Amazon launches new tablets, cuts Fire HD price, enables offline viewing

|By:, SA News Editor

Amazon (AMZN) has launched two new tablets under the Kindle Fire HDX name - a 7" model and 8.9" model - and has also given the Kindle Fire HD a price cut and slight refresh.

As rumored, the HDX tablets sport high-res displays - 1920x1200 for the 7" model, 2560x1600 for the 8.9" model - and Qualcomm's (QCOM) quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU. Amazon also claims the displays offer perfect color accuracy and the ability to optimize pixels based on the amount of available light.

Other features include Dolby (DLB) audio, improved battery life, thinner/lighter form factors, and a 24/7 live video customer support service called Mayday.

The Wi-Fi-only 16GB 7" HDX goes for $229 (same as the new Nexus 7), and a comparable 8.9" HDX for $379. Higher-capacity and 4G models are also offered.

Amazon has also given the Fire HD a refresh, making it thinner and adding a faster CPU. More importantly, an 8GB model is now available for just $139, and a 16GB model for $169. The 16GB Fire HD sold for $199 when Amazon launched it a year ago. The standard 8GB Kindle Fire (now discontinued) sold for $159.

All of the tablets run on an updated version of Amazon's custom take on Android. The update adds a slew of enterprise-friendly management and security features.

The 7" HDX begins shipping on Oct. 15, and the 8.9" model on Nov. 7. On one hand, Amazon has put some clear effort into making its latest hardware stand out. On the other, tablet competition remains intense, and Amazon can't offer the  the popular Google apps (Play, Maps, YouTube, Now, etc.) that come bundled with Google-approved Android devices.

Also: Amazon is adding offline viewing support to Prime Instant Video, a feature that (for now) gives it some ability to differentiate from Netflix (NFLX). Prime subs can download certain movies and shows for free to watch within 30 days.

Initial offline partners include NBC, Viacom, Sony, CBS, and Warner Bros.