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Amazon introduces $199 Kindle Fire tablet

Consumer Reports News: September 28, 2011 10:59 AM

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos today announced at an event in New York the company's long-anticipated tablet, the Kindle Fire, which boasts a 7-inch screen and will sell for $199. That price is less than competing 7-inch tablets from major brands—and is lower than the $250 price tag that was widely predicted by industry analysts before today's event. It will ship on November 15.

As expected, the Fire is an Android-based Wi-Fi-connected device with 8GB of storage and a weight of 14.6 ounces; that makes it a little heavier than the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab and a little lighter than the Barnes & Noble Nook Color, the tablet-like 7-inch color e-book reader. It runs on a 1-GHz dual-core processor.

The device emphasizes the content and services that Amazon sells, including books (of course) as well as video and music; Whisper Sync, Amazon's wireless delivery, will now work with music and video, too. Unlike Android-based tablets, however, you can't download any or all apps from the Android Marketplace to the Fire. Like the Nook Color, the Fire has a "curated" selection of apps culled from those in Amazon's own apps store for Android devices.

The device also promises to sync content across all platforms for movies, meaning, says Bezos, that you could begin watching an Amazon Prime movie on the Fire and continue on your TV when you get home, by accessing the movie through the set or other device, such as a Web-connected Blu-ray player. The Fire will also feature full-color magazines, like the Nook Colork does.

The device’s interface is distinct from that of most Android tablets. The home screen features a series of tabs (Newsstands, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps, Web) that facilitate access to Amazon and even personal content, including that which you may have stored on Amazon’s Cloud service. The tabs include a Video one that takes you to the Amazon Instant Video service, where you can stream free videos from the selection offered free with membership in Amazon Prime, which is offered free for 30 days with the device (and otherwise costs $79 a year).

The Fire also features an impressive carousel atop the screen. Resembling the album flow display option for iTunes, it allows you to flip through the most recent content or apps you have accessed.

Bezos also unveiled what he said was technology that accelerates mobile Web browsing, through a browser known as Amazon Silk. It lives partly on the Fire, he said, and partly on Amazon's servers. That will allow Web content to be served up more quickly, amazon claims.

The tablet joins two e-book readers unveiled by Amazon this morning, a touchscreen Kindle and a new standard Kindle at $79.

Amazon Kindle Fire tablet (photo: Amazon)

Paul Reynolds

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