Meet Amazon's Four New Kindles

Amazon upgrades its Kindle fleet with four new models--Kindle, Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G--and the Kindle Fire tablet. Have a look.

Amazon Debuts Four New Kindles

Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos announced four new Kindles Wednesday, including the company's first touchscreen color tablet called the Kindle Fire, which is based on the Android OS. There's a new keyboardless Kindle to replace the older model that starts at $79, two all-new E-ink touch Kindles--the Kindle Touch and its 3G counterpart--whose pricing starts at $99 and $149.

Also announced: The highly-anticipated Kindle Fire, a 7-inch media-consumption tablet costing $199, which caters to content from Amazon's stores with their movies, TV shows, music, books, magazines, apps, and games. Click through for all the details.

Photo: Melissa J. Perenson, PCWorld

Kindle Base Model

The new Kindle base model gets rid of the keyboard that took a big chunk of the old device and introduces four buttons and a directional pad. It weighs less than 6 ounces and overall, it is almost 20 percent smaller than the previous model. It comes with 2GB of storage, one month of battery life with its Wi-Fi off, and it's priced starting at $79 for the Special Offers version or $109 without Amazon ads.

Kindle Touch

The all-new Kindle Touch is the first touchscreen E-ink reader from Amazon. It's coming on November 21 for $139, or for just $99 with special offers (ads on the screen saver). It's thin and sleek, weighing 7.5 ounces, and sports a 6-inch E-ink display with multi-touch support. Amazon claims up to two months of battery life with wireless networking turned off and reading for 30 minutes per day. To swipe pages, the new Kindle Touch lets you tap on most of the screen for page forward, or in a narrow area near the left edge of the device to turn to the previous page.

Kindle Touch, No Buttons Needed

There's Wi-Fi on board and a new feature called X-Ray lets you see all the passages across a book that mention ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places, or topics and get detailed descriptions of them from Wikipedia and Shelfari. There's also 4GB of storage on board, out of which 3GB are available to use, so Amazon bundled in free cloud storage for all the books you buy.

Kindle Touch 3G Next to New Base Model Kindle

The Kindle Touch 3G is $189, or $149 when it displays Amazon's Special Offers. The e-reader comes with free global 3G connectivity for content downloads. It also bundles access at AT&T hotspots across the U.S. for buying and downloading content without having to go through tedious registration or log in attempts--the device just connects automatically to AT&T hotspots.

Photo: Melissa J. Perenson

Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire is the highly anticipated 7-inch media tablet from Amazon, which looks very similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook. It weighs just under 15 ounces, and it’s 0.45 inches thick, aiming to be a portal to all the books, music, movies, and apps Amazon has to offer you. The Fire arrives November 15 and will cost just $199 (U.S.-only).

Kindle Fire Specs

The Kindle Fire runs Amazon's version of Android, on an unspecified dual core processor (no word on RAM), with 8GB of storage. There are no cameras on the back or front, no microphone, 3G, or GPS capabilities, all of which helped Amazon keep the Fire's price low. See how the Kindle Fire compares to the competition.

Photo: Melissa J. Perenson

Kindle App Store

The Kindle Fire claims 8 hours of battery life for reading, or 7.5 for watching videos, with Wi-Fi off. There's a built-in email client, and you can download more games and productivity apps curated by Amazon.

Kindle Fire vs. Kindle 3

Here's the Kindle Fire (left) compared to the 3rd-generation Kindle.

Photo: Melissa J. Perenson

Kindle Fire's Music Player

Amazon is giving its Prime members access to its movie and TV library, served along with a newsstand of popular magazines, books, music, and apps from the Amazon Appstore. If you don't have Prime ($79 per year), Amazon will bundle a free month of the service for Kindle Fire buyers.

Photo: Melissa J. Perenson

Kindle Fire Ports

Close-up of the Kindle Fire's ports: (From left), Headphone, micro-USB, and power button.

Photo: Melissa J. Perenson

The Back of the Kindle Fire

The back of the Kindle Fire tablet is rubberized.

Photo: Melissa J. Perenson

Kindle Fire Lets You Save to the Cloud

Amazon integrated its Whispersync technology into the Kindle Fire beyond books to videos. So, if you stream a movie on the Fire, you can pick up where you left off on your TV. All the content you bought from Amazon will be stored in the cloud for free, and the browser on the Fire will make use of Amazon's servers to preload parts of websites that you read most frequently. See more on how the Silk Web acceleration technology works on the Fire.

Kindle Fire UI

The tablet runs on a version of Google Android customized by Amazon, so much that it looks nothing like it--a shelf motif is used throughout the interface to display the content at the bottom of the screen, while in the middle, you can browse through music, movies, apps, and magazines in a carousel. Amazon didn't say which version of Android it based the Fire software on.

New Kindle Family

Amazon has priced its new Kindle line aggressively, upping the ante in the e-reader market and breaking into the tablet market with the Fire--a fully functional media tablet for half the price of Apple's iPad. While Amazon's Kindle e-book reader upgrades are impressive, all eyes are on the Kindle Fire to do battle in the tablet wars.

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