Most product reveals get a big press conference, with flashy lights and music blaring, and it's usually a big spectacle. Amazon, however, decided to do something completely different for its third generation Kindle Fire tablets, as CEO Jeff Bezos announced the Kindle Fire HDX in one of the company's conference rooms. These new Kindle Fires are pretty special though, as the 7-inch and 8.9-inch models sport massive screen resolutions and pixel densities. The Kindle Fire HDX 7" has a 1920x1200 screen with a 323ppi, and the 8.9" model features a 2560x1600 screen with a 339ppi. Both of those are far above the previous Kindle Fire HDs and even the Apple iPad 3, and a far cry from the rumors. Amazon also has a new dynamic contrast feature that adjusts the contrast rather than brightness to give a better view when out in the sun; it's still not as perfect as an eInk screen, which is where Amazon's regular Kindle e-readers come into play.
The specifications of the new Kindle Fire HDX are impressive once you look past the screen, as each feature a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM. Storage capacities range from 16GB to 64GB for both screen sizes. Outside the HDX has a more angular look than past models, with the speakers now up top to prevent any muffling while held. The left side of the tablet has a volume rocker, while the right has the power button. Curiously there's just a micro-USB port, but don't fret, as there's a pretty sweet way to send your content to a TV. The 7" HDX features a front-facing camera, while the 8.9" adds an eight-megapixel camera to the rear that's capable of 1080p video. Amazon promises 11 hours of battery life with standard usage, but 17 hours when the HDX is put into reading mode.
The operating system is still Android-based (Jelly Bean, if you're curious), but Amazon is referring to it as Fire OS. We're on version 3.0 right now, and its codename is Mojito; a bit more adult beverage-themed than Google's candy obsession. There's still a river of apps, games, music, movies, and, of course, books and magazines, but users can switch it to a more smartphone-esque grid if they choose. Mojito is standard on the HDX and new HD, and it could even roll out to older Kindle Fires at some point.
One of the most impressive new features of Fire OS is "Mayday," which is live tech support to walk you through any issues you may run into on your HDX. The tech support rep (yes, it's an actual person) can see your display, but not you, and walk you through the steps with arrows and circles. Or you can just have the rep fix the issue for you themselves, if you prefer. Screen-sharing can easily be disabled if you have to enter a password, so you don't have to worry about that. According to Bezos, the Mayday feature will work any day of the year and at any hour, since there's always a tech support (or few hundred) handy. Wait time is expected to be 15 seconds or less, but Christmas morning should be the first real test.
Alright, so because the HDX just has a micro-USB port and that may not exactly be ideal for displaying video, Amazon lets the Kindle Fire HDX function as a Second Screen device. Smart TVs, PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and One, and other devices can stream content from the cloud, with the HDX serving as the controller. It means you can be watching a movie, and if that actor/actress is familiar but you can't place them, pull up IMDb and do a search. Or you can play trivia along with the movie, access interactive content, or buy items on Amazon.
Both the 7" and 8.9" models of the Kindle Fire HDX are available to pre-order. The 7" model arrives on October 18 for $229, while the 8.9" a bit later on November 7 for $379 (both prices are for the 16GB special offers model). Bump the price up by $100 for either model to add 4G LTE through either Verizon or AT&T. If all you're looking for is the Kindle Fire HD, well Amazon is giving it a body similar to the HDX while keeping the internals the same. Oh, and it's priced at $139 (8GB special offers model) with a ship date of October 2, although you can pre-order it now.