The best deal on a tablet today
Amazon has done it again. With the launch of the first Kindle Fire a couple of years ago, Amazon turned the tablet world, that was dominated at the time by iPad, on its head. The first headlines touted it as an iPad killer and people all over the internet put the Fire head to head with the iPad. The iPad won.
The reviewers missed the point, the Fire was never supposed to go head to head with a full strength iPad. Amazon created the Fire to consume Amazon content, which at the time was books, video, and shopping.
The Kindle Fire was the first tablet that was Android based and was sub $200. It provided decent performance and it had the type of locked in, pre-set UI that people liked in the iPad. It made it easy for someone who didn’t want to spend a long time setting up their device, to just get to what they wanted.
It had an HD screen and Dolby engineered speakers. I owned this tablet when it first came out, and I still own it today. The original Kindle Fire has outlasted every other tablet I have brought into the house. The Kindle Fire series is not without its flaws. The hardware is usually on the budget side and the performance isn’t great. Where they stand out is the value and what you do get.
As a content consuming device it excels at watching videos and listening to music. The speakers sound great and videos are sharp. The screen is bright and does a pretty good job of rejecting finger prints. The original Kindle Fire HD also had a mini-HDMI out. So you could hook it to the TV and stream your content there, all before Amazon FireTV, Chromecast and Roku made it easier.
Sadly the Kindle Fire HD is starting to show its age. After 4 years of working to keep up with the media needs of our kids and do its duty as a tablet, the battery is starting to fade and the processor is showing its age. The latest versions of Netflix and Hulu drag out the process a lot more than they used to.
So welcome the replacement-almost
Or so I thought. The latest version of the 7-inch screen Amazon Fire (they dropped the Kindle part) came out late in 2015 for the holiday season. It hit shelves at $49! This is an amazing price for a very capable tablet. It does lack an HD screen and it only has one speaker. I always use my headphones with it so I don’t notice the poor quality on board sound. The screen is good for watching TV and the occasional movie. It’s not going to blow you away with crisp colors and deep blacks or anything, but it works.
It does come with 8GB of storage on board and you can expand that with a microSD card. I run a 32GB one in mine with all my music and movies loaded on it. Make it easier to transfer stuff from my media server to the tablet if I go on the road.
There is also a new version of the FireOS. Amazon’s custom version of Android. While you don’t get the Google Play Store right out of the box like a “normal” Android tablet, it is easy enough to install. Amazon’s locking down of the user interface keeps the user inside their ecosystem. Amazon has their own app store that is actually pretty good. You can even get a version of it for your Android tablet or phone.
Text on the Fire 7 is a little chunky and pixelated. Books look okay through the Kindle reading app, but websites look grainy. It’s not terrible and takes some getting used to, just kind of bothers me. Then I remember I actually got this tablet on sale for $39 and I don’t care anymore.
The battery life is really good, I get a solid 8 hours of use out of it, depending on what I am doing of course. Full brightness and streaming movies will get you through a movie or two. For regular web browsing, you should get plenty of juice from the battery.
The WiFi is good and finds and holds the signal well. It is single band so only 2.4ghz on this.
There is also a camera on the back that is bad, and a front facing camera that is worse. It works for Skype, that’s about it. You will not win any photography awards with this tablet as your shooter.
The Fire 7 is also very rugged, I have a decent case on it, and I have dropped it a couple of times with no issues. So I don’t worry about handing it to my kids. I should have at least put a locking pin on it, though. With the tight integration of my Amazon Prime account to the tablet, my 3-year-old was able to buy me a new laptop with my Amazon 1-click settings. Luckily the vendor was understanding and canceled the order.
Okay, the real replacement
For Black-Friday (in 2016) several sites and stores had the newly redesigned Amazon Fire HD 8 for sale at $59.99. This is $30 off the normal price, I even found one open box and got some extra taken off the price for that. Non-Black Friday price is $89.99. It goes on sale all the time, so just keep an eye out. It’s still a great value at full price, though.
I was excited to see if they had made a good tablet better. They did. The build is almost exactly the same as my Fire 7. Just a bigger screen. There are also two Dolby speakers that sound great. The processor is a little better and it has twice the storage, 16GB instead of 8. It can still be expanded with a microSD card.
The screen does collect fingerprints a little more than the previous HD model, but you really can’t see them as you are looking at the screen.
The screen handles 720p HD content really well, I watched a couple of shows right off that I knew were in a native 4k format (Amazon’s new “The Grand Tour”) and they looked great. Music from the Amazon Prime music store also sounded loud and clear, easily filling my living room with great tunes.
Books and web content both look great. There is a good sharpness to web text that is missing from the 7 incher. The tablet is also comfortable to hold in one hand. The slightly rubbery feeling back feels nice to the touch and is not slippery in anyways.
Battery life is also good, if not a little better with the 8 inch. The HD does run the battery down a little faster, but this tablet should still last all day.
WiFi is also very good and the signal strength throughout my house with 2 levels and lots of walls was good, I had no issues streaming movies in any room. It supports dual band operation so you can use either 2.4ghz or 5ghz WiFi.
I would still recommend getting a case with a cover for either tablet to protect the screen from an accidental fall. I would steer clear of the Amazon-branded case, there are a lot of off-brand cases that are just as good, for half the price.
For the money, you really can’t beat it. The 7 and 8-inch tablets are both great deals, they even come in multiple colors. It’s even worth it to buy both. Or two of each, or whatever. You can’t go wrong. If you already have Amazon Prime then it also a no brainer. The Fire integrates with your account seamlessly, like it is designed to do.
Are their better tablets out there than the Fire 7 and HD 8? Yes, there are. For this low of a price? Nope. You are getting a great tablet at a no-name knockoff price.
Get one today!