Amazon’s $50 Fire Tablet – A Review

Fire Tablet

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that we owned three Kindle Fires previously. I purchased one for myself, my wife and my son about four years ago. Also in the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that we enjoyed owning them very much. That is, until the charging port on the each tablet failed, one by one, over the course of about three months.

These were the previous generation of the Fire, and each of us used ours almost daily. We were in the middle of a move to a different home at the time, so I neglected to contact Amazon. Also, more than a year had passed since I had purchased them, and did not think to bother them about replacements. This was my mistake, as I knew well that they probably would have done something about it.

In any event, I did some research and found that it was likely to be the charging port which had gone bad. Apparently this was a common problem with that model of the Fire. They could be fixed, but each would reportedly require a $20 part and some soldering by my less than skilled hands.

In any event, I snagged one of the new Fire Tablets in November as a Christmas gift for my wife when Amazon dropped the price to $34.99. With Prime I received free shipping as well, making it what looked like a fantastic deal. If it worked it at least as well as the previous version, it would easily be one of the best deals of the year.

When my father asked what my son might like for Christmas, I suggested the new Fire Tablet for him as well. He grabbed one a few days later when it dropped to that same low price again, for a short time, on Cyber Monday.

Before I could “play” with either tablet, I received a surprise gift in early January from my mother in law. I supposed that she had heard about two of the three members in our house now being proud owners of the tablet, and thought I might like to have one of my own.

And so I set about setting up and using my new tablet. Here’s how it went…

Set Up

There are no instructions in the box. In fact, it’s not really a box that the Fire is packaged in. Just a cardboard cover protects, but Amazon of course ships their tablets inside a larger, outside box. The tablet arrived unscathed without a scratch, just as I expected.

The only written instructions came in the form of a sheet of paper that explained the most basic set up procedures, starting with turning it on. If you already have an account with them, the easier thing to do is set it up without them. The tablet doesn’t arrive pre-charged, so you’ll need to plug it in before you do anything else. I left it to charge overnight, but it typically takes a few hours to charge the Fire from an almost empty battery.

Next, you’ll go online and log in to your Amazon account or create one. From there set up is a breeze, provided you have a web connection. You’ll register your device there, and when you order an app it will immediately be available on that device unless you register another tablet or phone. Just follow the prompts on screen and you’ll sync with your account or start one. An available software update took a bit of time but after about 10 minutes I was ready to use the Fire.

Playing with your Fire

I quickly installed a few versions of Angry Birds. In between working, I need a distraction, and firing these little but destructive creatures at a huge variety of targets is a great way to get my mind off of work for just a bit. The new Fire offers 1024 X 600 resolution, certainly not the amount of detail you get from a higher-end tablet. But for the price, it’s a bargain in my opinion, as it displayed plenty of color, brightness and yes, even a fair amount of detail.

The downside of the display is that it does not deflect glare in any way. I tried it on my porch and the picture was practically invisible. Basically, in bright sun it does not do well. However, it is not advertised as an anti-glare screen screen in any way. Outside of use in bright lighting, the picture, whether reading or playing, is just fine. For $50, this Fire is difficult to beat.

What you can do with your Fire

One very significant benefit of owning any Amazon device is access. The number of apps available to you is enormous. From fun games to an enormous selection of books, there truly IS something for everyone at Amazon who purchases one of their tablets. From a children’s book version of “Moby Dick” (currently $3.99) to a game based on Pixar’s “Inside Out” (Free of charge) there is truly an enormous variety of fun and learning to be acquired, including plenty of options that cost absolutely nothing to download.

On my wife’s tablet, there are mostly books. My son has downloaded all manner of sports (especially soccer) related media to his Fire Tablet. My device has games, news and a few magazines I read regularly. It’s family friendly in so many ways that the price looks even more surprising when you head to their App section and witness the many thousands of options.

More thoughts on the $50 Amazon Fire Tablet

  • If you’re worried about the “Special Offers” that come with this tablet, you can pay $15 to have them entirely turned off, or simply purchase the version without them. However, because I hardly noticed these, and the fact that they appear when the screen locks after a period of laying dormant, I personally don’t see the need. The ads are there only until you pull the touchscreen arrow up and “wake up” your Fire Tablet.
  • The sound from the speakers is nothing to write home about, but I hardly expected that in this price range anyway. There is no “Dolby” decoding as exists on their more pricey models. However, with headphones or buds, the audio improves measurably. Most importantly, when I want great audio I head to my home theater system, not my 7″ tablet. If you do use “phones” to listen, the music selection available via Amazon is gigantic.
  • You can surf the web. Connecting to your home network is easy. When it’s available and will appear in a list when you prompt the tablet to. It wasn’t lightning fast when I tried it, but more than acceptable for a smallish device.
  • Though my son is now 14 years old, it’s worth mentioning that his previous Fire Tablet was easily set up with a Child’s Account. You can do the same thing with the new Fire, ensuring that you can monitor and limit their time on it, and knowing where they can and cannot go with their new device.
  • Speaking of my son, he likes to take pictures with his new tablet. This new model offers front and rear facing cameras along with video recording at 720p. The video, considering the price of this model, is pretty darned good.
  • My wife uses her new tablet to watch movies and television shows via her Prime account. A fair number of those are free. She loves catching up on shows, and it’s even easier when you subscribe to Prime. Having a tablet like this, or any Amazon device, makes using that service a real bargain. Think about it, with Prime you’ll have access to 38,000,000 selections across movies, shows, music, apps and more. In my opinion, and that of our entire household, the $99 charge for one year is certainly worth the cost.

Should You Get One?

Overall, the new Fire is one of the best bargains in the tablet world. You get a nice display, quick downloading and uploading, cameras, decent battery life (up to 7 hours depending on usage details), 8GB of memory (expandable up to 128GB via flash card) you may not even need thanks to access to their cloud storage. If you have Prime or have even thought about it, this surprisingly low priced Fire becomes a small but powerful entertainment hub that’s well worth $50. We highly recommend it.