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Amazon Fire 7 (2017) review: Small improvements make Amazon's budget tablet a better bargain

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The Good The Amazon Fire 7 is inexpensive, runs Amazon's user-friendly operating system and houses a microSD card slot expandable up to 256GB. This 2017 edition is slightly lighter and battery life has been improved. Amazon Prime members can access the bevy of free TV shows, movies and games included with their $99 (roughly £75) annual subscription.

The Bad 1,024x600 display is sub-HD quality and not as sharp as the display on the step-up Fire HD 8, which doesn't cost much more. To truly take advantage of what the tablet has to offer, you need an Amazon Prime membership and there's no access to Google Play Store without a hack.

The Bottom Line Despite its performance limitations, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better entry-level tablet than the 2017 Amazon Fire 7.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

At first glance, Amazon's 2017 edition of its entry-level Fire 7 tablet (it was formerly just "Amazon Fire") looks virtually identical to its predecessor. However, it's been ever so slightly trimmed down, its battery life is improved and there's some added contrast to its 1,024x600 display. You can argue over whether that makes it "all-new," as Amazon bills it, or just "refreshed," but the point is this inexpensive tablet is now slightly better and costs the same, which is why we've rated it higher than its predecessor.   

The Fire 7 tablet is frequently discounted from its standard $50 price. Check our list of Amazon device deals to see if it's on sale now.

It's available in 8GB ($50; £50) and 16GB ($70; £60) configurations, along with a Kids Edition ($100; £100) that includes a protective case and a two-year, no-questions-asked replacement guarantee should the device get damaged.

The new Fire 7 is ever so slightly thinner and lighter and comes in new color options.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As far as weight goes, the new 295-gram Fire 7 ($50 at Amazon) is about 20 grams (about 2/3 of an ounce) lighter than its predecessor and 1 millimeter thinner. Like before, there's a memory expansion slot, but it now accommodates microSD cards with up to a 256GB capacity, instead of 128GB. Other changes include updated color options -- there are four to choose from -- and the addition of dual-band Wi-Fi, which means you can connect to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks.

The front and rear cameras haven't been upgraded and are pretty basic by today's standards (the rear captures 720p video), but at least they're there and available for such apps as Skype.

Worth noting: One downside to Amazon's Fire tablets is that even though the Fire OS is built on an Android foundation, you're locked into Amazon's OS and its less robust app store rather than the Google Play store you'd find on a "real" Android tablet. Yes, hardcore techies can theoretically "jailbreak" the Fire 7 to effectively make it more Android-friendly -- you can find instructions online on how to add the Play store -- but I'm reviewing the product as is.

As for performance, the Fire 7 runs pretty smoothly despite its entry-level status. I wouldn't call it zippy, but it doesn't feel sluggish and I didn't have a problem with the responsiveness of the touch screen. For what most people will do with this tablet -- surf the web, stream video and music, read ebooks and listen to audiobooks -- it's sufficiently fast, and I found that Amazon's apps, particularly Amazon Video, launched quickly and played content with minimal delay (on a decent Wi-Fi network anyway). 

It's fine for typical mobile gaming apps but it may get bogged down with more graphically intense games or if a lot of apps are running in the background (you can close out apps by pressing the virtual square button at the bottom of the screen and x-ing out the apps). Madden Mobile, Traffic Rider, Zombie Frontier 3 and City Racing 3D ran smoothly enough in my tests. However, I couldn't get Asphalt 8: Airborne to load. 

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