The Amazon Fire is a 7-inch tablet that, even though a year old, remains one of Amazon's latest devices. While I wasn't overly impressed by the Fire HD 10 or Fire HD 8, the Amazon Fire is a different matter.
And that's because even though it doesn't feel that different to the others its price is incredibly low. It costs just £50 – less than some of us spend on a takeway and a bottle of plonk. That's incredible value, although cheap tablets can often be totally rubbish.
If you’re a really into your tech you might think the Amazon Fire tablet is one of those. It’s sluggish; the screen resolution is fairly low, and it feels cheap. On the other hand, it's much better than many of the no-brand tablets we’ve used over the past few years and costs less than a lot of them too.
The Amazon Fire is the sort of tablet that would make a perfect gift for a little one who won't be too perturbed by the lowly specs or a good first tablet for someone who's not the most techy. The Amazon Fire has its flaws, but also does enough to make it worthwhile for anyone who doesn't want to spend more, or who wants to keep their kids' grubby mitts off an expensive iPad.
The Amazon Fire has a bulky, textured plastic body that would feel a bit of a con in any tablet above £100.
It actually feels a lot more like a Kindle e-reader. The entry-level plastic that does its job – which is to keep the insides, well, inside – and nothing more. If you’re after sophistication or elegance, you're not going to find it here.
That’s not what the Amazon Fire is about. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that it’s poorly made. Amazon claims the Fire is 1.8 times more durable than the iPad Air 2. As a general rule I don't drop tablets down mineshafts for testing purposes – but it does seem to have that simple-but-sturdy vibe.
Clearly it isn't as well made as the other Fire HD tablets, though. Part of the back plastic by the logo "clicks" when pressed, and the screen covering doesn’t appear to be Gorilla Glass, judging by the pressure required to make it flex. However, it's still some form of toughened material.
As such, the Amazon Fire should fulfil the most obvious purpose of a tablet such as this: It should suit young-ish kids pretty well. Note that if you’re buying for very young children who might fling the thing at a wall at a moment’s notice, however, you might want to consider a Kids Fire tablet. It comes with a chunky case and a 2-year no-quibble guarantee should it break.
You get 8GB internal memory with the Amazon Fire tablet, plus a microSD slot should you want to add more. For storing numerous games and video, this may become necessary. That said, with around 5-6GB memory free from the off, you can install a fistful of high-end games without one.
It's here that we hit the point where those with more money to spend on a tablet will want to bail out. The Amazon Fire's screen is very basic.
A 1,024 x 600-pixel display, it appears blocky even when stretched across only seven inches. It's far more pixellated than your phone – unless you have a very low-cost handset.
This is something of which you should take note if you’re planning to use the Amazon Fire as an e-reader. The resolution is far too low to make text appear smooth, even though a book displayed on a Kindle e-reader of a similar resolution might actually look quite good. There’s a reason why Kindle e-readers still exist, after all. Browsing highlights the poor 171ppi density too.
I can’t fully condemn the Amazon Fire here, though, since it still delivers the most important basic factors I expect from a tablet. For example, it uses an IPS display, which results in decent viewing angles and fair colour. In the dark old days of ultra-budget tablets, £50 would buy you a screen that was barely visible from some angles. The Amazon Fire's panel would allow for a few people to gather around to view it without it looking a shadowy mess to anyone.
Colour fidelity is relatively poor compared with tablets four times the price, though. But with none of the respected brands offering a tablet at £50 – bar Archos – the question becomes: What do you expect for the price?
That said, the pixellation is actually better than on the Amazon Fire HD 10, which costs several times the Fire. Games and video still look fairly good, with the resolution being less than, but ultimately not a million miles away from, 720p. Note that most Xbox 360 and PS3 games are actually rendered at 720p.
As with its Fire HD siblings, the Amazon Fire doesn’t have an auto-brightness setting, which means you'll need to alter the brightness level manually. The screen isn’t nova-bright, but we found that using about 50-60% brightness indoors was around "normal". There’s no need to max it out unless you’re outdoors.