Amazon Fire review: Now available with 16GB storage
Amazon’s £50 tablet leaves you in no doubt why it’s so cheap, but that doesn’t make it unusable
Update, 21/4/2016: The Fire is now Amazon's "fastest-selling" tablet, so the company is making a slightly beefed-up version available, along with a handful of new colour options to celebrate. The new version will have double the storage, at 16GB, and will cost £10 more at £60. The Fire will also be available in magenta, blue and tangerine in addition to the bog-standard black case.
Everything else about the Amazon Fire remains the same. It's still basic but usable, and incredibly good value for money. The new models are available for pre-order now and will ship on 28th April.
We can talk processor speeds, resolutions and battery capacities all day long, but with Amazon’s new Fire 7in tablet there’s just one number that matters: £50. This is comfortably the cheapest tablet I’ve come across from a major brand, with clear potential to widen the market, or work as an additional device in homes where there’s already one or more knocking around.
It’s worth bearing in mind that, while I’ll have plenty of negative things to say about the Fire, it’s still a tablet with a quad-core processor, two cameras and Amazon’s slick, family-friendly software at a price that would have been unimaginable a year or two ago. You might look at this as yet another sign of the death knell of the tablet, but there’s a more positive spin: at this price, just about anyone can afford one – or give one to their kids.
Amazon Fire: Design
Before Amazon stripped the Kindle from its Kindle Fire branding, its tablets were known for delivering robust build quality and stylish designs, despite their bargain-basement pricing.
Sadly, while solid construction has remained a hallmark, recent Fire tablets have struggled to make an impression in terms of style.
For £50 – I can’t stop saying it – you might think it unlikely that the entry-level Fire would change that, and you’d be right. This is as generic and featureless a 7in tablet as you can imagine, over 1cm thick, crafted from glass and fairly cheap-feeling matte-black plastic, and with only the shiny silver power switch and volume rocker at the top to lend it the merest hint of design nous.
That’s a shame, and that rear plastic shell has a bit more give than I’d like, although at least you can’t peel it away from the corners as you can with some unbranded budget monsters.
Amazon Fire: Display
The Fire has a 7in IPS display, although the thick frame makes it look smaller than it is. Come to the Fire from a 2013 Nexus 7 or even the 2013 Fire HD and you would swear that it had a tiny 6in panel. And, just when you thought 800 x 1,280 was becoming the entry-level standard for bargain-basement tablets, along comes Amazon with a 600 x 1,024 screen.
This is arguably the Fire’s biggest shortcoming. With a pixel density of only 171ppi it’s far from crisp and crystal-clear. Any digital newspaper, magazine or graphic novel with small text is a pain to read, and you’ll struggle with some busy websites, too. Any HD video you stream or purchase from Amazon will only play at SD resolution, and this just adds to the Fire’s basic, weirdly dated feel.
Nor is it a particularly good 600 x 1,024 screen. It’s surprisingly bright – we measured it at 327cd/m2 – but there’s also not much contrast at 772:1, while colour accuracy is average to poor across the board. Colours look washed-out and there’s precious little punch when you’re looking at photos or watching video.
Put it next to a 2013 Fire HD and it’s noticeably inferior in all respects. It's inferior to the Tesco Hudl 2 as well, but since that tablet has now been discontinued, that's no longer a valid comparison.
Does that make it unusable? No. You can still stream SD video, run apps and read your Kindle ebooks, browse the Web or read and send emails, and you won’t have any problems doing so. This might be Amazon’s worst screen ever, but if you remember what cheap, Android tablets looked like before the Nexus 7, then the Fire won’t seem that bad at all.
Amazon Fire specifications
|Processor||Quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek MT8127D|
|Screen resolution||600 x 1,024, 170ppi|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||Yes|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 4 LE|
|Size (WDH)||191 x 10.6 x 115mm|
|Operating system||Amazon Fire OS|