Amazon Fire review: Its little price gets you decently far

Amazon-Fire-7-display-up-ta

Amazon is a firm in believer in its Fire tablets. So much so that this time around, Amazon priced the Fire at a meager $49, making it very attractive for those on a budget. At $49, you don’t expect much, but it’s by far the best value tablet on the market. You’re not going to find anything better than this for $49.

That’s the most important thing to keep in mind about the Fire. It’s the best tablet for the price Amazon is asking. That doesn’t mean the specifications are as good as the specs found in a Nexus 7 (2013) or the more Nexus 9. But, that’s not what Amazon is trying to get at. The online retailer has made tablets accessible to everybody at this price point, and while they’re not necessarily the best Android tablet out there, the value you get is extraordinary for $49.

Design

The design of Amazon’s new Fire is what we’ve come to expect over the years. There’s not a whole lot of changes. On the front, you still have the front-facing VGA camera up top. Around the back, you get the standard Amazon logo near the center of the tablet. FCC branding is near the bottom with the speaker grill placed to the left of that. Finally, there’s a 2-megapixel rear camera at the top left of the tablet.

Amazon-Fire-7-top-buttons-ta

It’s not an ugly tablet and it’s not a nice looking tablet. However, it has some characteristics that are outright annoying, such as the charging port at the top of the device. Oddly, the power button, the volume rocker, and the 3.5mm audio jack are all at the top as well. It certainly makes it awkward to hold if you’re charging the tablet and watching a movie simultaneously.

Aside from the awkward button placement and chunky design, the Fire is easy and comfortable to grip. You’re going to experience little to no slip when reading books or watching media for an extended of time, which is a big plus.

Hardware

The Amazon Fire features a 7-inch 1024×600 IPS LCD display, a quad-core 1.3GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot for an additional 128GB, a 2MP rear camera, a VGA front camera, and an unknown non-removable battery.

Performance

Amazon-Fire-7-home-apps-ta

The media package in the Fire leaves you wanting more. Equipped with a 7-inch display and a meager resolution of 1024 x 600, various types of media content just doesn’t look great on the Fire. Don’t get me wrong, the display looks nice, but you’re not going to be watching movies and video in the highest quality.

In some cases, text on webpages look blurry as well, and increasing the brightness only seems to make it worse. What else would you expect from a $50 tablet, though? It’s obvious Amazon had to make some serious cost cuts in order to bring this device to the market.

As far as performance goes, the Fire is impressive. Amazon’s tablet is very speedy and responsive. In my time with the tablet, I experienced little to no lag, though there was some stutter at certain points when navigating or loading an app.

Sound is also awful. It’s not crisp and clean many would expect when playing a song. In fact, playing music or video, the speakers sounded muffled and almost produces a level of static.

Amazon has truly made an excellent low-end tablet. For $49, this is the best you’re going to get. But keep in mind, the best actually isn’t very good when compared to tablets higher up the food chain.

Battery

The battery in the Fire does just fine for this tablet. It’s a non-removable battery rated for up to 7 hours of use. I was able to average five or six hours of video playback on the tablet before it would finally die. However, if you don’t watch video regularly, the Fire will actually last you days on end.

For example, I’ve looked at email, browsed various websites, checked up on Facebook fairly regularly, and this tablet has lasted about three days before getting low on juice. There are even Power Saving features built-in, which’ll only increase the amount of battery life you’ll get out of the Fire. Obviously your miles will vary, but for $49, it’s impressive.

Camera

Amazon-Fire-7-back-amazon-logo-ta

As far as the camera goes, you’re not looking at anything special. All you get is a meager 2-megapixel rear performer and a VGA front camera. Both produces grainy and overall low quality photos. And that’s not a bad thing whatsoever. After all, are you truly buying a tablet for the camera? Probably not.

There’s enough here to make video conferences and video calls workable, and that’s all the Fire really needs to do. Despite that, I’ve provided some photo samples below.

Fire-7-camera-sample-1

Fire-7-camera-sample-2

As you can see, they’re most definitely not the best photos you’ll ever see on a mobile device, but again, does that truly matter with the Fire?

Software

With Fire OS 5.0, there’s been some significant improvements to Amazon’s Fire tablets. The user interface is much cleaner, things are generally quicker when navigating through menus, playing video, and so on. While Amazon may have made some great enhancements to Fire OS, it still lacks much of what makes Android great: Google Play Services.

If you’re not familiar with Amazon’s Fire tablets, they’re completely cut off from the Play Store any other related services like YouTube and Gmail. You can access these services through the Web, but most certainly not a dedicated application. Besides that, you’re pretty much stuck with what Amazon decides to give you in the Appstore. Granted, the Appstore has seen a lot of significant improvements content-wise. In fact, it has “apps” like Gmail and YouTube, but not in the sense that you might think.

These so-called apps advertised on Amazon’s Appstore aren’t worth writing home about, as they’re essentially just bookmarks to accessing Gmail and YouTube on the web. It’s very disappointing, which makes the Fire tablet lose much of its value, at least for me.

But there are also a lot of benefits to this type of ecosystem. All of Amazon’s services work extremely well. Getting books, TV shows, movies, and music on the Fire tablet is all a seamless process and enjoyable process.

With that in mind, what it all boils down to is whether you can live without Google’s services on your tablet. And if so, you’re in for one of the best Amazon Android experiences you can get your hands on. Amazon has made it clear: this is not a Google tablet, but an Amazon tablet.

And you know what? Amazon makes it work very well.

Closing

Amazon-Fire-7-hero-ta

Amazon has truly shown us that tablets don’t have to be expensive. There honestly isn’t too many noticeable differences from the Fire tablet, and say, the Nexus 9. Despite the lower specifications, the Fire hardly lags in playing more demanding games. It’s able to handle almost anything you throw at it. And the only two real cons here is that it has a much lower quality display and it’s missing Google’s services. But then again, for $49, is that really something to complain about?

Amazon has put together an amazing 7-inch tablet for just $49. Not only that, but in getting rid of Google’s services, they’ve tried to provide ways to replace those services and even give users access to them in roundabout ways. Amazon is trying to take care of its customers with this $49 tablet, and they’re doing that well.

So, should you get the Fire? I’d say yes. It’s only $49, making it a very low-risk purchase. Jump in and see what the Fire is all about. You might end up actually liking it.

[Amazon]


About the Author: Brad Ward

Brad is a tech enthusiast, writing and tinkering with all things technology since 2011. He currently bounces between the LG G3 and his beloved Moto X! His interests include reading, entrepreneurship, the gym, and of course, queso.


  • ta2025

    I just bought this on BF for $34.95. True its not a “great” tablet, but its pretty close to the original nexus 7 in form and function and that tablet started life over $200. I’m very surprised at what it can do so far. One note, I also noticed the font issue with increasing brightness and I don’t think its actually the screen. The default fonts that Amazon chose to include are interestingly bad. Not sure why they did that or if they chose fonts that had been sculpted for a much higher resolution?

    Also, if you follow http://liliputing.com/2015/10/amazons-50-tablet-can-run-the-google-play-store-no-root-required.html , you can easily add the google play store to the Kindle fire and not even have to root it!

    • http://www.talkandroid.com Brad Ward

      Great thoughts! I’ll have to look into it about it being a font issue; I didn’t think of that.

      The only problem with that guide you linked is that the everyday user isn’t very interested in doing any modifications like that. It’s definitely great that it’s there, and I’ll certainly use it, but I don’t think it appeals to the masses who are buying this tablet. Just my $0.02.

      Did you have trouble with the audio as well? It sounds like a hollow tube to me.

      • ta2025

        Audio is definitely not good. I think more people than you think would want the Google play store, but I added it because it’s extra icing on the cake of an already incredible deal.

  • http://ehelldane.blogspot.com/ Edward Helldane

    considered it because, ironically, my nexus 7 (2012) died the week prior to the sale. but i just couldn’t talk myself into it with that resolution. I had an original Galaxy Tab, the nexus was an upgrade (barely), but the screens of most current 7inch tablets just aren’t crisp enough. 300ppi might be alright, but i’d prefer something like 450, just for insurance.

    i realize the cost will go up, but i’m not worried about most other specs. gimmie a 7inch tablet with a crisp screen and i’m good. $34 for the rest of the hardware and a $100 screen, if need be.

    all the alternative tablets that might qualify are 2 years old, and still cost around $200.

    i decided instead to just wait and see what 2016 brings.

    • ta2025

      Your eye cannot see that fine of resolution. Yes, I can see the pixels of the fire and normally 1280×800 is my lower limit, but anything over 300ppi is completely wasted.

      • http://ehelldane.blogspot.com/ Edward Helldane

        ya know the difference between a print and an oil painting, one has 300ppi and the other has submicroscopic ppi; as small as the molecules of the oil allow. and yes, there is a difference!

        i’m down with a 4k phone, just not the current price of one.

  • William Donald Morton

    Can you install apps on the SD Card. For my kids, 8GB is not enough to install all the games they want to play.

    • ta2025

      The OS will allow you to choose to install apps, music, pictures and video on the sdcard, yes.

  • primalxconvoy

    What’s ironic is that I am sure most parents will buy this for their kids, and ignore the “kids version” which is bafflingly DOUBLE the price of the “normal” version.

    If it was easy to sideload into this device, then I’d recommend “Tubemate (cracked)” to access YouTube, and a screen rotational app to fix the screen-to-button/port issue (i.e., reverse the screen).

  • agirlgoo

    My great Niece turned 10 years old 11/27 and she got This +Amazon Fire Tablet!
    I bought her a Soft Cloth case for it at +Marshalls too. She Has officially been given the best Tech Gift of 2015.