If there's one thing we've learned when it comes to tablets, it's that one size doesn't fit all, and Amazon seems to be on board with that sentiment. To go along with its flagship 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD, Amazon today unveiled a smaller, 7-inch version of the tablet, going so far as to label it "the world's most advanced" device in its class. Those are big words, particularly when competition in this segment has heated up in recent months with impressive and budget-priced offerings like Google's Nexus 7. Can Amazon's latest keep pace with a rapidly growing list of alternatives? If we're basing our answer on hardware alone, the outlook is positive.
Amazon isn't reinventing the design process
As far as appearance goes, the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD closely resembles what we've seen from other manufacturers this year. It's a black slab weighing under a pound and measuring less than a half-inch thick. There's a substantial bezel surrounding its 1280x800 screen, so the Kindle is a bit wider than its competition, but not so much to prevent it from fitting comfortably in your hand. And whereas the larger Fire HD can claim display superiority over several competing tablets, the same doesn't hold true for the smaller model; the Nexus 7 features an identical resolution. Amazon claims the panel used here contains a polarizing filter and exhibits reduced glare, but we'll need some quality hands-on time with the device to see if those result in any noticeable advantage.
Adequate and modern internals
Similarly, none of these devices can claim a head-and-shoulders advantage when it comes to internals. The dual-core TI OMAP 4460 inside the Kindle should keep Amazon's forked version of Android running smoothly. Even so, performance has never been a problem for the Nexus 7 and its Tegra 3 chip, nor did we experience many hiccups with the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. The same holds true for Wi-Fi reception, though we're interested in discovering what sort of impact the dual-band, dual-antenna inside the Kindle has on everyday usage, assuming there's any decipherable difference to begin with.
Ecosystem is still everything
One area where Amazon reigns supreme over the competition is ecosystem. The Kindle Store, Amazon MP3, and Instant Video combine for a digital marketplace with depth that ranks second only to Apple (and likely takes first place if you're mainly concerned with reading.) Google is making strides to improve the Google Play experience, but it's simply not up to par with Amazon's offerings just yet. As with the original Kindle Fire, this is a strong choice for anyone who primarily uses a tablet for entertainment and consumption.
All the hardware specs can be seen in our detailed comparison, but we'd suggest holding off on any purchases for the next month or so — assuming rumors of Apple preparing a smaller iPad are true. Such a device would instantly change the 7-inch tablet landscape, so it's worth waiting to make the best decision.