If you only need a tablet for surfing the web, watching videos, and playing games, you don’t need anything fancy. Amazon’s Fire tablets are just that. Most of them cost under $200, and the Fire 7, updated for 2022, starts at just $60 ($75 if you don’t mind ads want on the lock screen). It offers updated internals as well as Amazon’s Fire OS 8 adding minor improvements like a dark mode. Still, it still suffers from many of the same limitations that have plagued older models, like the lack of Google apps.
The Fire 7 Tablet 2022 has 2GB of RAM (double the previous generation) and is powered by the same quad-core 2.0GHz processor as the Fire HD 8. Amazon also promises a longer battery life and, above all, now uses USB-C connection instead of Micro-USB. That alone makes the upgrade worthwhile, as USB-C is quickly becoming the new charging standard.
- USB-C charging
- Long battery life
- Hands-free function Alexa
- Still no Google apps
- Bad display quality
- Sluggish performance
Other than that, the general appearance of the Fire 7 is unchanged. It’s made of plastic with thick bezels surrounding the 7-inch display. Still, it feels durable. I don’t mind the bezels either as they gave me room to grab the tablet without accidentally launching apps.
However, the screen is one of the Fire 7’s bigger disappointments. Its 1,024 x 600 resolution just looks awfully dull, with fuzzy images and muddy colors. Even for a budget tablet – and admittedly there aren’t many in this price range – a display that’s less than Full HD these days seems dated.
The rest of the Fire 7’s hardware is the same as its predecessor. It features 2MP front and rear cameras, 16 or 32GB of onboard storage (expandable up to 1TB with a microSD card), and a 3.5mm headphone jack. As expected, the camera quality is not convincing, but it is enough for a quick video chat. Just don’t expect to use it for actual photography unless you’re really into super-grainy, washed-out images.
More performance, but solid battery life
Although the new Fire 7 has more RAM and a quad-core 2.0GHz processor, don’t expect lightning-fast performance. Navigating the Fire OS interface feels smooth for the most part, but it’s still sluggish at times. For example, I experienced some lag when switching apps and scrolling through Instagram. It can handle basic tasks like checking email, but the Fire 7 isn’t as fast as modern smartphones.
What I like best about the new Fire 7 is its long battery life. Amazon says it should last up to 10 hours on a charge, but of course that depends on how you use it. In the standard battery test we run for Android devices (where we loop a locally saved video), the Fire 7 lasted almost 15 hours. I mainly used it to watch Prime videos, read books on the Kindle app, check Instagram and Twitter, and play a few rounds candy Crush Saga. After several days of casual use (about an hour a day for a week), the Fire 7 still has about 48 percent battery. I should note, however, that the Fire 7 doesn’t offer wireless or fast charging. It comes with a 5W charger that took around four hours to charge the battery.
New software but the same old problems
The Fire 7 comes with Fire OS 8 which adds Android 11 features like a system-wide dark theme. However, the interface looks the same. Like all other Fire tablets, it runs Amazon’s proprietary skin, which forced me to use Amazon-approved apps instead of apps from the Google Play Store. As someone who relies heavily on Google apps, this frustrated me. For example, instead of the native version of Gmail or YouTube, I had to use inferior third-party apps that just didn’t look or feel as intuitive.
However, if you’re a die-hard Amazon, you’ll benefit from Fire OS. Once I signed in, all of my favorite Amazon content appeared on the home screen, like TV shows on Prime Video, personalized recommendations on Kindle Unlimited, suggested Audible books based on my purchases, and more.
The caveat, of course, is that you can’t delete Amazon-related apps like Kindle, Goodreads, and Prime Video. Also, you won’t see recommendations for shows and content that aren’t on Amazon — Netflix suggestions, for example. It makes sense that Amazon is pushing its own services, but it’s annoying nonetheless.
Like other Amazon products, the Fire 7 comes with Alexa hands-free calling, making it easy to control my smart home devices. It’s also helpful for getting the weather forecast, latest sports scores, or answers to random trivia questions.
What you should know about Fire tablets is that they aren’t typical Android devices — you’ll need to sideload the Google Play Store, for example, if you want to use Google apps. Amazon’s proprietary interface prioritizes its own apps, like Prime Video and Kindle, over others. But if you already rely heavily on Amazon services, I can see how enticing the Fire 7 could be – offering an Amazon-curated experience at a great price.
Unfortunately, if you want a tablet in the $60 price range, you don’t have many non-Amazon options. Two of the more affordable non-Amazon tablets right now seem to be the Lenovo Tab M7 (starting at $96) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite (starting at $100). We haven’t reviewed them yet, but both at least let you use Google apps without resorting to third-party options.
If you’re set on a budget Fire tablet, I recommend the Fire HD 8 instead. It has a superior HD display, longer battery life, and wireless charging. It also supports Show Mode, which basically turns it into a portable Echo Show. At $90 (with ads) it’s $30 more than the Fire 7, but I think it’s worth the extra cost.
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