Amazon on Thursday unveiled not one, not two, not three, but four new tablets all called the Kindle Fire.
There's the Kindle Fire, which is a slightly upgraded version of the previous tablet also named the Kindle Fire. Then there's the Kindle Fire HD 7", which ups the screen resolution, improves the audio, and boosts the Wi-Fi performance; the Kindle Fire HD 8.9", which is obviously just about two inches larger diagonally; and then the Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE Wireless, which is also 8.9 inches, but includes access to all ten bands of 4G service in the U.S. That last model requires a $50 per year data plan, which gets you 250MB per month of data and 20GB of cloud storage.
Whew. That's a lot of Kindles.
And it's likely that the new Kindles Fire will at least shake up the tablet market a bit. The other big competitors, of course, are Apple with its dominating iPad, and Google with its $199 Nexus 7. Microsoft's Surface may well prove to be a competitor as well, but as it lacks both a ship date and a price, we'll leave it out of this discussion.
It's also worth nothing that-while Apple characteristically hasn't uttered a peep about its future tablet plans just yet-rumors have the company unveiling a 7-inch tablet of its own, an iPad mini, later this year. But since we don't know officially that such a device truly exists, and we haven't a clue what Apple will charge for it, we can't let that hypothetical device weigh in on our comparison, either.
Apple's the only big dog in the game with a 10-inch tablet; its pricing starts at $399 for the iPad 2. If you want the beefier third-generation iPad with its Retina display, you'll pay $499 for 16GB of storage, with a 32GB version at $599 and a 64GB version at $699. Add on support for LTE/4G connectivity, and you'll need to pay another $130 up front, and you'll need a data plan, too.
Only one of Amazon's new tablets approaches that $499 mark-the 32GB Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE Wireless. But for $200 less, Amazon will sell you an 8.9-inch Fire that has 16GB of storage and lacks LTE connectivity, but is otherwise virtually identical to the pricier model. The 8.9-inch Fire boasts a 1920 x 1200 pixel display with 254 pixels per inch. By contrast, the third-generation iPad hits 264 pixels per inch on its 2048 x 1536 pixel display. In practice, screen quality-by the numbers-should be rather comparable, though obviously you sacrifice a diagonal inch of screen space with the Fire over the iPad.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.