The original Kindle Fire didn’t dazzle with its specs or design. Rather, the headlining feature was its price. For just $199, it undercut Apple’s iPad by double while offering a rival ecosystem to boot. But the tablet market has changed a lot in a year, meaning Amazon can’t really expect to compete without making something truly special — not with the Nexus 7 around. So the company did something very bold: It announced not one, but three Kindle Fire models. We have the 7-inch Fire HD in our office.

For the same groundbreaking $199 price, Amazon has unleashed a much more refined and focused package. CEO Jeff Bezos said it himself: “People don’t want gadgets anymore. They want services that improve over time.” Amazon’s ecosystem is the excellent foundation from which the new Fire HD is built. Users now have a tablet with a better screen, faster processor, nicer design and updated OS (albeit still unrecognizable compared to every other version of Android out there, and not quite the goodness of Jelly Bean).

We were huuuuge fans of Google’s Nexus 7, which is likely the device Amazon’s Fire army will go up against (at least until the iPad mini arrives). If you’re on the fence, it largely depends on which ecosystem you’re most entrenched in; devices like the Fire HD, like Bezos said, are about services.

Based on first impressions alone, the new Fire HD seems like a worthy competitor, and perfectly slots into the online retail giant’s growing tablet presence. But good enough to be top of the 7-inch market? We’ll have to spend more time with the device to give a more accurate assessment. Stay tuned for a full review.

Kindle Fire HD (7-inch) Specs:

  • Release: Available
  • Price: $199
  • OS: Custom Android OS based on ICS
  • Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4-inches
  • Weight: 13.0 ounces
  • Display: 7-inch (1280×800) IPS
  • Battery: 11 hours
  • Processor: 1.2GHz OMAP 4460 dual-core
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Internal Storage: 16GB
  • Bluetooth: 4.0
  • Notes: 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera; Dual-band Wi-Fi with MIMI tech; Free month of Amazon Prime; Dual speakers, Dolby audio

Kindle Fire HD (7-inch) Gallery:

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