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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Amazon introduces world's first reasonable $50 tablet (hands-on)

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The best thing about Amazon's latest tablet? Its price. Alongside the budget-friendly Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10, Amazon revealed the $50 or £50 Fire. The 7-inch tablet is available for pre-orders now and shipping is expected to start on September 30. (Amazon doesn't currently sell devices in Australia, but if you were to import it, the US price converts to around AU$70.)

Costing half the price of the Fire HD 6, the Fire is the cheapest in Amazon's tablet line-up. Though the 6-inch Fire HD has a sharper screen, the Fire is bigger and includes a microSD card slot -- a feature previously absent from Amazon tablets.

Fire OS 5 Bellini

The Fire will run Amazon's robust and newly updated operating system. The Android Lollipop-based Fire OS 5 Bellini features a new user interface that's simple to navigate and tailor-made for easily consuming all of your favorite movies, games and books.

If you're familiar with the Amazon OS, Bellini looks familiar, but is different in a few key ways. The home screen has a small carousel of recently viewed media at the top (similar to the previous version) and now displays an array of apps on the bottom. A new screen with recently used apps is accessed by swiping right from the home screen, and if you swipe left from the home screen, you'll find that menu screens are now organized by content. Books, videos, games and so on each have their own separate page that displays media you own, as well as Amazon's recommended content.

There are different menus for different content.

Nate Ralph/CNET

Other new notable features in Bellini 5.0 include Word Runner and On Deck. Word Runner is a speed-reading function that displays individual words at a predetermined pace. You might have heard of the similar software Spritz, but Word Runner is built into the Fire's operating system and works with most English language books.

On Deck ensures that you always have something new to watch on your tablet -- if your available storage space allows. As soon as you turn on your Fire tablet, Amazon Prime recommendations will automatically download onto your tablet for offline viewing. The number of episodes or movie length will depend on how much space you have available. If you happen to need that space for anything else, the downloaded content will automatically be deleted.

Read faster with Word Runner.

Nate Ralph/CNET

Design and hardware

The Amazon Fire tablet itself looks like it came out of a time machine from 2013. Everything from its girthy design to its pixelated screen makes it look outdated. It's not uncomfortable to hold or anything, it just feels bulky. To be sure, it's small enough to carry around in your bag, but it's streets behind the "thin is in" tablet trend.

Inside the Fire houses a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage -- a microSD card slot gives up to 128GB extra. It also has a front-facing 0.3-megapixel camera, a 2-megapixel rear camera, and, according to Amazon, 7-hour battery life. In a world where brilliant 2K tablets reign, the 1,024x600-pixel resolution IPS display is desperately underwhelming. Yet, for about a quarter of their cost, it's a tolerable compromise.

It's a 2015 UI paired with a 2013 design.

Nate Ralph/CNET

Amazon Fire Kids Edition

The Fire tablet will also be available in a Kids Edition -- it's the same model but with a bulky, durable case. It'll cost $100 or £100 and comes with a two-year worry-free guarantee. Although it's double the cost of simply buying a Fire, if the worry-free guarantee is used to replace a broken model, the price evens out.

For the extra money, the Kids Edition also comes with a year's subscription to Amazon's Fire for Kids Unlimited service, which includes lots of kid-focused and educational books, apps and games. Disney and Nickelodeon are among the brands on board, with popular titles including "Dora the Explorer" and "SpongeBob SquarePants."

The service also includes a Web browser with parental controls to give your youngster access to websites and YouTube channels that have been vetted by Amazon and judged child-friendly. You can also add other websites yourself if you're happy for your child to view them.

If you break it, Amazon replaces it.

Nate Ralph/CNET

Outlook

For only $50 or £50, all of the Amazon Fire's shortcomings are understandable. Despite the sacrifice of build quality in order to meet its low price, the Fire tablet remains an attractive option for anyone on a shoestring budget. Just in case you like the Fire so much you won't want to share with your family, Amazon will sell you six of them for the price of five. That's right, you can get a six-pack of Fire tablets for $250 or £250.

The age-old adage "you get what you pay for" comes to mind, but if you're an Amazon Underground user, Kindle Unlimited subscriber or Prime member, it's one of the most affordable tablets for taking full advantage of Amazon's vast library of TV, movies, books and games.

Check back after the Fire tablet is released for a full review. Would you buy this tablet for $50 or £50? How about six of them for the price of five? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Discuss Amazon Fire

Quick Specifications See All

  • Diagonal Size 7 in
  • Type Fire OS 5 (Bellini)
  • Monitor Features advanced polarizing filter
  • Weight 11.04 oz
  • Color Category blue
  • Cameras (for SD) rear camera + front camera
  • Installed Size 1 GB
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