My little Black Friday gift for myself arrived last week, Amazon’s latest Fire tablet, priced normally for $49.99 with special offers (I got mine for $34.99). So far I’m pretty happy with it (though considering I’m making the jump from a first generation Fire to a fifth generation, that’s not too surprising).
If you’re still on the fence about it, here’s my rough assessment after several days of playing with it:
- My big excitement for this tablet was the SD card slot. I put a 64GB card in mine, and I have never been able to carry around more entertainment (mostly comic books) in one device.
- Battery life seems really good when just reading (with WiFi off). Getting around the 8 hours I expect. About 4-5 hours to fully charge.
- Quad-core performance makes gaming and especially internet browsing practical for the first time (I judge tablets by laptop standards in this respect). Loving Monument Valley.
- Hoopla, my library’s digital lending app for comics, magazines, books, movies and music works well. It didn’t work on my Android, Old Fire or my wife’s HD. Great way to read Batman’s No Man’s Land for free.
- Speakers are loud enough so that I can listen to Car Talk even with highway noise. Manual volume control buttons are nice.
- The comics I have loaded on the SD card (PDF’s) do not save their place when re-opened. I may be able to side-load onto the card to correct this problem, but the old Fire never had this issue.
- Took my computers a WHILE to recognize this device and communicate with it for transferring files. Still doesn’t see all the files transferred even though the device shows they are there.
- There are a lot of tracking features that I had to turn off. The “Find my Fire” feature is a nice idea, but Amazon doesn’t need to know where I am or what I’m doing at all times.
- Brightness on the low setting is still very bright in bed. Blinding my wife is not received well.
- The ads are pervasive, present not only on the front screen, but all the sub-category screens as well. There are some direct links for taking you only to content on your device and I would highly recommend using those instead (books, videos, music icons on the home screen NOT the text at the top). I am honestly considering paying to get rid of them.
- All Fires (including my old one) seem less inclined to recognize .MOBI’s or even AZW3’s bought from other places as books (they get consigned to the Documents folder).
- Shopping icons cannot be removed from front screen (but they can be consigned to a folder I’ll never look at).
- The resolution is not HD (1024×600) which is the same as my old Fire. However, since I optimized most of my comics for this resolution I actually saw this as a benefit (this is why having DRM free backups from Comixology rocks). I’ve seen higher resolution tablets, and they’re very nice, but I don’t feel like this is lacking.
- $34.99 was a great deal, but I needed to add a purchase to get the $35 free shipping. No surprise there.
- The interface is closer to Android which is probably a good thing. There are some things about the original Fire interface that I thought were simpler and easier to use, but the Android is more universal.
- Camera’s not great, but taking photos with a 7″ tablet of any stripe is kinda clunky anyway. Good for Skype. Probably not something I’d use that much.
- Apps drain the battery faster, as does a lot of internet usage. But that’s been true with almost any tablet that exists.
- Case back is plastic, but seems really solid.
Even at $49.99 this is a great deal, and at $34.99 it was a no brainer. Be prepared for Amazon to try to make up that cost by selling you something. This is a loss-leader, no doubt about it. For most users this will be a great device, some may want to spring for the higher resolution HD’s or HDX’s.