders September 17, 2015 um 3:52 pm

FWIW, there was an update to the Silk browser for the HDX today. Not yet sure if anything else was updated.

Nate Hoffelder September 17, 2015 um 4:20 pm

@ Rod I saw that over at MobileRead, yes.I got the update as well.

Sturmund Drang September 17, 2015 um 4:22 pm

How many 7″ Samsung Nooks do you think will sell for $149 after this?

Basem September 17, 2015 um 4:39 pm

I would think the Nexus 9, at this moment, is similarly priced to the HD 10 and it is vastly better than it. The $50 tablet is interesting, especially if you have a Prime subscription.

Syn September 17, 2015 um 4:47 pm

B&N coming out with a 400 dollar tablet is surprising when you consider that even Samsung has downgraded their line this year (Tab A anyone?) and the more expensive Note lines seem to have vanished.

Amazon didn’t have a HDX in the smaller tablet last year, only the 8″ model. If these higher priced tablets (and Amazon has the data for all of the tablets that run through their site) aren’t selling, I’m not surprised they’ve downgraded. I just won’t be picking up anything as the HDX screen is beautiful and sharp on text. I can’t see giving that up.

But, every body doesn’t care about resolution or even understands how it benefits their tablet and reading experience. B&N is going to have a hard time offloading those tablets at 400 dollars vs these cheap prices.

Nate Hoffelder September 17, 2015 um 5:04 pm

@ Syn Yes, B&N zigged when it should have zagged. I expected B&N to go with a cheaper tablet because that was the way the market was trending. In stead they went against the market. That’s going to hurt them.

@ Sturmund Drang Hardly any. I came perilously close to buying one, and I coulnt myself lucky that I did not.

Basem September 17, 2015 um 4:54 pm

Just a point – if the more recent HDX gets the update, then the 3rd generation should too. Amazon is good at updating their devices and have kept the same OS firmware between the 3rd and 4th generation of the HDX.

The question is whether Amazon will transport the OS from HD to HDX and my speculation is that this won’t be the case (two different series of tablets).

Steve H September 17, 2015 um 6:09 pm

There are just to many other compelling tablets out there. For example, The ASUS Zenpad 2 8.0 for 199.00…2048×1536 display with 32 GB. For 149.99 you get the new Fire HD with 8 GB…an additional $20 gets you to 16 GB now you are less than 30 dollars away from a great spec’d ASUS that is totally Android.
If you are invested in Amazon’s ecosystem it might?? be worth the savings. I do like the idea of the Word Runner function but still…

DavidW September 17, 2015 um 11:54 pm

This is complete garbage. Okay yeah I see $50 tablet is bottom of the barrell… that’s fine. What’s not fine is the horrifically subpar resolution and hardware in the HD 8 and 10. This is 2015, not 2011. The pixel density on the 8 and 10 models is equal to or lower than the original Fire. That is just stupid. Absolutely stupid. Who couldn’t afford to pay slightly more for an Asus or Nexus with much better resolution?

I want to see if this is going to be another fire phone flop, or Amazon will actually make this work.

Basem September 18, 2015 um 1:24 am

David- I agree; they should have put a 1920 x 1280 on the 10 inch one and the 8 inch should be priced lower. The HDX is over-priced too and think this is Amazon’s attempt at a more affordable large tablet. However, judging from the aspect ratio, this appears to be geared towards Amazon Prime subscription and so resolution is not a big issue (it would be for reading). A good idea would be to discount these tablets when you take out a yearly Prime membership and that may make them more attractive. Even saying that, other than the $50 tablet, which is a great idea, it makes little sense to release a 10 inch with 149 ppi, when an important feature of your eco-system is in selling e-books.

Nate Hoffelder September 18, 2015 um 7:39 am

I don’t know if it should be that high, but …

These are media/game tablets, so not having a higher resolution screen kinda defeats the purpose. And as for the single speaker, don’t make me LOL.

fjtorres September 18, 2015 um 9:26 am

Well, considering the tablet bubble (remember that, Nate?) is deflating, if not outright popping, Amazon might be just trying to avoid getting caught in a crash. People aren’t buying Premium tablets right now so it may be that going low end is the way to survive.
Regardless of what one might prefer, those Fire tablets *are* better than the average tablet at those size/price points. Other than resolution they aren’t bad tablets. (How many $50 tablets have IPS screens?)
There’s more to value, even for media consumption tablets, than screen resolution.
As for reading, 720p is fine as long the reading app is properly tuned and has good antialiasing and sub-pixel addressing.
Me, I think they should’ve come in $20-30 lower on the two bigger models but nothing says they can’t sell all the market will bear at those prices and then come down when the "new and shiny" wears off.

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