Amazon lights up new Fire tablets


— 9:00 AM on May 19, 2017

Amazon has pretty much abandoned of the high-end tablet space since the retirement of 2014's second-generation Fire HDX, focusing instead on low-end devices with enough power for content consumption. This trend continues with the release of the retailer's new Fire 7 and Fire 8 tablets. Both machines pack 1.3 GHz quad-core SoCs of undisclosed provenance and microSD card slots for extra storage. Amazon says the updated IPS displays on the new units deliver better contrast and crisper text than the outgoing models. Perhaps the biggest news is that Amazon added its Alexa assistant to the new tablets.

The 7" model has a 1024x600 display and comes with 1 GB of RAM and either 8 GB or 16 GB of storage. Audio output comes from a headphone jack or a built-in mono speaker. The $50 base model has a rather paltry 8 GB of onboard storage and includes ads on the lock screen. Another $20 grants an upgrade to 16 GB of capacity, though buyers have the option of chucking in a microSD card as large as 256 GB. Amazon says the battery is good for eight hours of typical use between charges. The little tablet weighs 10.4 oz (or 295 g).

We suspect few people will choose the 7" model with 16 GB of storage given the $80 asking price of the 8" tablet. This model comes standard with 16 GB of built-in flash. A 32 GB model costs $110. Both of these models include lock screen advertisements. The 1280x800 IPS display, stereo speakers, and 1.5GB of RAM should go a ways in offering a better experience than the lower-end model when running multiple apps. The bigger tablet also has a bigger battery, which the Amazon says can provide enough charge for 12 hours of use. Bigger screens and batteries add extra weight, and the Fire 8 weights in at 13 oz (or 369 g).

Amazon also made kid-friendly versions of both the Fire 7 and Fire 8. These models come with an impact-resistant case and a two-year no-questions-asked replacement policy. The lock screen advertising is disabled on these tablets, as is the Alexa assistant. The Kids Edition models cost $100 for the 7" version and $130 for the 8" model, though the price includes a one-year subscription to Amazon's FreeTime Unlimited. The company says that service grants access to over 15,000 kid-friendly books, videos, apps, and games, as well as usage-restriction features for concerned parents. FreeTime Unlimited costs $3 per month after the first year.

All models have dual-band Wi-Fi, though there's no 802.11ac connectivity. The rear camera is a 2 MP unit capable of recording 720p video, and the selfie camera is limited to VGA resolution. The non-kids versions carry a 90-day warranty. Adults with a distaste for lock screen advertising can remove it for $15.

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