After spending quite a bit more time with the device, I would give it a 4.5 due to a few specific gaps that are a bit annoying. However, you are still getting an amazing 7″ tablet, with front and rear facing cameras, a gorgeous interface, fairly snappy performance and durability, all for under 50 bucks! I can’t imagine not buying these for myself and my whole family, but not a primary tablet for a techie adult by any means. For background, I have every Kindle, a couple Fires, and multiple tablets from Apple, Microsoft and Samsung. Note that my review with 5 stars considers the value equation, not just performance and how that may or may not compare to other tablets – if you are expecting this to compare to a tablet costing several times more, don’t bother. But if you are looking for a great entry level tablet that does most of the things people want, this little tablet definitely delivers the value!
PRICING/CONFIG: I prefer this tablet with ads and no accessories to keep the costs down. You have the option to spend more money, but I recommend against it. You can easily see the specs online, so I won’t do you the discourtesy of simply cutting and pasting those here. Here is the price breakdown:
– 49.99 base price – what an incredible price point! Or buy 5 and get a sixth one free! This puts it into reach of schools and non-profits.
– No sponsored screensaver ($15) – big deal that each time you turn it on it shows you something interesting you might want.
– MicroSD card ($19.99 for 32GB) – you probably already have one laying around somewhere. Beyond that, there is memory in the device, and you are using the cloud for storage mostly anyway. If you end up needing this, just buy one off Amazon, it certainly won’t be more expensive. Also, the SD is likely less useful than you might think, since it is currently a bit limited in what can be stored on it.
– Amazon Fire Case (24.99) – it is supposed to be 2x the durability of an iPad. No case needed.
– Accident Protection (9.99) – who wants to spend 9.99 to insure a $49 device? During your install, they will give you another chance, and you can get the two year for 15.99 if you like. But to me, insurance is for catastrophic things, not a <$50 tablet. UPDATE – after looking into the accident protection, if I were giving it to kids, I might get the insurance. You can get a 1 year pretty cheap as long as you are in the US, and it covers everything from dropping it off a building, running it over with the car, or accidentally hitting it with a baseball bat. As long as you have the pieces, you are good, and there are no back and forth shipping charges to pay.
– That is a total of $119.97, or almost triple the price. If you’re buying this device, you’re probably a bit price sensitive – if you aren’t, you’re buying a different device and this review is somewhat irrelevant.
GETTING STARTED: Here is some timing for me to get started with this device:
– 1 minute – open box and read instructions
– 18 minutes – download and update to latest Fire software. If you are giving it as a gift, it is simply good form to turn it on first to get the updates done, even if you are not setting it up under your own name.
– Battery started at 65%, so I had plenty of time to connect, download, and play around with the device.
– I ordered it without my account being integrated, just as if I were buying it as a gift, unregistered. However, it came pre-configured with all of my information. If you are giving them away, I would double check this.
– Tutorials are super simple and quick, and well worth doing if you are unfamiliar with the Fire interface. It is really nice that they integrate your own data into the tutorials.
– HINT: While setting up, go to settings, select security, and take care of adding a passcode to your device. If you ever lose it, someone can cause some havoc if you don’t.
APPSTORE: Appstore Underground is fantastic. Simple to use, lots of great apps. Nice to know I won’t get gouged here for other fees since everything is included. I have not yet explored the quality of apps available here, so more on that in a later update. Had all my critical apps – LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Skype, etc. However, as noted, you cant use apps from the Android store, so you have to wait for them via Amazon. Not too big of a deal for me, but others might find it a problem.
EMAIL: Email setup was a breeze. In less than 3 minutes, I had my Office 365 account, yahoo account and gmail all set up and flowing perfectly. The interface for switching accounts is one of the easiest I have ever used.
CAMERA: The camera and video functionality were easily accessible, and I liked the quality. Not quite the same experience as using the iPhone, perhaps, but it may be that I also don’t have the apps yet installed that make it look so great, so more on that later as I experiment. The camera is 2MP, and the video is 720 HD. If you need something higher res, the Fire HD has 5 MP camera and 1080 HD. But then you don’t have a $49.99 tablet ‘ Same goes for the added speaker and lack of Dolby sound – this is a single speaker that sounds OK, but it is certainly not the same as the Fire 8 or an iPad. UPDATE: Have played around with the camera a bit more, and added a composite image – the first picture you’ll see that it does a very poor job in low light conditions. As the light increases, you get some more detail, and brightly lit is not a bad picture at all, with good detail. This is not the same level of camera you will get on an iPhone or Lumia, so don’t expect that, it is fine for casual photo, selfie, Skype, etc.
OS: The new OS is fantastic. It is simple to use, even for my fat fingers, and makes sense. Just as advertised, it puts the things you are likely to want to do front and center, makes it easily accessible to find new TV shows and the like, and just overall is a super clean and simple interface. Rotation responsiveness is immediate, unlike many other tablets, and I found the Silk browser on this to be quite snappy in performance. Watching video I found absolutely no lag when I streamed my Prime TV shows.
FORM FACTOR: This is light and easy to hold, with smooth, rounded corners that don’t dig into your hands if help for extended periods. It is heavier than a kindle – if you are used to reading on a Kindle, it is not a replacement for that. Given the lower resolution on this device at 171ppi, I will DEFINITELY keep my Paperwhite for extended reading sessions, and would not recommend this tablet if your primary purpose is reading books, and you do quite a bit of that. I included a screenshot, along with comparison to one of our phones, and you can definitely tell a big difference when looking at fine print, and brightness does not compare. I did enjoy the fact that during several hours of use, I never accidentally hit any buttons, something that always drives me nuts on other devices, so button placement is one of the most convenient out there.
SD CARD: Note that I saw in another review that you can have all of your music on an SD card, you just have to download it through your laptop first. I have not personally tried this, but I imagine that several things with the SD card will change in future updates to make it more broadly valuable, and Amazon has said this in support interactions. I don’t have any view of when that update might be coming, however.
OTHER: Have to love all the kid-friendly (or rather, parent-friendly features) that this comes with. Again, buying a pack of these things for the fam is definitely a no-brainer. Charging is not fast – I ran it to zero, then charged for exactly 30 minutes, which brought it to 11%. Doing the math, you’re looking at somewhere in the 4.5 – 5 hour range to fully charge.
SUMMARY: There is plenty more to say about this, but basic summary is this is an amazing product for the price, and delivers much more than $50 value, especially if you have a Prime account. I have absolutely no hesitation recommending this enjoyable product. This is my go to tablet for just carrying around in my car. I will still keep my Paperwhite for reading, and I have another more expensive tablet for really watching movies, doing actual work, extended email sessions, etc. But this makes a great 3rd device, and I far prefer it vs trying to do similar activities on a phone. It is perfect for Skype, games, Facebook, browsing, watching videos, emergency reading, etc. There is tremendous value in this device.
NOTE: There are 3 attached pictures/videos. First is one of the Fire next to my cat to show the nice size. Yes, the cat is huge and I only had seconds before he covered it with his massive body – why do cats do that? The second is a screenshot comparison between the Fire and my phone – big difference in text clarity. The Third is a video showing my 3rd drop test, with no cracks, fractures or other damage. I am now done dropping it, rest assured, it seems quite durable.
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