Hands on: Amazon Fire (2017) review

Amazon has improved one of the cheapest tablets on the market

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Amazon's cheapest tablet is now better than ever with dual-band Wi-Fi support and other slight improvements. If you own one already, this isn't worth upgrading to, but for everyone else this is so cheap it may be worth picking up.

For

  • Super low price
  • Improved design

Against

  • Low resolution display
  • Limited to Amazon's services

You shouldn’t expect much from the Amazon Fire (2017). It’s no where near as great as the new iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 – but that's not the point.

The Amazon Fire (2017) is one of the cheapest tablets money can buy, and it does exactly what you want it to for a tablet that only costs around the $50/£50 (roughly AU$85) mark.

This is also the first time Amazon Alexa has been brought to the Fire tablet range (in the UK at least) and it may just change the way you use your tablet.

Amazon Fire (2017) price and release date

The new version of the Amazon Fire will begin shipping on June 7 in the US and UK. Whether you’ll be able to pre-order the tablet is currently unclear, but we’ll update this when we know for certain.

Price is the name of the game with the Amazon Fire. You’ll be able to get the cheapest version of the tablet – with a very limited 8GB of storage - for only $49.99/£49.99 (roughly AU$85). 

There’s a version with 16GB of storage for £59.99 (about $75/AU$105), and we’d recommend spending the extra to double your storage and not have to worry quite so much about the amount of media you can store on this device.

Those in Australia won't be able to buy the Amazon Fire (2017) as the company has no plans to launch the tablet there yet.

Amazon Fire (2017) design

This isn’t the sexiest looking device on the market, but it has improved in the recent update and it’s important to note it's not the ugliest either.

It comes in a plastic case and is both thinner and lighter than previous versions, but it's quite an easy device to hold in the hand when you're watching video or playing games.

All the hardware buttons sit along the top of the slate, with the power/unlock key and micro USB port on the top right, while the 3.5mm headphone jack and volume controls are on the top left.

This feels like a strange position to include all of these buttons, but we think you'll quickly get used to it and it does make the other edges of the tablet easier to hold.

Amazon has included color options of blue, black, red and yellow for the Amazon Fire (2017), plus there are a variety of material cases you can use if you’re not a fan of its design.

Amazon Fire (2017) display

The display on the new Amazon Fire has had some slight improvements for the new version with better contrast levels, but there isn't a major upgrade here.

If you're looking for a super crisp and sharp display this won't suit you, as it has just a 7-inch screen with a resolution of 600 x 1024, which is the same as the previous model and quite a bit lower than HD. 

We would have liked to see some improvements to the resolution of the display on the Amazon Fire (2017), but considering the price it still offers a watchable picture on the tablet.

Amazon is bringing Alexa integration to the Fire in the UK (older models in the US already have it), which means you can use the company's voice assistant tech directly on your tablet.

You can get your flash briefing directly to the tablet or ask Alexa to read you the news, open an app, play music and many other options. In our limited testing we found Alexa to be efficient and it answered all of our questions quickly and clearly.

This may change the way you use your tablet, but it's worth noting Alexa will come to the current range of Fire tablets - just as it has in the US - so there's no need to upgrade just for this feature.

Amazon Fire (2017) specs

One of the biggest upgrades of the new tablet is the introduction of dual-band Wi-Fi support, which means you should be able to use slightly speedier internet with the Amazon Fire (2017).

If you have 5GHz Wi-Fi in your home or where you'll be using the tablet this may be a big benefit to you and offer slightly better streaming and download speeds for the media you're consuming.

Battery life on the original Fire lasted around six to seven hours, depending on the type of tasks you’d be doing on the tablet. 

Amazon says the battery life has improved by an extra hour on this new tablet so we’ll be sure to put that to the test during our full review.

Storage wise you’ll have options of either 8GB or 16GB. Our recommendation is you spend the extra money to get access to the slightly larger storage version so you can fill it up with more apps and media, as 8GB will be very limiting.

There’s also microSD support which offers up to 256GB of extra storage, so you'll have some room to manoeuvre even with the 8GB model.

The Amazon Fire (2017) did struggle a little in our testing time. It features the same quad-core 1.3GHz chipset as previous devices in the range. That's not a great chip, and it's noticeably more sluggish than other tablets on the market, but then, it's also cheaper than most.

Early verdict

There isn’t a standout reason to upgrade your existing Amazon Fire tablet here, but if you’re looking to get your first tablet or you want to get another to use around your home, there are some good improvements here from Amazon.

We particularly like the Amazon Alexa integration, but that’s something those in the US already have, and that's coming to existing UK Amazon tablets in the near future.

But as ever with this range, it all comes down to the price, and the Amazon Fire keeping its cost below $50/£50 is something not many other tablet manufacturers are able to do right now.

  • Be sure to check out our hands on review of the Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017)

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.