Not everyone needs something fancy when it comes to tablets, especially if you’re a light user or a beginner. Let's take a look at Amazon's £50 Fire tablet, reduced to just £30.

Amazon has made a number of tablets in recent years, and this is the fifth generation of the Fire tablet since the first one launched in 2011. It is also the cheapest tablet it’s ever produced – made even cheaper if you take up Amazon’s ‘buy five, get one free’ offer and get them for your entire family.

The retailer’s CEO Jeff Bezos said: “The Fire sets a new bar for what customers should expect from a low-cost tablet.”

Is he right? We take a closer look at the Fire. You can also watch the video above to get a glance of the Fire in the flesh.

Amazon Fire tablet

Design and connections

The Fire looks pretty basic: it’s black and has a rather large bezel (the border surrounding the main screen).

The display is 7 inches wide, which is a reasonable size for reading, surfing the web and playing apps. With the bezel, the overall width of the tablet is 7.5-inches x 4.5-inches, which is comfortable enough to hold in portrait mode.

Made of plastic to keep the cost down, it feels solid. Weighing 313g, it’s easily portable.

There’s a 2-megapixel camera on the back and a VGA camera on the front – which are OK if you’re making a video call but certainly not the camera of choice for your holiday photos.

The Fire is advertised as having 8GB of storage, but unfortunately almost half of that is consumed by the system and Amazon’s pre-installed apps – which you can’t remove. So you’re actually only left with 4.74GB of space.

Fortunately, a MicroSD card slot will allow you to expand storage space by up to 128GB – although that’s adding extra expense to the overall cost (unless you already own one).

You do get free unlimited Cloud storage for Amazon content, so you can back up any music, books, or films you’ve bought through Amazon without taking up any of that limited space on your tablet.

Amazon Fire tablet

 

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Performance

The screen has 1024 x 600 resolution at 171 ppi, meaning it has fewer pixels than older rivals such as the Hudl 2.

Brightness and vibrancy of colours are lacking on the Fire – the colours just don’t shout out to you and it’s very hard to see the screen in the sun.

There is a brightness adjustment option, as on all tablets, but the dimmest and brightest settings don’t seem to vary much.

The touchscreen’s reactiveness can be a bit off sometimes, too, requiring you to tap again.

When you have more than one app open, or have apps running in the background, it feels notably slower.

In terms of battery life, Amazon claims that you can get up to seven hours depending on the device settings. It takes just over three hours to fully charge.

Amazon Fire tablet

 

[Related story: Tesco Hudl 2 review – should you buy this budget tablet?]

 

The interface

Amazon runs a custom version of the Android operating system, Android Fire OS, so instead of using the Google Play Store to download new apps, you’ll have to use Amazon Appstore.

Some apps are missing, too – most notably, official apps for Google Maps, Google Play Music, YouTube and Instagram (although other developers have replicated some).

Apps are organised across slideable sections, which are a great way for keeping things tidy. You have a Recent page, with all the apps you’ve used most recently, and a Home page with all the apps you love best. Everything else is categorised into Books, Video, Games, Shop, Apps, Music, Audiobooks and Newsstand.

These don’t necessarily need to be from Amazon, either – you can still download the Netflix app and Spotify, for example.

Amazon uses its tablets as a portal to buying its other products – so depending on how much you use Amazon’s other services, this could be really useful or really annoying. If you’re among the latter crowd, you’ll be even more annoyed to discover that you can’t uninstall Amazon’s pre-installed apps, either.

Worse still, there are adverts on the lock screen of your tablet – unless you pay an extra £10.

But Amazon does have some great free extras from its other services, including its Underground app store. This new section provides you with 100% free apps including free in-app purchases.  At the time of writing free apps include: Monument Valley, Angry Birds Slingshot Stella and Nemo's Reef. Amazon has tripled the number of free apps since Underground launched.

Amazon Fire tablet

 

The verdict

The Fire tablet is a great piece of kit for someone who’s starting out with tablets or just wants to use one for basics like emailing, surfing the web and playing games.

If you shop on Amazon or you’re a Prime subscriber, the tablet could be particularly useful for you – but others are likely to become irritated by Amazon’s walled garden approach.

At this price, there are compromises. With such a small low-res screen and basic processor, this is not the ideal tablet for someone who wants to use it heavily for entertainment such as films, or for playing lots of big-graphic games.

At £30, it’s fantastic value – but opt for the non-advert version and a memory card, and the price can rise.

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What do you think about the Amazon Fire tablet? Let us know in the Comments below.