Amazon unveils backlit Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Fire HD tablets

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took the stage at an airplane hangar in Santa Monica, California today to unveil a trio of new Kindle e-book readers and multiple Kindle Fire tablets. The company's new flagship tablet looks to give Apple's third generation iPad a run for its money while the other new additions solidify Amazon's position as a serious mobile hardware player backed by a solid content-filled ecosystem.

Revamped Budget Fourth-Gen Kindle ($69, Ships September 14)
Although Amazon's pricier Kindle Fire is its best-selling slate-like device, the company's basic e-readers have remained extremely popular as well, especially the $79 Kindle released last year. Folks interested in Amazon's entry-level offering will be happy to hear that it's now more affordable than ever at $69 while promising a more enjoyable reading experience that includes new fonts, crisper text and 15% faster page turns. You can pre-order the updated model today and it will ship next Friday, September 14.

New Backlit Kindle Paperwhite ($119 Wi-Fi, $179 3G, Ships October 1)
As anticipated, one of the highlights of today's event is the unveiling of a new backlit e-reader that brings Amazon to parity with the Nook Simple Touch released earlier this year. As with Barnes & Noble's solution, Amazon says its Paperwhite packs patented technology that distributes light evenly across the e-reader's entire surface, just like ambient light. Despite housing a backlighting system, the Kindle Paperwhite measures only 9.1mm thick, weighs 7.5 ounces and has an eight-week battery life.

Besides allowing users to read in the dark without an external LED light attachment, the Paperwhite's display touts 25% more contrast -- whites are whiter and blacks are blacker -- along with a 62% increase in pixels, bringing the density to 212 PPI. The backlit Kindle will come in two familiar variants: one that costs $119 with only Wi-Fi, and another with 3G connectivity backed by Amazon's free Whispersync service. Amazon says both are available for pre-order today and are expected to ship on October 1.

Revamped Kindle Fire ($159, Ships September 14)
The original Kindle Fire has been refreshed and now starts at just $159. This new low price includes a faster processor and double the system RAM, resulting in a tablet that's 40 percent faster than its predecessor. Amazon also notes the unit has better battery life but fell short of revealing how much better it actually is. The new Kindle Fire is available for pre-order today and will ship on September 14.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch 16GB ($299, Ships November 20)
Bezos spent the majority of his time on stage showcasing the new Kindle Fire HD tablets. The larger tablet is only 8.8mm thick, weighs 20 ounces and ships with an 8.9-inch, 1,920 x 1,200 IPS display rated at 254 PPI that’s said to reduce glare by 25 percent. Inside is a Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 processor that Bezos says is faster than Nvidia’s Tegra 3 processor in floating point operations and memory bandwidth. Other key features include dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus, front-facing HD camera, HDMI-out, dual-band Wi-Fi technology with MIMO (2.4GHz and 5.0GHz) and 16GB of onboard storage. This 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD retails for $299 and will ship on November 20.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch 32GB with 4G LTE ($499, Ships November 20)
A 32GB model with a 4G LTE radio will set you back $499 (also shipping November 20) and for only $50 more per year, you get 250MB of data per month, 20GB of cloud storage and a $10 Amazon credit. That’s one heck of a deal on the data plan.

Kindle Fire HD 7-inch 16GB ($199, Ships September 14)
If that weren’t enough, Amazon announced a 7-inch variant of the Kindle Fire HD with 16GB of storage for $199 set to ship on September 14.

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