Amazon Fire 7 (2017) review

Amazon’s cheap tablet still makes us fairly cheerful

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Amazon continues to own the $50/£50 tablet space with the Fire 7 (2017). No one else seems capable of producing a solidly built, capable media player for such a low price, which immediately justifies its place on the market.

Still, it’s a real shame the retail giant couldn’t carry the hardware improvements further. In particular, the Fire 7’s display remains a disappointment in terms of resolution and brightness, while the camera is perilously close to being useless.

In software terms the addition of Alexa works out nicely, and for dedicated Amazon Prime customers there’s no better platform on which to consume all that lovely online content. However, the Amazon Appstore remains in a distant third place to the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store for app availability.

Who's this for?

The Amazon Fire 7 (2017) would be the ideal second or even third tablet for a busy family. Its low price means you could throw it in a garden shed or a beach bag with a Bluetooth speaker and it would serve as a decent ad hoc media system.

Thinking along similar lines, it would also be the ideal tablet for young kids given its rock bottom price and intuitive media-focused interface.

Should you buy it?

At $50/£50, the Amazon Fire 7 (2017) remains an excellent first tablet for young kids - or even an additional tablet for those who can never seem to lay their hands on a smart device when they need one.

It would seem churlish to complain about the Fire 7’s modest hardware, but a lack of meaningful progress means we’re more inclined to grumble now than we did in 2015.

In particular, the Fire 7’s low-res display simply isn’t up to displaying video and gaming content as it should be rendered. Given that media playback is the focus of Amazon’s tablet range, that’s a bit of an issue.

On the plus side, the addition of Amazon’s Alexa assistant makes the Amazon Fire 7 (2017) even easier to use and considerably more helpful - especially for non-tech-heads, though this is one benefit that the previous model is getting as a software update, so not worth upgrading for.

While there's little else this cheap, you can get better tablets for still fairly low prices, such as the three below.

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017)

Perhaps the most direct competition for the new Fire 7 comes from Amazon itself. The next tablet up in the range is the Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017), and it’s a similar device in many ways.

However, its display is slightly larger (8-inches) and sharper (1280 x 800), and it has a dual-speaker setup, making it better for media playback. All this and it only costs $10/£20 more compared to the equivalent 16GB Fire 7 model.

Otherwise, all the same praise and criticisms apply to the latest Amazon Fire HD 8 as the Amazon Fire 7. But in this case bigger is arguably better.

Asus ZenPad S 8.0

You’ll need to pay a little under three times the price of the Fire 7 (2017) for the Asus ZenPad S 8.0, but for the money you’ll be getting a great-looking Android tablet with a superb display.

At 8-inches and 2048 x 1536, we’re talking a small jump in image size and a huge leap in sharpness, bringing it to iPad levels. Combined with dual front-facing speakers, it’ll be much better for viewing videos on.

Besides a superior 8MP camera, you’ll also have access to the Google Play Store - which means a much broader selection of apps and games than the Amazon Fire 7 (2017) can call upon.

Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0

The Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 is significantly bigger than the Amazon Fire 7 (2017) - in fact its 10-inch display drags it into iPad territory. It’s also a lot more money at around $300/£200 (roughly AU$400).

But it’s worth a mention in light of our point about the Amazon Fire 7’s true value in relation to its hardware limitations - particularly with a view to its media playback focus.

With a 10-inch 1920 x 1200 display, four (yes four) excellent Harman Kardon speakers, and access to the Google Play Store, Huawei’s tablet is a brilliant media-playing Android tablet. For that reason, we’d argue it’s better value than the Amazon Fire 7.

First reviewed: June 2017