Preview: Kindle Fire HD 7 and HD 6

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The Kindle Fire HD is available with a 6-inch screen or 7-inch display, as well as seven colors. Image © Amazon

Here’s one for the little guy. Correction: here’s one for the little guys.

The arrival of Apple’s iPad Mini raised the stakes in the small tablet space once dominated by Android devices. As a result, Amazon is literally doubled down on its small tablet lineup by offering two new variants of its Kindle Fire HD tablet.

As part of a 2014 Kindle refresh that introduced the new Kindle Voyage, a Kindle tablet for kids, and a new version of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, Amazon also unveiled the Kindle Fire HD 7 as well as a smaller Kindle Fire HD 6.

Since then, the HD 7 has been discontinued from the main lineup though you can still buy it used for about $50 or so. The HD 6, meanwhile, is still going strong and got a price drop from $99.99 to $69.99.

Do either warrant an upgrade from the Kindle Fire HD? Here’s a lowdown of key features from both tablets.

Size: The previous Kindle Fire HD came with a 7-inch display with a resolution of 1,280 by 800 at 216 pixels per inch. The new Kindle Fire HD 7? Actually, it comes with the exact same numbers. In fact, it’s the Kindle Fire HD 6 that brings something new to the table in the form of a sharper resolution of 252 pixels per inch, though at the expense of less screen real estate. Note that although those numbers used to be enough to beat the original iPad Mini, they have now fallen behind the iPad Mini with the Retina display, which boasts a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 at 326 pixels per inch.

Brains: The processor is where the new Kindle Fire HDs start to flex their muscles against the previous model. Although the previous Fire HD used a 1.2 gigahertz dual-core chip, the new HD7 and HD6 use a quad-core processor split between two 1.5GHz and two 1.2GHz cores to balance power efficiency with optimal loads.

This means faster app loading, smoother gaming and improved overall performance. Amazon claims that the new Kindle Fire HDs are twice as fast the previous model and pack three times the graphic punch. Meanwhile, the Retina iPad Mini available at the time Amazon announced the new Kindle HDs is rated at up to 1.3GHz, according to AnandTech (Apple does not release official speeds for its iPads’ processors).

Camera: The previous Kindle Fire HD featured only a front-facing camera, based on the logic that folks usually don’t use their tablets to shoot photos. Still, there are always exceptions to these assumptions as my travels around the United States and the world have shown me. No, I did not point and laugh at them as that would be rude. Anyway, both new Kindle Fire HD tablets now include a 2-megapixel rear camera for those times when you really have to take a photo with your tablet.

ASAP and colors: The new Kindle Fire HD tablets take a page from the Amazon Fire TV by including Advanced Streaming and Prediction, which tries to predict what movies and shows you want to watch and pre-loads them so they play instantly. For stylish folks, you also get your pick of five colors, including bright colors like citron and magenta.

Storage options remain the same at 8GB and 16GB.

Other features: We’ve pretty much gone through the key differences between the new Kindle Fire HD tablets and the previous one so I’ll rattle out other features here in contrast to the iPad Mini with Retina display. Battery life is rated at up to eight hours vs. 10 hours for the Retina iPad Mini. Weight is 290 grams for the HD 6 and 337 grams for the HD 7, while the 7.9-inch Retina iPad Mini is 331 grams for the Wi-Fi-only version and 341 grams for the Wi-Fi plus cellular version. Wireless connectivity for the Kindle Fire HD 6 and HD 7 is limited to Wi-Fi only with no 4G option.

And there you have the key differences (or similarities) between the new Kindle Fire HDs and the older model, as well as some distinguishing details from the iPad Mini with Retina display as well. Hopefully, this gives you a better idea on whether or not you should upgrade to the new devices or whether you should pick Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD or Apple’s iPad Mini.

Jason Hidalgo is About.com’s Portable Electronics expert. Yes, he is easily amused. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo and be amused, too. Getting all touchy-feely? Check out the iPad, Tablets and Smartphones hub for more articles and reviews about touchscreen devices.

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