And that’s all you really need to know about it. The Fire 7 is not capital-g Good in any major aspect:
- The 7-inch display isn’t HD. While it’s a bit less dull than the last model, it’s still stuck at a low 1024 x 600 resolution. Websites often look cramped, and you can see some pixelation every now and then.
- The design is unremarkable. It comes in a handful of vibrant colours, but you’re still looking a relatively thick slab of plastic. The lone speaker is weak, and the borders around the display are big.
- Performance is middling. Nothing loads particularly fast, the web browser starts to struggle if you open more than a half-dozen tabs at once, and it’s not uncommon to see hiccups wherever you are.
- Amazon’s Fire OS skin is still limited. There are still no Google apps, and it still omits various popular apps (Snapchat, Slack, Dropbox, any third-party web browser) and games, and still pushes you to buy an Amazon Prime membership at every turn. It’s slower to get app updates than iOS or regular Android, too.
- Expect to see advertisements on your lock screen by default. There are full-on ads to buy things from Amazon every time you wake the lock screen, and you’ll get “notifications” for Amazon deals every so often. You can pay another $US15 to kill these off, though.
- You shouldn’t bother with the cameras.
Having said all of that, though, the Fire 7 is still a bargain. It’s $US50! All of its shortcomings are real, but they rarely get so bad to make the whole thing unusable.
The display is sufficiently bright; the design is light and sturdily put together; everything is strong enough to play games and browse the web without being actively frustrating. Its battery lasts about 8-9 hours on a charge, which is decent, and there’s a microSD slot for expanding the paltry 8GB of storage in there by default.
Amazon’s insistence on pushing its own services is obnoxious, no doubt, but its media-centric interface is at least easy to get around. If you are an Amazon user, it’s nice to have your Prime Video and Kindle books front and center (I could do without the shopping links, though). Amazon loads the device with strong parental controls, too.
And while the Alexa assistant certainly needs work, having it around is nice to for basic info and quickly checking the weather — even if it’s only accessible through the home button, not voice commands.
You need to set expectations appropriately with a device like this. The Fire 7 is a thing for reading books, streaming Netflix, playing a few games of “Candy Crush” or “Hearthstone,” and flipping through the web on the couch. Nothing more. In that light, it’s the definition of “fine.” But when you can get fine for $US50, that’s value.
To be clear, there are other functional tablets at this price, but they often come from sketchier companies without Amazon’s level of customer support.
The Fire 7’s bigger competition comes from Amazon itself: If you can spare another $US30, the company’s Fire HD 8 — with its higher-res screen, extra RAM, and bigger battery — is a much better buy.
Ordinary tablets like this have proven themselves to be inessential, though. If you just want something that does the job, for you or your kids, at the lowest price possible, the Fire 7 is really your only choice.