Amazon Fire Tablet Review - Tablet for just £50

While most tablets in the $50 range aren't much more than glorified alarm clocks, the $49.99 Amazon Fire is a fully realized, functional slate with access to tons of content. It's good for reading books, watching movies, running apps, or just browsing the Web. With a decent screen, a portable form factor, solid parental controls, and helpful technical support for newbies, there's simply no other meaningful competition in this price range. That makes the 7-inch Amazon Fire our Editors' Choice for budget tablets.

Design and Fire OS

The Amazon Fire tablet is small and light, measuring in at 7.5 by 4.5 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and 11 ounces. It's comfortable to hold on a commute, or prop up on your chest in bed. The front of the tablet is home to a 1,024-by-600-pixel display, which is the same resolution as the original Apple iPad Mini$225.29 at Amazon. At 171 pixels per inch, this is by no means a sharp, cutting-edge screen. It can look a little grainy, and is somewhat reflective and quick to pick up smudges. But viewing angles are good, and it's perfectly usable for reading text or watching video.

There's a thick black bezel around the display, giving the tablet a somewhat clunky, utilitarian look. It has a smooth black back, with the rear camera positioned on the top right corner. On the top edge are all your ports and buttons: a micro USB port, a headphone jack, and Power and Volume Up/Down buttons. On the right side of the tablet, toward the top, is a microSD card slot. It's basically the same design as the Fire HD 8£129.99 at Amazon, only smaller.

Like the Fire HD 8 (and the Fire HD 10$179.99 at Amazon), the Fire tablet runs Amazon's Fire OS 5 "Bellini." Fire OS 5 is loosely based on Google's Android 5.0 Lollipop, but as usual, that's not immediately apparent. Many of the changes are cosmetic, and actually make the tablet look and function more like an Android device than previous Fire OS devices. For example, at the bottom of the screen, the Back, Home, and Search buttons have been replaced by Android's now-standard Back, Home, and Open Apps buttons. 

Amazon Fire Tablet Review

Amazon Fire Tablet Review 

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At the very top of the tablet are tabs you can swipe through, including Home, Books, Video, Games, Shop, Apps, Music, Audiobooks, and Newsstand. Under each of these tabs is your content; on the home screen, you see your most recent downloads beneath these tabs, with all of your installed apps under that. All of Amazon's content-driven apps come pre-installed on the tablet, including Kindle Books, Amazon Games, Amazon Instant Video, and even Amazon Maps. While this ensures you remain firmly entrenched in Amazon's content ecosystem, it also helps tablet newbies figure out exactly what they can do with their device, as opposed to the stock Android experience, which can be a lot more confusing to learn and navigate.

Amazon now offers offline content viewing with Prime membership, so you can download and watch movies and shows even when Wi-Fi isn't available. That makes the microSD card slot a very welcome addition, especially for long trips. Amazon makes it easy to add a 32GB microSD card for $19.99 at checkout when you buy the tablet, and you probably should, since it only comes with 8GB of internal storage, 2.37GB of which is already eaten up by the software load.

You don't get a Mayday button here like you do with the Fire HDX£409.99 at Amazon, in which an Amazon representative can connect with you over video chat. Instead you get a slightly watered-down version called Mayday Screen Sharing, where you can call a customer service rep on the phone, and they can access your tablet's screen (with your permission). That's not quite the same personal touch as an actual video call, but it's a heck of a lot more support than you're going to find anywhere else at this price range, and makes the Fire a good tablet for beginners. Giving it as a gift? Rest assured you won't be the one that has to provide the tech support.

Like its other tablets, the Fire gives you unfettered access to Amazon's stellar parental controls. With FreeTime you can set up a child's profile on the tablet, and give them access to Disney, Nickelodeon, and Star Wars apps and shows. A single child's subscription costs $2.99 per month.

Amazon Fire Tablet Review

Amazon Fire Tablet Review 

A fair warning: If you stack up Amazon's app ecosystem against the Google Play store, you will be disappointed. The Fire might look like an Android tablet, but you won't be able to access all the latest apps and games available on Google Play, let alone Apple's iOS.

Performance and Camera

Running a 1.3GHz MediaTek 8127 processer, the Amazon Fire doesn't really stand up well in performance benchmarks. That's fine. This is a $50 tablet, and you can't expect top-of-the-line performance. In the Geekbench 3 test, the Fire turned in 357 single-core and 1,152 multi-core results. That's well behind its larger sibling, the Fire HD 8 (770 single-core, 1,505 multi-core), or another Android tablet of similar size, the Asus Zenpad S 8.0$159.99 at Amazon (640 single-core, 1,055 multi-core).

But actual benchmark results are almost beside the point. The Fire tablet excels where it needs to: accessing Amazon's vast supply of books, movies, and TV. Everything feels relatively smooth in real-world usage, including gaming. There was no stuttering or random pausing while playing High Speed Race: Need For Asphalt Racing, which was a pleasant surprise.

The Fire makes an ideal nightstand companion, and not just for reading a book before you go to bed. It can act as an alarm clock with Amazon's Clock app, or a weather monitor with Amazon's Weather app. Of course, you can also use it to watch Netflix, or sync it with a Bluetooth speaker for Amazon Prime Music, Pandora, or Spotify. The capabilities are really only limited by what's available in the Amazon Appstore, so you can have a look there to scout out other possibilities.

Amazon Fire Tablet Review

Amazon Fire Tablet Review 

The rear camera is a slow 2-megapixel shooter that takes grainy, unimpressive shots. The front-facing VGA camera isn't much better, but it works well enough for video calls. Given the price of the tablet, the fact that it even includes a rear camera (let alone a front-facing one for video calls) almost feels like icing on the cake, so I'm not going to count the lackluster quality against it.

Battery life is solid here. In our rundown test, streaming video over Wi-Fi at full brightness, the Fire lasted 6 hours and 5 minutes. That's longer than other small tablets like the iPad mini 4 £344.99 at Amazon (5 hours and 15 minutes) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 (5 hours and 33 minutes). The lower screen resolution on the Fire helps out here.


Amazon really has the market cornered on low-cost tablets. At this price point, there is simply no other competition from a big-name manufacturer. Sure, you can find plenty of third-party bargain bin options while shopping around on, well, Amazon, but I wouldn't count on a reliable hardware or software experience, let alone access to an advanced tech support network. The Fire HD 8 gets you a modest upgrade in terms of screen size, resolution, camera, and processing power, but it costs three times as much as the Fire. For $50, the Amazon Fire is practically a stocking stuffer, and an excellent choice for first-time tablet users. It's easy to recommend as our Editors' Choice for budget tablets.

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