June 12, 2017
Much improved screen!
It turns out that the $49.95 Fire 7 version released two years ago didn't have an IPS screen.
Now it does.
Technically, both the old one and this new one are just 171 ppi (pixels per inch) but this one seems much "crisper" than the first generation "$49-er".
My eyes don't lie. IPS makes the screen a lot crisper!
There's also a stunning improvement in color quality with the new screen. Now it holds its own with the 62% color gamut original iPad Mini; before, it wasn't anywhere near.
Mind you it's not current Apple screen quality, or current high-end Samsung screen quality - but what is? It's only $49.95, and it's good enough. Heck, at $49.95, its MORE than "good enough", it's great. It blows away just about any entry level consumer laptop screen, that's for sure.
I pulled out my 2015 first-gen, $49.95 Fire 7 - the one this replaces - and placed it side by side with this new one. The colors (including a horrific green tint on white backgrounds) on the old one weren't video-worthy - ok for casual videos on Facebook and YouTube, maybe, but not good enough for Netflixing and Amazon Prime.
This new one, though? It's movie-worthy, especially with earphones (ok, ONLY with earphones). I'd prefer 720p over the Fire 7's 600p (600p is better than 480p DVD's, but not ask good as even entry-level - 720p - HDTV quality), but overall even at 600p it's eminently watchable.
By the way, for me streaming video content on Amazon Prime Instant Video has been noticeably sharper than streaming YouTube. I think Amazon Prime adapts to 600p (max for this tablet) while YouTube is is probably delivering only 480p (remember YouTube's defaults are 360p/480p/720p and up).
So the short-and-sweet advice is try this out on your favorite video sources when you get it, and make sure you are getting the video quality you want; also, use Netflix's Fast dot com web site to check your internet download speeds. If they aren't high, even Amazon Prime won't be able to deliver sharp video.
Tip: due to the limited 1gb of onboard RAM, try not to multi-task for zippy performance. After my Fire OS updates were completed (which slows down everything while they are downloading), there was no lag in ANY app, so long as I wasn't background running another app (like music).
Tip: there's only one really usable brightness setting, and that's all the way up. This is not a screen with "extra" brightness in reserve. The best tablet experience with this is setting the brightness level to "11."
Tip: if you don't have a spare lying around, order this with at least a 16gb Class 10/UH1 micro SD card (I like Samsung Evo Select currently under $15 for 32gb). Go into Settings (or follow the alert that pops up) and have apps and content default store to the micro SD card - Amazon now allows downloaded videos and books to go there, making the 8gb model very usable. At just $49.95 and with the ability to download both Netflix and Amazon Prime movies and TV, you shouldn't fly without this.
Tip: there's only $10 difference between the 16gb version of this new Fire 7, and the entry level of the brand new 2017 Fire HD 8 - which already comes with 16gb, PLUS 1.5 gb RAM vs. 1gb on the Fire 7, PLUS actual HD video quality (720p). So for a mere $10 more you get a whole lot more.
Of course if you can live with 8gb storage - I have my tricks! - nothing beats $49.95.
Tip: GREAT for kids since Amazon says it survives drops better than even an iPad Mini, AND Amazon has the best kid control settings in the business. $49.95 vs. a couple hundred dollars counts for a LOT too. BUT Apple continues to rule the roost in terms of maximum number of education and game apps for kids.
Tip: the speaker IS adequate especially if you cup your hands behind it to reflect the sound forward. BUT you are better served by a budget AmazonBasics Bluetooth speaker, or by earphones. The AmazonBasics won't sound THAT much better, but it WILL be easier to hear and easier to hold the tablet; with earphones, you'll think the tablet cost several hundred dollars! (That's thanks to the magic earphones work vs. tiny built in speakers on ANY tablet.)
Tip: screen resolution is about the same as the entry-level Amazon Kindle E-reader, so apart from the E-reader's unparalleled ability to deal with bright sunlight without washing out the screen, you are probably better off with this more versatile $49.95 Fire 7 table than the $59.95 (current sale price) E-reader.
Tip: "blue light control" saves your sleeping if you Kindle read a lot; just select the option from the swipe-down menu on the home screen.
KUDOS: really compact, useful, and safe charger (it's Amazon, not mystery-sourced). It only puts out 5 watts (some phone chargers on low-end phones actually put out less!) but it's plenty for the modest battery in this $49.95 tablet. It seems very well built, works with the other phones and tablets I have (both Apple and Android), and the cable (detachable) that comes with it feels really solid and sturdy. Nothing flimsy or fly by night here.
CAVEAT: You do know this won't run classic Google apps or Apple apps (like Music), right? (Yeah some users "hack" it do do so, but I'm talking about the rest of us.) This limitation is just Amazon going it's own way. Fire OS is a legal "clone" of Android 5.1.1, a solid Android release, with Amazon "skinning" (putting its own book cover on) the usual Android home screen etc.. Amazon has been very good about security and version updates with Fire OS, BUT I and many others long for the day, hopefully not too far in the future, when Amazon bites the bullet and releases regular Android on an Amazon tablet. And, btw, when that day comes, I hope it's still $49.95, but gets a bump to 720p. What a sales success that would be! (And by all accounts Amazon ALREADY has huge sales success with Fire tablets.)
KUDOS: Alexa! You have to hold the button though, it's not always listening like a standalone Alexa speaker.
This is 5 star if you don't care about Google and are a big Amazon fan, 3 star if you love Google apps and think Amazon turns the Fire line into "all Amazon shopping, all the time" sales tool, and for me about 4.5 star based on its price, build quality, and durability. A good $49.95 tablet is now great thanks to the IPS addition to the screen!