Amazon's tablets have never been particularly versatile. The Fire OS is clumsy, the browser is painful to use, and even basic tasks, like typing out an e-mail, can prove surprisingly difficult. If you consider a tablet a general purpose computer, then Fires are bad tablets.
But they're great entertainment machines, with crisp screens for displaying books and streaming video, and native audio that's better than anything coming out of an iPad. And with its small size and ridiculously low price point, the Fire HD 6 is an addictive little media consumption machine. It runs core streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu—it would justify its sub-$100 price tag even if you do nothing but watch movies--but it's also terrific for books. Along with tapping into Amazon's extensive catalog, you can go where e-ink readers can't, such as accessing many public libraries directly on the tablet (via the Overdrive app, for example), as well as book subscription services like Oyster and Scribd (also via app). And for any one who's hopelessly distracted by Twitter, Facebook, and games, the fact that Kindle Fires don't handle those particularly well is a genuine asset. By accident or design, Amazon knows how to keep you absorbed. [$99, amazon.com]