Amazon launches super-cheap Fire tablet and 4K TV box

Company hopes that new, cheap devices will be enough to take on Apple

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The Independent Tech

This morning, Amazon revealed its own-brand gadgets, the ones it hopes will supplant iPads and Apple TV boxes as the must-have Christmas presents this year.

Amazon’s Fire tablets have traditionally been very high quality and competitively priced. They use a special version of Android designed to be amazingly user-friendly. It also only permits apps to be installed that it’s tested to make sure they work well. Amazon’s tablets are a compelling alternative to Apple’s iPads and at much lower prices.

But before the tablets appeared, today’s reveal got off to a cracking start with the announcement of the new Amazon Fire TV – a tiny, flattish box that streams movies, TV programmes and games to your telly. It includes a redesigned remote which has a microphone button for search. Apple announced the same feature last week, though Amazon has had it for a year.

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A new Amazon Fire TV has been announced

But the big news about the gadget is that it’s 4K-compatible. This was a noted omission from Apple’s new box. This means that if you have a suitable TV, that is one with the 4K resolution, four times that of full HD, then you can play the hundreds of movies and shows available now, with more to follow.

Some are to be rented, others come as part of a Prime Video subscription (£79 a year). Netflix has a 4K service and this will be available on the Fire TV box soon.

Incidentally, Netflix charges a little extra per month if you want to get the super-high-resolution 4K stuff, though Amazon is not charging a higher Prime subscription fee.

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Amazon has unveiled tablets to enjoy, as well

The box looks the same pretty much as the current one but is faster (movies and shows start playing amazingly quickly) and more powerful. It also has a memory card slot so you can save games and stuff to it. It’s available to order from today and costs £79.99, going on sale on 5 October.

Incidentally, if you don’t need 4K capabilities, the cheaper Fire TV Stick is still available. It costs £34.99 with a regular remote or, now, £44.99 with the voice remote included – this is good value as it sells separately for £24.99.

There were tablets announced today, as well. The most eye-catching is the Fire which is a seven-inch tablet that costs just £49.99. Amazon boasted that it was twice as powerful as rivals costing over £100 and a better quality screen than most budget tablets. It certainly looked and felt good. It has a memory card slot, too. And there’s also a curious bulk buying offer: buy five, get one free. Handy for big families or if you’re just very forgetful.

Although this is a low-price gadget it includes Mayday, the brilliant Amazon live help service which can sort your problems with working the tablet. It’s pretty straightforward, not least thanks to an updated operating system, called Bellini, which is a good name for an OS.

Bellini looks peachy (sorry) with a carousel of latest purchases, then recommendations and more to guide you through all your stuff. It’s backward compatible with Fire tablets from last year, too.

And Amazon Underground, which is not such a good name but is an interesting feature. It gathers together lots of apps which were paid-for and are now free, including in-app purchases.

Mayday, Bellini and Underground are all to be found on the two Fire HD tablets announced today. Design was notably improved: slimmer and lighter than previous Fire HD machines, even though screen size was increased.

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Both Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 are very strong value

Fire HD 8 has an eight-inch screen and Fire HD 10 a 10.1-inch display. Both can be ordered now for delivery at the end of the month. And both are very strong value: £129.99 and £169.99 respectively, though you can choose higher storage options than the entry 8GB model, though both have memory card slots so you can increase storage massively.

And there were extra features you won’t find elsewhere. Like On Deck which automatically downloads popular movies and TV shows to your device (internal or microSD card memory) so when you plonk yourself down on the train you have something to watch. This feature is only for Prime subscribers. It’ll only put stuff on your tablet if there’s room, deleting it automatically if you add your own stuff and space gets tight.

There was also an update to the Kids Edition Fire tablet with a browser configured to suit littl’uns and lots of parental controls. It comes with an unconditional replacement guarantee in case Junior breaks it.

We’ll be looking at the new devices in due course, but Amazon’s strongest line-up yet looks both impressive and comprehensive. And amazing value.

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