Amazon Fire 7 Review: An affordable tablet for the basics

After three years, Amazon has finally updated its most affordable tablet: the Fire 7. Starting at $ 59.99 ($ ​​74.99 without lockscreen ads), the new model costs slightly more than its predecessor but comes with with more RAM and battery life that matches the larger and much more expensive Fire HD 10. It also gets USB-C, up to 32GB of built-in storage, and a more powerful processor.

But do these extra features make it a good buy? After spending a month testing the ad-free version of Fire 7, I’d say yes. As long as you’re just looking for a budget entertainment tablet, this is a decent device, especially if you’re already integrated into the Amazon ecosystem. Sure, you’ll need to be comfortable with some pretty big compromises, like a low-resolution pixelated screen, but at this price point no one expects perfection.

Like all Fire tablets, the Fire 7 has a plastic body. Its edges are more curved than those of the 2019 model, which makes it easier to hold with one hand. It is also half a gram lighter than the 2019 model – 9.9 ounces instead of 10.4 – and is 7.11 inches tall, while the 2019 model was 7.55 inches. Slightly narrower bezels and a slightly wider screen make it easier to read and watch programs.

Unfortunately, the new Fire 7 still has a grainy, pixelated seven-inch display and only offers a paltry resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels (171 ppi). It’s the thing I didn’t like the most about the Fire 7. I don’t expect a $ 59.99 tablet to have a high-resolution display like an iPad or even a $ 149.99 Amazon Fire 10. But most people will buy this tablet for entertainment, such as watching movies, reading and (slowly) browsing social media, and the display is a key feature that Amazon should have increased, for example, on storage capacity, especially. because the Fire 7 comes with a microSD card slot. In addition, the display is not resistant to fingerprints and is easily stained. It is both shiny and muted, which makes it difficult to use outdoors when it’s sunny.

That said, I still managed to enjoy reading ebooks and watching programs on the Fire 7. Once absorbed in what I was reading or watching, I quickly forgot about the grainy screen, especially at night. That’s because Fire 7 runs on the new Fire OS 8, a modified version of Android 11. With that new operating system, some useful UI changes are made, such as dark mode and a setting that minimizes blue light. You can also customize the menu a bit.

I especially enjoyed using the tablet to read. The display is slightly sharper than the basic Kindle’s e-ink screen, which offers a very low resolution of 167ppi. It might be an advantage if you use tablets as secondary e-readers, especially since the Fire 7 is $ 30 cheaper than the Kindle.

While the bad speaker made a tinny sound that is neither full nor clear, I quickly forgot about them too, thanks to the 3.5mm audio jack. This is something that newer tablets often lack, and combined with Bluetooth support, it means you can connect it to a wide range of headphones and speakers. This greatly improves the sound quality, whether you’re listening to audiobooks through Audible, listening to music, or streaming a show.

A USB-C port and headphone jack on the side of the Amazon Fire 7 tablet.

I was pleasantly surprised by the longer battery life. Amazon says it takes about four hours to fully charge the whiteboard with the included five-watt charging brick and USB-C charging cable, which I found to be accurate. The company also claims up to 10 hours of battery life, which matches my experience. This puts it on par with the more expensive Amazon Fire HD 10. It’s been nearly a week before I had to recharge the tablet, while its predecessor only lasted us about two days. To illustrate how much better the battery is, watching a 25-minute documentary lowered the battery by about 5 percent (at 70 percent brightness, I might add). By comparison, my colleague Cameron Faulkner found that watching a 23-minute episode drained the battery of the latest model by 20%.

Storage options are also better this time around. While it only comes with 16GB or 32GB of built-in storage, the new model can support microSD cards up to 1TB. Its predecessor reached the maximum of 512 GB.

A microSD slot on the side of the Amazon Fire 7.

You can’t expect a $ 59.99 tablet to be as fast as an iPad, and it certainly isn’t. However, while the Fire 7 is slow, at least it’s a bit faster than its predecessor. That’s because it features a 2.0GHz quad-core processor that’s almost twice as powerful and 2GB of RAM instead of the 2019 model’s 1GB. It’s the same processor and memory as the $ 89.99 Fire HD 8. That still doesn’t make it great for gaming, but you’ll be able to open multiple web pages at the same time without, for example, the tablet slowing down considerably, which is what would sometimes happen using the 2019 model. I’ve also noticed some improvements in the playback of the videos, which made it possible to listen to them again Stranger things for the hundredth time enjoyable. Typing, opening apps, and browsing the web are still relatively slow for someone like me accustomed to iPad speed, but it just means you’ll have to be patient for a few more seconds, it’s not a big deal.

However, that was until I added my Gmail account to the built-in email app. After that, software browsing and app launch slowed significantly and never returned to faster performance, especially after downloading around seven apps, including Netflix. At least the video playback remained good.

The quality of the video calls, however, is another story. Even before I connected my Gmail account to the email app, the quality of the video calls was poor – the calls were delayed and sometimes blocked, so I often had to turn off my video. It also didn’t help that the Fire HD 7’s cameras are still bad. Amazon hasn’t upgraded the 2MP front and rear cameras, so photos, selfies, and video chat via Zoom look grainy, color saturation is low, and I could barely see myself indoors with low light.

The back of the Amazon Fire 7 sports the Amazon logo.

If you are deeply rooted in the Amazon ecosystem and, for example, are a Prime member or own Alexa smart speakers, the Fire 7 (like other Amazon tablets) offers great value for money. It can run Alexa – I was able to use it to turn my smart lights on and off using just my voice with no problems. I too, like many, pay $ 139 per year for an Amazon Prime membership, which grants me free access to TV shows like The boys, movies, books for my Kindle via Prime Reads and Amazon’s ad-free Prime Music service. The free book selection and music selection is certainly quite limited, but I still managed to find a few things I liked.

The Fire 7 is also a decent device if you want to keep your kids busy on a long drive or plane ride. It’s inexpensive, and when you create a child’s profile, it includes parental control options. You can filter what your child can see and set time limits via Amazon’s Parent Dashboard, which you can access via tablet, smartphone or PC.

Amazon also sells a $ 109.99 Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet, which comes with a durable case with built-in stand, a two-year damage protection plan, and a year of Amazon Kids Plus, a kind of kid’s version of Amazon Prime with a curated selection of books, games and videos. Kids Plus costs $ 4.99 per month for Prime members, so if you’re considering the Fire 7 for a kid who might break it or are interested in the Kids Plus service, the Kids Edition, although I haven’t tested it, might be the one. best option.

While the Fire 7 is great for consuming Amazon content, I was disappointed with Amazon’s app store offerings. The selection still leaves a lot to be desired – you can download several popular apps and games such as Netflix, Hulu, Instagram, Spotify, and Amazon’s Luna subscription gaming service. However, you still can’t download Google apps like YouTube, Google Drive, or the Play Store. You can transfer Google apps, that’s true, but it’s a relatively complicated process with security implications. Plus, while you can download Microsoft Office applications, many popular work and productivity apps like Slack, Airtable, and Asana are nowhere to be found, and for example, using Microsoft Word to type a document is frustratingly slow. Don’t buy it expecting nothing more than an entertainment machine.

A mono speaker on the side of the Fire 7.

If you’re looking for a small, inexpensive tablet for reading, watching videos, or listening to audiobooks, the Fire 7 is decent and, at this price, decent is acceptable. I particularly recommend it as an alternative to the $ 89.99 Kindle. The Fire 7 offers a higher density 171ppi display, more storage options and access to the same Kindle ecosystem and plays videos. Also, based on my experiences with its predecessor, it should last relatively long. While my old Fire 7 is frustratingly slow, it hasn’t actually gotten worse over the years. I expect this version will also be technically usable for at least three years.

On the other hand, if you are, for example, a movie buff in the market for a budget tablet, consider buying the $ 89.99 Amazon Fire 8 or the $ 149.99 Fire 10. They boast larger screens and with higher resolution, dual, non-mono speakers, sounding better and bigger built-in storage options. And if you need a tablet primarily for work or demanding tasks like mobile gaming or creative jobs like graphic design, you should consider more expensive options – this budget tablet, like the rest of the Fire range, simply doesn’t have the power of processor and apps.

Photo by Sheena Vasani

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