Amazon were one of the first big companies to try and make a budget Android tablet and at the time the original Kindle Fire was one of the better available small tablets. Then the Nexus 7 was released and the Fire and its successors faded into the background as the market evolved.
This autumn Amazon announced something that changed this. The new Kindle Fire looks a lot like its predecessors but there’s one important change – its now £50.
So what does £50 buy you? The Fire is a traditional looking slab 7″ Android tablet with 8GB of onboard storage and a screen with a reasonable but not great resolution. It has front and rear facing cameras and a microSD card slot that can handle up to 128GB cards. All the controls and ports are clustered along the top of the Fire which is clearly designed to be used normally in portrait mode.
The software onboard is not the standard Google brand of Android and does not have access to the Play store, Google apps or API which will bother some users. That said the FireOS has come a long way from its origins and has matured into a very usable system. Amazon is baked into it at a deep level which may be an advantage or disadvantage depending on what you use but as a Prime users I found the range of Kindle books, Audible Books and Instant video fitted well.
There are a number of tweaks that show thought – for example if you have a microSD card with space the tablet will auto download videos invisibly that it thinks you are likely to watch so that when you are offline you can still consume although for some reason audiobooks have not been afforded the ability to be moved to the SD card as well.
A note on naming – Amazon has no clear system to differentiate between their Fire tablets. Last years tablet was the Kindle Fire and this years is also the Kindle Fire. This review refers to the Kindle Fire launched in Autumn 2015 for £50.
Included in the box: Fire tablet, wall charger, USB to microUSB cable, Quick start card, guarantee
The Fire comes with “Special offers” which can be translated to Amazon adverts on the lock screen and in occasional other place in the OS. If you are looking for multiple tablets it can also be bought as part of a 6 six pack where you only pay for 5. In other words buy 6 and they’ll cost £42 each.
About Manufacturer: Amazon
Amazon probably needs little introduction to any internet user. The company started setting books online in the late 1990’s and expanded to fill the market and began reselling almost everything else you can possibly think of. They started their own electronics arm making the Kindle which iterated to become the dominant e-reader and then expanded to a small range of other electronic devices based on Android including tablets, a phone and media streamers.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The Fire is a versatile device and lends itself to a variety of uses provided that you are happy to live in the Amazon ecosystem and are focused on consumption rather than creation. The tablet can be turned to creating and can be used with other ecosystems with a little tinkering but its focus is on watching Amazon video, reading Amazon books, listening to Amazon audiobooks and music and above all as a way to buy things.
The design is sensible and solid if not innovative but Amazon is to be commended for adding the microSD card reader – it would have been a very different review without only the basic 8GB of space.
It is simple to set-up, use and maintain regardless without a high level of expertise, knowledge and skill level even coming out of the box ready signed in to your ordering Amazon account.
The Fire chooses to put all the ports and the controls along the top side which took me a while to get used to but after a little adjustment had me wondering why more tablet makers do not do it – it simplified plugging in and controlling the tablet and made it clear which way was up all the time.
The Fire has an ergonomic design and feels reasonable to hold if a little plasticky. It is heavier than you would at first sight expect and not as strong as would be ideal having a little flex if twisted. The single speaker points directly down when the tablet is flat on its back which has the effect of muffling it slightly.
I was able to use the Fire with an external Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. The Fire does accept an external OTG cable and mounts a USB flash drive but I found that it unmounted the microSD card which was an annoying problem if not a show stopper. I was unable to get external USB Mice or keyboards working although I’m not sure if that was lack of power or lack of software support.
FireOS 5 comes with a number of accessibility features in addition to the standard ones built into Android. These include screen magnifiers, closed captioning on most videos, a screen reader, gestures, text to speech and Braille support.
The Kindle Fire nearly defines the word economic. It is the cheapest big name tablet you can buy and although there are chinese knock offs that match the cost they are not on the same level.
At £50 it clearly does not match up in spec or build quality to its more expensive brother Fires and not to many Samsung Android tablets or Apples iPads. The question is does it need to? If you want a gaming tablet or something with more power or a higher design quality then you are going to pay more but most people do not need that extra horsepower.
Operating System: Fire OS 5 based on Android 4.x
Size: 19.1 x 11.5 x 1.0 cm
Material: Rubberized back and sides with Glass screen
Display: 7″ 1024 x 600 – 171 ppi IPS screen
CPU: Quad core 1.3GHz with 1GB RAM
Battery: QUoted 7 hour life
Wifi: Single band 802.11 b, g or n with WEP, WPA and WPA2
USB: USB 2.0 MicroUSB
Sensors: Accelerometer, gyroscope
Canera: Front facing VGA, Read 2.0MP
Bluetooth: A2DP Support
Speaker: Single Mono
Microphone: Built In
Warranty: One year worldwide limited warranty
The Fire has no specific requirements and can be set-up without a PC. The tablet does not require an Amazon account to be used. That said an Amazon account and Prime membership is needed to get most of the features and integrations to function properly.
When I received the Fire Tablet I was amused to see the slogan on the outside of the box “A most sensible tablet”. After living with it for a week and trying to do as much as possible with it I’m actually finding it a near perfect slogan. The Fire is not perfectly designed, nor does it have cutting edge internals and it’s quite heavy and thick by modern standards. What it is is a great budget tablet to watch TV on, read on or browse around online.
The Fire is not the best at anything it tries to do but at £50 it doesn’t need to be – it just needs to be reasonable at it – and it is. If you are in the market for a budget tablet to sling in your bag, give to the kids or just have around the house the Fire is a good bet. You’ll need to be ready to live in the Amazon ecosystem (or hack it) but that’s a much better place than it used to be. A most sensible tablet, Recommended.
The review is based on the £50 Kindle Fire 7″ 2015 kindly provided by Amazon.This post contains affiliate links. First published on …