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If you want a tablet just for browsing the internet, watching videos and playing games, you won’t need anything fancy. Amazon’s Fire tablets are exactly that. Most of them are under $200, and the Fire 7, which has been updated for 2022, starts at just $60 ($75 if you don’t want ads on the lock screen). It offers upgraded internals, as well as Amazon’s Fire OS 8, which adds minor improvements like a dark mode. Yet, it still suffers from many of the same limitations that plagued older models, like the lack of Google apps.
The 2022 Fire 7 tablet has 2GB of RAM (double that of previous generation) and is powered by the same quad-core 2.0GHz processor as the Fire HD 8. Amazon also promises longer battery life and, importantly, now uses a USB-C port instead of micro-USB. That alone makes this worth the upgrade, since USB-C is fast becoming the new charging standard.
Aside from that, the overall look and feel of the Fire 7 is unchanged. It’s made out of plastic, with thick bezels surrounding its 7-inch display. Yet, it does feel durable. I also didn’t mind the bezels, as they gave me room to grip the tablet without accidentally launching apps.
The screen is one of the bigger disappointments with the Fire 7, though. Its 1,024 by 600 resolution just looks terribly dull, with fuzzy images and muddy colors. Even for a budget tablet – and granted, there aren’t that many in this price range – a display that’s less than full HD in this day and age seems outdated.
The rest of the Fire 7’s hardware is the same as its predecessor. It has 2-megapixel cameras on the front and rear, 16 or 32GB of built-in storage (expandable up to 1TB with microSD card) and a 3.5mm headphone jack. As expected, the camera quality isn’t impressive, but it’ll work 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.
Meh performance, but solid battery life
Though 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. I experienced some lag when switching apps and scrolling through Instagram, for example. It can handle basic tasks like checking email, but the Fire 7 won’t be as fast as modern smartphones.
My favorite thing 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 usual battery test we run for Android devices (where we play a locally stored video on loop), the Fire 7 lasted for close to 15 hours. I mostly used it to watch Prime videos, read books on the Kindle app, check Instagram and Twitter, and play a few rounds of Candy Crush Saga. After several days of occasional use (an hour or so a day for a week), the Fire 7 still has around 48 percent battery. I should note, however, that the Fire 7 doesn’t offer wireless or fast-charging. It comes with a 5W charger, which took around four hours to top up the battery.
New software, but same ol issues
The Fire 7 comes with Fire OS 8, which adds Android 11 features like a system-wide dark theme. Yet, the interface looks the same. Like all other Fire tablets, it runs Amazon’s proprietary skin that forced me to use Amazon-approved apps rather than ones from the Google Play Store. As someone who relies a lot on Google apps, I was frustrated by this. Instead of the native version of Gmail or YouTube, for example, I had to use inferior third-party apps that just didn’t look or feel as intuitive.
If you’re an Amazon die-hard, however, you’ll benefit from Fire OS. As soon as I logged in, all of my favorite Amazon content showed up on the home screen, like TV shows on Prime Video, personalized recommendations on Kindle Unlimited, suggested Audible books based on my purchases and more.
Of course, the caveat is that you won’t be able to delete Amazon-related apps like Kindle, Goodreads and Prime Video. Plus, you won’t see recommendations for shows and content that’s not on Amazon – no Netflix suggestions, for example. It makes sense that Amazon would push its own services, but it’s still annoying.
Like other Amazon products, the Fire 7 features hands-free Alexa, which makes controlling my smart home devices easier. It’s also helpful for getting the weather forecast, the latest sports scores or answers to random trivia questions.
The thing 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 heavily rely on Amazon services, I can see how the Fire 7 might be tempting – it delivers an Amazon-curated experience for cheap.
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 at this time appear to be the Lenovo Tab M7 (starting at $96) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite (starting at $100). We haven’t reviewed them just yet, but both at least let you use Google apps without resorting to third-party options.
If you’re dead set on a budget Fire tablet, I actually 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 well worth the extra cost.