Showing posts with label Fire 7. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fire 7. Show all posts

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Thoughts on Amazon's refresh of the Fire 7 & Fire HD 8

Amazon announced an incremental update to their Fire tablets. The Fire 7, released in Autumn 2015, gets an expected update. Amazon keeps the resolution the same (1024 X 600) but with an improved IPS screen that comes with better contrast and clarity. Other upgrades include a decrease in tablet weight and a bump in battery life to 'up to 8 hours'. Surprisingly there was no Fire 10 HD update, despite the HD 10 being released at the same time as the original Fire 7. The 10 HD also features less prominently on Amazon.com and this might mean it will be gradually discontinued. The Fire 10 HD is priced closer to a mid-range tablet and with more attractive alternative, from other vendors, Amazon may now exclusively target the budget end of the tablet market.

The surprise was in a supposed 'update' of the Fire HD 8, considering the Fire HD 8 was only updated late 2016. Despite Amazon's claim of an 'all new' Fire HD 8, there is no upgrade here and the near identical HD 8 2017 only brings the possibility to use a microSD slot for up to 256 GB of expandable storage. While Alexa comes with the 2017 HD 8, it will also gradually roll-out to the previous generation of Fire 7 and HD 8. In other words, this is a marketing gimmick to attract more users to Amazon Prime, rather than an attempt to convince owners of the previous generation to 'upgrade' their hardware (it may be argued that Amazon does not aim to convince users to purchase their hardware updates since the release of the Fire 7 and focusing on the budget end of the tablet market).

The goal, in this marketed refresh, it appears, is to make the Fire HD 8 even more attractive to first time users by further discounting the price of the tablet. The difference between the entry Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 is now £30 but this gets the user a larger screen, higher resolution, twice the storage (16 GB in contrast to the entry 8 GB with the Fire 7), more RAM, dual Dolby Atmos speakers and significantly better battery life. If the 2016 release was a success, I predict the Fire HD 8 to do even better and attract more users to Amazon's services.

There is no turning back to the more premium HDX line of tablets. The goal now is to get users - in a family-centric approach - to subscribe to Amazon Prime via different hardware mediums. For example, Prime Video is not available, at the moment in the Google Play store, and needs to be side-loaded to be installed. I think this is an intentional strategy to encourage users to access Amazon content via Fire tablets that are meant to offer a user-friendly 'out of the box' integration of the Amazon eco-system.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Review of Amazon Fire 7: A good value second tablet

If you come with the realistic expectations then the Amazon Fire 7 is a good value tablet. In terms of performance, the device runs well for watching films, reading e-books and light games. Fire OS 5.0.1 is an improvement to Fire OS 4.5.5; the carousel, finally, is gone and now you have a simplified interface that looks more like Android. Instead of categories above the carousal (e.g. shop, books, music, videos etc.), you swipe a different screen to access most of the same categories. At the same time, each of these categories appear as an icon, with other installed applications, on the home screen. Also, instead of a carousal for recent activity, there is now a separate screen listing these same activities. Battery life is not bad and with medium to light usage, e.g. reading e-books, you should get the advertised seven hours. An Amazon Prime subscription, which offers more than Netflix, complements this tablet well; it offers access to Amazon Prime content and you can also download Prime content to a SD Card to be viewed offline. There is also integration between the Fire TV Stick and Fire tablets, syncing applications and video content.

Another positive, and this is consistent with Amazon devices, is the identical firmware features across devices. What this means, whether you are using, for example, the Kindle Voyage or Kindle (the entry-level model), the firmware will be near identical in terms of features. The same applies to tablets, with the Fire 7 coming with the same operating system as the Fire 8 HD and Fire 10 HD. In all, the compromises made were just about right i.e. generally good performance, expandable storage and acceptable display. However, there are draw-backs that may have been considered:

(1) The screen is one of the low-end IPS displays that you also find with entry-level smartphones e.g. Microsoft Lumia 535. Understandably, with its low cost, the device will not have the colour vibrancy or accuracy of more high end hardware. Nevertheless, there is some difference between vibrancy and the low contrast and muted colours. Increasing the contrast makes a difference and can help with a relatively low resolution; for example, Amazon's entry-level Kindle, still boasts a higher contrast e-ink screen and this works to offset problems with its lower pixel density. This makes a significant difference and compared to other e-readers, with identical resolution, e.g. previous generation e-readers, the text is more legible and with darker blacks.

(2) The display is 'sticky' and a finger print magnet. For example, a stylus will not glide smoothly on the screen or even register a touch. Something simple like anti-fingerprint coating might help here.

(3) Why the cameras? The cameras, both back and front-facing, are mediocre. The Kindle Fire 7 HD (2013) offered no back camera and, in this case, it would be more justifiable not to include one. A trade-off between a needless camera with improving the display quality would have been the better option.

(4) Scaling - I think this has something to do with the aspect ratio. The device is fairly narrow and this means the scaling is off (the feel you get when you alter the resolution of a monitor from its recommended settings); what results is squeezed text in portrait mode and stretched text in landscape mode (Georgia, for example, comes out the worst in this). The only reason I can think of for the narrow dimension is to do with the intended use of this tablet for Amazon Prime video content. Turning the tablet in landscape, to watch a film, is probably the only thing that works with these dimensions.

With this being said, the Fire 7 offers a lot for its cost. As noted, other than offering identical features compared with Amazon's higher end tablets, there are other perks available. First, there is Amazon Underground - this offers many paid applications for 'free'. There are some good choices here e.g. Polaris Office, Quick PDF Scanner, Monument Valley, ezPDF, Office Suite Pro and much more. Also, as Fire OS 5.0.1 is essentially closed Android Lollipop, then external applications, from Google Play, can be installed on the device. There will be problems with some applications, e.g. Google native ones, that require the installation of Google Play. However, even for that, it is possible to install Google Play and turn the device into a more featured Android tablet. Second, this is also a good educational device for children, more so with Fire for Kids Unlimited. However, in my opinion, something like the entry-level Kindle would be better suited, with its distraction free reading and e-ink display (more healthy for the eyes and easier to read).

Overall, this is a good device for its price and would make a good secondary tablet or as an educational tool for children. It is not the hardware that makes the tablet a sensible choice, it is the all-round developed features and perks offered.  

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Amazon goes budget friendly

Amazon has released three new Fire tablets and it appears, from the official website, these are not just further choice to the existing tablet range but may become the default offering. The HDX tablets, with far better resolution and specifications, are no longer advertised on the front page of Amazon.com. Also, judging from the aspect ratio of the devices, these are, foremost, for media consumption to complement an Amazon Prime subscription.

I think, other than the $50 7 inch tablet (1), the other devices are over-priced compared to tablets from other manufacturers. For example, in UK pricing, the Fire HD 10 sells for £170, while the Nexus 9, which is vastly superior, can be found for £200 (there is also the Lenovo Tab 2 A10 that beats the Fire 10 HD in both specifications and price). While resolution may not matter for multimedia content, it might with clear pixelation for e-reading (the Fire 10 HD comes with 149 ppi). The $50 Fire 7, however, is the best of the lot. This may seem strange, considering the specifications, but the compromises made were just right. Skimping with resolution was balanced with an IPS screen, that even at 1024 x 600, offers 171 ppi (the Fire 7 is not advertised as HD, so it is not clear what this entails? Is there no high definition rendering? Or is anything under 1280 x 720, regardless of screen size, officially non-HD?); the device also does not compromise in either processing power or memory. Then there is the ingenious offer to buy six Fire tablets and get one free! I can see the device doing really well as a gift, other than offering a budget friendly entry point to Amazon products e.g. Amazon Prime and Amazon Kindle Unlimited etc. Amazon might, in the future, discount the tablet with an annual Prime membership.

In all, considering the trajectory of tablet sales, it is understandable Amazon would go for a more budget offering, compared to the HDX range. However, relative to other available tablets, both the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 offers less for the price. The Fire 7, on the other hand, is a great idea and one that might get more users into the Amazon eco-system to off-set the device's low price.

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(1) In the UK the Fire 7 sells for £50 and in Europe for 60 Euros. The different pricing might be due to the device coming with 90 days warranty in the US, to keep the price low, compared to one year in the UK and Europe.