Amazon Fire (2015) Tablet Review: You Get a Lot More than $50 Worth

I received the Amazon Fire tablet last week via UPS. I was super excited about it because I’ve been dealing with a tablet that only has 512MB of RAM and a 1 Ghz processor, so, incase your not tech savvy, that’s pretty slow. I mean, it’s a good tablet, but it’s not great.

I greeted the UPS guy with a shake of my hand as he ran back to his truck to deliver more packages. It was 10:00AM. I was unboxing the tablet on RE:boot at 3:00PM. That’s 5 hours. It was hard.

But then the hour came, and I was all geared up for the unboxing of a life time. Let me just say this, I probably shouldn’t use the term “unboxing” because the tablet comes in an envelope, so it was more of an “unenveloping”. But anyway, getting back to the “unenveloping”, I went over the specs and the features of the Fire tablet and how I got mine for only $35 – wait, I don’t have to tell you guys all of this. Here’s the actual stream of me opening up my new Fire tablet:

Yeah, I’m “excited” right?

Anyway, after the stream ended, I started toying around with it, downloading a few apps, and checking out the screen. First of all, the screen is pretty. It’s a 7 inch 1024×600 display with an IPS panel for great viewing angles, and that’s the truth: the viewing angles on this thing are fantastic! Of course, it’s no QHD display due to the fact that you can see pixels on this tablet while reading text or just looking at the screen closely and 1024×600 doesn’t equal QHD anyway (obviously). Plus, the tablet’s $50, and Amazon had to cut a few corners to make it that affordable. I just kinda wish they put in a 1280×800 display, because with a mixture of that and an IPS panel, you’d have a pretty banging screen on your 7 inch $50 tablet. Graphic-heavy games look pretty good on the display for $50 (I’m gonna be saying $50 a lot in this review, because you have to remember this thing is $50 and was on sale for $35) and reading magazines is quite a pleasure. I love the animation they give you when turing the page.

It’s much more enjoyable when seeing it in person, however.

I’ve started to read a few books on this tablet as well, and that’s one of the main purposes of buying an Amazon device, right? And boy it’s nice! I have a 4th generation Kindle (no touch screen or anything, just a whole lotta buttons!) and I love to read on it because of how light it is and how good the screen looks. I don’t really miss it. I mean, this tablet is significantly heavier than my Kindle, but the screen isn’t much different. So if having an Amazon tablet means giving up Google Play and all for a great reading experience plus all the functionality of an Android Lollipop tablet, count me in!

Nice and clear!

There’s also this thing called “Blue Shade” Amazon just introduced in Fire OS 5.1.1 (we’ll dig more into Fire OS later) which adjusts the colors, contrast, and brightness of your Fire tablet to better suite your eyes while reading in dark environments such as your bed before going to sleep at night. I tried it for around 30 minutes one night, and I really liked it.

Here’s an example of how Blue Shade affects the book or magazine (or anything for that matter) you’re viewing. Try looking at this image in a dark environment for the best experience and appreciation of this really nifty feature.

Looking at Blue Shade is kind of like looking in an old, yellowy-tinted book that’s been in your grandmother’s attic since you were a child 60 years ago. But it’s really comfortable for your eyes at night, because studies say we shouldn’t look at bright, vivid colors and screens before going to sleep at night, but looking at certain colors and brightness settings is okay. And that’s Amazon’s goal with this cool feature: making reading enjoyable whenever you want to get lost in your favorite book. I really like Blue Shade, and I’m glad Amazon’s still focused on their roots: books.

But, looking beyond the books and magazines prospective of the Fire tablet, what you’re getting is a pretty much full-fledged Android 5.1 Lollipop tablet. The only problem with that statement is it’s not entirely an Android 5.1 Lollipop tablet. Well, I guess you could say it is – wait, nope. Well…

Okay, let’s get things straight. All of Amazon’s devices run a version of Android known as Fire OS which is build entirely off of Android. Their latest version of Fire OS, Bellini, is based off of Android 5.1 Lollipop, which brings material design to Amazon’s lineup of tablets. I really like the magazine-type interface on the Home screen. Plus, it’s very responsive.

Screenshot_2015-12-18-10-40-48 Screenshot_2015-12-18-10-40-56



Well, you get the picture.

I demonstrated how smooth it was during the live stream I did after unboxing the tablet on RE:boot. It’s very unique and, in my opinion, it’s one of the tablet’s shining features.

This tablet also has it’s own unique features thanks to Fire OS 5, like easy access to all of Amazon’s services (obviously), it’s own app store which, sadly, isn’t as extensive as the Google Play Store, Amazon Underground where you can download thousands of paid apps for free (yup, it’s legal!), and much more like Amazon-customized speed optimizations to make the tablet perform at it’s best, a simplified user interface, and easily-accessible parental controls.

There’s also this feature that Amazon will let you have or pay extra to get rid of, and that’s sponsored lock screens. What these are are just advertisements on your tablet’s lock screen that immediately disappear when unlocking the tablet, and even then they don’t get in your way.

Screenshot (Dec 18, 2015 11_08_17 AM)
An example of a sponsored lock screen

As soon as you swipe up on that screen, the ad disappears and doesn’t return until you need to unlock your device once again. They’re not annoying at all, but a lot of people can’t stand them. That’s why, for an extra $15 at checkout, Amazon will send you a tablet without the sponsored lock screens, but seriously, are they so bad that you need to spend an extra $15 on top of that $50 your already spending for the tablet? I don’t understand why people don’t like them. Maybe it’s because the device doesn’t become as personal anymore or something with the ads on, but whatever the reason, it doesn’t bother me.

This tablet comes equipped with a Quad-core ARM Cortex A7 1.3 GHz processor with 1 GB of RAM, and boy does it perform well! I’ve played many graphic-heavy games on this tablet, like Real Racing 3 and Madden NFL Mobile, and there was only a few occasions when I saw a slight hiccup, but doesn’t every Android device stutter every now and then?

This tablet also handles multiple open applications like a champ thanks to that 1 GB of RAM and quad-core processor combo.

Screenshot (Dec 18, 2015 11_24_38 AM)
Like a boss, baby!

The OS is also to thank for the speed and smoothness of this tablet, so kudos to you, Amazon! You’ve done well again!

However it is nice and smooth most of the time, I did notice a slight delay in opening apps once in a while, especially when opening Silk Browser, the built-in web browser. It takes around 3 seconds to open, which I don’t really mind, but I thought it’d be worth a note.

I ran Geekbench on this tablet and was quite surprised with the scores. Here’s some screenshots of the results I got back:






1156 for a multi-core score isn’t bad at all for a $50 tablet! My other tablet, the Chromo Inc. 7 inch Android 4.4 tablet which also costs $50, had a multi-core score of about 250, so you can see the difference in quality between the two. Oh yeah, you can thank that 1.3 Ghz quad-core processor and 1 GB of RAM for that score, too.

Battery life, by the way, is fantastic! It’s a 2890 mAh battery, and I’m able to get through a full day, starting at 100% battery, with light use, like checking emails, Twitter, and Instagram every now and then along with some web surfing, and still have around 30% battery before I go to sleep at night. However, with heavy use, like lots of gaming and graphic-intense applications, you may wanna plug in sooner or later, as the battery will drain about twice as fast, but you still get pretty decent battery life on it no matter which way you go. Amazon advertises 7 hours of mixed use, and that’s pretty on point. However, if you’re really careful with the battery, you could potentially get like 10 hours of battery out of this little guy.

Yeah, it’s that good.

And hey, before we go, let’s talk about the cameras. On the back, there’s a 2MP shooter, and on the front we’ve got a VGA cam. The rear camera is decent for a tablet as tablets never really care about capturing good pictures (unless it’s an iPad…), but this one is good. It’s no 4K 30MP camera, but it gets the job done.

That’s a little gallery of some photos I took outside with the front and rear cameras. As you can see, if you have the right amount of light and your really stable, the pictures comes out pretty good. This camera does feature HDR, but the pictures taken with it on don’t come out that nice.

The pictures tend to come out a little washed out, and the colors don’t pop as much as they do when HDR is off. Therefore, I suggest not using this feature often as it doesn’t work very well at all.

All in all, this is an amazing tablet and user experience. You couldn’t ask for more for $50 (or in my case, $35), but be warned, you’re not getting a $500 tablet experience. Of course, Amazon could make this tablet a lot better than this, but they’d have to increase the price significantly. However, they do keep to their vow that they’ve reinvented the $50 tablet. I really love it, and it’s now my tablet of choice, not force, as I could go out and buy a $500 one and still love this little thing.

Leave a comment if you agree with me!