Tablets are big business. A lot of peoples computing needs can be handled just by using one. While Apple and Google dominate the market, Amazon have a foot in the door too. Expanding on their Kindle book readers, Amazon have the Fire range - combining an e-reader and regular tablet.
My son got a Kindle Fire 5th generation as a present and I spent some time getting to know it. This model features a 1.2Ghz Quad Core processor with 1GB RAM, 8GB internal storage, card slot and a 7” screen. For a 2015 device the 1.9mpx fixed focus rear camera and 0.3mpx front camera perform very badly.
I did take some sample pictures to use on this article, but just couldn’t get them from the Fire to my Mac. Bluetooth wouldn’t work. Email needed setting up despite already doing this once. So I gave up.
It has a 7” screen that is surrounded by a rather large black border. This might seem an odd thing to write about, but it was something I noticed straight away. I wonder if it is to enable easy holding when using it as an e-reader.
It is a heavy device but seems well built. It has a minimalist look. The power/lock button, volume rocker, headphone port and MicroUSB charging port are all on the top. The MicroSD slot is the only thing on the right side.
This is an Amazon tablet. Their FireOS is a reskinned version running atop of Android 5.0 Lollipop. However this brings me to the main gripe with the Fire - it has no access to standard Android apps despite being Lollipop based, there is no Play Store. Instead it has its own Amazon Appstore. You sign in with an Amazon account not a Google account. This is not an Android tablet, which without prior knowledge a lot of people might not know this.
Once set up you are faced with a homescreen plastered with Amazon apps and book suggestions - giving a very cluttered look. This tablet can of course be used for surfing, email, FaceBook and Twitter to name a few things, but oddly lacking an Instagram app so be aware this might not cover all your needs. There are an impressive amount of apps and games, but it is just annoying that Android purchased apps will need buying again from the Amazon Appstore.
UPDATE: It is possible to sideload the Play Store and associated services, by downloading the APK files and allowing your Fire to accept 'apps from unknown sources' - full instructions on HowToGeek.com.
One other thing I don't like is your lock screen is used as an advertising medium - like a digital billboard which changes each time you lock it.
From a hardware point of view this is a very fast device. Apps and games load very fast and the whole OS is very fluid - helped by the Quad Core processor and 1GB RAM.
We have to touch on the e-reader side. You can download books directly on the device and reading them is great due to the crisp and bright screen which of course being touch means you can flick through pages too.
Battery is as good as any other tablet, but falls short of the amazing life of a dedicated e-reader. As a hybrid though, it does very well on both parts.
You may have gathered from this review that I am not too impressed with the Fire. As a tablet it is well built and runs fast with great battery life and is ok for surfing, FaceBook or Netflix, but the lack of Android compatibility puts it in the niche market and it is not clear when buying one what its limitations are.
For me a Android tablet with the Amazon app would be a better choice.
Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at twitter.com/simonroyal
I have set up a Kindle Fire before for a friend and found the restricted Amazon app store was quite inconvenient and found I had to side-load a few apps like Dropbox to make things easier, but it is a bit of a faff really. I would only really recommend a Fire for absolute basic tablet needs, a better choice would be a second gen Nexus 7 or a Nexus 9. In the last few years though, smaller 7 or 8 inch tablets have fallen out of favour since the advent of ~6 inch smartphones and the introduction of touchscreen Chromebooks with Android apps.