The Fire HD 7 is the latest in the long-running Fire line of LCD ereaders. Amazon has taken great pains to make this new model lighter, smaller, and more robust and, for my money, I’d say that this $139 reader is the best dedicated reader on the market, barring the e-ink Kindle line. Let’s look under the hood.
- 7 inch 216 ppi 1280×800 pixel display
- 11.9 ounces
- Up to 16GB internal storage
- Eight Hour Battery Life
- MSRP: $139
- Product info page
- Solid entry-level e-reader
- Beautiful screen
- Not much different from the previous generation
- No compelling reason to upgrade
Meet the new Fire, (almost) the same as the old Fire. Amazon has upped the screen size slightly on their entry-level tablet product and now offers some clever colors for the kids and those who are tired of plain old black. The pink, with which we were graced, looks like something straight out of the 1980s and the bright yellow case they included made it look like Crockett and Tubbs probably read Bonfire Of The Vanities on this thing.
This is, to be clear, a standard tablet. It has a great screen, it has Amazon’s unique support and content apps, and it runs a number of Android apps including productivity tools. But it’s not quite on the cutting edge in terms of productivity. I love this as a reader, I love it less as a tablet.
Does that preclude you from considering this as a first tablet for an entry-level or inexperienced user? Absolutely not. Amazon does a great job of creating a simple and very usable experience and there is a reason they’ve cornered the reader market: they know exactly how to do it without skimping on support or quality. None of the features are particularly notable – the Silk browser works fine, the camera is usable, the information management and email tools are just fine – but they all work well together well. It’s a tablet that “just works” and thanks to the specially skinned Android it “just works” really well.
The new Fire runs Fire OS 4.0, code-named Sangria. What does this mean? It means slightly snappier performance, better app control, and some improved integration with X-Ray for viewing in-book content and Goodreads for sharing your reading habits. It’s a good upgrade and should appear on older Fires (where supported) in the next few weeks.
The new OS is based on Android KitKat and also includes improved streaming features and “Prediction,” a system that predicts which TV and movies you want to watch next. It also improves battery life although eight hours of constant use is pretty much the norm.
While Amazon likes to talk up the productivity features, especially in the Fire HDX line, I doubt you will get much work done on this thing. As a media stream and reader, however, it is excellent, and the $139 price makes it a steal. Considering the Nexus 7 still costs $199 if you’re looking for a thin and light tablet with amazing support and just enough features to keep you busy, this is the one to get. If you’re looking for a pure Android experience, the Galaxy Tab might be a better fit.
The dedicated e-reader is an endangered species. While I still feel the standard e-ink Kindle is the best tool for reading, users are asking for more and they are, in droves, turning to their phones to get it. Samsung’s Galaxy Note and Apple’s new iPhone 6 Plus are both devices aimed squarely at the smaller tablet market and, as a new phablet user, I am torn constantly between a bigger screen and the convenience of not carrying and charging an entirely separate device.
That said, this is a great reading device. You can buy it for almost anyone – a kid, a grandma, a dad – and allow Amazon to support them remotely. It makes reading and viewing video very easy and it has a number of interesting music features. Be warned: you will be trapped squarely in Amazon’s walled garden and, while that might not bother most, it could be unnerving to some. The tablet is nearly unusable without an Amazon account and I don’t think you’d ever want to use it without one.
This is a great Christmas gift for a reader who wants to move from paper to pixels. It’s not a great tablet, but it’s another great e-reader from Amazon.