This affordable tablet is a great content delivery system for Amazon but is beaten in most other areas by rival devices at similar price points. Average build quality belies decent internal specifications and impressive stereo sound.
Nice price point
Good stereo speakers
Impressive HD display
Plastic build quality
No microSD or Google Play
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The Amazon Fire Phone might not be worth your time, but when it comes to tablets Amazon has become a real powerhouse. The retailer is back with its 2014 lineup and the runt of the litter is the affordable Fire HD 7. The Kindle name is gone, but there's still plenty that Amazon's bringing to the table.
Affordability is the key issue here and I'll be revisiting it during the course of this review. It's well known that Android makes money from services and so can deliver the hardware at extremely friendly prices. And yet, with the likes of the Tesco Hudl 2 out there, is Amazon's offering still worth it?
The 7-inch Amazon Fire HD 7 starts from £119 (US$139) for the 8GB version with special offers (ads). Bar the size, it's more or less identical to the Amazon Fire HD 6 which starts at £79 (US$99). The difference is the 6-inch model has a mono speaker, smaller pixel density and a lower weight.
The focus of this review is the 7-inch model but I'll mention these differences in more detail when it's relevant.
When it comes to the tablet essentials, the Fire HD 7 has everything in place. There's a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and choice of 8GB or 16GB internal storage. It's not a bad roster sheet when you keep in mind the iPad mini 2 is over £100 more expensive and houses a dual-core 1.3GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage space.
Like the iPad mini 2, the Fire HD 7 also shuns a microSD slot which means there's no expandable storage to be had.
Unfortunately, unlike the iPad mini 2, the LCD IPS display on the Fire HD 7 tops out at a 1,280 x 800 display. That means that while 720p HD is catered for, it falls short of the full 1080p experience offered by the likes of Google's Nexus 7.
The design language of the Amazon Fire HD 7 reaffirms its mid-level credentials. The screen is surrounded by a thick, black bezel and the plastic chassis is blocky and utilitarian.
Amazon has spruced it up with a few colours to choose from - my review unit came in the bright "citron" (yellow) hue. You can also get "cobalt" (blue) "magenta" (purple) and the more customary black or white.
The Fire HD 7 measures 191 x 128 x 19.6mm (7.5" X 5.0" X 0.4") and weighs 337g (11.9 oz). To give it its due, it weighs less than the blocky design makes it appear and it comes in lighter than Tesco's new Hudl 2 tablet which weighs 410g.
While you're going to need to hold it in both hands to navigate the menus and play games, holding it one-handed isn't a problem. I didn't feel my muscles pulling after a ten minute reading session holding the HD 7 in landscape mode.
However, the plastic backing is far from the nicest material for gripping the tablet. The soft-touch rubberised coating used for the Fire HDX 8.9 or Tesco Hudl 2 works much better.
The back of the tablet is also where you'll find the dual stereo speakers, situated along the top edge. Amazon has used Dolby Audio inside the HD 7 and the tablet can hit a decent amount of volume.
If you're holding it in two hands in a landscape position then you're going to be fine, but in portrait mode it's easy to block one of the speakers with your hand. The same goes for the rear-facing 2MP camera that's located in the top right hand corner of the tablet when in portrait.
The power switch, 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB charging port are all on top of the tablet – again, if you're holding it in portrait mode.
You'll find the volume rocker on the left hand side, which becomes either the bottom or the top when you're holding it in landscape mode. The first Fire HD models had micro-HDMI ports as well but unfortunately this feature is no more.
It's fair to say that the HD 7 can take a few knocks, but the tablet as a whole is not what I'd call svelt. The design and materials used serve a purpose though, and that's keeping the costs down.
Although it doesn't feel like the cheap Android tablets from a few years ago, the design suffers because our quality benchmark has been raised by the likes of the Google Nexus 7 and the original Fire HD 7.
Similarly, this is not a power tablet like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, but a lean-back content consumption device tied completely to the Amazon ecosystem.
There's no Firefly app installed but Amazon is putting a basic device in your hands in the hope you'll use its services.
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