Amazon's new 7-inch Fire tablet has got people asking an important question - can a $50 be any good?
For your $50 you get a lot. A 7-inch 1024 x 600 IPS display, a fast quad-core processor, a battery good for some seven hours, and a front- and rear-facing camera. None of these specs are going to blow your hair back, but then go back a few years and you'd have paid big bucks for a tablet with these features.
If you're the sort of person who is conscious of the spec, or likes to be able to brag about how many "cores" you got, a $50 is going to b a crushing disappointment. Apart from the low price you've paid, there's nothing worth bragging about when it comes to the Fire. It's about as basic as they come, and there's very little glamor to it. It's a tablet, and it does things you' expect from a tablet.
Another downside is that it throws ads at you. For some, paying for a device only to have to endure ads - also known as "special offers" or "sponsored content" - will be a deal-breaker, but the ads aren't intrusive, and if you're a big Amazon user (digital or physical), they can be quite useful in pointing you towards new stuff you might be interested in.
However, don't lose sight of the fact that it's a $50 tablet.
At $50 it's not exactly a disposable bit of kit, but if you want a tablet for the car or office or workshop or spa, you're not going to cry for long if something happens to it. In fact, if you add on top the extra $18 for accidental damage cover, you've got a cheap tablet that you can use without worrying about its demise.
To put that another way, there are cases that you can buy for an iPad that cost more than the Amazon Fire.
And the Fire isn't fragile either. Sure, the screen is a weak point, but overall it's quite a robust design, and Amazon claims that in tumble tests it's almost twice as durable as the iPad Mini 4.
Then there's the storage. The Amazon Fire only comes with 8GB of built-in storage, but there's a micro SD card slot that's compatible with cards up to 128GB, and owners also get unlimited cloud storage for the Amazon content you purchase.
Overall, it's hard to fault the $50 Fire. It's not going to turn heads like the iPad might (does the iPad turn heads any more), but it's a functional and well-made tablet that will do what most people expect a tablet to do. Also, Amazon tends to supply its hardware with updates for many years, so that $50 could well last you many years.