The Amazon Fire 7 tablet is cheap. Really cheap. And with the ever-inflating cost of living weighing heavy on our minds and wallets, we're not so inclined to drop iPad money on a tablet right at this moment.
Enter the Fire 7, a tablet that isn't concerned with expensive gimmicks or promising to be a productivity machine. It has a screen, speaker and even a couple of cameras - and that's all you really need. That being said, there's a distinction to be made between cheap and good value, and thankfully the Fire 7 ticks both boxes thanks to being an admirable performer at this price - in fact, it took home a What Hi-Fi? Award last year for best budget tablet.
Of course, the Fire 7 won't rival the iPad Pros and Galaxy Tabs of the world, but frankly, it doesn't have to, and we respect that. At the end of the day, we're concerned as to whether this plucky underdog of the tablet world can create an enjoyable AV experience on the go, and it's good news on that front.
For your £60 / $60 (around AU$104) you get a 7-inch screen, 16GB of storage, a quad core processor with 2GB of RAM, and a charging cable. There’s even a wall adapter in the box – a rare luxury these days. You can also get a version with 32GB for an extra £10 / $20, but both versions are user-expandable so the lower-capacity model may well suffice.
Amazon has to keep the price down somehow, so as standard the Fire 7 tablet comes included with lock-screen ads. However, for a fairly small extra outlay you can purchase a variant without ads. Therefore the most expensive configuration you can purchase, with 32GB of storage and no lock screen ads, is £80 / $95.
Just to contextualise, and using the cheapest model of each respective device, you can get one iPad 9th Generation for £319 / $329 / AU$499, or five Amazon Fire 7 tablets for the same price. While it may not be a like-for-like comparison, it does help to put into perspective how cheap this tablet really is.
The Fire tablet features a simple, inoffensive design that just gets the job done. The front features a 7-inch display with a webcam, and on the flip side is a soft-touch plastic back emblazoned with an Amazon logo, with a rear facing camera tucked in the corner.
Around the sides there is a lock button, volume controls, 3.5mm headphone port (something that even the most expensive iPads don’t have), USB-C charging, a mono speaker and SD card slot for expanding the storage. It’s available in three finishes: black, rose (pink) or denim (blue).
It’s clear that the Fire 7 won’t rival productivity beasts such as the iPad Pro or iPad Air, but it does feature some things that even these high-end tablets don’t. As mentioned, the Fire 7 has the lesser-spotted 3.5mm headphone socket for wired audio and a micro SD card slot for expanding the storage by up to 1TB.
Amazon’s software is a heavily modified version of Android that somewhat resembles the user interface of the Fire TV streaming devices. There are no Google Play services here though, and no Play Store. Instead, you get the Amazon Appstore, which covers basics such as Netflix, Spotify and Disney Plus. However, Google and Apple apps are nowhere to be found. This means that Apple TV, Apple Music and even YouTube are all missing – there is a slightly messy workaround for YouTube, with a downloadable link to the webpage that sits in your app library, but that’s not ideal.
Screen 7 inches
Resolution 1024 x 600 (171 ppi)
Storage 16GB or 32GB (SD card expandable)
Camera 2MP front and rear facing
Battery life up to 10 hours
Amazon’s mostly useful virtual assistant, Alexa, is baked into the software. You can ask it to open apps, check the weather and play TV shows and movies. It's the Alexa we all know and tolerate; and overall it's fairly cohesive with the software experience.
The operating system, however, can be sluggish, obviously handicapped by the modestly-powered internals of the system. At the same time, it's manageable if you’re patient and willing to learn the slightly quirky layout and can deal with occasionally sluggish animations and loading times.
There are also 2MP cameras on both the front and rear of the device. There’s absolutely no need to take photos with the Fire 7, so the rear camera should be more or less superfluous, but the one on the front is of course useful for video calls.
Right off the bat, we have to acknowledge that the Fire 7 features a standard-definition display. Its resolution is 1024 x 600, with a pixel density of 171ppi, but numbers on a spec sheet don’t always paint the whole picture.
Firing up the latest Bond adventure, No Time To Die, the visuals aren’t perfect, but for a tablet as cheap as the Fire 7 there’s surprisingly little to complain about. It’s clearly not as bright as the more expensive Fire HD 8, but what it lacks in outright punch it makes up for in highlight shading and subtlety, with the bright white snow and iced-over lake retaining surprising amounts of detail and avoiding a mass of overblown and featureless white.
At the opposite end of the contrast spectrum, the Fire 7 lacks the black depth and shadow detail of its sibling, though it’s far from terrible in these regards, and for colour reproduction it’s actually better, delivering the candles of Bond’s hotel room with a much more authentic orange hue than the Fire HD 8 can muster. Skin tones occasionally look just a touch more flushed than they probably should, but the generally good Fire HD 8 actually looks slightly jaundiced by comparison.
The warm, vivid and punchy display of the Fire 7 lends itself particularly well to animated content. Pixar’s Turning Red on Disney Plus embraces this, with its whimsical and bright aesthetic glowing on the Fire’s display. The fact that the Fire 7’s speciality is animation is also more important than you may think, with this tablet being particularly targeted at children.
The display does lack somewhat when it comes to detail, obviously hampered by its standard definition display, with some grainy and blocky textures that aren’t easy to ignore. This can lead to a bit of flatness to some images, such as the establishing shot of Bond entering the stunning Italian city of Matera, but while this can break immersion a tad, the Fire 7 tablet still has a much better display than the price would suggest.
The Fire 7 is something of a mixed bag when it comes to audio, depending on if you’re using the speaker or wired headphones.
Using the mono loudspeaker is to be avoided if possible, with Billie Eilish’s Bury A Friend sounding hollow and thin, lacking substance in bass and sounding compressed. Vocals do at least push through here, with Eilish’s lyrics coming across mostly clear. This extends into film- and TV-watching on the Fire tablet, with dialogue piercing through the overall hollow and featureless-sounding loudspeaker. This makes it a passable choice if you’re in a tight spot and need some entertainment, but we hope for your sake it's a short episode and not a feature length film.
On the contrary, wired headphone performance on the Fire 7 is actually surprisingly enjoyable, as long as you’re keeping your expectations in check. Using Bury A Friend once again, this time the Fire produces solid bass and times well enough that we find ourselves tapping along. The mid sections also fill out, losing the hollow and thin sound for a richer and more spacious arrangement. It still lacks detail and texture compared with more premium tablets, with some instruments sounding flat but, overall, headphone performance on the Fire 7 is very solid.
The Amazon Fire 7 is the plucky underdog in the tablet world: it doesn’t have a gimmick, it doesn’t have class-leading specs and it won’t have you throwing out your iPad any time soon. But it doesn’t need any of those things because it occupies such a unique space, and that's being a functional and entertaining tablet for roughly the price of half a tank of petrol.
- Features 5
- Picture 5
- Sound 4
See all the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winners
Read our review of the Amazon Fire HD8
Also consider the Amazon Fire HD10
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