Amazon Fire 7 (2022) review: Good enough for the basics

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Pros

  • Affordable
  • Doubles as Alexa smart display
  • Battery life
  • USB-C

Cons

  • Performance needs patience
  • Display is just okay
  • Cameras aren’t all that impressive

The last time Amazon updated the Fire 7 tablet was in 2019, which is a lifetime when it comes to technology. Then in May, Amazon announced an updated Fire 7, adding a USB-C port, moving the front-facing camera, and boosting battery life and performance. Those changes came with a price increase, with the base model Fire 7 going from $49.99 to $59.99

Amazon started shipping the Fire 7 at the end of June, which is around the time Amazon sent me a review sample to test. I’ve been using it for some casual reading, playing a video game or two and watching videos. And, in that regard, it’s done a good job. 

Specifications

Processor MediaTek MT8168V/B
Display 7-inch, 1024 x 600 IPS
Memory 2GB
Storage 8/16GB, microSD support up to 1TB
Cameras 2MP rear, 2MP front
Battery Up to 10 hours
Connectivity 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0,
Operating system Fire OS
Colors Black, Denim, Rose

A modern, but basic tablet

The Fire 7’s design isn’t going to garner much attention when you’re using it in public. It’s a basic plastic housing with a slab of glass on top that’s designed to just get the job done. It comes in three different colors — black, denim and rose. The front-facing camera has been moved to the middle of the display when the Fire 7 is in landscape orientation, something that makes video calls from the small tablet easier. The front and rear cameras are each 2-megapixel sensors. Pictures and videos look okay, but not great. 

Nearly all of the ports and buttons are on the right edge of the housing when the tablet’s laying on its side. There’s a power button, volume up/down buttons, a 3.5mm headphone jack and — my favorite part — a USB-C port for charging the tablet. The move away from micro USB across Amazon devices has been something the company is working on, and the addition of USB-C on the $60 tablet is worth pointing out. 

Also: Using the wrong USB-C cable can damage your tech. How to avoid that 

On the bottom edge of the Fire 7 is a microSD card slot that allows you to increase the storage from 16GB or 32GB to a 1TB. 

The display measures 7-inches, just as its name implies, and has a resolution of 1024 x 600. It’s not the sharpest display, but that’s to be expected at this price point. 

The most notable thing about the Fire 7’s design is just how small it is. It’s something you could easily carry around in a purse or backpack without noticing it’s really there. For the detail-oriented, the Fire 7 measures 7.11 x 4.63 x 0.38-inches and weighs 9.9 ounces. 

Amazon Fire 7

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Improved performance that’s just good enough

Amazon’s Fire 7 tablet has always had performance that’s just good enough to get by. With the 2022 version, that approach remains intact. Amazon is using a quad-core processor with 2GB of memory in the Fire 7, which the company says adds a 30% boost in performance compared to the 2019 model. 

The 2GB of memory alone is double what was in the previous model, and it’s a noticeable addition, especially when gaming. However, overall performance with the Fire 7 is something that will teach you to have patience. 

When moving between various sections and aspects of the interface, such as opening the Kindle Store, Amazon Appstore and then viewing the Library tab, there are times when the tablet is quick and responsive. But then you tap on a search box, and there’s a longer-than-expected delay for the Fire 7’s keyboard to show up. 

There’s a dedicated gaming mode built into the Fire 7’s operating system that automatically turns on when it detects you’ve opened a game (any game you’ve installed from the Appstore will trigger it). Game Mode optimizes the device’s memory, hides notifications and disables the Alexa feature. Even with Game Mode, it can take a minute or two before a game becomes playable. 

From what I can tell, as long as an app stays in memory, the performance boost is noticeable. But if you, for instance, exit the Silk Browser after browsing the web for a few minutes, and then return to it an hour or two later after using the Fire 7 for a different task, that next launch of Silk takes a few extra seconds to load. 

In other words, the Fire 7’s performance is good enough as long as you stay within a single app and don’t expect it to be a multitasking workhorse. 

Amazon touts 10-hour battery life for the Fire 7, another improved stat over the 2019 model. And, while I can’t confirm 10 hours of use is possible, I can say that battery life is one area of the Fire 7 where I don’t have any complaints. I had plenty of battery life left after streaming free live TV for a couple of hours in the Freevee app, browsing the web and attempting to play Roblox. 

Amazon Fire 7

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

A word about the software… and Alexa!

One of the loudest complaints about any Amazon device is the lack of Google apps and services. The Fire 7 runs Amazon’s Fire OS, which is based on Android, but Amazon has deeply changed and customized how it functions. Because of that, it hasn’t gone through Google’s certification process and therefore you won’t find apps like Google Maps, Gmail or YouTube preinstalled or available in the Amazon Appstore.

Despite the lack of support for Google’s apps, you can find most of the big name apps in the Amazon Appstore — like Spotify, Disney+, Facebook and Zoom. It’s not ideal for someone who has heavily invested in apps from Google’s Play Store, or for someone like myself that relies on a password manager that isn’t available in the Appstore. 

One of the benefits of customizing the operating system on the Fire 7 is that Amazon is able to build Alexa directly into the device. That means you can use the tablet as a makeshift Echo Show device. There’s a toggle to turn Alexa on or off in the quick settings panel. When it’s turned on, you can say “Alexa” followed by a command or question the same way you would if you had a dedicated Echo smart display or Echo speaker. 

Along with the ability to ask Alexa questions, you can view and manage your Alexa-connected smart home devices like cameras, lights and outlets using your voice or by tapping on the dedicated Devices button in the bottom navigation bar. 

Bottom line

Amazon Fire 7

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Amazon’s Fire 7 tabletis once again a well-rounded experience as long as you take the cost into account when setting expectations. It’s not the fastest device you’ll use, and at times its speed can be frustrating. But, with patience, it’s a solid tablet, colorful Kindle, dedicated Alexa smart display and smart home controller combined.



Original Article

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