Amazon’s Fire tablets are seductive. Most of us already use Amazon, and they’re some of the only high profile tablets, affordable tablets released recently. The price seems too good to be true, and in some ways it is, but Amazon’s Fire tablets are also completely functional, capable devices. To help you decide if a Fire tablet is right for you, we reviewed all five of Amazon’s Fire tablets in the last month. These are our unfiltered recommendations.
What’s WIRED About All Fire Tablets
A Faucet for Amazon Content: If you subscribe to Amazon’s Prime service, you can listen to all the included music, movies, TV, and books, while also shopping for all the items you can get with its free two-day shipping or browsing your free Amazon photo storage. You can do most of the same things from an Android tablet or iPad, but the Fire OS interface is crafted specifically to deliver Amazon goods, with swipeable pages for each type of media Amazon sells.
Built ‘Good Enough’: Physically, Amazon’s Fire tablets are made of plastic, but they’re designed with enough care that the build quality won’t bother you too much. These are also some of the best-quality tablets for kids, encased in a rugged bumper. They also all have MicroSD slots if you want to add extra storage (we recommend this 64GB MicroSD card).
Cheap: Did I mention the price? They all cost $150 or less, which is a price that would have legitimately shocked you just a few years ago. They offer high value for the price. You can also to get them with Amazon lock-screen ads, which will lower your price by $15.
What’s TIRED About All Fire Tablets
Non-Amazon Content is Lacking: The greatest strength of these tablets is also their greatest weakness. If you aren’t an Amazon Prime subscriber, and plan to get your video, audio, or books from Amazon, the Fire tablet line is far less compelling. They do have Alexa now, so that could be a plus, but again, that’s tied deeply into Amazon’s content library.
You can download third-party apps like Netflix on Amazon’s Appstore, but the selection is far more limited than the apps available on Apple’s iPad or the Google Play store on standard Android tablets. Tech-savvy users have found ways to add the Google Play store or sideload apps, but these devices are built to serve up Amazon first and foremost.
Old Tech: The tech inside these tablets is also very old. They all run on processors that would have impressed 4+ years ago, but show their age today with small fits of lag and a general lack of power. But since many of the apps are built with these weak tablets in mind, you don’t notice it too much. The operating system is also several years old, which could hide some of the weakness. Amazon’s Fire OS is actually a modified version of Android Lollipop, which first came out in 2014. Amazon keeps updating its tablets to some degree, but hasn’t invested in upgrading the core version of Android they run on for several years.
Short Warranties: Only the Fire HD 10 comes with a full one-year warranty. Oddly, the smaller devices come with 90-day warranties.
The Best Fire Tablet
Fire HD 8 ($80 on Amazon)
With a flexible screen size and incredible $80 price, the Fire HD 8 is our favorite all-around Fire tablet (read our Fire HD 8 review). It’s portable enough to take with you anywhere, but it’s screen is also decent enough that your eyes won’t hate you for watching Netflix on it. It’s an ideal size for older kids and for gaming, since you can hold it in landscape orientation and still reach the center.
The HD 8 has most of the benefits of the larger Fire HD 10, including Alexa (though you must press a button to use her) and stereo sound, not to mention the best battery life of almost any tablet at 12 hours. I also recommend you pick up Amazon’s magnetic stand-up case if you plan on watching movies or TV.
Avoid the Fire 7: Amazon’s cheapest tablet has a tantalizing $50 price, but you should probably cough up a little extra and buy an HD 8. Like I said in our Fire 7 review, the 7-inch screen will feel somewhat cramped and its screen resolution is noticeably pixelated. You won’t love the mono speaker, which is easily blocked by a single finger. Its battery also lags behind the other two tablets, and the 8GB of internal storage is pitifully small, mandating a MicroSD card from the get go.
The Best Fire Tablet to Use Around the House
Fire HD 10 ($150 on Amazon)
If you mainly use your tablet for watching video, or want to shout commands at Alexa from across the room, the Fire HD 10 is the best Fire tablet for you (read our Fire HD 10 review). It has a far nicer HD screen and the larger 10-inch size is better for streaming at home. On the inside, it has a little more processing power than the smaller Fire tablets and 32GB of internal storage (upgradeable to 64GB), with a MicroSD slot if you need more space. I recommend you pick up the official magnetic standing case to keep it propped up for video binging.
The Best Fire Tablet For Kids
Fire HD 8 Kids Edition ($130 on Amazon)
We compared the Fire 7 Kids Edition and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition, and the HD 8 Kids Edition won handily thanks to its larger, sharper HD screen. Our reviewer Adrienne So called it “the affordable tablet that will provide the maximum amount of enjoyment to the most members in your family.” It will work for kids of varying ages, and won’t make parents eyes burn as much during repeated Zootopia viewings. Older kids will also enjoy the fuller Dolby stereo sound and reduced lagginess when playing games. Then there’s battery life—like the standard HD 8, this gets 12 hours of battery life, far longer than the Fire 7.
Amazon Sells Older Fire Tablets. Don’t Buy Them.
Only buy a “7th Generation” Amazon tablet. For some reason, Amazon still sells many of its older Fire tablets, but you should stick to the five tablets we talk about in this article (also listed here). Its newer models will get software updates longer and may have other small improvements that aren’t noticeable at first.
If you’re gung-ho about buying an older device, the Fire HDX tablets pack the most power, but make sure they are priced lower than the new Fire devices. It’s a pain, but you should also cross reference the latest update available for the tablet you’re going to buy (find it on this sheet]with the latest version of Fire OS to see how up-to-date your software will be.