Improved budget tablet has better screen, is slimmer and lighter and lasts a little longer between charges, also comes with Amazon’s smart voice assistant Alexa
At just £50, it was remarkable how not-rubbish the 2015 Amazon Fire 7 tablet was. Two years on, the Fire 7 (the 7 comes from the screen size – 7”) has slimmed down a little and has an improved screen, but is still just £50.
Slimmer, lighter and brighter
Side-by-side it’s difficult to tell the 2015 Fire 7 and the new 2017 Fire 7 apart. The only really noticeable difference is a set of new colours – including black, blue, red and yellow – and if you squint you might be able to see it’s 1mm thinner, and it’s 18g lighter.
The outside is made of a finely textured plastic that feels hardwearing. Amazon claims it’s twice as durable as Apple’s iPad mini 4 and that’s probably right. The edges are rounded and quite comfortable to hold, and all the ports and buttons are in one edge, including the headphones port, microUSB port, power and volume buttons.
There’s a speaker in the back that’s plenty loud enough for watching videos on the go, but not quite loud enough to comfortably watch a TV show in the kitchen over the sounds of the cooker hood fan and the wok.
The 7in screen still isn’t HD, but its colours and blacks are improved since 2015, making it brighter and better looking. It’s not going to blow you away or compete with an iPad of any generation, but it’s perfectly fine for watching the odd episode of the Grand Tour or playing a bit of Real Racing 3.
The reading experience is an improvement on that of the 2015 Fire 7, with better looking font smoothing, but it’s still not as crisp as a Kindle or a smartphone. It does have Blue Shade, which adjusts brightness and reduces the amount of blue light emitted by the screen to make nighttime reading more comfortable and less likely to disrupt your sleep.
- Screen: 7in (1024 x 600) LCD (171ppi)
- Processor: 1.3GHz quad-core
- RAM: 1GB of RAM
- Storage: 8GB; microSD slot also available
- Operating system: Fire OS 5 based on Android 5 Lollipop
- Camera: 2MP rear camera, 0.3MP front-facing camera
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi n, Bluetooth
- Dimensions: 192 x 115 x 9.6mm
- Weight: 295g
Sluggish but not quite infuriating
The new Fire 7 has the same 1.3GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM as the last one, and performs similarly. It’ll handle most games perfectly fine, if with slightly longer load times and slower frame rates than you might be used to on a top-end smartphone.
The operating system rolls along perfectly acceptably too. It’s not what I would call quick, but I didn’t suffer from any moments of lag that made me question whether I actually tapped the button or not. Swiping through the panes of the home screen is smooth, jumping between apps works relatively quickly, but there can be a noticeable delay between the app opening and it being ready for use.
The battery lasted for a little over 6.5 hours of video watching with the brightness cranked up, which is enough to get through most of a transatlantic flight. Playing games brought it down closer to 5.5 hours. If just reading, the battery will likely last quite a bit longer.
Fire OS 5.4
The 2017 Fire 7 runs Amazon’s customised version of Android called Fire OS 5.4. It looks quite different to the traditional Android experience from Google, lacks Google apps and only has access to the Amazon App Store, not the Google Play Store.
Navigating it is easy with clearly marked panes filled with either apps, games, books, video, music, magazines, audio books etc. It makes the best of what is a media consumption device, rather than a work device.
There is an email app, Amazon’s Silk browser, contacts, calendar, WPS Office and other bits pre-loaded that do general information management and light office duties should you need them.
The jewel in the crown for Fire OS 5.4 is Alexa – Amazon’s voice-enabled smart digital assistant. It’s the same Alexa that’s found in the company’s Fire TV and Echo smart speaker devices, and has access to the same information.
Hold the home button and Alexa listens to your commands and questions, geared up to launch apps and optimised around entertainment. Alexa’s responses are more like those found on the Fire TV with interactive cards displayed while it talks through the answer to your questions.
Ask for the weather and get a card displaying current conditions and the weather for the week you can scroll through. Ask how old Uber’s ex-CEO Travis Kalanick is and get the answer but also the option to tap a link and search Bing for the query.
You can search for media simply by asking Alexa too. Amazon Music cards display playback controls and asking for a particular show takes you to the listing in Amazon video. Searches for content within third-party apps such as Netflix go unanswered, unlike the Fire TV, but almost everything else works fine including Alexa’s flash briefing and review of your day.
- The cameras are pretty poor producing blurry shots with little in the way of detail – only to be used in an emergency
- There’s a for Kids edition of the tablet with a rubber case and no Alexa, but there are kids apps on the default version and fairly good parental controls
- The 2017 Fire 7 takes about five hours to fully charge
- It requires an Amazon account to use and a Prime account to make the most of it
The 2017 Amazon Fire 7 tablet costs £50 for 8GB of storage and “with special offers”, which are little adds on the lockscreen for recommended content from Amazon’s store. It costs £10 to remove the adverts. The version with 16GB of storage costs £60 with adverts.
It’s still remarkable how not-rubbish the 2017 Amazon Fire 7 tablet is when it costs just £50. Two years on from the original £50 marvel not a lot has changed, but the screen is definitely clearer and more colourful, while it is a little lighter and slimmer.
Will it win over iPad buyers? No. Can you “get work done on it”? Probably not. But you can buy six Fire 7 tablets and still have £39 left over for the same price as on iPad. And that’s the point. The Fire 7 isn’t amazing, but it gets the job of consuming media done at an absolutely rock-bottom price, and is much more capable with other tasks than you might expect. At £50 the Fire 7 has no equal, and now it even comes in a range of bright colours.
Pros: it costs just £50, microSD card slot, acceptable battery life, feels durable
Cons: rubbish cameras, very slow charging, low-res screen, chunky, heavy for the size, no USB-C
- Amazon Fire TV Stick review: cheap, great TV streaming device with new interface and Alexa
- Amazon Fire TV review: simple, fast, 4K and the best TV streaming
- Amazon Echo review: the best combined speaker and voice assistant in the UK
- Amazon Echo Dot review: as good as the Echo for one-third of the price
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