Amazon devices have had a place in my home for the last year, but the shine has been coming off their apple—and the Fire 7 tablet has only accelerated their souring. At a time when Alexa’s functionality seems to be slipping on my other devices, Alexa’s minimalist effort on their latest budget tablet was nearly the straw that broke this camel’s back.
True to its name, the Fire 7 measures 7.11” x 4.63” and weighs 9.9 ounces—a convenient size for extended operation. That convenience comes at the cost of a larger, more vibrant screen, as the SD display renders in 1024×600 resolution. There’s a good chance your smartphone already has a better display for browsing social media or websites.
The biggest flaw in its specifications, however, is its processing power. A Quad-Core 2.0 GHz processor with only 2 GB of RAM can’t really cut it anymore for the needs of most users. Even with basic tasks, operation was somewhat laggy—not enough to completely break the experience most of the time, but a noticeable step down from other modern devices.
Gated by this low processing point, the app selection available on the Fire 7 was disappointing. Most of the standard social media apps—Facebook, Twitter, and even Discord—are available, but Google’s suite of productivity apps are not, unless you count knockoffs from shady imitators looking to capitalize on their absence and non-vigilant users. The app store is rife with the lowest common denominators of software, and missing most of the productivity programs I would use on a daily basis.
“True to its name, the Fire 7 measures 7.11” x 4.63” and weighs 9.9 ounces—a convenient size for extended operation.”
In this climate, dealing with slow inputs and a paltry offering of programs, Amazon’s own operating system seemed all the more obtuse. However, to be fair, this was the first new tablet device I’ve used since reviewing Apple’s latest iPad Air. The contrast could not be starker. One device pushes the envelope for the entire field of tablet technology, while the other obstinately holds the line.
The Fire 7 comes in two storage options, either 16 GB or 32 GB, but in practice, they only offer 9.5 GB or 25 GB to the user. It’s baffling that the device needs to reserve such a massive chunk of storage for the minimalist experience offered. That being said, the storage can be expanded up to 1 TB with a microSD card, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where someone could use that much storage on these tablets.
Rounding out the package is a pair of 2 MB cameras, front- and rear-facing. There’s not much to write home about here; they’re there, and they will take sufficient photographic evidence of whatever you’re pointing them at.
While I was wholly underwhelmed by the Fire 7, I don’t entirely discount it—there are a few niches that it can satisfy.
Last winter I reviewed Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite and suggested either the Kindle app for your existing smartphone or the Fire 7 as alternatives to the dedicated e-reader, without having used the tablet. Now that I have tried this newest iteration, I stand by that suggestion; the Fire 7’s functionality is slight, but still wider than a mere e-reader. Unless you want the specific sort of displays used by e-readers, the tablet is a cheaper and more applicable alternative. (Both options would be even more viable if they allowed access to Kobo’s app, its Canadian counterpart, but I digress.)
I also can’t entirely dismiss the value of having basic functionality in a conveniently sized device that only costs $80 CAD. If you need a simple device and simply cannot splurge or save for something more potent, this would serve your purposes—just try to research the app store and confirm that the apps you’re looking to use are actually on offer.
“I also can’t entirely dismiss the value of having basic functionality in a conveniently sized device that only costs $80 CAD.”
Having several elderly family members who had to lean on technology to stay in touch before and during the pandemic, I can also recommend the Fire 7 for grandparents and others who don’t need to splurge more cash for a stronger Galaxy tablet or iPad, but have the eyesight to deal with the smallish screen. So long as your family calls aren’t dependent on FaceTime, they can still download Zoom here and get in on the call.
I also got to check out the child-focused version, the Fire 7 Kids edition. As with last year’s Fire 10 tablets, the Amazon Kids feature is still a worthy tool in parents’ pockets. The 7-inch variant is a little more convenient for using in waiting rooms and the like, while the 10-inch is better for travel or watching shows. If you have multiple kids, this is a relatively affordable way to avoid bickering over “who gets to use the tablet”—two tablets and a Kids subscription will run cheaper than most competitors.
While it’s yet another fairly expensive subscription in the snowball of fees companies like Amazon are wringing from us monthly, the Kids feature is very handy for children under 10. The app selection isn’t ideal, and is still riddled with apps and even more potential subscription fees, but it offers young users a smattering of apps to try out without much obligation. Older kids will benefit from the richer libraries on Samsung or Apple devices, but for younger audiences, the smattering of basic experiences on Amazon Kids will serve their varying attention levels well enough. Parents can also limit specific screen time uses for a little piece of mind.