PROS / The Fire benefits from Amazon's strong operating system.
CONS / The tablet has a low-resolution display.
VERDICT / The Amazon Fire is a value-friendly first tablet for new users.
As the entry-level unit in Amazon's tablet series, the Amazon Fire has strong specifications for its price. Good for new users, the Fire has much of the functionality you find on the best Fire and Kindle eReader models.
The tablet runs an updated version of Amazon's Fire OS operating system, and we found the operating system easy to use in our hands-on testing. The homepage is divided into tabs based on content types like movies and books. While Amazon-branded recommendations take up a notable portion of each tab, the interface is still well designed and takes full advantage of the tablet's compact screen. As with most tablets, the Fire includes standard features like app store access and web browsing support.
The tablet’s 1.3GHZ ARM Cortex A7 processor showed a modest performance ceiling in our benchmarking. In performance test Geekbench 3's multicore metric, the Fire scored 1,158 points. By comparison, most premium tablets score around 3,000 points in this same test. In practice, the Fire works fine for tasks like basic web browsing, but its ceiling is limited in processor-intensive tasks like graphically demanding games or multitasking.
The Fire's display has a similarly modest ceiling; mainstream tablets regularly have screens with resolutions of at least 1280 x 800 pixels, while the Fire has a 1024 x 600 display. During our hands-on testing, the Fire handled tasks like displaying text relatively well, but image quality and sharpness were middling.
Physically, the tablet covers the basics. With its dimensions of 7.5 x 4.5 x 0.4 inches and weight of 11 ounces, the Fire falls in line with comparable mainstream tablets. The black textured plastic case is relatively plain, but the build quality is solid. There's little flex in the case, and construction seams are unnoticeable. By default, the Fire comes with a limited 8GB of internal memory, but it's supplemented with microSD support for cards up to 128GB.
As with all Amazon devices, the Fire comes with a default one-year warranty. Amazon provides support through standard channels like live chat and phone agents. The Fire is also compatible with Amazon's Mayday service, which connects you to a support technician directly through the tablet.
Compared to top tablets, the Amazon Fire occupies a narrow niche. It's not the fastest, sleekest or thinnest model. Still, within these constraints, the Fire succeeds thanks to its unique strengths. With durable build quality and Amazon's strong software foundation, it is a stellar entry-level tablet for new users.