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Amazon Fire tablet review: 2017 upgrade on the way

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The Amazon Fire tablet has been upgraded for 2017, and it now has Alexa support

News: Amazon Fire tablet gets Alexa support

Good news! That Amazon Fire tablet we already know and love, has seen a 2017 upgrade. The best part about it? Alexa comes as standard, straight out of the box.

It’s a feature we’ve been asking for for a while, and while this new 2017 Fire tablet doesn’t seem to improve much else, Alexa looks to be well worth the upgrade. This may be a great, cheap alternative to that other Amazon device they’ve only just announced – the Echo Show.

READ NEXT: All you need to know about new Fire 7 and Fire HD 8

Now, it’s basically the same tablet through and through – which is good considering the 2016 model is no longer available. Pre-orders are already live, and you’ll be able to pick up the 2017 Amazon Fire tablet on 7 June for £40. Expect my updated Amazon Fire tablet review in due course.

Buy Amazon Fire 7 now

Amazon Fire tablet review

Amazon might be primarily known for internet shopping, but it also produces some of the best tablets and e-readers you can buy – and the brand-new Amazon Fire continues the trend. Previously called the Amazon Kindle Fire, the new Amazon Fire comes with a doubled-up 16GB of storage, and costs only £10 more than the original, 8GB version of the Amazon tablet. Oh, and it also adds some fresh new colours to the back of the tablet for more colour. So, it may be cheap and colourful, but is it worth buying? Read our in-depth review of the 2015 Amazon Fire tablet to find out.

Amazon Fire tablet review: Performance

When the tablet launched, it shipped with just 8GB of storage, although there was a microSD slot to upgrade storage space. This is handy, particularly as a 32GB microSD card can be bought for less than £10. Ultimately, twice the storage for £10 more is worth it, and 16GB is enough storage for light use and web browsing, whereas 8GB is really not enough.

Start using the Fire, however, and it’s clear to see how Amazon has been able to make it so cheap. There might be a quad-core processor running at 1.3GHz, but it’s beyond sluggish. In Peacekeeper, a test of browser performance, the Fire could only manage a pitiful 283 – easily the worst score of any tablet Expert Reviews saw in 2015, and a quarter of what Tesco’s £100 Hudl 2 is capable of. Even the three-year-old Nexus 7 managed over 100 points more overall. This translates to choppy scrolling, particularly on media-heavy web pages, with lots of re-draws if you have multiple tabs open at once. It doesn’t help that you’re forced to use Silk, Amazon’s own web browser, as Google apps such as Chrome aren’t available. It has most of the features you would expect, but performance doesn’t come close.

Amazon Fire (2015) - rear

Everyday performance suffers on account of the underpowered chipset too. Geekbench single- and multi-core results of 356 and 1,143 respectively are among the lowest scores seen from a 2015 device, again falling behind the Hudl 2. Loading even simple apps can take several seconds, as will opening the Recent menu or returning to the homescreen. At first it’s easy to think you simply didn’t tap the right place onscreen, but after a while it’s clear the device simply can’t keep up with your inputs. Once you’re in apps things are mostly smooth, but animations and transitions are still disappointingly choppy.

Unsurprisingly, it’s a similar story when it comes to graphics. The Fire refused to run GFXBench at all, and effects-heavy games such as Blizzard’s Hearthstone stutter dramatically during gameplay. Simply drawing a card from your hand can cause slowdown at times, so this certainly won’t be the device to play 3D titles such as Grand Theft Auto III. Less-demanding 2D games will be smoother, but you’ll still have to wait a while for them to load.

Amazon Fire (2015) - ports

At least battery life isn’t abysmal. With the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2, the Fire managed 8hrs 43mins of video playback. This is about average for a 7in tablet, so for general use you should be able to last a full day away from home without having to reach for a mains socket.

Amazon Fire tablet review: Design

In addition to more memory, Amazon has also introduced magenta, tangerine and blue colours. They’re nice and bright, and certainly look much more fun than the traditional black version. This may be important if you’re planning on buying a tablet for a child. While it’s good to see these changes, they don’t materially change my opinion of the tablet or affect its performance, as you can see from the rest of my review.

It doesn’t even look bargain-basement when you take it out of the box. Yes, the screen bezels are a little on the chunky side, and it’s surprisingly heavy given the size, but otherwise it’s actually not bad at all. The matt plastic finish on the back is actually preferable to the glossy fingerprint magnet on the back of the Fire HD 10.

Amazon Fire tablet colour options

Amazon Fire tablet review: Display & Camera

The Fire was never going to have an amazing screen, given its bargain-basement price, so in many ways a meagre 59.3% sRGB colour gamut coverage isn’t surprising. It’s easily one of the lowest scores seen from a tablet, and twenty percent behind the Hudl 2. It’s a similar story in our other objective tests, with a fairly average maximum brightness of 330.2cd/m2 and a rather high 0.34cd/m2 black level that leaves darker images looking rather grey and milky. A contrast ratio of 959:1 isn’t terrible, however; it means images and video have a surprising amount of depth, even if the colours aren’t very accurate. Subjectively, the screen looks very grainy, and while viewing angles are respectable, the very low 1,024 x 600 resolution makes text look blocky and difficult to read in smaller fonts.

It doesn’t exactly paint photos taken with the 2-megapixel rear camera in the best light, but then the sensor is fairly atrocious anyway. Outdoors, images are seriously lacking in detail and colours look very washed out. Everything appears incredibly grainy and zooming into any photo reveals noise and artefacts. There is an HDR mode, but it takes around a second to capture an image, making camera shake something of an issue, and the results aren’t any more lifelike than photos taken with HDR disabled.

Amazon Fire (2015) - photo test (outdoors 1, auto)

Unsurprisingly there’s no flash, so you’re reliant on natural light when shooting indoors. As soon as you dim the lights, noise levels fly through the roof and details plummet. It struggled to find any texture in the Expert Reviews still life when the lamps were switched off, leaving massive parts of the image in shadow. With the lights on results were a little better, but basically any modern smartphone will have a superior camera sensor.

Amazon Fire (2015) - photo test (indoors, no light)

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