Amazon Hopes To Fire Up Interest in New Tablets

When Amazon unveiled the Kindle Fire HD tablet last year, the company's hype machine burst into overdrive. "The best tablet at any price," Amazon proclaimed.

Kindle Fire HD was and is a very good tablet, a viable option against strong competition from Google, Apple and others, and an excellent value, especially now at $139. But the best at any price? Sorry, can't go there.

Amazon wisely cooled things down with the introduction of the brand-new Kindle Fire HDX tablets. That's so even as the HDX raises the bar with more robust specs and new features, most prominently a live tech-support innovation called Mayday.

As with the Fire HD, HDX models come in 8.9-inch and 7-inch screen sizes (the latter being the one I reviewed). They boast outstanding stereo speakers and a scrolling carousel-type interface that intermingles icons for movies, apps, books and other content. Android is buried underneath.

These tablets provide a smooth passageway to Amazon's vast digital treasure trove of e-books, movies, music and other content, especially for customers who prefer Amazon's ecosystem to, say, Google's or Apple's. And as before you can tap into the flicks and TV shows made available to subscribers of Amazon's $79-a-year Prime service.

Here are three new or expanded features that Amazon hopes will fire up interest in its new tablet line, while dousing the competition:

PRIME OFFLINE VIEWING

You used to have to stream the Prime content, but with the latest HD and HDX models you now have the choice to download tens of thousands of movies and TV shows as well. That's a big plus for anyone stuck on an airplane for hours without Wi-Fi.

The Prime Instant Video downloads feature is one of the key ways Amazon hopes to make its tablet stand out against rivals, especially since Amazon makes its content available (through free apps) to competitors....

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