amazon tablet_1447193288958_396816_ver1.0_640_360The $50 seven-inch Amazon tablet—actually a $35 tablet on Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S.—gets a mere 60-out-of-100 rating from Consumer Reports.

Know what? If you’re a cheapskate or want every child in your household to own a tablet, then you can go ahead anyway, especially at the $35 price.

That said, here are some weaknesses that CR’s people have noted, among others:

1. Loading a page heavy with graphics could take five times as long with a $50 Fire as with an iPad Mini 4, shown next to the Fire in this video from KSAT in San Antonia. Hey, no big deal if you think about it. This is a $50 tablet.

2. The display isn’t as good as many would like. Dean Gallea, a Consumer Reports staffer, told KSAT: “It’s fine for streaming a movie, although better for content than for quality, and for simple gaming, email and social media. It would also make a pretty good kids’ tablet.”

3. Don’t count on spectacular sound, either, from the single speaker (on the back).

On the plus side, the battery life isn’t bad at a listed seven hours, and overall the Fire tablet might be the equal of some rivals selling for twice as much.

As I and others at TeleRead see it, the $50 Fire is a spectacular value for the price. My Fire works well with top-tier Android e-reading programs such as Moon+ Reader, which gives me the all-text boldface I need for optimal display of books for me. Set for UK English, Moon+ on the Fire can read in the Amy voice, surprisingly humanlike for off-the-shelf text to speech.

I haven’t messed with a replacement browser, but I suspect that something like Opera might be one way to speed up the browsing speed. Amazon’s App store says Opera won’t work on the Fire. Almost surely not true. Just laugh at the egos of Amazon’s marketers and go on to sideload it.

You can even install the Google Play Store on the Fire.


  1. It is a spectacular deal. I recall when epaper Kindles were over $200 and people were speculating whether one would ever get under the magic price of $100. Now we have a more versatile tablet at half that magic price.

    That said, having been buying computers and their kin since a Kaypro IV in the early 1980s, I find myself rebelling against cheap—and by implication throwaway—device however cheap. These gadgets take time to setup and adapt to. They also take regular maintenance, including keeping their batteries charged.

    For me, the fewer the devices I have and the less often I have to replace them the better. I look for deals on the price, which for Apple means refurb, but I’d rather pay more for one that I’ll use for at least three years, rather than getting something cheap every year or so.

    I’m doing much the same with kitchenware. To save weight on a cross-country move, I left most of the cheap stuff I had behind. Now, I’m rebuilding my pots and pans with high-qualty models from thrift stores. They’re priced the same as the junk. I merely have to wait for them to appear on the shelves. In my kitchen, I now look like a gourmet cook. I am not.

    I did the same with my iPhone 5. Not wanting to get stuck in a pricey two-year contract, I got it used for $210, about what I’d have paid for a cheap but new Android one. But I suspect I’ll be using it far longer than I’d be using an Android phone and with far less hassle. Apple will do all the grunt work with regular iOS upgrades and I have access to the largest app market on the planet without ‘will it work’ hassles. That iPhone is also unlocked and world-ready. I can use it anywhere, and on almost any cellular system simply by changing the SIM.

    In short, I gave up being a geek long ago. I write. I don’t klutz with any more of the technical stuff than I have to. I’ve got enough to do dealing with the labor of writing, the complexities of InDesign, and getting attention directed at my books. I want my devices to be as trouble-free as possible and to last as long as possible. I doubt an anemic $50 tablet fits that equation. If I didn’t already have an iPad 3, when Scrivener for iOS comes out, I’d end up buying an iPad anyway. Why confuse myself with a gadget I’d soon discard.

  2. I think Michael Perry is ignoring the part about buying them for kids.

    If I’m buying something for a little kid to do educational games on, or for a tween to have for Netflix and some games, I have no expectation that they’re going to be careful with their new device. Kids are kids. They drop things, they set them down and forget to grab them again, they spill things. If a parent has 2 or three kids, $35-$50 a tablet per kid is a lot easier to handle than even a refurb iPad.

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