- WIRED At $50, it’s more affordable than any other major tablet. The design is functional. You can access all of Amazon’s digital services and media with ease. Alexa is standard equipment.
- TIRED The screen is too small and its tinny mono sound is retro in the wrong way. The 8GB starting storage is paltry, so you’ll want to upgrade. The processing power, camera, and battery life disappoint.
THE AMAZON FIRE 7 is a tablet you can buy for $50. Think on that for a minute—for one Ulysses S. Grant, you can get a whiff of what it’s like to own a tablet. Unfortunately, once you dig in, you’ll find the Fire 7 is more of a toy than the real deal.
Like its siblings, the 8-inch Fire HD 8 and 10-inch Fire HD 10, the Fire 7 is an almost suspiciously affordable device meant to give you a window into all of Amazon’s digital services. From books to movies to games, this serves it all up on a bigger screen than your smartphone.
Amazon has so much content to sell and share that it redesigned Google’s Android operating system to do it, adding a page on the Fire 7’s home screen for every type of media it offers. If you join Amazon’s $100-per-year Prime service, your Fire will come stuffed with plenty of perks to enjoy, including gritty original TV shows like The Man in the High Castle.
But, stuffed is exactly how the Fire 7 will feel, almost immediately. There is simply too much Amazon goodness to fit on a device this limited. At 7 inches and 1024 x 600 pixels, the screen is as small and low-res as the first Kindle Fire in 2011—barely bigger than a Plus-sized iPhone, which is too tiny to really immerse you in media.
The tablet’s petit frame likely pushed Amazon to shed stereo speakers in favor of a mono rear-facing speaker, which sounds tinny as all get-out. It instantly reminded me of the General Electric FM clock radio I had when I was a kid, and not in a good way. The speaker is also never loud enough, and far too easily blocked no matter how you hold the Fire 7.
If the screen and sound don’t rankle you, the 8GB of internal storage might give you pause. After installing about a dozen apps and games from Amazon’s Appstore (this tablet cannot easily access the more robust Google Play Store), I only have 1GB of storage left. At this rate, I’ll need to buy a MicroSD card to have enough storage to download an offline movie or two for my next trip.
The processing power hits another flat note. The 8- and 10-inch Fire tablets are understandably weak due to their budget prices, but the Fire 7 is pitiful. In one benchmark test I ran, the Fire showed itself to be about as powerful as a 2012 Nexus 7—one of the earliest Android tablets. Due to its old-school performance, lag became a constant companion when opening apps and scrolling through menus on the Fire 7.
Its battery life is at least a couple hours shorter than you’d imagine (I found it lasted between 6 and 8 hours on average), and the front and rear camera quality was somehow worse than even I expected.
I’m laying it on thick, and that’s because I have firm advice: there are two good Amazon Fire tablets we recommend, and this is not one of them. By the time you opt to boost its built-in memory to 16GB (or buy a more spacious MicroSD Card), this tablet will cost you $70. Add in the high-quality Amazon standing case, and you’re almost to $100…not so cheap all of a sudden.
Like a pair of tight slacks after a heavy holiday meal, the Amazon Fire 7 left me wishing for a little extra wiggle room. Luckily, Amazon has a larger, comfier pair of sweatpants on offer: the Fire HD 8. Amazon’s medium-sized tablet has more power, a longer-lasting battery, twice the storage, stereo speakers, and a bigger, sharper display. If you can spare the $30 difference, the 8-inch Fire is simply the better deal.