In 2022, Amazon’s Fire 7 feels like a tablet from a bygone era.
7-inch tablets made a lot of sense when our phones were smaller and less sophisticated. Reading books or playing games wasn’t much fun on a 4- or 5-inch screen, and Amazon’s smallest Fire tablet was an inexpensive way to enjoy the same entertainment on a larger surface.
Today, however, your phone probably has a much faster processor, higher-quality display, and better cameras than any of Amazon’s tablets. And compared to the 7-inch model in particular, the screen size might not be that much different. (Also: Your phone almost certainly won’t charge you extra to remove ads from the lock screen like Amazon’s tablets do.)
All of this begs the question of who exactly needs the $60 Fire 7, which Amazon just updated for the first time in three years. While I’ve always had a soft spot for small tablets, we’ve reached the point where a 7-inch slate is particularly hard to justify next to the phone already in your pocket.
Customize Amazon’s smallest tablet
Compared to the previous Fire 7 tablet from 2019, the 2022 version has twice as much RAM (2 GB), a faster processor (by 30% according to Amazon) and a longer battery life of up to 10 hours. It also has a USB-C port instead of Micro USB, so you can charge it with the same cable you might already be using for a laptop or Android phone.
As a result, the Fire 7 is no longer as frustrating to use as its predecessors, although it can still feel small at times. It stutters when scrolling through long menus and sometimes freezes when switching between tasks. It still has a not quite HD display with a resolution of 1024 by 600, giving fonts and graphics a grainy look.
All this is to be expected for a tablet that costs $60 and is likely to cost less during sales events like Black Friday and Prime Day. But for the Fire 7 to be worth anything at all, it has to offer at least some utility over a modern smartphone, and so far I’ve struggled to find it.
Phone vs Tablet
Granted, my regular phone is an iPhone 13 Pro Max, which is on the larger side for a smartphone, but I was still surprised by how close the screen size is to the Fire 7. Side by side, the two devices are practically equal in screen height, while the Fire 7’s screen is just 0.6 inches wider. The Fire 7 only seems a lot bigger because of the thick screen bezels around the screen.
In practice, this means that all the things I could possibly want to do with the Fire 7 are better accomplished with my phone. To know:
Books: Even with similar font sizes and the most compact spacing option, the Fire 7 only fits about one extra line of text on the page. Still, it’s generally less enjoyable to read through due to the blocky text and the quality of the screen, which picks up more glare from a different angle.
Social media: Posts and images on Twitter are slightly bigger and wider on the Fire, but scrolling through my feed was noticeably more jumpy and jerky, and tapping links sometimes gave a delayed screen response.
Amazon’s tablet lineup would be stronger without the Fire 7 in it.
Videos: Movies with ultra-wide aspect ratios took up the same amount of space on both iPhone 13 Pro Max and Fire 7, although widescreen TV shows made better use of the tablet’s 16:9 display. Anyway, my phone’s speakers were significantly louder and richer than the monophonic speaker on the Fire 7.
Spell: The 7-inch screen is a decent size for mobile games and the bezels around the screen provide a comfortable resting place for your hands, but performance can be an issue. In Crossy RoadFor example, the graphics looked blurry and were limited to 30 frames per second. (Meanwhile, the mid-range Pixel 4A 5G phone I occasionally use handled the same game without any problems.)
In addition, the app selection in Amazon’s AppStore is limited, compared to both Apple’s iPads and Android tablets with the Google Play Store. That’s not a big deal if you mainly use the tablet for books, videos and music – Amazon has largely covered those basics – but the selection of mobile games is lacking and many productivity apps are missing too. (The good news is that you can add the google play store with a little extra effort.)
All of this leads me to the conclusion that Amazon’s tablet lineup would be stronger without the Fire 7 in it. Amazon says its smallest tablet is also the most popular, but I bet that has more to do with the price than the experience of using it. Even a slightly larger screen — like the one on Amazon’s Fire HD 8 — would be better for reading, gaming, and movies, while still being more comfortable to hold than Amazon’s 10-inch tablet or a full-size iPad.
What about children?
Of course, I may not be the target market for the Fire 7 to begin with.
Amazon’s Fire tablets have long been popular as an iPad alternative for kids, as they’re significantly cheaper and come with a ton of kid-friendly features, like a kid’s profile mode that locks out certain apps and features. Amazon even sells a Kids+ subscription for apps, games, and books, and it sells a $110 hardware bundle that includes a heavy-duty carrying case, one year of Kids+, and a two-year non-life insurance plan.
But as a parent of two, I can attest that kids love bigger screens too. That’s why, when I was looking for a new tablet for my daughter last month, I ended up buying a Fire HD 10 (and immediately loaded the Google Play Store on it). The lack of complaints I’ve received since then suggests that opting for a larger screen was the right choice.
As our phones keep getting bigger, so may adult tablet users.