At $199, Kindle Fire HD isn't an iPad – but it doesn't need to be

The Kindle Fire HD line will hit shelves this fall. How does the latest Fire stack up to its competitors? 

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    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduces the Kindle Fire HD line in Santa Monica yesterday.
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The Kindle Fire line is getting a makeover. 

Yesterday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled a quartet of new Amazon tablets, including three HD models and one regular Fire model, which will retail for just $159. The cheapest of the HD tablets, a 7-inch device, is getting a price-tag of $199; the most expensive, an 4G LTE-equipped powerhouse, is set to sell for $499, on par with the cheapest iPad. (You can read all about the devices here.) 

Amazon's strategy seems pretty clear: keep prices low, undercut rivals such as Apple, and watch as consumers use their Kindle Fire tablets to download a whole lot of Amazon content, such as e-books to movies. So how does the Kindle Fire HD line compare to the iPad – or to the earlier model Kindle Fire? Well, Amazon issued test copies to news outlets this week, and for the most part, reviewers like what they see. 

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"Even if you’re already a Kindle Fire owner, the new Fire is going to feel like a whole new device. The tablet is both thinner and lighter, has rounded edges, and feels closer to Google’s Nexus 7 (although it has a slightly larger bezel) or Samsung’s 7-inch Galaxy Tab than it does the original boxy model," writes Emily Price of Mashable.

What's more, she adds, the Fire HD is powerful (thanks to an upgraded processor) and fast. 

And then there's the screen – the namesake of the Kindle Fire HD line. As Ryan Nakashima of the Associated Press notes today, the smallest of the Kindle Fire HD tablets boasts a screen resolution of 1280 x 800. 

"That doesn't come close to the latest iPad, which has a resolution of 2048 by 1536. Nonetheless, this upgrade feels like a big leap for Amazon. It means a sharp picture instead of one that seems made up of lots of pixels, a welcome relief that feels even better when you consider the price," Nakashima writes. "At $199, compared with $499 for the latest iPad, I can see this being a popular stocking stuffer this Christmas." 

A $199 stocking stuffer? We want to celebrate the holidays in the Nakashima household. 

It's worth noting here that no reviewer has gotten his or her mitts on the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDs. That makes sense – the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD is expected to launch later this month, while the 8.9-inch version won't arrive until mid-November. 

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