Kindle Fire HD tablet

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HD tablet is available in two screen sizes.

Amazon, best known for their black and white Kindle eReaders, made a lot of waves last year when it launched the Kindle Fire, a color-screen tablet for just $199. The device sold well with the general public, and many pilots were excited about the low price and smaller size. But most observers soon concluded that the original Kindle Fire didn’t have the horsepower to be a real iPad competitor.

That may have changed today, as Amazon announced a slew of new Kindle Fire models, all with major upgrades to their performance and screen technology. The new Kindle Fire HDs feature dual-core 1.5Ghz processors and better graphics performance, which is needed to support the impressive new HD screen (1920 x 1200 on the 8.9″ model). Amazon is also using two WiFi antennas that deliver significantly faster download speeds, they claim. And one last feature that may be especially interesting feature for pilots–Amazon claims their screen solves the glare problem that many pilots (and others) complain about, with “a polarizing filter and anti-glare technology.” If true, this would be a nice enhancement.

Three models

There are three models of the new Kindle Fire HD due out this fall:

  • Kindle Fire HD–this $199 tablet features a 7″ HD screen with 16GB of storage and WiFi. The size/price combination here could be interesting for pilots.
  • Kindle Fire HD 8.9″–the 8.9″ screen on this model isn’t quite as large as the iPad’s 9.7″ screen, but has a compelling price of $299, and includes WiFi. It is available in 16GB and 32GB models.
  • Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G–this top-of-the-line model adds 4G LTE for a fast internet connection anywhere, even without WiFi, and costs $499. The 4G version is available in 32GB and 64GB models.

One other interesting move–Amazon is offering a data plan for the 4G model at just $49.99 per year. This is almost $200 per year less than the cheapest 4G data plans for the iPad. The Amazon plan has a limit of 250MB per month, which is the same as AT&T’s $14.99/month plan. Verizon’s least expensive plan is $20 for 1GB per month. This is the first time a tablet company has competed on the data plan, which is a welcome change for consumers.

Real iPad competition?

So, how do these new Kindle Fire HDs stack up to the iPad? They certainly win big on value: a 32GB Kindle Fire HD with 4G service will cost $549 for the first year, while a comparable iPad will cost $959 (including data plan). And some features, like the faster WiFi and anti-glare screen, are actually a major improvement over the iPad. In addition, some pilots may find the 7″ and 8.9″ screen sizes more suitable for the cockpit.

But don’t sell your iPad just yet. Apple’s tablet is still an amazing device, and still has a larger screen than any Kindle Fire. Most importantly, though, the iPad supports an enormous variety of aviation apps. While the Kindle Fire has a nice selection of apps for reading and music, the number of aviation apps is very limited. You won’t find ForeFlight or Garmin Pilot on your Kindle Fire, for example. Until more aviation apps are available on the Fire, it may have limited appeal for pilots.

To make matters more interesting, Apple is widely rumored to be introducing a new “iPad Mini” with a 7″-class screen sometime this fall. It’s going to be an interesting few months.

You can read full details about the Kindle Fire HD at Amazon’s website.