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 more RAM and battery life that matches the larger and significantly more expensive Fire HD 10s. It also gets USB-C, up to 32GB of built-in storage, and a more powerful processor.
But do those extra features make it a good buy? After testing the ad-free version of Fire 7 for a month, I’d say yes. As long as you’re just looking for a cheap entertainment tablet, this is a decent device, especially if you’re already embedded in the Amazon ecosystem. Sure, you’re going to have to get comfortable with some pretty big compromises – like a seriously pixelated, low-res display – but at this price, no one expects perfection.
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Like all Fire tablets, the Fire 7 has a plastic casing. The edges are more curved than the 2019 model, making it easier to hold with one hand. It’s also half an ounce lighter than the 2019 model — 9.9 ounces instead of 10.4 — and is 7.11 inches long, 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, grainy 7-inch display and only offers a paltry resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels (171 ppi). It’s what I didn’t like most about the Fire 7. I don’t expect a $59.99 tablet to have a high-resolution screen like that on 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 screen is a core feature that Amazon should have increased over, say, the storage capacity – especially as the Fire 7 comes with it. with a microSD card slot. The screen is also not fingerprint resistant and smudges easily. It is both glossy and faint, making it challenging to use outdoors when it is sunny.
That said, I could still enjoy reading ebooks and watching shows 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 the Fire 7 runs on the new Fire OS 8, a modified version of Android 11. With that new operating system comes a few useful changes to the user interface, such as dark mode and a setting that minimizes blue light. You can even tweak the menu a bit.
I especially liked using the tablet for reading. The screen is slightly sharper than the e-ink screen on the base Kindle, which offers a very low resolution of 167 ppi. That can 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 gave out a tinny sound that isn’t full or clear, I also quickly forgot about them thanks to the 3.5mm audio jack. This is something newer tablets often lack and, coupled with Bluetooth support, means you can connect it to a wide variety of headphones and speakers. This significantly improves the sound quality, whether you’re listening to audiobooks via Audible, tuning music or streaming a program.
I was pleasantly surprised by the improved battery life. Amazon claims it takes about four hours to fully charge the slate with the included five-watt charging brick and USB-C charging cable, which I found accurate. The company also claims a battery life of up to 10 hours, which is in line with my experience. That puts it on par with the more expensive Amazon Fire HD 10. It took me almost a week to charge the tablet, while its predecessor only lasted us about two days. To illustrate how much better the battery is, watching a 25-minute documentary reduced 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 dropped the last model’s battery by 20 percent.
Storage options are also better this time around. While it still only comes with 16GB or 32GB of built-in storage, the new model can support microSD cards up to 1TB. Its predecessor had a maximum of 512 GB.
You can’t expect a $59.99 tablet to be as fast as an iPad, and it certainly isn’t. While the Fire 7 is slow, it is at least slightly faster than its predecessor. That’s because it comes with an almost twice as powerful quad-core 2.0GHz processor and 2GB of RAM instead of the 1GB found in the 2019 model. That’s the same processor and memory as the $89.99 Fire HD 8s. That still doesn’t make it great for gaming, but you can open multiple web pages at once without, for example, slowing down the tablet significantly – which would sometimes happen with the 2019 model. I also noticed some improvements in video playback that forced me to watch again Weird stuff fun for the hundredth time. Typing, opening apps and browsing the web are still relatively slow for someone like me who was used to the speed of iPads, but it just means being patient for a few more seconds – no problem.
However, that was until I added my Gmail account to the built-in email app. After that, software navigation and app launches slowed down significantly and never returned to their faster performance, especially after I downloaded about seven apps, including Netflix. In any case, the video playback remained good.
However, the quality of video calls is a different story. Even before I linked my Gmail account to the email app, the quality of video calls was poor – calls lagged and sometimes even crashed, so I often had to turn off my video. Plus, it didn’t help that Fire HD 7’s cameras are still bad. Amazon hasn’t updated the 2MP front and rear cameras, so photos, selfies, and video chats via Zoom look grainy, the color saturation is low, and I could barely see myself in low-light settings indoors.
If you’re deeply rooted in the Amazon ecosystem and, say, a Prime member or own Alexa smart speakers, the Fire 7 (like other Amazon tablets) is great value for money. It can run Alexa – I was able to use it to turn my smart lights on and off with just my voice without any problems. Like many, I also pay $139 a year for an Amazon Prime membership, which gives me free access to TV shows like the boys, movies, books for my Kindle through Prime Reads and Amazon’s ad-free Prime Music service. While the selection of free books and music is quite limited, I was able to find some things that I liked.
The Fire 7 is also a good device if you want to keep your kids entertained during a long car ride or plane trip. It’s cheap and, when you create a kid profile, it comes with parental control options. You can filter what your child can see and set time limits through Amazon’s Parent Dashboard, which you can access from the tablet, your smartphone, or PC.
Amazon too sells a $109.99 Fire 7 Kids Edition tabletthat comes with a durable case with a built-in kickstand, a two-year damage protection plan, and a one-year Amazon Kids Plus – a kind of kids 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 young child who might break it or if you’re interested in the Kids Plus service, the Kids Edition – although I don’t tested – maybe the better option.
While the Fire 7 is great for consuming Amazon content, I was disappointed with Amazon’s app store offering. The selection 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 game service. However, you still can’t download Google apps like YouTube, Google Drive, or the Play Store. You can sideload Google apps, that’s true, but that’s a relatively complicated process with security implications. And while you can download Microsoft Office applications, many popular work and productivity apps like Slack, Airtable, and Asana are nowhere to be found — and using Microsoft Word, for example, to type out a document is frustratingly slow. Don’t buy this and expect nothing but an entertainment machine.
If you’re looking for a small, inexpensive tablet to read, watch videos or listen to audiobooks, the Fire 7 is decent – and at this price it’s decently acceptable. I’d especially recommend it as an alternative to the $89.99 Kindle. The Fire 7 offers a higher-density 171 ppi screen, more storage options, and access to the same Kindle ecosystem — and it plays videos. Plus, based on my experiences with its predecessor, it should last a relatively long time. While my old Fire 7 is frustratingly slow, it hasn’t gotten any worse over the years. I expect that this version will also be technically usable for at least three years.
On the other hand, if you’re a movie buff in the market for a cheap tablet, for example, consider getting Amazon’s $89.99 Fire 8 or $149.99 Fire 10. They have bigger screens with a higher resolution, dual, not mono, speakers that sound better and bigger built-in storage options. And if you mainly need a tablet for work or demanding tasks like mobile gaming or creative work like graphic design, you should consider higher end options – this cheap tablet, like the rest of the Fire range, just lacks the processing power and apps.
Photography by Sheena Vasani