It’s not as light or as thin as a tablet that costs five or six times as much. The camera is not as good and the screen is not as sharp. But it works well as a budget device for the basics – reading, Facebook, video, and of course, shopping on Amazon.
Over the years, Amazon.com Inc. has done a good job of making tablets affordable for as many people as possible. The new Fire tablet is Amazon’s cheapest yet, joining a fall lineup that hits a high of $ 230 (around Rs. 15,000) ($ 15 more if you want Amazon to remove ads on lock screen). In contrast, Apple’s iPads start at $ 269 (around Rs. 17,500), ad-free.
Of course, you get less for $ 50.
Among the compromises:
Sensation: The 7-inch tablet is bulky, about two-thirds the thickness of a deck of cards. This goes against a trend of increasingly thinner gadgets. But that’s reasonable for budget devices because they use older and bigger components to keep costs down. At 11 ounces, the tablet is also heavy for a device of this size.
Lower resolution: The screen is just short of displaying full high definition video, otherwise known as 1080p. Because Amazon’s HDX tablets and Apple’s “Retina” iPads feature razor-sharp displays, the new Fire’s screen is retro.
The video is displayed well. Where the lower resolution is most noticeable is with small text. When reading, some of the vertical lines in the ds and ls look thick. It looks like a typewriter with a type of metal that hasn’t been cleaned of grime, forming misshapen letters when some of that grime hits the ink ribbon. (For our younger readers, typewriters are machines that produce letters on paper, rather than a screen. And paper is a sheet of writing material made from trees.)
Take photos: The main camera is only 2 megapixels, compared to 5 or 8 megapixels on high-end Amazon tablets. Photos are blurry and low light images have a lot of color distortion. The camera lens is also not capable of capturing as much as other gadgets at the same distance. It is as if the camera has a permanent zoom. That said, most people already have smartphones with decent cameras. You don’t have to pay more to duplicate the technology.
Wireless: The Fire has an older form of single-band Wi-Fi that does not support the highest available speeds, technically known as the 802.11ac standard. In practice, this means that the signal range and data speed may be lower. But in my limited testing, the new tablet downloaded a video file faster than last year’s Amazon HDX 8.9 tablet, which has dual-band Wi-Fi, so it’s barely cut off and dried. There are many other factors that affect performance, even if you have advanced technology.
In fact, the cheap Fire tablet surprised me in many ways. The screen has in-plane switching technology, which means it can be viewed at an angle – twice as wide as standard screens, according to Amazon. The tablet was also quick at browsing the web, emailing, and other common tasks. It seemed to take a second or two longer to launch the video on Hulu and Netflix, but the playback was smooth once it started.
Unlike iPads, the Fire lets you set up multiple profiles, including those for kids, and set parental limits on apps and time of use. But the Amazon tablet does not have the anti-glare technology of the latest iPads, nor a fingerprint reader to bypass access codes.
The promised battery life is seven hours, which is reasonable for $ 50.
And as with other Amazon devices, the Fire Tablet works well with other Amazon services including Kindle eBooks, Audible Audiobooks, Prime Video Streaming, and Ecommerce. Just swipe right from the home screen to cycle through the different services. After logging in with my Amazon account, the purchase page reminded me of the type of replacement vacuum bags I needed. I also found a mini plunger to deal with that nagging clogged sink in my kitchen.
Swiping left gives you access to recently viewed content and apps, as well as recommendations. It’s a good way to access frequent tasks without spending a lot of time browsing home screen icons. Older Amazon devices will also benefit from this feature with an upcoming software update.
Fire is also a good option for children. They won’t complain about what’s missing, and if they lose the device, the replacement costs just $ 50. Amazon will even sell you six for the price of five, so every family member can have one.
I would be very disappointed with the Fire if it was priced at $ 250 or more. But it’s not – not even close.