Amazon Unveils New Kindle Fire and Kindle eReader Models, Invades 8.9-inch Tablet Space

Amazon unveiled several new Kindle and Kindle Fire tablet models today, and fans of the tablets now have a much larger product family tree from which to choose.

First up: the original Kindle has received a bit of a specs tweak and now sports faster page turns, new fonts, crisper text--and a price drop from $79 to $69. The ereader now has a sibling in the Kindle Paperwhite, which has no physical buttons, strong visibility even in low-light situations, and a battery that can last a purported 8 weeks even with the screen lit. The display boasts 212ppi and enables the use of new fonts, and the device is just 9.1mm thick and weighs 7.5 ounces.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Paperwhite includes some other choice features, including Time to Read, which tells you how much time it will take you to finish your chapter; X-Ray, which lets you easily grab information on the book’s characters or author; and a handy feature called WhisperSync that enables users to alternate between an audio version of a book and the text versin without losing your place. Amazon is taking orders now and will ship the device October 1st; the basic Paperwhite will cost $119, and an upcoming 3G version will be $179.

Kindle ereader buys will get to take advantage of Kindle Serials, which are serial publications for which customers can pay once and get all of the editions in a given series.

The big-time announcements, though, pertain to the Kindle Fire. The current Kindle Fire is getting some minor enhancements such as more RAM and is dropping in price all the way down to $159 to make way for two big brothers: the Kindle Fire HD and the Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD
Amazon Kindle Fire HD

The new Kindle Fire HD will be available in both 7- and 8.9-inch models and will cost $199 and $299, respectively. Under the hood, the new tablet will feature a TI OMAP 4470 processor that Amazon claims will outperform NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 chip (a tall order), 16GB of onboard flash storage (to start), dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus, a front-facing HD camera, and MIMO technology that includes both 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi antennae.

It also includes WhisperSync for Voice and WhisperSync for Games (the latter of which stores your unlocked levels in the cloud so you don’t lose them), as well as Kindle Free Time, which allows you to set time limits for your kids’ content. Free Time give you the option of multiple profiles so you each child has his or her own clock and limits. The aforementioned X-Ray (for everything from movies to games to textbooks) and a new email client are on board, too, and Facebook and Skype made custom apps for the device.

Amazon Kindle Family
The Amazon Kindle Family Portrait, in case you got confused

The 7-inch version will ship starting on September 14th, while the larger version will land on November 20th, but if you’re feeling like dropping some serious cash on a Kindle-flavored tablet, don’t overlook the Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE.

Amazon is apparently looking to take Apple’s iPad on directly with this $499 model (coming November 20th), as it’s 8.9 inches and features 32GB of onboard storage, 20GB of cloud storage, and 4G LTE capabilities with 250MB of monthly data for just $50 per year. Unseating Apple from the tablet throne is a tall order, and even a well-priced data plan probably isn’t enough to do it; however Amazon’s foray into the larger-sized tablet market plays out, it sounds as if it will continue to do quite well in the 7-inch segment with these new devices.