Sept. 10, 2012 — The jostling within the big, old tablet hot tub appears to be getting a lot more feisty thanks to several brand new contenders. Microsoft fired the first shot toward market leader Apple and its iPad by announcing its new Surface tablets. Google then followed that up with its own touchy feely entry — the Jellybean-flavored Nexus 7 tablet. Now Amazon is re-entering the fray with two new Kindle Fire tablets, the Kindle Fire HD and its big brother, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9.
We provided a quick peek at both Kindle Fire HD versions as well as the Kindle Paperwhite reader last week. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the heavyweight of the bunch, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9. As its name implies, the device sports an 8.9-inch display, making it more of a competitor for the iPad in terms of size. The large size also comes with a heftier sticker price of $499 for the 32GB version and $599 for the 64GB version — and that’s with “Special Offers” ads. The sponsored ads and screensavers caused quite a kerfuffle on the Interwebs, ultimately leading Amazon to provide the option to take out those pesky ads. That option does come with a price: users have to fork over $15 to make their new Kindle tablet ad-free.
Amazon also appears to be placing an increased focus on games this time around. The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 features a more powerful 1.5Ghz dual-core processor coupled with an Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core. The question now is whether its beefed-up brains and custom Android skin will be enough to rid the device of the laggy performance exhibited by its predecessor. Lag was certainly one of the main complaints users griped about the original Kindle Fire tablet, something that this device will need to address if it wants to stack up well against the buttery smooth offerings from Apple and Google in the tablet space.
On a positive note, content options do not appear to be an issue for the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 thanks to the wide reach Amazon has built over the years. The company claims that it will have “22 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, books, audiobooks, and popular apps” available for the device once it starts shipping in Nov. 10, including content from Netflix, HBO GO and Pandora. Subscribers to Amazon’s Prime service get extra perks, including unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows. I assume “unlimited” pertains to streaming via WiFi as connecting via AT&T’s $49.99 4G LTE plan comes with a 250MB cap per month for a year. The tablet supports video up to 1080p for folks who prefer to consume high-definition content on the 1920 x 1200 display.
Overall, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 looks good on paper. The device features solid hardware as well as robust content — a necessary combination for any device competing in the increasingly crowded tablet space. Having the name recognition that Amazon provides also gives the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 a strong advantage that many non-Apple competitors don’t have. The question now is in the execution. If the new Kindle Fire HD 8.9 can deliver the goods without the lag that marked its predecessor, then it will easily be one of the stronger competitors against Apple’s iPad juggernaut to date. If not, well, it’ll still sell well like its predecessor did but it will also be one wasted opportunity.
For more about portable games and apps, make sure to check out our Portable Gaming Hub.
TALE OF THE TAPE
- Dimensions: 9.4" x 6.4" x 0.35" (240 mm x 164 mm x 8.8 mm)
- Weight: 20 ounces (575 grams)
- Ports: USB 2.0 (micro-B connector), micro-HDMI (micro-D connector), 3.5 mm stereo jack
- Supported formats: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, Audible Enhanced format (AAX), DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, PCM/WAVE, OGG, WAV, MP4, AAC LC/LTP, HE-AACv1, HE-AACv2, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, HTML5, CSS3, MP4, 3GP, VP8(.webm)