Share “Amazon's new Kindle Fire”

By RYAN NAKASHIMA Published: September 30, 2013
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Amazon also gave last year's HD an update and a price cut, though the new model drops a front-facing camera and microphone and reduces the storage. The base model with 8 gigabytes costs $139, compared with $199 for the 16 gigabyte version before.

‘Mayday'

The new “Mayday” button on the HDX models summons a live video chat with a customer service representative. I saw a demo enough times to believe that, yes, there is indeed an actual person able to assist you if you need help navigating. The representative has the ability to scribble on your screen to point you to where you should tap.

Speakers and screen

I noticed the speakers are now positioned on top of the device when held horizontally, instead of being on both sides. This seems designed so you can still hear in stereo without headphones when the new “origami” cover is attached. In the previous version, I found headphone-less listening quality was patchy because the speakers faced away from you. Even with the new speaker location, they point away.

As for the screen quality, I think the improvement is nice, but perhaps not as stunning as the improvement from standard definition to HD.

With HDX, Amazon is making key improvements in areas where it lagged behind its competitors: on weight and with its processor. I don't think Amazon will ever be the brand for, say, gamers looking for high performance from a tablet. But for people who use Amazon a lot for books, video and other services, it'll be nice to have a bit less wrist strain and a bit more zip.