Howdy folks. Today I’m reviewing something a little different and that’s the Fire 7 Tablet from Amazon. Not your standard traditional EReader but still shows promise in this area for the price point. Released in late 2019 it’s still a strong contender tech wise with other more recent product releases. A tablet full of features and around half the price of a Kindle paperwhite, what’s not to love?
I’d recommend watching the video below to give you a flavor of the features before I dive into the details of the device.
Variety Of Makes/Models – Make Sure You Pick The Right One
So there’s not just one Amazon Fire 7 tablet but there are a few, depending on the price point you want to pay and what you’re willing to compromise. The make things simple I’ve broken this down below:
- Internal storage: 16gb or 32gb available
- With Ads: Yes/No
- Internal storage: 16gb
- No Ads
For example, the cheapest model you can get is the 16gb, Adult version with Ads and the most expensive version you can get is the kids version but this does come with a few bonuses that I’ll touch on later.
One thing to note. If you pick the Ads tablet and then decide you want to pay for Ads to go away, I believe you’ll need to purchase another tablet. It’s not a simple case of upgrading it.
Alexa Built In
We now live in a voice activated world. Hey Google this, OK Siri that. Well Alexa is Amazon’s equivalent. In previous models you had to touch the screen first before it would activate. Now you can just say “Alexa show me the weather” and the device will pull up a 7 day forecast. This isn’t a replacement for an Amazon echo device though (which has been purpose built for these kinds of requests). For one thing the mic range is pretty limited and you need to be pretty close to the device for the Alexa request to be picked up. It’s not really how Amazon markets the service but there’s more than enough evidence out there from user reviews to justify this claim.
If you’re looking for the full Alexa experience then you’re better off purchasing an Amazon Echo.
For those paranoid about all your tech listening in on your conversations, Alexa can be disabled too.
The Robust Kids Version
So what do you get for spending a little more? Well for starters it comes with a pretty rock solid case that even the most enthusiastic of children would have a hard time making a dent on. Amazon are so confident here that they offer a two year free replacement no questions asked policy on the device. That kind of policy really does impress me. It shows that they’ve likely crunched the numbers to ensure it’s worth their while in offering this which indicates it’s a pretty solid device.
Kids also get access to Amazon Kids and if you live in the UK and a free one year subscription to Amazon Kids+. So what’s the difference here between the two?
So Amazon kids gives parents additional control over the device so that they can protect them from some of the harms of the internet. It also allows them to set education goals and time limits on how often they can use the platform.
Amazon Kids+ provides unlimited access to thousands of books, audiobooks, videos, education apps and games. These shows can be downloaded onto your tablet and watched even when you don’t have wifi.
Here’s a small sample of the shows available:
- Peppa Pig
- Mr Men
- Thomas The Tank Engine
- Scooby Doo
- Angry Birds
- Paw Patrol
- Star Wars
- Sonic The Hedgehog
- Teen Titans Go!
- Just Add Magic
The full listing can be found here
In my opinion, there’s not many companies which have put such time and effort into providing a child friendly device with such a range of varied content so I tip my hat to you Amazon. Well done! They’re also pretty good at keeping the content updated as we all know how quickly kids can get bored of things.
After your free year of Amazon Kids+, it would then move to a monthly subscription. At the time of writing this was £1.99 per month for a single child. Full pricing can be found here.
Amazon OS – A Blessing And A Curse
So given this is an Amazon device, it runs on Amazon OS which is a heavily customized version of Android. This means that it has seamless integration to the Amazon store, Amazon Prime and the Amazon App store. Well that all sounds fine right?
Well actually no. This means that it doesn’t have the Google play store which most Android users would be familiar with. This means no gmail, google docs as well as any other app on the Google play store. The only exception is Youtube where Google and Amazon fought it out and finally came to an agreement. This did take 18 months to resolve though and has the potential to be removed again. More on this spat can be read here. Amazon have ‘similar’ apps to the ones on the Google play store but in my opinion they still need some UI work to make them more effective.
Here’s a selection of apps available from the Amazon app store:
- Podcasts such as washington post
- Zoom (wouldn’t recommend due to the poor camera quality on the device)
- Email for gmail / outlook too
- Pdf reader
- Prime video
A word of caution here. Do your research as not every app will work on the tablet. The final thing to mention here are the apps are a bit slow to load compared to your phone but that is to be expected as the hardware is very different. If you don’t mind waiting a few seconds for them to load, then this shouldn’t be a problem.
So let’s jump into the design. It has a 7 inch display, though it feels much less as it has quite chunky bezels all around it. Not sure why they’ve done this as it kind of makes the screen size similar to your mobile phone. The screen itself is 171 PPI (Pixels per inch) which makes it a much lower resolution than most Kindle’s out there. It’s also not HD which can mean watching videos a bit of a poor experience. Personally I wasn’t too fussed on this but if you’re planning to watch a lot of action type movies on it then you might be better off on your phone. The final thing to call out with the display is that it does struggle in direct sunlight so viewing is best done in the shade. With that said, if your primary aim is using it as an EReader here then the display should be fine.
The casing around the screen is pretty solid too compared to most other tablets I’ve used and it doesn’t impact the weight of the device too much either. The shape also allows it to be held easily in one hand for an extended period of time. A big plus in my books. The casing also comes in a variety of funky colours compared to the standard Black in previous versions. Personal favourite is Sage (or green to you and I).
The Kindle fire 7 tablet has a 3.5mm audio jack, Bluetooth connectivity and a built in speaker. It’s great to see that they’re giving people the choice as to whether or not they want to go wireless or wired with their headphones. The speaker quality was pretty poor so you’re best off using your headphones. The volume controls are in the weirdest place…. They’re on the top of the device??? I don’t think I’ve ever seen an electronic device where they’ve done this and for good reason as it makes no sense. Not sure who in Amazon signed off on that design idea but it was a mistake.
The device comes with a front and rear camera but the quality is so bad, they’re just not worth using. Not too surprising given that the best camera is only 2MP. Amazon also offers unlimited storage of your photos taken with these cameras and it’s not too surprising given that nobody is going to bother using it.
As mentioned earlier, the device comes with either 16gb or 32gb storage. There’s also a micro SD slot which allows you to expand your storage capacity to 512gb. Those of you thinking of adding your own movies and music beware. There are a few reports that Amazon has locked down this functionality so that you can only watch/listen to content through Amazon prime or other apps in the Amazon app store (such as Netflix etc). I didn’t get a chance to test this but it’s worth doing your research here.
OK so this device is really cheap if you go for the no frills ad version. At the time of writing this was cheaper than any of Amazon’s Kindle range and a lot of those are on the bargain price too. So how can Amazon make any money on this? Well the reality is for them it’s a marketing platform. They can lock you into things like Amazon prime, restrict access so that only Amazon material works on the device etc. Which if you have prime already means you won’t really notice a difference.
As the price keeps changing you can find it on Amazon’s website
Some Specs To Compare Against
I’ve included a summary of some of the specs that I feel are personally important to consider when looking at getting a new device. Overall it does weigh more and have a weaker display that most EReaders but you can do more with it.
|Amazon Fire Tablet 7||Kindle Paperwhite||Kindle Oasis||Kobo Firma|
|Size||7 Inches||6 Inches||7 Inches||7 Inches|
|Display||171 PPI||300 PPI||300 PPI||300 PPI|
|Colours available||Black, Plum, Sage, Blue||Black||Black||Black/White|
I wanted to include this section so that people are going in eyes open when making this purchase:
- The battery lasts about 4hrs and does take a long time to charge back up (fine if you’re somewhere that has power).
- It doesn’t look like you can watch your own content on the device but you’ll need to do your research here
- You can sideload the Google play store onto the device but it’s at your own risk
- There are some challenges even installing apps from the Amazon app store
- The ads version is just too annoying, worth spending a little more to not have them
- It’s pretty hard to use in direct sunlight
Some workarounds are:
- Disable the wifi to get more juice out of the tablet
- Do your research on the Amazon App store. Amazon is pretty upfront that Google play is not supported. You can browse the store [here]
What Amazon Customers Are Saying
Given that in the UK alone there are over 40,000 reviews, there was a decent amount of opinions to trawl through!
Some of the highlights include:
- Pretty good overall for kids
- Impressed with the price
- Sound and display were ‘good enough’
- Firmware restrictions are really annoying (e.g. can’t load own films/music)
- Easy to carry around
- Lots of Ads (with the ad version)
- Sometimes video stutters using Netflix (depends on quality you download)
- Not a replacement for the iPad
- Great when you know what you’re buying it for
What I Like
The first major thing that sticks out for me is the price. It’s pretty amazing that you can get a tablet for this price from a well known brand that is packed with a lot of features.
It also seems that Amazon is pretty liberal with replacements if something does go wrong based on reading the customer reviews.
The final thing for me here is the dedicated effort they’ve put in to support a kids friendly tablet. I don’t know of any other company which provides a tablet that has a rugged case, dedicated curated kids content and a 2 year no questions asked replacement policy.
What I Don’t Like
The major sticking point I have is around the camera. The quality is so poor that they could have just not included one. This would in turn make the tablet even cheaper!
They could also have done a better job about explaining how the different versions of the tablet work. I had to conduct my own research outside of the Amazon website to make it easily presentable to you folks.
The final thing for me is the battery life. Yes you can extend it by turning off the Wifi but in this day and age people have come to expect a device to last more than 4 hours and take less than 4 hours to charge back up again!
Overall I think this is a pretty solid tablet (especially for kids) if you actually know what you’re purchasing. Do your research and be comfortable with the tradeoffs you’re making for the price. It should also be more than adequate for reading as long as you’re not in direct sunlight and you’re using Amazon’s ecosystem to purchase books.
Until next time
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