Amazon comes out with its first $100 tablet

    The company also unveiled a kid tablet, and is sticking with e-book readers too

    Published: September 17, 2014 09:00 PM

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    Amazon today launched its lowest-priced tablet yet, which also happens to be the smallest we've seen so far. The $99 Kindle Fire HD has a 6-inch display, 1080p resolution, and a quad-core processor, as well as front- and rear-facing cameras.

    The company also announced a 7-inch Kindle Fire HD starting at $139, and a new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 that's an upgrade of the current HDX model but at the same $379 price. All will be available for pre-order today and will ship in October. Two new e-readers were also introduced by Amazon today. (See below.)

    Finally, a tablet just for children: the Fire HD Kids Edition consists of the same 6- ad 7-inch Fire HD tablets, but with a heavy-duty case, parental controls, and a year's free subscription to FreeTime Unlimited (starting at $2.99 with Amazon Prime membership to $4.99 a month). The latter provides access to more than 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games, all geared toward 3- to 10-year-olds. There's also a two-year guarantee on the Kids Edition, and Amazon says it will replace the tablet free if it stops working, no matter how that happens.

    The Kids Editions will sell for $149 for the 6-inch version and $189 for the 7-inch model, $50 more than the respective Kindle Fire HD tablets.

    If you've got questions about all these announcements, we've got answers.

    How does Amazon keep prices so low?

    There's more money to be made on content than hardware, according to Amazon, and that's how it's able to keep the price of its tablets appealingly low. And if there's one thing Amazon is about, it's content.

    Over the past few months, Amazon has added a music service, more streaming video choices in the form of HBO programming for Prime subscribers, and its $9.99-a-month Kindle Unlimited with access to 700,000 books. (Amazon also built up its curated app store to more than 300,000 apps, three times what it had a year ago.) So it's happy to keep the cost of the delivery vehicle—your tablet—down as long as it keeps you firmly in the Amazon corner when it comes to content.

    For more infomation on e-readers, check our buying guide.

    How will a $100 tablet perform?

    Amazon says its new $100 Kindle tablets will out-perform competitors in that price range. The $100 models that we've tested generally end up at the bottom, or at best in the middle, of our Ratings, with mediocre performance. (One exception, the Toshiba Excite Go 7, was a very good performer, but battery life was paltry in our tests.) Stay tuned for results of our tests of Amazon's new intros, coming some time in October. To see how other tablets have performed, take a look at our tablet Ratings.

    Does the Kindle Fire HDX have new features?

    Among the interesting new features on the Kindle Fire HDX is Dynamic Light Control, which automatically adjusts the color of the HDX display in reaction to ambient light. The result should be a page that looks more like a piece of paper than a bright, bluish display, making it easier and more appealing to read books on the tablet.

    And the Fire HDX is the first tablet to use Dolby's new Dolby Atmos audio, which is supposed to work with headphones to create a surround-like sound experience.

    Is there a new OS?

    To go along with the tablets, Amazon launched Version 4.0 of the Fire OS. Features include Family Library, which allows you to link two accounts on two separate tablets so content can be shared; Profiles, so you can create profiles for two adults and two kids on the same tablet; and ASAP (advanced streaming and prediction), which queues up streaming content by predicting your preferences, resulting in faster start-up of movies.

    What about e-book readers?

    Amazon is sticking with its e-book readers, despite signs that the market for those devices may be declining. In fact, Amazon says, people may be buying multiple devices, and that those who use e-readers read more books after the purchase than before it, and read for longer periods of time. The company launched two new e-readers today, as well.

    The Kindle Voyage, $199, uses an updated Paperwhite display that Amazon claims is 39% brighter than the prior model. It's a 300-pixel-per-inch display, which makes text crisper and is even sharp enough for displaying graphic novels. The Voyage weighs in at a light 6.4 ounces (the current Paperwhite weighs 7.4 ounces). It's thinner as well, 7.6mm compared to the Paperwhite's 10mm.

    If you don't mind a slightly heavier and bulkier e-reader, the new Kindle features a touch interface and costs just $79. It does not have a front light.

    The Kindle Paperwhite will also remain available for $119 and double the storage at 4GB.

    —Donna Tapellini

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