Rumours of an Amazon-branded phone continue to swirl around the tech world, but in the meantime the company is focusing on its Android tablet line with its new Kindle Fire HDX range. The competition is fiercer than ever: cut-price slabs from Tesco and Argos are now fighting it out with Google’s better-than-ever second-generation Nexus 7, so Amazon can’t afford to stand still.
Pre-ordering has just gone live for the new range in the UK. There are three key models: the top-of-the-range 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX, the smaller 7″ Kindle Fire HDX and the budget 7″ Kindle Fire. Each one comes with the option of 4G connectivity (supplied by Vodafone), a selection of storage options and the choice of Amazon’s ‘special offers’ embedded advertising.
With so many configurations to pick from, there’s a price to suit every wallet size: the cheapest 7″ Kindle Fire HD will set you back £119 with 8GB of storage, no 4G and special offers enabled, while the most expensive 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX costs £489 with 64GB of space, 4G connectivity and the ads switched off. For comparison purposes you can pick up a new Wi-Fi-only 16GB Nexus 7 for £199, while a Wi-Fi-only 16GB iPad mini is priced at £269. Apple is expected to refresh its iPad line at an event next week (22nd October).
The new HDX range of tablets come with 7″ or 8.9″ screens and the option of 4G connectivity provided by Vodafone.
The entry-level 7″ Fire HD brings with it a 1280×800 pixel display and a dual-core 1.5GHz processor. Upgrade to a 7″ Fire HDX and you get a 1920×1200 pixel resolution screen with a 2.2GHz quad-core CPU powering everything behind the scenes. The same processor is featured in the top-of-the-range 8.9″ Fire HDX, but the screen display is upped to 2560×1600 pixels. As on earlier Kindle Fire tablets, the slabs are running a heavily customised, Amazon-branded version of Android.
Also of note is the new ‘Mayday’ feature that comes as part of the support package when you buy any HDX model. Via one button press you can connect live to an Amazon support representative who will guide you through any problems you’re having with your tablet, free of charge. The service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and Amazon is aiming for a response time of 15 seconds or less for each call.
The units have been out in the US for several weeks and early reviews have been very positive. CNET’s Eric Franklin describes the new Kindle Fire HDX as “a performance monster” that offers “incredible value for its price”. The Verge’s David Pierce is equally enthusiastic:
The Kindle Fire HDX does its primary job brilliantly — with a great display and fast internals it’s the best way ever to consume all of Amazon’s content, from books to movies to music to banana slicers. It’s also a much more broadly capable device, finally able to replace your computer in places and not just complement it.
However, he did bemoan Amazon’s Android customisations and the lack of full access to the Google Play Store. Elsewhere, Ars Technica’s Jason Inofuentes also emphasised that Amazon’s existing customers will get the most out of the company’s new hardware:
The Amazon Kindle HDX is a powerful, capable device with one of the best displays we’ve ever seen. Amazon has produced a top-tier device whose only condition is adoption of its services. If you’re a longtime Amazon Video and MP3 customer, that’s great news.
Engadget’s Brian Heater was impressed too, calling the new HDX tablet “a compelling proposition” that offers “plenty of user-friendly features and specs that match the Nexus 7 blow for blow”. If you’re tempted to get your pre-order in straight away, your brand new Amazon tablet will land on your doormat on the 13th of November.