Amazon’s New Fire Tablets: What You Need to Know

Every year we’re treated to a new generation of Fire Tablets, each a little better than the last. That doesn’t mean you should upgrade every year, but if you’re looking to retire that old Fire 6, or if you’re just curious what all the fuss over these tablets is about, it’s worth a look at Amazon’s latest lineup of Fire Tablets.

This year there are just four Amazon Fire Tablets to choose from: The Fire 7, Fire HD 8, and the Kids version of each. In this review, we’ll be looking at them all to help you decide which is right for you or if you should upgrade.

What to Expect from Amazon’s Latest Fire Tablets

Amazon’s mission is to make affordable, accessible, user friendly tablets. If you’re looking for the best tablet money can buy, the Fire Tablets probably aren’t for you.

If, on the other hand, you simply need a tablet for web browsing, Netflix watching, and Candy Crushing, the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 are the best value tablets, period. This is because Amazon sells them close to cost, hoping to make their money on extras like Prime memberships, lock screen ad removal, and app purchases.

Here are the features unique to Amazon Fire Tablets that every customer should know about:

  • Fire OS. Fire Tablets run on Amazon’s Fire OS, which is a modified version of Android. Android tablet users will be right at home using this operating system and will notice the similarities right away. The main difference is that you use the Amazon App store, not the Google Play Store. Fire Tablets also use the Silk browser instead of Chrome. Similar but more limited, this is to be expected from such affordable devices.
  • Alexa Enabled. Amazon’s virtual assistant can do everything from check the weather to control your smart appliances. This version is touch activated, not voice activated, but essentially turns your Fire into an Amazon Echo. You may also sync your Fire Tablet with an Echo, so that questions or requests made to your Echo are answered to your tablet as well. Even if you’ve never used virtual assistants before, these tablets will make you a believer.
  • Prime Perks. As you would expect, Prime members have access to all the content available to them through Amazon Video, Music, and Lending Library. With so much content available free, from one service, at your fingertips, Prime membership really adds to your experience with these tablets. That said, you definitely do not need a Prime subscription to use or enjoy Fire Tablets.

Amazon Fire Tablet Reviews

Fire 7 Tablet with Alexa (click for price)

It didn’t take long for tablets to become more affordable than the average dinner out, but here we are. Amazon’s newest Fire 7 is downright inexpensive, and even if we don’t quite believe the claim that it’s 2x more durable than an Apple iPad Mini 4 (32GB, Wi-Fi, Space Gray), it certainly doesn’t feel like a cheap toy. It looks a little better than the previous 5th generation Fire 7, too. Side bezels are a bit slimmer, and the camera is less noticeable.

The exceptionally responsive 7” touchscreen is also noticeably better than with the previous generation. Resolution hasn’t changed, however. The Fire 7 is still just short of playing true HD with its 1024×600 resolution. Picture and video still look great, and we’re really impressed with the color clarity and brightness of this display.

Between the 1.3GHz quad core processor and 1GB of RAM, the Fire 7 doesn’t often get bogged down with casual use. Your biggest problem will be storage, as this tablet still only comes in 8GB or 16GB. The good news is that this latest generation of Fire Tablets is now compatible with microSD cards up to 256GB.

The Fire 7 lasts up to 8 hours on a single battery charge, and you can realistically expect a solid 6 or 7 hours depending on your applications. Unfortunately, it also takes about 6 hours to charge, so you’ll be plugging this tablet in overnight. Another downside is that this tablet’s single speaker is not very powerful. In fact, we highly recommend getting a comfortable set of headphones if you plan to listen to music or movies from this tablet.

Despite its few downsides, we can’t complain about the Fire 7 considering its unbeatable price. This tablet is a bargain whether you’re a seasoned Prime member or if you’ve never heard of Amazon before today. This tablet has more than enough computing power and curb appeal for casual tablet users of all kinds.

Fire HD 8 Tablet with Alexa (click for price)

For a few dollars more you can upgrade to the Fire 7’s big brother, the Fire HD 8. As its name implies, the Fire HD 8 is a high definition, 8” tablet with an IPS panel and the same snappy, responsive touchscreen as the Fire 7. While true HD is enough for some people to make the leap, we think there are even more reasons to consider the Fire HD 8 over the 7.

First, the Fire HD 8 uses a similar 1.3GHz processor and 1.5GB of RAM, 50% more than the Fire 7. The 500MB of RAM may not seem like a lot, but it means you can multitask and play games with less interruption. It comes with either 16GB or 32GB of storage, but like the Fire 7, can now be used with microSDs up to 256GB.

The Fire HD 8 is quite a bit heavier than the Fire 7, but that’s in part due to the larger battery. It still weighs just 13oz and lasts up to 12 hours on one charge. Like the Fire 7, expect to keep this tablet plugged in overnight for a full charge. Looks like we’ll have to wait until future generations for quick charging Fire Tablets.

In addition to slightly better resolution and more RAM, the Fire HD 8 also features two speakers compared to the Fire 7’s lonely mono speaker. The result is that the Fire HD 8 can reach much louder volumes and is clearer at high volumes than the Fire 7. If you don’t want to dig out the headphones every time you watch TV on your tablet, this is an feature upgrade.

Even with just a few small upgrades, we think the Fire HD 8 is well worth the extra cost if you’re looking for something a little better than the Fire 7. It features more RAM, a larger screen, better sound, and a much better battery. Both tablets suffer from the same problems (like low grade cameras and short warranties) so it’s really up to you how much you want to spend.

Fire 7 Kids Edition/Fire HD 8 Kids Edition (click for price)

Although there are two different Fire Kids Tablets, the 7 and the HD 8, they are essentially the same as the standard new Fire 7 and HD 8 with a few key differences. This review focuses on those differences, namely the rugged, kid-proof construction and age appropriate content options.

The first thing you’ll notice in the Fire Tablets for Kids is the big, bright kid proof case. The case is removable, making the tablet easy to clean and store. You’ll want to keep the casing on when kids use this tablet, though. It’s designed to be easier to hold for smaller hands and protects both the screen and the tablet itself from impact when (not if) dropped.

Out of the box, the Fire Kids 7 and HD 8 come loaded with a kid friendly browser and a 1 year subscription to Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited. FreeTime is a great resource for thousands of kid oriented shows, songs, games, and books. This is one free subscription you may not mind renewing once it expires.

These tablets also focus on learning, and parents can even set educational goals for their child. Of course, there are also options to limit your child’s play time and what content they’re allowed to access. It’s important to note there are similar parental controls available on the regular Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 as well.

One other important difference is that the Fire Kids come with 2 year full warranties. Amazon has a no questions asked replacement policy that is simply indispensable for parents. That speaks to the durability of the kid proof case and helps explain some of the price difference. Bottom line, parents don’t have a lot of options when choosing tablets for their children. The Fire Kids 7 and HD 8 are as rugged and content appropriate as you’ll find in this price range, and continue Amazon’s strong reputation for making great tablets for kids.

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