Amazon on Wednesday refreshed its most popular Fire tablets, launching updated versions of the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8. Both devices can be preordered now, with shipping starting in early June.
As before, they're both dirt cheap. The Fire 7 costs $50, while the Fire HD 8 now starts at $80, down from its usual $90.
The upgrades are modest. Amazon says the new Fire 7 is a pinch lighter and thinner than the last model — now 10.4 ounces and 9.6 millimeters thick, versus 11 ounces and 10.6 millimeters — and will have slightly better battery life this time around (eight hours per charge, up from seven).
Amazon is adding dual-band Wi-Fi support, too, though there's still nothing for faster 802.11ac connections. The tablets also come in red, blue, and yellow, as well as the standard black.
Most notably, Amazon says the Fire 7's 7-inch display will have "sharper text" and higher contrast, so it should look a bit more vibrant. That said, it's not upgrading from a very good display, and Amazon says the screen's resolution will stay at a fairly low 1024 x 600. We'll have to see how it holds up in testing.
Other than that, all the Fire 7's vitals are the same. You still get the same matte plastic design with the same processor, 1 GB of RAM, and Amazon-heavy software that was on the previous models, Alexa support and all. It should run like the last model, which is to say decent for a $50 tablet.
The Fire HD 8, meanwhile, looks to be nearly the same as before — it's just $10 cheaper and comes in new colors. You can now add a little more storage with a microSD card, but otherwise, compared with the Fire 7, your extra $30 goes toward a bigger and sharper 8-inch, 1280 x 800 display; a beefier 1.5 GB of RAM; up to 12 hours of battery life; and more starting storage. (The Fire 7 comes in 8 GB and 16 GB options, and the Fire HD 8 gets you 16 GB or 32 GB of space.)
Amazon is also refreshing the Kids Edition of the Fire 7 ($99) and introducing one for the Fire HD 8 ($129). Those come with more durable designs, deeper parental controls, and a year's subscription to the company's kid-friendly FreeTime Unlimited content service. Each comes with a two-year warranty, too, so you can replace it if your kid goes wild.
Amazon says its biggest tablet, the 1o-inch Fire HD 10, will stick around, but it's not getting any upgrades now.
The main reason to get any of these is still price. Previous iterations of these slates, the Fire 7 in particular, have been popular enough to send Amazon flying up the sales charts at a time when the market for traditional tablets has slowed. The company now sits fourth in overall market share, according to the research firm IDC, though its once massive growth has dipped.
These Fire tablets are not "premium" like the iPad or Microsoft Surface Pro. Instead, they're Trojan horses — their software makes it easy to buy things from Amazon's online store and use first-party services like Alexa and Prime Video, so Amazon wants to get them onto as many couches as possible.
The upshot for consumers is that even if you ignore all the Amazon stuff, the last Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 were competent enough to be a good value for anyone who uses their tablet only for casual reading and video viewing. The former should be a bit better now, but we'll see if Amazon hasn't saturated the market.
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