If you need a cheap tablet the obvious place to go is Amazon. But are its own-brand models any good?

They're certainly cheap. Because of economies of scale, Fire tablets give you better-quality hardware than an Android tablet at the same price, and you won't find many Android tablets under £50/$50.

However, there's a catch: Amazon tablets don’t have any Google services on them. If you have an Android phone and you’re used to using Gmail, Google Maps, the Chrome web browser and other apps you may be disappointed that you can’t install them on a Fire tablet. (But you can use most of them in the web browser.) You might also dislike the selection of apps in Amazon's Appstore, which doesn't quite have the breadth of choice of Google Play.

Instead, Amazon has its own apps for email, photos, web browsing and of course its own video service, Prime Video and music streaming from Amazon Music.

Ultimately, Amazon wants you to use these services, buy apps from its app store, download books from its Kindle store and buy physical products from its main store. The tablets are a effectively an Amazon shop window, but that's largely what Apple does with its iPads too.

As long as you check on Amazon's website (under the Apps section) that everything you need is available, then none of these differences to to Android tablets or iPads is a reason not to buy an Amazon Fire tablet.

After all, you probably shop on Amazon already and if you’re after a tablet primarily for entertainment, you’ll hardly notice the difference between a Fire HD 8, say, and a similarly priced Android tablet.

As far as apps go, there are loads of available including Netflix, catch-up TV services plus lots of free games and other apps which are more often than not Android versions, because underneath that different-looking interface, all Amazon Fire tablets are based on the Android operating system.

Fire tablets are great for kids and adults alike and Amazon offers specific kids versions of all three models. Those cost more but come with a protective case, a great two-year warranty that covers accidental damage and a 12-month subscription to its kids content, Amazon Kids+, which includes videos, games, apps and books.

So the question is, which model should you buy? Briefly, here’s a summary of the key specs of the latest versions showing how they compare.

Note: the 2020 Fire HD 8 replaced the 2018 model. It now comes in two versions with the Fire HD 8 Plus having the specs listed below, except that it has 3GB rather than 2GB of RAM, wireless charging and comes in an extra colour: Slate. It's £20 / $20 more expensive, too.

 

Fire 7 (2019)

Fire HD 8 (2020)

Fire HD 10 (2019)

Price (from)

£49.99 / $49.99

£89.99 / $89.99

£149.99 / $149.99

Display

7in

8in

10.1in

Resolution

1024 x 600 (171 ppi)

1280 x 800 (189 ppi)

1920 x 1200 (224 ppi)

Colours

Black, Plum, Twilight Blue, Sage

Black, Plum, Twilight Blue, White

Black, Plum, Twilight Blue, White

Processor

Quad-core 1.3 GHz

Quad-core 2.0 GHz

Octa-core up to 2.0 GHz

Alexa-enabled

Yes, hands-free

Yes, hands-free

Yes, hands-free

Sound

Mono speaker, built-in microphone

Dolby Atmos, dual-stereo speakers, built-in microphone

Dolby Atmos, dual-stereo speakers, built-in microphone

Storage

16 or 32 GB (expandable by up to 512 GB)

32 or 64 GB (expandable by up to 1 TB)

32 or 64 GB (expandable by up to 512 GB)

Cameras

2Mp + 2Mp rear

2Mp front + 2Mp rear

2Mp front + 2Mp rear

Wi-Fi

Dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11n)

Dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11ac)

Dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11ac)

Battery Life

Up to 7 hours

Up to 12 hours

Up to 12 hours

Charging

MicroUSB

USB-C faster charging

USB-C faster charging

Weight

295 g

335 g

504 g

Dimensions

192 x 115 x 9.6 mm

202 x 137 x 9.7mm

262 x 159 x 9.8 mm

Best Amazon tablet 2021

Fire HD 8 / Plus

Amazon Fire HD 8 (10th gen)
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The new 2020 version of the Fire HD 8 is our current pick of the range. Its screen may be only one inch larger than the Fire 7, but it makes all the difference. It has a higher resolution of 1280x800, too.

Cameras are the same, but processing power is around 30 percent faster. There's also more RAM (even more in the Plus model), more storage and you can expand that by up to 1TB using a microSD card.

Another difference is that you get stereo speakers, and a USB-C port for charging.

Everything about the interface and available apps and services is the same.  You get Alexa, too, and again she's hands-free and works even when the tablet is in standby with the screen off, so you can consider it like an Echo Dot.

The Plus model costs £20/$20 extra and has wireless charging and works with the optional wireless charging dock (shown in the photo) to turn the tablet into a sort of Echo Show. This is useful for video calls, music videos and watching Amazon Prime videos. But note that the standard model also has Show Mode, so you only need something to prop it up, and maybe to plug it in to the mains to get the same effect.

As with all three Amazon tablets, there's a Kids Edition of the Fire HD 8. It comes with a bumper case, year's subscription to Fire for Kids / FreeTime Unlimited and a two-year warranty.

Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 (10th gen) review

Fire 7

Amazon Fire 7 (2019)
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The Fire 7 is the smallest in the range with, as you'd guess, a 7in screen. It's great value for under at this price as it has a decent screen and the option of expanding storage with a microSD card.

The reason you may want to steer clear is because saying that it isn't hugely powerful is an understatement. Obviously, you shouldn't expect a lightning-fast tablet for this price and you'll have to put up with waiting a little longer for apps to load than on the Fire HD 8 and 10. Basically, it's the best option for kids because they are unlikely to complain about it... unless you're buying it to replace a broken iPad, which won't go down well.

The screen had good colours and viewing angles, but the low resolution of 1024x600 means it's not as sharp as the HD 8.

You do get hands-free Alexa like its more expensive siblings, which is nice.

Remember that you don't necessarily have to buy the Fire 7 Kids Edition. Even the £49/$49 version comes with the Fire for Kids / FreeTime app that offers great parental controls and there are dozens of free games that kids love.

The cameras are poor, even with the recent upgrade to a 2Mp front camera, but that is a trait of all current Amazon tablets, sadly.

Read our full Amazon Fire 7 (2019) review

Fire HD 10

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019)
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The HD 10 costs a lot more than the smaller tablets, but it also gives you a lot more. The 10.1in screen is obviously bigger, but the resolution of 1920x1200 means it has a higher pixel density of 224ppi. It's enough to make it look sharp and - as with its siblings' - it's a great screen with vibrant colours and good viewing angles.

It has a faster processor and 2GB of RAM which means it's more responsive. The HD 10 also 32GB of storage as standard with the option for 64GB. Plus, with you can add a microSD card up to 512GB in capacity.

Charging is via USB-C, and the battery lasts for 12 hours. 

It's the only model Amazon sells that's available in white. Anyone looking for a standard iPad-size tablet shouldn't be disappointed with the HD 10 considering the £149.99/$149.99 price. And it's also available in a Fire HD 10 Kids Edition for £199.99/$199.99.

Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review