Autumn is almost here. The kids are back in school, the air is starting to cool, and we just survived another insanely overhyped Apple event. That can mean only one thing: It’s time for Amazon to refresh its line of low-cost tablets.
This year’s batch of new Fire tabs introduces a couple of new form factors — 8- and 10-inch screens, versus last year’s 7- and 9-inch models — a startling new entry price ($50), and a range of laminated colors and accessories. Each tablet will sport Amazon’s latest Android-based operating system (Fire OS 5) with some cool features, and all come with one month’s free access to Amazon Prime, the company’s $100 subscription service for video on demand and expedited shipping.
Here’s the lineup.
Fire OS 5
Amazon’s version of Android comes with a number of features you won’t find on any other Android tablet. For example, swipe right from the home screen to see the games, videos, songs, or books you’ve recently enjoyed; scroll down to see recommendations for more options based on the stuff you’ve already consumed. Amazon’s On Deck feature will automatically download titles for you for when you’re offline (such as on a long Wi-Fi-less flight), then quietly delete them as you need more room for apps and downloads.
Then there’s Amazon Underground, an app store where you can get up to $10,000 worth of apps for free — no upfront fees or in-app purchases. Or Word Runner, an app that lets you burn through e-books by showing you one word at a time in rapid succession — from 100 words a minute to 900 words (aka Spock Mode).
Fire HD 8
This tab offers an 8-inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio; that means you can watch movies in all their widescreen glory, no letterboxing required. Yet it’s just 7.7 millimeters thick, weighs only 11 ounces, and is available in four hues (black, magenta, blue, and tangerine). It features dual Dolby 5.1 speakers that are 50 percent louder than their previous versions and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera as well as a 1-megapixel front cam for video chats. The 8 GB version retails for $150; a 16 GB model adds another $20 to the price tag.
Fire HD 10
The HD 8’s bigger brother offers a 10-inch screen with a similar aspect ratio, weighs in at 14.5 ounces, and comes in either white or black. Like the Fire HD 8, it offers a microSD card slot that allows you to boost storage up to another 128 GB. Amazon also claims its Fire tablets are twice as durable as Apple’s iPad and can run for eight hours between charges. The HD 10 is available in 16 GB ($230), 32 GB ($260), and 64 GB ($290) configurations.
The entry-level 7-inch tab is remarkable for one thing, at least: It costs just $50. And yet it delivers features you’d expect in a much pricier slate, with a high-quality display, a microSD slot, and full access to all the features of Fire OS 5. Amazon is also offering a “six-pack” bundle: buy five of these puppies (for $250) and Amazon will toss in the sixth one for free.
Fire Kids Edition
First introduced last year, this is the 7-inch Fire tablet with a big rubber bumper protecting the outside, along with a two-year warranty offering full repair or replacement of the unit no matter what miseries the munchkins inflict upon it. There’s even more impressive software protecting your kids: a year’s free subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, Amazon’s sophisticated parental control system, featuring 10,000 kid-friendly books, videos, and apps. Amazon also provides a whitelist of 20,000 preapproved websites and YouTube videos, which parents can add to as needed. The cost? A mere $100.
For the first time, Amazon will let you accessorize your Fire, adding a laminated case in those four colors (black, magenta, blue, and tangerine) for $40 or a Bluetooth keyboard case for the HD 10 for another $100. All the above products are available for preorder today and will ship starting on September 30.