Why the $49 Amazon Fire tablet is a great buy

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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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.

Amazon Fire

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.

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Richard Devine
  • LOL, Nah son!
  • Is it just me, or does AC seem like a big shill for Amazon lately? These articles almost read like native advertising.
  • Guess we'll add that to the pile along with Samsung and all the rest. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I know right? It's almost like they talk about the companies who make products in the general area that they cover.
  • Maybe it's because Amazon kicks ass and makes some compelling products??? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Like the Fire phone /s Seriously I like amazon's services and always sideload their stuff on my phone. I was buying digital music from them in 2009 and they used to be ahead of the game before android and it all fell apart at the end of 2010 and beginning 2011. Didn't take long for Google to surpass them, and get a bigger Dev following. But they are still worth noting.
  • Exactly! All I see is Android articles here. It's like they are paid by Google or something. Google Nexus 6P
  • How dare they try to make money. Next thing you know we'll all find out they even pay the writers on this site too. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It kind of is an ad. If you buy through their links they get commission even I believe.
  • Is this a joke? I've used this tablet and it is junk. I would admit its better than expected but still junk.
  • That's the point.... Better than expected from a 50 tab Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well what did you expect of it? To compete with the more expensive ones that have more storage, better processing speeds, features, etc? Posted via the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 on the Sprint Network
  • How is it junk? My only complaint about mine is the storage. Posted on my Galaxy s5
  • I have one, installed CM12.1 ROM with Google Play. It's no speed demon but works fine for media/browsing. Completely worth $50.
  • Can you still only boot to CyanogenMod using fastboot? Or has that major limitation finally been hacked too? It's the main reason I haven't flashed CM yet, since my kid uses it and would be annoyed with the odd behavior.
  • Yes, as the bootloader is locked. if you let it update to 5.1.1 you'll lose that functionality & have to use Chainfire's experimental Flashfire app.
  • Obviously, you are making a comparison of a $49 quality tablet to a more expensive$150-200 Tablet. To call it junk is insidious. The case itself is more durable than most and has rounded corners. It's easy to hold and use. The specs aren't bad for the Amazon Firefox 7. It has a quad-core processor that we know is a cheap Chinese version of a more popular quad-core. 8 GB, sure not great. Once again look at the price. The display is actually pretty good. I have found the performance to be good. One reason the specs are low is because it is an inexpensive tablet, but the best "cheap tablet" probably made. Because probably of the lower specs the battery life is fantastic. I can easily use it for up to 7 hours. The micro SD card allows the storage of video or apps. However, I do not like the Amazon App Store/Underground. Therefore, I followed some instructions that I googled from YouTube and it was simple, fast, no rooting, and now I have Google Play with it's available apps, etc. There are settings you can go to that will keep the Fire from using excessive battery life. I haven't found out yet, however, how to remove the ads and the lock. They do annoy me. I am using 5th Gen 5.1.2...any suggestions on removing ads? Great Tablet for the money and not just for kids.
  • Picked one up when it was on sale for $39.99. My GF takes it to the gym and watches Netflix (instead of risking a $400 iPad Mini on the Treadmill). Want to watch Youtube or Netflix when soaking in the tub? Not bringing a $400 tablet there either.
  • If you can't watch YouTube Kids with it (no Google apps...) Then it's useless to my kids lol. Posted via the Android Central App from my pearly white Galaxy S6, black Note 3 or Nexus 7
  • 5th generation you can easily sideload google play services and google play store app with out rooting. worked well on my fire hd 8. http://www.rootjunky.com/amazon/amazon-fire-7in-5th-gen/
  • This is what i was coming here to post. I bought one for $35 on Black friday i think it was. I've installed play services, replaced the launcher to nova and removed the ads. Not a bad tablet for the price considering it was an upgrade for me from a rooted, androidafied HP Touchpad from several years ago. Even bought a pair of them for my 2 year old twins and they love watching videos during long car rides on them. ~David.
  • Does installing Play services remove the Amazon feel of the UI, or change anything like that?
  • No, it shouldn't change anything about the Amazon UI. Sideloading Play Services just allows you to install and use Google apps (like the Play Store, Hangouts, Youtube, Music, etc.). That said, I don't think I could use one of these without both side loading Play Services and changing the UI (root/Nova). I really didn't like the stock launcher, and it wasn't very intuitive for a 4 year old. Annoying that Amazon won't let you replace their launcher without root.
  • Agreed. Installing play services is a great step if that's all you need, but their UI is dreadful for how i do things. You can opt to leave it intact if it works for your purposes though. ~David
  • Thanks. Will I still receive Fire OS updates when Amazon releases them?
  • There's a Youtube app (unofficial) on the Amazon app store that works great. Plus there are any number of other unofficial Youtube apps that can be sideloaded as well.
  • I bought one when they were on sale for $39. I was not a fan of the Silk Browser, but was able to side load Firefox. The speaker is surprisingly loud on it. the ability to watch prime movies on it is great.
  • The $49 price tag is with special offers a la in-device adverts and it'll net you an extra $20-30 to buy one with no special offers. Also, heard there was a recall for the Fire tab's electrical adapter due to electrical shock risk. Not bagging on the tablet though. It's a pretty good device for the money though be warned there's a reason why there are two separate versions of it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Ouch, I have even more reasons to steer clear now. Posted via the Android Central App from my pearly white Galaxy S6, black Note 3 or Nexus 7
  • Just to be clear, the recall was for the UK adapters. No adapters for other parts of the world have been recalled AFAIK.
  • Yeah well those special offers amount to a pop up screen at start up showcasing Amazon video exclusives (so far) not a big deal at all, in fact they're slightly more exciting than an android logo or the pinwheel and can be dismissed instantly. And without google play services mucking up the system they run flawlessly. No boot loops or crashing/lagging to be found! I have about 6 bricked official android tablets setting on a shelf, 3 galaxy tab 3's (all bricked themselves within 6 months and other than not turning on or charging they are flawless) and I have 2 asus memo pads (2013 7 and 2015 8) the 7 stopped turning on/charging 3 days after I bought it. Asus fixed it but I had to pay the return shipping. The pad 8 worked great for 2 days after purchase (just enough time to set it up to my liking) before the "launcher has stopped working" messages starting popping up, then the "google play services has stopped working" messages joined in until it couldn't even get past the boot loop. Disgusted by all of it I didn't even bother sending it back for repair (same with the sammies) I just threw them all on a shelf and went out and got an iPad mini. My point is, you can spend a lot more on a tablet than this and still get the very worst android has to offer. This is a great tablet!
  • Hackdroids....lol, I call BS on that post. Its filled with more poop than a shelter full of dogs.....don't make up things to look " cool" Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have had several tablets over the years and none of them bricked on me. This is a fine tablet for media consumption and using when you don't want to risk a more expensive tablet. The specs aren't outstanding, but they aren't going to be at that price. It's a perfectly fine tablet for kids or adults looking for a rugged machine to chill and Amazon.
  • Yeah this post doesn't really make much sense. I have a toshiba thrive 10.1 tablet running a custom rom for about 4 years, an original samsung galaxy tab 10.1 that I have changed the rom on about 6 different times in 4 years, and the fire 7 on the resurrection remix rom for 3 months and all with no issues. Sounds like to me you tried rooting and didn't do a full clean flash on them for other rom's. Either that or you just did a bad hack job on all of them. Me personally if I had all of those tablets and they bricked on me with the original OS on them within the first year of owning them as you stated then I would have sent them in for manufacturer warranty. So this post is a just a big joke. You must be an apple user to post something that blatantly idiotic. Any android fan knows how to get the warranty and if you voided and bricked them by trying to flash a new OS then you should look up how to unbrick them by flashing original OS and start from scratch and do it the right way. Then again that's just my two cents.
  • Cool story bro
  • You can very easily remove the advertising and load Google play without root. Read through a tutorial somewhere online and it worked flawlessly. Took about 10 minutes. Now I have YouTube, Chrome and could change the launcher {like Nova} - although I kind of like the fire OS. Writing this on the tablet now (using SwiftKey). Nothing out there beats it for the money. Also, one of the few devices I've seen that has nearly has no battery loss in sleep mode. I've pulled it out of my bag after 6 hours with 100% battery life. I've paid more than $50 for cases for other devices... This one is pretty durable as is. I would recommend a screen protector mainly to cut down on glare.
  • The recall was for Europe only I believe
  • With the Google App Store missing it is a very hard sell. I LOVE Amazon but without Google their tablets don't do it.
  • It's easy to put Google Play on it or to sideload apps from Google Play if you prefer. Alternatively, some people report being able to put Cyanogenmod on it.
  • If you sideload apps, how do you know if they have updates?
  • I use one for comics. It's nice. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I got the 8" just for that reason. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Also, if you get this....if it tries to update upon start power it off. It probably has 5.0.1 on it and you can load Cynaogenmod on it and make it a full Google tablet. You can still with 5.1.1 but just have to go a diff way. Bootloader locked at 5.1.1.
  • I picked one up. Google Play Store is very easy to install. Well worth the 50 bucks after that.
  • I do need a cheap tablet but no Google is definitely a tough sell.. Posted via the Android Central App
  • http://www.rootjunky.com/amazon/amazon-fire-7in-5th-gen/
  • Thanks. I watched his unboxing tho and that VGA front facing camera is not gonna work for Skype or Oovoo which I also occasionally like to use. Oh well.. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Man, it is a $50 tablet from a reputable maker. What you do want then? 5MP front camera?
  • I agree that it's worth considering if you want something cheap that you don't have to worry about dropping, or something for your child to play with. Otherwise, no thank you. A regular Kindle is worth buying though, if you're a book reader.
  • What about the HD 6? It is only $100 and has slightly better specs. Better screen, better processor, better battery life. I would put Cyanogen on it anyway.
  • I think the issue may be that the 6 isn't running the same version of Fire OS as the others. Can't find a link but I remember that being an issue. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You can flash the whole thing with Cyanogenmod and have a nice android tablet. Did it to a Fire HD last week. Sent via Nexus 10 Nexus 7 2012 Nexus 7 2013 Samsung Tab s 8.4 Nexus 9 note 5 or tab 10.1 Posted via the Android Central App
  • Ah I take that back, looks like this HD 7 has not found an exploit yet to get around the bootloader. The old HD 7 2012 does http://download.cyanogenmod.org/?device=tate posted via Nexus 9, Nexus 10, Nexus 7 2012, Nexus 7 2013, Samsung Tab s 8.4, Note 5 or tab 10.1
  • My mother, who is 70, finds this easy to use. She browses and gets games from the Amazon App Store. Perfect for those who want a simple, inexpensive tablet that handles basic tasks without fault. Posted via my BlackBerry Priv
  • No thank you. I bought it for $30 on black Friday and returned it cause it really sucks. I felt bad that I was gonna give my 7 year old niece that fire tablet and ended up buying a Lenovo for $70 which it was a good decision. Posted via the Android Central App on Moto G3 16/2 on $35 Cricket wireless plan.
  • I'm waiting for an Android Tablet with official Google Play support to go $49.99. Yeah I know you can sideload it but I said OFFICIAL SUPPORT!
  • I picked it up when it was on sale for $40 and I installed CyanogenMod for it. Works great now.
  • It was one click to install Google and remove ads
  • Using it right now. I have the Google Play Store thanks to a link like the ones posted above. I am using the WiFi hotspot from my phone. It is worth more than every penny. The limitations don't bother me one bit.
  • My kids use these for playing Minecraft and other games as well as for watching Netflix, etc. and seem pretty happy with them. No major issues. Sure it's a lower quality device than most of the other tablets out there, but it's way cheaper and it gets the job done for my kids.
  • Does it perform better than the 2012 nexus 7? My kids need a new tablet to replace that but I'm cheap. Also, can you root them easily? Seems like it'd be pretty easy getting the play store on there if you can.
  • It is on par if not a little bit better than the 2012 Nexus 7. I purchased one to replace my daughter's 2012 Nexus 7 and she likes it a lot more. She loves the fact that it has a rear facing camera with your Nexus did not and the performance is about the same. If anything the performance is a little snappier Azhar Nexus 7 had developed some really bad lag even after clearing the cache and doing fresh installs of marshmallow. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I would say yes, better than the 2012, not quite as good as the 2013, and the screen quality on the 2013 nexus 7 is far far better than this. That said I have 2 just laying about for media consumption and like others got rid of amazons launcher and loaded play store.
  • I found my 2012 Nexus 7 was unusably slow due to the lousy storage they put in that device. The Fire tablet is a definite improvement. I agree that it's not quite as good or nice as the 2013 Nexus 7, but it's definitely good enough considering the cost. If you're looking for cheap, almost-disposable tablet, get the Fire (unless you can find a 2013 Nexus 7 for under $75). If you want something nicer, get a Shield K1.
  • I bought one for my daughter to replace her aging and consistently inconsistent performing Nexus 7 when they are on sale for 40 bucks a couple weeks ago. I was able to install the Google Play Store and eliminates the Fire launcher and install Nova instead all without requiring me to root the device. This is probably the best 40 bucks that I have spent in a long time. And honestly because I was able to get it from Best Buy I had $35 worth of Reward Zone certificates so this tablet cost me all of $5. My daughter loves it and has been enjoying it ever since she got it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Got one for my daughter on black Friday for $35. It's been rock solid, she's put a bunch of stuff on it and it's ran great. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Throw CM on it and it's pretty awesome right? :) Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not possible at the moment.
  • Yes, it is. Running CM 12.1 on mine right now.
  • Man, the High-brow haters are mad in here today: I have 1 of these for my son. Plays Minecraft as good as my newer model nexus 7. The screen is actually pretty nice (way better than any other sub $100 tablet). And the battery life is good as well. I sell tablets at my work, Everything from garbage $35 Azpen and crap brands to Samsung Tab S2, Nexus 7's and 10's, and the whole line of ASUS and Acer. I bought the fire tab more or less to check it out. Well worth it. If you arn't going to dish out for a $150 or higher premium tablet, there is no other option that the fire tab. Seriously, open up your minds to the possibility that you can still get a good product at a good price (although i'm sure its highly subsidized)
  • Got one at $39 a while back. Great little device. I'm kinda irritated I OTA'd it out of the box, and now I can't put CM on it, but hey, for $39, I'll deal with FireOS. Amazon has to be losing on this hardware, making it back on purchases. I guess the root community forced Amazon to lock it down. Can't blame them, they are looking for an ROI. Once you put CM on it, they get nothing. Sounds fair to use it as they intend, ads and all (it's not a huge deal). It's really just a travel Prime Video (tons on the SD card) machine. Saves my phone's battery on cross country flights. Works for me!
  • I installed Play store and it didn't require a root. Besides having play store and the apps I have been able to install from there, it seems to operate as stock.
  • Nice 50 dollar tablet for kodi
  • Hey all Quick question for those of you who have this tablet and have experience with the original kindle fire tablet. I have the original given to me as a hand me down, worth it be worth 'upgrading' if I could catch one on the next black friday sale?
  • I have an HDX 7" and this fire actually compares pretty well. I wouldn't call it an "upgrade", it's definitely not better, but not noticeably slower either and I really don't notice the lower resolution.
  • Got one for free and installed CM12.1 on it. It's like a Mini version of the iPad 2+ with more DRAM, better performance and very good battery life. Considering it's free to low cost I can overlook the resolution and it requiring more skin for touch input. Overall, a very usable device for the money.
  • I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0 stuck on Kit Kat. I paid $179.99 (or maybe $149.99) for it. Don't use it much. The slow(er) performance and meh display means it usually loses out to my G4 or ASUS Q552 2-in-1 (the latter running a Skylake i7 behind a gorgeous IPS display). Even this G3 is preferable for web browser and streaming. For what was originally a $200-ish tablet, I'm not impressed. We also have an iPad Mini 2 we paid $239 for. It has a better display and is faster than the Galaxy Tab, but I don't like iOS and hate the size/dimensions. I have too much purchased content in the Play Store to buy even the cheapest Amazon tablet. I buy from Play because I always have Google Opinion Rewards credits I can use. The other place I buy from is Vudu because Vudu works on every screen in the house (even the stupid iPad). Once my Tab dies or just becomes too damn old, I'll think about replacing it. I'm still not much of a tablet guy so I have a hard time justifying the $200+ one has to spend these days for a decent tablet. The other turn off is the lack of OS upgrades for tablets (though surprisingly my Tab 4 7.0 got the January security update). Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's really easy to put the Play store on this Kindle. I now have 2, one cost $35, the other $40. For the price, you can't beat them!
  • Did you just side load?
  • I have to agree. This is a great low end tablet that works really well. I have one and it far exceeds the $50 price tag in value. That doesn't mean it is the best thing out there, but it is well worth the $50. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I love my Fire and have all the Google services installed with out root. Battery life and stand by time is great. It's the best $35 I've spent in years.It has become my go to road tablet. It's not a power house but,it doesn't have to be. To anyone out there I say if you want something small and cheap, pick on up and put the Google services on it and you got something. I love mine.
  • I got one for my daughter, and she seems to enjoy it. My nieces seem to enjoy theirs as well, and it looks like it could be a decent spare - even if you decided to keep it stock.
  • I'm thinking of getting one for the garage for when I work on our cars. I can use the Internet for help and use the camera to take pics. Like someone else mentioned it would be good for the gym as well. If I drop and break it in the garage or gym I'm only out $50. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I got one when they were $35 because I figured why not, and I have to say, it's impressive. The downside is no Google, but I hear it's easy to add. If the screen was a little better, it would be perfect for that price. Pictures, videos, and games all seem fine, but the text...not so good.
  • I've got one of these I snagged on the Black Friday $25 deal. It's not a bad device. I was able to easily sideload Google services onto it, and it became much more useful (my books typically live in Google Play Books, which is the main thing I use a tablet for.)
  • The Amazon Appstore isn't that bad? Are you high? It's awful. Without Google apps, this thing is a paperweight. Amazon Prime video service is worse than Netflix, which is hard to do. In a world where screens near six inches are now the norm, tablets have become unnecessary no matter how cheap.
  • Not after just reading the disabled all encryption if that is correct. Check out slashdot for the article.
  • Politically incorrect: Encryption would slow down this baby. Probably why. Otherwise, compelling. But what if one lives outside the USA. Tried to get Prime. Need a USA credit card. Tried to purchase content. Need a USA credit card if available at all outside USA. I can use my normal card for any and all other Amazon purchases. So maybe get one, root it, and put a normal Android on it.
  • Rooted it day one and disabled all the junk, not elite type performance but definitely night and day. Highly recommend the SlimLP rom
  • Fire 5.2.1 killed the ability to root. Not sure if anyone got working again.
  • I think you meant 5.1.2
    I rooted and installed alternate ROM on two Fire 5.1.2 tablets. Takes a bit more effort, but it is still quite a simple process. Installed Nexus ROM in one, and the SlimROM in the other. Have to use KingRoot to root, then remove KR from tablet, then use FlashFire to flash in the new ROM
  • I bought one and I'm very satisfied, mines running on cm 12.1 android lollipop, hence I have a full Google Android device for $49
  • I should buy one to be the living room tablet. Use it to cast to my Chromecast or control my firestick. Also as the BT device to my soundbar...
  • Article was convincing. Went to Amazon. Out of stock :( Probably for the best, I don't really need it.
  • You can easily get Google Play on the Amazon Fire 5.0 ($49 version mentioned). Follow the instructions: http://www.howtogeek.com/232726/how-to-install-the-google-play-store-on-...
    Very easy to follow and it completely changes the use of this tablet. For $49, it's totally worth it.
  • Man you can't beat these for the price. It's a great backup device, but I've found I leave my Galaxy Note Pro home more and more, and only take the Fire with me.