In the past we've steered people clear of really cheap Android tablets at holiday time. Not this year.
The Amazon Fire Tablet is both really cheap and Android, though perhaps not the Android you're used to. There's no Google to be found, which means no Play Store or Google Apps of any kind.
But if you go for the 7-inch Fire you're only going to be asked to part with $49 of your hard-earned cash. Or as is often the way, even less than that, thanks to frequent sales like Black Friday just gone. I've been using one for some time and people keep asking me if it's worth buying?
The answer is yes.
I'm not going to run through how much hardware you get for your money and what that's like — I've done that previously in our extended hands-on. But there are a few things in particular that make this a great tablet that I'd happily recommend buying for yourself or a loved one this holiday time.
The first is the price. It's one of the signature selling points for Amazon, and it's almost too cheap to ignore. At $49 (£49 in the UK and €49 in the rest of Europe) it's firmly in impulse buy territory. Amazon will even sell these things in a six-pack and you'll still have spent less than many tablets.
It's a great tablet to travel with, too, especially for keeping folks entertained. I always take one on the road for family trips. Because it's so cheap I'm happy enough to travel with it and not worry too much if it gets lost/stolen/eaten/destroyed. It's also extremely portable at a mere seven inches, and slips into any reasonably sized pocket on a bag with plenty of space to spare.
It's also pretty tough. Mine has seen a few child-induced falls to the floor, or worse, and lived to tell the tale each and every time. If you're buying for young ones, Amazon also sells several rugged kid-proof cases that will cushion the Fire tablet from those inevitable child-induced bumps.
Then you get to what you're actually going to do most of all with the tablet: consume media. The Fire is perfect for this, and particularly good is the option to download Amazon Prime Video to a microSD card for offline viewing. 8GB of internal storage helps keep the price down, but a cheap SD card will give you tons of space to take content with you when there's not going to be an Internet connection.
The 7-inch Amazon Fire Tablet's microSD card can store Prime movies for offline viewing.
And while there's no Google Play Store, the Amazon Appstore isn't as bad as it used to be. You get tons of free apps through the Underground program, and if you're a Prime subscriber (which you will want to be to get the most from the Fire anyway) you're never more than a couple clicks away from buying whatever you need. It won't play some of the latest and most graphics-intensive games particularly well, but it's just fine for casual titles. Just keep one eye on your password settings if you're handing it to a child!
Throw in Kindle, Audible, and Prime Music, and you're pretty much set. Amazon has a robust content ecosystem that, so long as you're not entrenched in Google's, has plenty to offer. Prime Music still falls a little flat, but since it's included with your yearly Prime subscription for no extra charge, it's hard to complain too much. If you want more there's always the new Music Unlimited for an extra charge.
The 7-inch Fire tablet is definitely something you should try yourself or gift to your nearest and dearest this holiday time. It'll be better if you're an Amazon Prime subscriber, but if you want a basic tablet for consuming content or giving to the kids to use, it's well worth your time.
Sure, the battery life isn't terrific and the screen isn't superb, but it does what it needs to do and doesn't struggle with it. The software may take a little getting used to, but there's nothing particularly bad about it and your content is always close at hand. Which is one of the most important things here, because consumption is what you'll want one of these for.
For $49 you really can't go wrong.