Today in Los Angeles, Jeff Bezos announced a trio of new Kindles, and updated the existing Kindle Fire and base-model e-ink Kindle (aka the one with buttons to turn pages).
Let's start with the updates first. The cheapest Kindle now has a slightly higher resolution screen and a price cut--it's gone from $80 to $70, with Amazon Offers. The existing 7-inch Fire has been updated with a slightly faster processor and double the memory, and has also seen a price cut to $160.
The Kindle Paperwhite will replace the existing Kindle Touch. The Paperwhite gets its name from its e-ink screen, which higher resolution and provides more contrast when reading--whites are whiter, blacks are blacker. However, the big enhancement on the Paperwhite is its integrated frontlight. This isn't the first front-lit e-ink reader on the market, the latest Nook included a similar feature, but it's a welcome addition nonetheless. The light means you won't need an awkward accessory to read your Kindle in a dark room. With 8 weeks of battery promised for typical users, this is a product I'm personally excited about. It still lacks physical page turn buttons, but at $120 for the Wi-Fi edition or $180 for the 3G model, it's certainly more compelling (and cheaper) than buying a non-lit Kindle and a case with a light.
There are two new Kindle Fire HDs--the Fire 8.9" HD and the 7-inch Fire HD. Both feature a high-DPI screen--1280x800 for the 7-inch model and 1920x1200 for the 8.9-inch version and dual-core processors. The 8.9-inch version has a front-facing camera and optional 4G modem, just like the newest iPad. Amazon is also touting several upgrades of questionable value, notably the "fastest Wi-Fi on a tablet" thanks to its dual-antenna 802.11n Wi-Fi configuration. While faster Wi-Fi isn't a bad thing, it's unlikely to be of any actual value to end users, given the current state of broadband and streaming video services in the US. The 7-inch version of the Fire HD will sell for $199 or $249 for the 16GB and 32GB versions respectively starting on September 14. The 8.9-inch model will start shipping on November 20 at $299 for the 16GB and go to $369 for the 32GB model.
While the Paperwhite is exciting, the new Kindle Fires have a lot to prove. The original Kindle Fire was a sales success, but it suffered performance and user interface problems. Given I haven't spent time with any of the new devices yet, but we'll be sure to report back as soon as we have product in hand. Needless to say, given the lackluster performance of the original Fire, I'd hesitate to preorder either of the new tablets until reviewers have had time to test them out.