Amazon is launching a new line of Fire HD tablets. But how new are they?
There are some updates, to be sure, but the most important ones all point back to you consuming more Amazon video.
The new, multi-colored Fire HD tablets come in different sizes: there's an 8-inch tablet and a 10.1-inch tablet, compared with the 6-inch and 7-inch models Amazon announced a year ago. The 10-1-inch tablet is Amazon's largest tablet yet. They're also thinner than any tablet Amazon has released before (7.7mm thin, to be exact), and at first glance they look plasticky, but Amazon says these are more durable than Apple's iPad Air.
They're running on a new version of Fire OS. And they have new price points: the 8-inch and 10-inch model cost $150 and $230, respectively, while last year's Fire HD tablets cost $100 and $140.
But really, let's talk about video.
The new Fire tablets still have very nice HD displays, especially for their price points. They have a 16:10 aspect ratio, recognized as a more cinematic display, while other tablet makers have started to migrate back to a 4:3 aspect ratio. Amazon points out that the Fire HD 8-inch tablet has "15 percent more video viewing area" and the 10-inch version has "22 percent more viewing area" than tablets with that other aspect ratio.
The new Fire OS 5.0, which Amazon has named "Bellini" and will run on top of Android Lollipop at launch, includes a new interface that is all about discovery. In other words, Amazon will suggest to you, right on the home screen of the device, new content for you to consume. That includes apps, books, games, and (of course) video.
It offers expandable storage through a microSD port, which means more space for movies and TV shows.
Also! The tablets are built with Dolby stereo speakers for immersive sound. No one wants immersive sound for reading books. But it's pretty great for videos.
On Deck automatically downloads Prime Video to your tablet while you're sleeping
And, finally, Amazon is rolling out a new and admittedly cool-sounding feature called On Deck with these new Fire HD tablets. The tablet will automatically download popular movies and TV shows to the tablet, so that when you're sitting on a flight or anywhere else without Wi-Fi connectivity, you'll have content just waiting for you. Amazon Prime members will get an assortment of videos, while non-Prime members will see Amazon Originals. If you find yourself running out of local storage when you try to download something else, Amazon will wipe the On Deck video for you.
Okay, there are other new things, too. Like Word Runner, a new speed-reading app that's available in Fire OS Bellini.
When you look at Amazon’s complete tablet lineup, it’s hard to know exactly what the strategy is here. It gave up on the cheap 6-inch tablet, introduced a new $50 tablet, and updated its kids tablet. Now it’s introducing new 7-inch and 10.1-inch tablets and, also, says last year’s 8.9-inch Fire HDX tablet is sticking around (albeit with an update to Fire OS 5.0). That’s a lot of tablets — too many, probably. But hey: they all support Amazon video!