The Kindle Fire tablets have always served primarily as portals to Amazon's massive trove of content. But this year, as the company introduces the new Kindle Fire HDX, Amazon tablets are on the precipice of becoming something much more powerful, and much more useful besides. Amazon's ready to compete on specs, on content, and on price — and it makes a compelling case in every respect.

The HDX is actually two tablets: a 7-inch model and an 8.9-inch version, just like the Kindle Fire HD before it. Both are still relatively inconspicuously designed, with virtually no flair — they're just black. Both models feel solid and well made when you’re holding them. The company has made a big deal about the reduction in size and weight, and there is some noticeable fat trimmed, particularly on the 8.9-inch model. As before Amazon is using a soft-touch material around the backs of the tablets, but it’s dotting the edges of that surface with angular, raised plastic edges that jut out at surprisingly funky angles.