Today Amazon Rolled Out Its New Toys. Should You Care?

Senior Contributor
09.06.12 2 Comments

September kicks off a whole string of consumer electronics being revealed to the general public. We’ve got new Nokia phones, new Droids, the iPhone 5 is all but confirmed as being revealed next week, but today, Amazon gets the spotlight for its consumer electronics. So, what have they rolled out, and should you care?

Short answer: If you’re looking for an e-reader or a media streaming device, yes. If you’re looking for an actual tablet, no.

Bezos kicked off the talk by saying that people don’t want Android tablets because they’re “gadgets.” Amazon is all about services! Then Bezos spent an hour and a half getting into technical detail about how their “tablets” are so much better than everyone else’s.

First up, the Kindle Paperwhite. This is a cool gadget: vividly bright screen, 62% higher resolution, 8 weeks (!) of battery life even with the powerful light on and capacitive touch. That’s a pretty major overhaul. There are other little software features as well, like author bios and little tools to determine how long it’ll take to finish a chapter. All in all, it’s a major step forward for the Kindle e-reader.

Should You Care?: If you don’t want a tablet and just want an ereader? Absolutely. If you already have a tablet? I’m not seeing a compelling reason to switch. Especially since the 3G version of the Paperwhite is $180.

The old Kindle also has a better screen and a price drop: It’s now down to $69 from $79. Nothing earth-shaking here, but possibly a good Christmas gift.

The Kindle Fire has largely gotten a facelift. It’s 40% faster, has twice the RAM, and a longer battery life. It’s also $160.

Next there’s Amazon’s would-be iPad killer, the Kindle Fire HD. It comes in two sizes, nine inches and seven inches. Amazon claims its processor is better than the Tegra 3, a claim that’s certainly possible but I’m doubtful will be true in day-to-day use.

Sound-wise, it’s got Dolby Digital Plus and two speakers, meaning it’s going to sound pretty good for a tablet. In terms of WiFi, it’s got both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz antennas, which is slightly overkill.

Unsurprisingly, the Kindle Fire HD is also a roomy beast, starting at 16GB. The 16GB will start at $199 for the seven incher, and $299 for the nine-incher. You can also get a 4G LTE nine-incher with 32GB of storage for $500.

Should You Care?: No. For all the trash Bezos talked, and for all the seemingly amazing technical specifications, these are not tablets. They’re Amazon streaming devices. If that’s what you want, buy it. It looks great. If all you want is something to stream movies, read books, and listen to music with, this will fit the bill admirably.

But if you want something like an iPad or a Nexus 7, something that can run apps and gives you more choice and flexibility, buy those instead. Amazon can talk tough all it wants: In the end, it’s not even playing the same sport.

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