Amazon is refreshing its line-up of tablet computers with new devices called Kindle Fire HDX, which are significantly faster and lighter than the previous generation.
The 7-inch and 8.9-inch versions also have sharper, more colourful displays than older models, and both have more pixels per inch than the latest iPad.
The Kindle HDX models come with Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, which is top of the line for tablets. Amazon said they are three times faster than the older Kindle Fire line. For graphics functions, the HDX models are four times faster than before.
The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX starts at $379 for 8 GB of memory, while the 7-inch starts at $229 also with 8 GB. Buyers can pre-order starting Wednesday. The 7-inch will ship on October 18, while the 8.9-inch will ship starting Nov. 7.
Beyond the improved specifications, Amazon also unveiled more features that incorporate data from its IMDb movie database subsidiary. With the newer tablets, users who turn on the "X-ray" feature can see a small window that lists the name of a song that is playing in some TV shows and movies. One tap brings up the option to buy the song. Users can also look for all music in a show and zip to the exact spot where a particular song is playing.
To help those who are unfamiliar with tablets, the new Kindles come with a feature called "Mayday", which allows users to summon a live customer service representative in a tiny video window. The helpers can explain new features or troubleshoot problems while guiding users with on-screen hand scribbles. They can even take control of the device from afar.
CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the feature to reporters on Tuesday, saying it is "completely unique" and takes advantage of Amazon's massive cloud computing and customer service infrastructure. It also builds on Amazon.com Inc.'s reputation for excellent customer service.
"You shouldn't have to be afraid of your device," Bezos said.
In a demo, Bezos asked an on-screen customer service rep to recommend a hot app. The rep mentioned "Angry Birds: Star Wars II". Bezos also received instructions on how to set time limits on various activities for children.
While the new Kindles are upgraded in several ways, Amazon also cut the price on what will be its entry-level 7-inch tablet, the Kindle Fire HD with 8 gigabytes of memory, to $139 from a $199 version that had 16 GB of memory. That makes the tablet just $20 more than Amazon's latest dedicated e-reader, the Kindle Paperwhite. The Kindle Fire HD is sheathed in a new magnesium alloy body like the HDX models, but has the same screen resolution and processing power of the older model.