Amazon refreshed its popular Fire 7 tablet for 2022, giving it a USB-C charging port, a faster processor and double the memory — a significant improvement over the 2019 Fire 7 tablet. Those upgrades, along with longer battery life, make this $60 (with ads) tablet a smart choice for those who want an affordable tablet for consuming media, especially for younger kids.
I took the tablet with me over a long weekend in place of my iPad and it was great for streaming videos and music on Netflix and Spotify as well as reading my book in the Kindle app. However, don’t expect to do a lot of work or play graphics-heavy games on this device, as you would on an iPad. It doesn’t have the software, speed or processing capability.
$59.99 at Amazon
The latest Amazon Fire 7 tablet is a great and affordable option for kids or anyone who just wants a basic device for reading and watching shows.
The Fire 7 tablet is an ideal content consumption device for younger kids, when you need an extra device in the house or when you’re taking a car trip or vacation. At 7 inches, it’s the right size for holding and watching videos, reading and playing simple games. While the screen resolution is not HD (1024 x 600), I don’t think kids watching videos on a screen not much larger than a Pro or Max version of a smartphone will notice or mind very much. They’ll probably just be glad to have their own tablet to watch and not have to share with a sibling.
The Fire 7, while technically an Android tablet, runs on Amazon’s Fire OS 8 software and uses its own Silk browser. Therefore, there’s no Google Play Store. You’re limited to the apps available in Amazon’s app store, which is not nearly as extensive, so you might be disappointed at not being able to download some of your favorite games or apps. However, most of the popular social and streaming apps are available. For my weekend away I downloaded the YouTube, Hulu and Spotify apps from the Amazon Appstore as well as Kindle, Instagram and Zoom.
They worked OK for the most part, but there were times when there was lagging or the screens didn’t load as quickly as I hoped. A few times my Kindle app either froze or closed while I was reading my book and I had to reopen the app. It’s not a deal breaker on a $60 device, but not something I would find acceptable on a more expensive iPad or a tablet running full Android software.
One of the most notable upgrades to the Fire 7 tablet is that Amazon ditched the older Micro USB charging port in favor of the newer USB-C type port. Since so many of our devices have already made the leap to USB-C, this means one fewer charging cable to carry around with you when you’re on the go. Amazon includes a USB-C charging cable as well as a 5W wall charger in the box, though at 5W, it will take about four hours to fully charge the device from zero, so plan ahead for long trips.
Battery life also received a boost, with Amazon boasting 10 hours of use on a single charge. Individual battery usage will be affected by which apps you use and how much streaming you do, but even close to 10 hours is a significant improvement over the previous generation, which promised seven hours. I had no problem listening to music and streaming a video on the train, with plenty of battery left to read my book on the Kindle app.
A durable and smarter design
Amazon says the Fire 7 tablet is more durable than the iPad Mini, and while I haven’t dropped or damaged either of those devices (yet!) the Fire tablet feels sturdy to hold and the plastic build with rounded corners feels solid. You can pick up a third-party case on Amazon for under $10.
There’s a new button arrangement on the refreshed Fire 7 tablet that indicates the device is mainly designed for consuming content. The power and volume buttons have been moved to the top left of the device, and the front-facing camera has been moved to the center of the left side of the screen, which makes it a perfectly centered top camera when using in a horizontal position, with the buttons on the top right for easy access. The headphone jack is on the bottom right corner.
This is great for watching videos and video chatting, but I found it a tad awkward when reading in a vertical orientation, only because I had to cross over to the top left to access the on/off button.
Many parents give their kids volume-limiting headphones to use with a tablet (“Baby Shark” on repeat, anyone?), which are usually wired as opposed to Bluetooth connected. While you can use Bluetooth to connect, there’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack for wired headphones, which is significant now that many iPads have dropped this port. The built-in speaker sounds OK for listening to audiobooks or perhaps a podcast, but I wouldn’t recommend it for listening to music.
It’s great for kids — and Amazon Prime subscribers
What makes the Fire tablets so popular among parents is the free built-in parental controls. Parents can set a password to restrict app purchasing and allow only age-appropriate content to be shown. They can set up and manage individual profiles for everyone using the tablet, giving kids daily time limits and setting age filters for videos, games and books.
Parents can also subscribe to Kids+, which is a paid Amazon content service with thousands of games, books and apps to keep kids busy on long car trips or flights.
Amazon also sells a $109 Fire 7 Kids edition bundle that comes with a kid-proof carrying case with built-in stand, a year of the Kids+ subscription and a two-year no-worry damage insurance plan. If your kid accidentally drops the tablet and it breaks, Amazon will replace it.
Amazon Prime subscribers and Alexa users will love how well the tablet integrates with those services, which include Prime Video, Kindle, Audible, Amazon Music and Amazon shopping. There’s hands-free support for Alexa; you can ask Alexa to play music and videos, open specific apps, check the weather, access and control smart devices in the home and more. You can also save photos and videos to the Amazon cloud, though the 2-megapixel camera is not one you’ll want to use as your primary camera.
If you’re looking for an iPad or Android replacement that works with your favorite productivity apps and games, this is not the tablet for you. Since the device is running on Amazon’s version of Android, you won’t be able to download any of the apps in the Google Play Store. That means Google apps like Gmail, Sheets and Maps aren’t available as well as the YouTube Kids app, a favorite among parents. A simple search of the Amazon Appstore brought up several apps that appear to be YouTube Kids, but when you search down for the developer, you’ll see it’s not an official YouTube app. User comments reinforce this. YouTube suggests parents access YouTube’s website directly using the Fire tablet’s Silk browser.
The app store does have official Microsoft apps like Outlook, Teams and Word, but no Photoshop or bookkeeping apps are available.
You also won’t be able to run any graphics-intensive games because the processor just can’t handle it. Stick to basic games like Roblox and you’ll be OK.
If you’re tech-savvy you can sideload Google Play, but we don’t recommend that for most people.
The 2-megapixel front camera is OK for video calls (Zoom, Skype and Facebook Messenger are available), but don’t count on taking any awe-inspiring pictures with it unless the light conditions are perfect. Amazon didn’t upgrade the cameras at all from the previous generation, so if you stick to basic snaps and videos for the kids to enjoy, it is adequate.
The Fire 7 with 16GB of storage is available in Black, Denim and Rose for $59.99, a $10 price hike over the 2019 version, or $79.99 for the 32GB model. You can buy an ad-free version for $74.99, but personally, I don’t really mind the ads (they appear only on the lock screen and they help make the device a great value). If you need more space, you can add up to 1TB of expandable storage with an optional microSD card.
If you want an inexpensive tablet for streaming videos and music and reading books, the Fire 7 tablet gets the job done. The 10-hour battery life, boosted processor and addition of a USB-C charging port make this tablet a good, affordable device for younger kids performing simple tasks like reading and streaming content. That’s especially true if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
If you’re hoping to use more robust apps and play graphics-intensive games, or get real work done on it, you will be disappointed. For that, we recommend stepping up to the Fire HD 8 Plus with its faster processor and better screen resolution, which is the current favorite budget option on our best tablets list.
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