Kindle Explores High-End Space With New Voyage

Amazon has surprised today with a refresh of its Kindle and Kindle Fire lines – without weeks’ worth of leaks, first.

Among the new devices is the 6″ Kindle Voyage ($200): the company’s thinnest (7.6mm) eReader yet. A high-end unit, the Voyage will be available with 3G connectivity and features a front light; unlike the Kindle Paperwhite, the unit has an ambient brightness sensor to dynamically adjust lighting. The glass (not plastic) screen is edge-to-edge, and micro-etched to be non-reflective. Pixel resolution has been increased to 300ppi, and the bezels integrate a new force sensor, so the page can be turned by squeezing. A new feature introduced on the Voyage is the Family Library, which (finally) means that books can be lent to family members.

The Kindle Fire HD has been refreshed with a Kids Edition ($150 for 6″, $190 for 7″), with a ‘kid-proof’ case. Effectively a standard Fire HD, the new slate includes new features such as a year-long subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited (kid-friendly apps) and a two-year “no-questions-asked” warranty. In-app advertising is blocked and in-app purchases are limited.

Amazon’s standard Kindle Fire HD has been updated with a quad-core CPU (1.5GHz, from Mediatek) and a higher-resolution screen. According to Amazon, the tablet has three times the graphical performance of the Galaxy Tab 4 – not bad for such a low-cost model! The 6″ costs $100 and the 7″ costs $140.

Next is an updated Kindle Fire HDX 8.9. Pricing ($380 for the WiFi version and $480 for 4G) is the same as last year and productivity is the focus; as well as a new keyboard ($60, Bluetooth, with a trackpad and magnetic attachment), the 2014 tablet has a Windows virtualisation app and an app suite for working with Office documents. The instant caching and streaming feature introduced on the Fire TV is also featured. Processor-wise, Qualcomm’s 2.5GHz Snapdragon 805 is used – with a graphics chip said to be 70% faster than last year’s model. The sound engine is an updated Dolby Atmos device. Amazon has kept the same display resolution (2560 x 1600) as the 2013 tablet, but a new feature coming later this year will enable automatic adjustments to the brightness and white balance of the screen when reading an eBook. Family Library is included on the tablet.

Finally we come to the entry-level Kindle eReader. Amazon has refreshed the $80 device with a touchscreen – physical controls are finally a thing of the past on all models. It is also said to be 20% faster than last year’s offering and, later in the year, will receive an update for Family Libraries.