As one of the more cheaper Google Android based tablets to hit the market, I felt that the Amazon branded Fire tablet line got a bad rep. Mind you this isn’t the Amazon Fire HD tablet, but the cheaper Fire 7 inch tablet which sells for $49.99. In many of the reviews I’ve seen the major points about the tablet are that the screen is bad, or that the tablet is too slow and the combination of those two points makes the tablet junk. And while I agree that speed and screen resolution are very important features to consider for a tablet, the thing to take away here is that the Amazon Fire 7 inch tablet was meant as a easy to use, easy to replace tablet and as such corners were cut and let’s be honest, this isn’t for the power user.
So who exactly was this tablet created for? Honestly, I feel that it was created in mind for anyone who doesn’t use a tablet to do work, for people who don’t want to spend upwards of $100 and up, for those who have young children who would rather treat the tablet like a play thing or for someone who just wants to browse the net, play music, watch a movie and play small games on. Thus the primary market for the tablet, not power users.
As mentioned, coming in at $49.99 or even cheaper if you managed to snag one on Black Friday 2015, the Amazon Fire 7 inch tablet is an interesting one. While the underlying OS is definitely Google Android based, Amazon has skinned the tablet to be exclusive to it’s Amazon ecosystem; Amazon Prime, Amazon Store, Amazon App Store and has marketed this very aggressively. But is this for you?
So what’s under the hood?
- Fire OS 5 (based on Android 5.1)
- Quad-core 1.3GHz processor 1GB of on-board system RAM
- 1024 x 600 resolution screen (Not even 720p)
- 8GB on-board storage, expandable to 128GB with microSD card
- 2.0 megapixel camera
- MicroUSB connection
- Power / volume buttons
- Wifi 2.5GHz (does not support 5GHz)
- 3.5mm headphone jack
Right off the bat, there are several points that may be a deal breaker for many, namely the screen and the Wifi. While 720p is a big deal for many and seeing how small the screen is in relation to the ppi of 171, I agree, especially seeing how many knock-off tablets coming in at a higher ppi. However after using one for several weeks, I can attest to the quality of the screen, it’s not the best but it’s definitely usable. I didn’t see issues with back-light bleed and is bright enough for indoor usage, however the screen did change colors while looking at it at different angle despite it being an IPS panel. Also pointing out the screen is also a capacitive touch screen, and is responsive, so that’s a plus.
At the end of the day however, users will only be able to consume content up to 480p, which technically isn’t by definition HD anymore. It’s fine for streaming media via Netflix or Amazon Prime, it’s going to be up to the user to decide if the lack of 720p is worth it.
And then there’s the little issue with the Wifi, which only supports the 2.4GHz band means that those running dual band routers won’t see any benefit. To me it’s not a huge deal, yet at the same time I don’t understand why Amazon skipped on that. Sadly this also means that if you only have one router or access point in your location, you may experience issues with weak or no signal, dependent on how far away you are from that router or access point.The speaker were also a surprise as I wasn’t expecting it to be as loud as they were, since the tablet features back a mounted speaker vs being on the front or the side of the tablet. Yet at the entry price point, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing a single speaker here, but thankfully it performs reasonably well.
The camera however is a sore point. Taking pictures or video and viewing them you can see that they include a lot of noise or snow. While it’s usable for doing a video call or playing around with, don’t expect any quality videos or images from the camera and to be honest I wasn’t surprised on that point. As for Fire OS, it’s nice to see that Amazon has made progress with the OS, as earlier versions were slow and sluggish. This time around, Fire OS 5.0 is zippy and responsive,which is likely in part to the OS being built on Android 5.1 (Lollipop), though it’s yet to be seen if we’ll see a Fire OS built on the newly released Android 6.0 (Marshmallow). However while this is an Amazon tablet, there is no access to Google’s Play, at least not out of box. For internet browsing duties, you’ll have to use the Amazon Silk Browser which is fairly decent, but not a replacement for Google Chrome. I’m not a fan however of Amazon taking the opportunity to place ads on my lock screen. Thankfully you’re able to side-load your favorite apps onto the device, such as Google Play and other Google favored apps, including Chrome and others such as Kodi, which I installed to see if it was possible (It is).
However points need to be deducted as the tablet misses one of the simplest features that any tablet should have and that’s a power indicator. How Amazon decided to obmit that is beyond me and is a bane for me in my house hold. I have two of these tablets for my children and wife to use and every-time they plug it up, someone will come up to me and say that the tablet isn’t charging, the light isn’t on. Lastly the tablet doesn’t look like it’s cheap. The back is made of some plastic/rubberized material, and was easy to grip. Being a 7 inch tablet definitely helps as well, so you can just hold the tablet in one hand, though you’ll still need to hands in portrait mode.
Now as you may have noticed, I’ve only talked about the hardware and the OS. Though you’re likely wondering about productivity and usability. Well I’m happy to say that for $50 dollars, I’ve gotten more out of it than expect. Since I have children, I’ve loaded them both up with several power games such as Beach Buggy Racing, Crossy Road, Goat Simulator, Minecraft, Hearthstone (for me) and a few others. And while many of mentioned that the tablet is slow, it ran everyone of the mentioned games without issues, though it’s noting that Hearthstone did cause the tablet to get a little hot, which is a signal that it’s working that little quad-core processor. I streamed content from Netflix, Amazon Prime and it was enjoyable. Granted, the lack of 720p/1080p was noticed, but when I’m chilling in areas without a laptop/computer, or for when I don’t want to haul my more expensive Windows or Android tablets outside of the house, it was still respectable.
I was able to do some shopping on the Amazon storefront with no issues, as did my wife. Reading and typing emails or browsing the web was painless, though larger websites did take a little longer to load at times. Reading books was also pretty straight forward, so no issues on usability there. Plus sitting on the porch while playing some Hearthstone is easily of the tablets strongest selling points, hell Blizzard should sell these as some sort of Hearthstone promotion.
This is definitely something that will not be used for trying to do work, in fact it’s damn near impossible to do it and I don’t recommend it. But if you’re looking for something for the pick up and go, stuff in your pocket, don’t care if someone drops it / gets it wet / gets it stolen, then this is the tablet for you. At $50 it’s not meant to be taken seriously, yet is a good stopgap for those who really don’t need or want a tablet, but likes the ability to watch / listen to content on the go. However if you’re looking for something with a 720p screen or above, better wifi and a faster processor with more on-board ram, then this tablet is something that you’re going to want to pass on. If you’re a fan of Amazon’s ecosystem and have a subscription to Amazon Prime then we recommend you take a look at the Amazon Fire HD 6 for $99.99 or at the time of this review for $79.99. For those who don’t care too much for Amazon yet you still don’t want to pay more than $150 for a Google Android tablet then you may want to look for a 2013 Google Nexus tablet which sell for just under $130 currently.
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