With better specs, a worldwide availability and dirt cheap price, Amazon’s 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD has the hallmarks of an iPad contender.
Excellent LCD display for outdoor reading
Remember those cheeky Amazon ads which digged at how the iPad’s LCD display was rubbish for reading outdoors?
Well, Amazon has tried to better Apple's own efforts with LCD with a hi-res 1920 x 1200 LCD display that is supposedly better for reading in sunlight. The firm says the 8.9-inch display has a laminated touch sensor, meaning there should be 25% less glare when you’re using the tablet outdoors in bright sunlight.
Dual stereo speakers with Dolby sound
The Kindle Fire HD is the first tablet to have dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus. This should provide more balanced audio when listening to music and when watching films, while it also means you'll be able to listen to Dolby Digital Plus stereo sound without having to wear headphones.
It’s not a big advantage, but having a direct HDMI output will make it easier to hook the tablet up to your TV for watching HD movies. Apple's iPad can of course do the same, but only if you have an Apple HDMI convertor ($39) or use AirPlay with an Apple TV.
Jeff Bezos talked up the Kindle Fire HD’s WiFi performance at the launch event, and said that the tablet has a dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi chip and two antennas, which should mean you’ll not block the signal if ‘you’re not holding it right’.
Bezos went onto claim that the mix of the improved processor and WiFi specs should see the tablet’s Internet connection run 41% faster than on the “new” iPad.
Amazon’s WhisperSync syncs up with your eBooks and audiobooks to let you carry on following a story by listening to it on the go. WhisperSync's own "Immersion Reading" feature also allows you to follow the text at the same time. After finishing up with the audio book, you can then read where you left off at a later date.
The WhisperSync feature also works in games, so you can play and carry on games between two different devices.
X-Ray has been popular on the Kindle Touch, and offers up contextual information for books and movies. As one example, you can tap an actor on screen and get all information on him via the IMDB database.
Amazon Prime is the firm's video-on-demand service which now offers somewhere in the region of 25,000 movie titles for you to stream. That number jumped up on Tuesday, when Amazon announced a deal with Hollywood studio Epix for titles like "The Avengers," "Iron Man 2" and "The Hunger Games".
It may cost $79.99 a year, but Prime could turn out to be a big player in driving Kindle Fire HD users to consume Amazon content.
'FreeTime' parental controls
Another useful tool is FreeTime, which allows parents to set time limits on how long children spend with games, books or websites on the Kindle Fire HD tablet. The screen turns blue when time is up, and parents can also create profiles for each of their offspring.
Affordable prices & cheap 4G
Some may be calling the tablet market now a race to the bottom, but nonetheless the Kindle Fire HD clearly has the potential to usurp the iPad on price alone.
The WiFi-model, with 16GB of memory, will sell for $299 while its 4G, LTE-boasting brother, with 32GB of storage will arguably challenge the iPad more directly, going for $499 – the same price as the most basic iPad.
If that sounds a lot, then also consider that for just $50 extra over the year, you can get 250MB a month of data, 20GB of cloud storage and a $10 credit to the Amazon Appstore. AT&T's current plans would charge $14.99 a month for the data alone.