We thought Amazon might release a 10-inch Kindle Fire at today's event in Los Angeles, but instead Jeff Bezos opted to unveil an 8.9-inch tablet model. The larger, $299 Kindle Fire also adopts the 16:10 aspect ratio, has a high-res 1920 x 1200 display, and features many of the other technologies Bezos was so excited to talk about, from MIMO to extra Wi-Fi antennas to a TI OMAP 4 processor.
We got a chance to check out the new device, and though we can't say for sure if it lives up to Jeff Bezos promise that it's "the best tablet at any price," there's no question that the 8.9-inch tablet is a thing of beauty. The 1920 x 1200 display is gorgeous, with deep blacks and crisp colors; viewing angles are also excellent. The underlying horsepower also shines through, as the new Fire HD is far smoother and more responsive than the old Fire. Even little things, like scrolling through the carousel, are much more attuned to your finger's rapid motions.
The tablet in general feels much sleeker and more impressive than the latest version of the Fire. Its tapered edges and soft-touch back feel great, and the whole package is surprisingly thin and light. The bezel around the screen is substantial and the 16:10 resolution looks a little fatter than it does on a 10-inch tablet, but this is certainly a nice piece of hardware.
Other than the new display, software enhancements were the most touted thing about the new Fire models. There's a new Favorites menu, a pop-up overlay that shows bookmarks, apps, and books that you want to access quickly — it's a smart addition and seems well-implemented. The coolest thing we saw, though, was definitely the immersive reading feature: you can switch back and forth between reading a book and listening to it, and the process is quick and seamless.
If you're interested in a Fire HD, you'll have to wait a bit longer than for the other new devices. It'll be available November 20th, starting at $299 for 16GB of storage. You can add more storage, or get AT&T LTE coverage through Amazon's new data plans — you'll pay $599 for the high-end package.