Amazon's Kindle Fire HD joins 'Retina' ranks

The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD will join a very exclusive club of which Apple's iPad Retina is the most prominent member.

The Kindle Fire HD boasts a display with pixel density that gets pretty close to Apple's Retina iPad.
The Kindle Fire HD boasts a display with pixel density that gets pretty close to Apple's Retina iPad. James Martin/CNET

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD will bump up against the iPad Retina in the very exclusive ultra-high-resolution tablet club.

That club is made up of pretty much one product right now: Apple's third-generation iPad Retina. Its 9.7-inch display boasts a 2,048-by-1,536 pixel density, which yields 264 pixels per inch (PPI).

Amazon's just-announced 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD almost matches that, with a 1,920x1,200 resolution, giving it a PPI of 254.

Apple describes a Retina display as a pixel density that "is so high your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels."

"That puts [8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD] in the same pixel density class as the iPad Retina," said Richard Shim, an analyst at DisplaySearch, who correctly predicated back in July that Amazon would come out with new 7-inch and 8.9-inch Fire models.

Other products that don't come as close include the 10.1-inch ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T (224 PPI) and the 7-inch Google Nexus 7 (216 PPI).

The Fire HD's display includes additional goodies too like a "laminated" touch sensor that "makes it thinner and improves the responsiveness of touch," Shim added.

Another big factor contributing to the overall responsiveness of the Fire HD is the Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 chip, which is needed to move all of those extra pixels around, according to Shim.

To be sure, the TI 4430 chip used in the original Kindle Fire and the Fire HD's 4470 are two very different creatures.

Similar to Apple's A5X chip in the Retina iPad, the TI 4470 has an updated graphics processing unit (GPU).

The 4470 offers more than twice the performance of the graphics in the original Fire, according to chip review site Anandtech.

Maybe more importantly, the dual-core 4470 has central processing units (CPUs) running at 1.5GHz (on Kindle Fire HD 4G) versus a relatively pokey 1 GHZ for the older 4430.

And last but not least is price. Starting at $299, the 8.9-inch Fire HD is cheaper than the $399 non-Retina iPad 2.

Though Apple may rectify this price gap with a lowballed iPad Mini that some analysts speculate could go as low as $249.

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