Amazon Fire 7 - tips n tricks

Discussion in 'Alternatives to iOS and iOS Devices' started by sracer, Feb 28, 2019.

  1. sracer, Feb 28, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019

    sracer macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #1
    Introduction
    I've had a lot of fun exploring and experimenting with the Amazon Fire HD 10. It is possible for it to be more functional for office productivity than an iPad Pro. I still continue to use it for those office productivity tasks... to the amazement of my co-workers who are surprised that a $100 tablet is so capable.

    Click here for the thread on the Fire HD 10.

    This time around, I want to see what is possible with the low-end Amazon Fire 7. The focus for this experiment won't be for productivity but on content consumption. (especially since this device has only 1GB RAM compared to the 2GB RAM on the Fire HD 10)

    • reading books (ebooks)
    • reading comics, magazines, catalogs (cbr/cbz)
    • reading news
    • listening to music (locally stored as well as streaming)
    • watching video (local and streaming)
    • light gaming
    • !!! no social media, no web surfing, no email

    I just picked up a new Fire 7 for $35 on sale and a 64GB microSD card for $5. I'm curious to see just how well this $40 combo will work for this experiment.


    Build Quality
    This is a well-made, solid, and attractive (IMO) tablet. It doesn't feel like it will break or bend easily. (There are videos on YouTube of the "deals guy" slamming Fire tablets against a steel table without any ill effects)


    Screen Quality
    The IPS screen is bright. The colors are vibrant. Clarity is quite acceptable... and with a pixel density of 171 ppi it is slightly higher than an iPad Mini 1.


    Performance
    I don't run benchmarks (they don't tell the true and full story) but scrolling and loading websites for testing show that it does lag behind the performance of the Fire HD 10. I'm curious to see how this performance level will handle the tasks.


    Tweaks
    The first thing I did was to install Google Play. It is easy to do, is reversible, and doesn't require doing anything that would void the warranty.

    https://www.laptopmag.com/articles/get-google-play-on-fire-tablet
    (select the files under the "Links for 4th, 5th, and 6th Generation Fires" in step.9 )

    UPDATE: Google Services have a noticeable impact on performance. For the ease of installing apps from the Google Play Store, I recommend installing Google services, install those apps, then uninstall Google services.

    Next, I "hid" some of Amazon's bloatware, including lockscreen ads. This is a little bit more involved, but it too is safe to do, reversible.

    https://forum.xda-developers.com/hd8-hd10/general/a-t3820744

    Here is the Fire 7 (yellow case) among some of my other devices for comparison...
    IMG_0689.JPG
    LG Stylo 3, Fire 7, iPad Mini 4, 2018 9.7 iPad, Fire HD 10


    The size seems just about perfect for a pocketable tablet. I'm usually not a fan of 16:9 aspect ratios on tablets (the HD 10 can be a bit awkward), but it really works for the Fire 7.

    Home Screen
    Here are the apps that I currently have installed. As I expand my experiments, I'll be adding more.
    IMG_0690.JPG
    I didn't hide all of Amazon's bloatware (I DO use some Amazon services), but the ones I didn't hide I put in a folder. Google-related apps are in a Google folder.

    Video playback (locally stored files): MX Player Pro
    Music playback (locally stored files): JetAudio Plus
    Live streaming webcam: EarthCam
    Remote media streaming: Plex (home media library)
    Streaming Radio: Tune-in Radio
    CBZ/CBR reading: Challenger Comics Viewer

    Initial Impressions
    I think this is going to be a fun little device to play around with. I'll later post a description of the media that is locally stored on the microSD card. Stay tuned!

    Please feel free to share what you are using your Fire 7 for or what things you'd like to see tested on it.
     
  2. three macrumors 65816

    three

    Joined:
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    #2
    This'll be another fun thread to follow! The fact that these are so readily available at $50 is exciting.
     
  3. mi7chy macrumors 603

    mi7chy

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2014
    #3
    I'd like to see a comparison of the Fire HD 8 since it comes with 1.5GB DRAM, 32GB option, Android 7.1 instead of 5.1 and isn't that much more money.
     
  4. sracer, Mar 5, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019

    sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #4
    LOADING MEDIA CONTENT
    Finally got a chance to load up the Fire 7 with some media. 23 Movies, 1100 music tracks, and 54 ebooks/comics/magazines. All in all, 25GB of media with 35GB free on the microSD card. It's so convenient to simply pop out the card from the Fire, insert it into my iMac and simply bulk copy the files to the card, and insert it back into the Fire 7.

    The Fire 7 allows for apps to be installed to the SD card. This is very helpful since the Fire 7 only has 8GB of onboard storage (5GB free) and quickly drops from there.

    PERFORMANCE (continued)
    The thing I'm finding with this Fire 7 tablet is that getting apps loaded takes noticeably longer on the 7 than on the HD 10, but once the app is loaded, performance, while still less than the 10, is acceptable.

    UPDATE: The performance differences between the 7 and HD 10 were magnified because of the drag of Google Services on the 7 (which has only 1 GB RAM). After uninstalling Google Services, the performance of the 7, while less than the 10, was not that bad.

    I don't have a lot of discretionary time to take quality videos for tinkering around like this, but I did put my iPhone SE on a tripod for a quick shoot of the Fire 7 and how responsive it is in navigating apps. It's difficult to describe responsiveness so even though this video is of low quality, it gives you can idea.

    I load up JetAudio Plus (1100 tracks, 70 albums) and scroll through the list. Then I fire up MX Player Pro to scroll through the 23 movies. Finally, Challenger Comics Viewer to scroll through the 54 epub, pdf, and cbz/cbr books, magazines, and catalogs.



    STREAMING VIDEO (preview)
    I'll post a more detailed description of my experiences with streaming video in a subsequent post, but I wanted to say that after testing EarthCam, Plex, Mobdro, Pluto TV, and Terrarium TV, I'm very impressed with the video quality. The quality is far better than one would expect from a device this inexpensive and a screen with this low a resolution. I would even call it "beautiful" when the source material is high quality.
     
  5. sracer, Mar 7, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019

    sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #5
    STANDBY
    Putting the Fire 7 in airplane mode really cuts the power usage in standby. I was surprised by this because I didn't install any apps that would run in the background pulling/sending data and I disabled lockscreen ads so it wasn't pulling those down.
    Battery drain in 24 hours in airplane mode: 2%

    STREAMING WEBCAM
    I'm a sucker for live webcams... something about seeing people in other places. EarthCam is a great app for that. Although they offer webcams for free via their website, I don't mind supporting them by paying a small price for the Android app.

    earthcam.jpg
    This photo doesn't do the stream quality justice. The image is vibrant, sharp, and bright. The time to connect to a webcam doesn't appear to be any different than when I visit the same webcam on my Fire HD 10 or 2018 iPad. The sound is adequate but I'm not a fan of the single, rear-firing speaker. Next to performance, this is the biggest negative in the Fire 7 user experience so far.

    If I found no other use for the Fire 7, I'd use it as a dedicated webcam viewer for my desk... a virtual "window into the world".


    STREAMING "LIVE" INTERNET TV
    I'm a big fan of Pluto TV. They really set the standard for fit and finish for this type of service. Although it has commercials that interrupt the programming, the commercial breaks are not frequent nor are they lengthy. I think it is a fine trade-off for a FREE service.

    When running Pluto TV in landscape, it fills the screen. I took a photo of it in portrait mode to show a little of the program guide in addition to the live video. The responsiveness of the UI requires a little patience and it takes quite a while for the channel banners to populate in the guide, but it works and works well.

    UPDATE: Issues of responsiveness and navigation were all caused by the added drag of Google Services installed and running. Once Google Services was uninstalled, performance of Pluto TV was nearly as quick as on the HD 10. Channel banners loaded quickly and scrolling through the channels was buttery smooth.

    Here too, video quality is excellent. It is clear to me that Amazon paid attention to the quality of video playback on this thing. Exiting the app takes a bit of time before the system quiesces to a "normal" state. (must be some post-exit clean-up, or more likely memory management being performed)

    UPDATE: After uninstalled Google Services, exiting the app was quick.

    pluto-tv.jpg

    So far in my experimenting, "patience" seems to be the theme. The slower performance has not caused me to change my initial impression of the value of this $40 configuration.

    UPDATE: The root cause of the slowness was Google Services. After uninstalling it, the Fire 7 was much snappier.

    VERDICT
    Except for the smaller screen size and the performance, the experience of watching video streamed from the internet was quite enjoyable.
     
  6. sracer, Mar 10, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019

    sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #6
    COMIC/MAGAZINE SCAN READING

    Next up is testing how well the Fire 7 can display cbz/cbr comics and magazine scans. I have a ton of scans of vintage comic books, magazines, and catalogs. Places like iOffer host vendors who sell scans of entire runs of magazines and comics in CBZ/CBR format on DVD. Then there is archive.org that hosts scans of magazines for free download.

    Going into this particular test, I knew that the smaller screen and lower resolution were going to present a lower quality experience than on the Fire HD 10, 2018 iPad, and even 12.9 iPad Pro... but I wanted to see if the results would be acceptable.


    Fire HD 10 vs Fire 7 - Cover shot
    fire compare covers.jpg

    Here are my two Fire tablets using the same comic viewing app (Perfect Viewer) displaying the same file (cbr/cbz of the 1971 Sears Catalog). On the Fire HD 10, the image is vibrant and crisp. The Fire 7's image is slightly muted and the screen's lower resolution results in slightly blurry text.


    Fire HD 10 vs Fire 7 - Full page
    fire compare page.jpg
    Here is the same page displayed on both devices. The 16:9 aspect ratio of these tablets, while a benefit for watching modern films, becomes a detriment. The 4:3 aspect ratio of the 2018 iPad makes far better use of the screen for this purpose.

    The text on the HD 10 is almost readable full-screen, but IS barely readable on the iPad in full-screen because of the difference in aspect ratio (less wasted space). The Fire 7 is not readable in full-screen.



    Fire 7 - zoom-in
    fire 7 closeup.jpg
    Zooming in, the text is readable but it is really rough. This is most likely due to the low resolution of the screen. The moire pattern displayed is due to the quality of the camera (iPhone SE) and the low resolution of the screen... in person, the image looks fine.



    Fire HD 10 - zoom-in
    fire hd 10 closeup.jpg

    Here's the same page on the HD 10 zoomed in for comparison.


    Fire 7 - Comic scan
    comic scan-0.jpg

    Here's a scan of a vintage comic book (early 1960's) Comics have less text and often larger text than what is found in other print media. Even with the smaller screen, the page is readable in full-screen.

    Fire 7 - Comic scan - zoom in

    comic scan.jpg
    For comparison, here's the page zoomed in.

    VERDICT:
    It takes a bit of time for the comic app to load. Once loaded, it takes more time to load a file. Surprisingly, even though the Fire 7 has only 1 GB RAM, it was able to load the Sears Wishbook that is over 300 pages and over 200MB in size. Scanning through the pages was surprisingly quick. Depending upon the cbz/cbr file, it will be readable at full-screen or require a lot of zooming.

    UPDATE: load times for the app and for the file were dramatically reduced after uninstalling Google Services.

    I think that using the Fire 7 for reading comics would be an adequate experience but I wouldn't use it for reading magazines, catalogs, and other media that has a high density of text.
     
  7. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #7
    EFFECTS OF GOOGLE PLAY

    As I was setting up the Fire 7 for the next step in this experiment, I found the device getting slower and less responsive. I then considered that it might be due to the heavy footprint of Google Services on a device with only 1 GB RAM. I went in and uninstalled Google Play Store, Google Services Framework, and Gboard. I rebooted the device and immediately noticed a significant (and improved) difference.

    It's obvious that Google Services on this device has a noticeable impact on performance. I re-ran my previous experiments and it was a much more enjoyable experience. I'll step through and update my previous posts to describe the differences.

    My advice for those who are considering a Fire 7: Temporarily install Google Services/Play Store to be able to install your Android apps, and once those apps are installed and things are set up, uninstall the Google stuff.

    Next Up: Music playback
     
  8. UnLiMiTeD558 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2009
    #8
    I assume google play makes an impact on the 8” model as well as it’s only got .5gb more ram
     
  9. mi7chy macrumors 603

    mi7chy

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2014
    #9
    You can also deregister the device from Amazon to lighten resources if you use Google Play Store only. Even better, to skip signing in the device to Amazon on initial setup, associate the tablet to WIFI with no internet access (temporarily disconnect WAN cable) then after a few failed attempts to sign in it'll give you the option to skip. No more clutter, ads, etc.
     
  10. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #10
    Yep, that works and is much easier for those who not tech savvy. thumpsup.gif

    With the process I linked to in the first post, you can register with Amazon *AND* free RAM up by disabling the Amazon bloatware... including ads. This approach is helpful for those who want to use some of Amazon's services without the added bloat.

    Correct. Considering how much Google Services dragged down the 7, I'm considering uninstalling it from my HD 10... even though it is currently quite responsive.
     
  11. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #11
    MUSIC PLAYBACK

    NOTE: From this point on, any testing will be done with Google Services uninstalled.

    The final step in the first wave of experimenting has to do with music playback. For playback of music that is locally stored on a device, my choice is JetAudio Plus.

    JetAudio has a ton of UI customization options. You can configure it to look one way in portrait mode and another in landscape. Loading JA and scrolling through the lists was quick and responsive.
    2019-03-14 05.45.23.jpg 2019-03-14 05.46.40.jpg

    Using the built-in speaker
    The Fire 7 has only a single rear-firing speaker that is located on the back lower right corner when holding the device in portrait mode. When playing a range of music, the sound was thin and weak... nowhere near the (relatively speaking) rich and loud sound from the HD 10's stereo speakers.

    If the Fire 7 is in a case and the cover is flipped back onto the Fire 7, it covers the opening for the speaker, further muffling the sound. When standing the device up with the built-in kickstand (I have the official Fire 7 case) and placing it on a table, the audio sounded louder and a little richer. I chalk it up to the sound reflecting off of the table surface and the kickstand to bounce the sound forward.

    I suspect this is how Amazon designed the device to be used.

    Using headphones
    Although the Fire 7 supports bluetooth, I much prefer wired headphones. For this, I used my Sony MDRZX110NC/B noise-cancelling on-ear headphones. (I bought them while on a trip at a Best Buy vending machine in the airport... fun!)

    The experience of this combination was quite pleasant. It's hard to describe or record to capture it. Using JA on a screen as large as the Fire 7 is enjoyable. For the next experiment, I'm going to try music playback on the Fire 7 connecting via bluetooth to my IKEA Eneby speaker.
     
  12. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #12
    AMAZON APP STORE (and the need for Google Play)

    Since discovering the excessive drag on the Fire 7 caused by Google Services, I uninstalled Google Services and the apps that require it to run. The difference in performance and responsiveness is like night and day. The challenge now was, "how do I get more apps for the Fire 7 since Google Play isn't viable in the long-term for this device?" There are a half dozen of solid alternative Android app stores for side-loading apps (avoid the sketchy/pirate ones and you'll be fine). There's also Amazon's own app store.

    Amazon provides an app store on the Fire that is the "official" way to install additional apps. Back in the day, I used to get the free-app-a-day promotion that Amazon had which was a nice way to build an app library. The app selection was so limited back then that except for getting the daily freebie, I stopped checking it. Even though this is my second Fire tablet that I've purchased over the past 12 months, I didn't even bother to check the app store.

    Without the Google Play Store, I had no choice but to browse the Amazon App Store selection. I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of apps available. It certainly has grown over the years and nearly all of the apps and games that I use were on it.

    I'm going to need to spend some time further exploring what is available on the app store... but at this point, the primary reason for installing the Google Play store (at least temporarily) in the first place is to be able to install paid-for apps.

    ...the experiment continues.
     
  13. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #13
    PERSPECTIVE (the lost art of grayscale)

    As I sit here tinkering with the Fire 7 and sifting through the massive amount of criticisms and complaints over the newly announced iPad Mini 5 and 10.5 iPad Air, I'm reminded of the polarization that has happened in every aspect of society but of technology in particular.

    Tech blogs and tech YouTubers have all fallen into the narratives established by tech manufacturers and simply parrot marketing bullet points. They push the idea that only the top-tier hardware offerings are acceptable and anything below that line is not. This black and white binary approach eliminates the grayscale that lays in between black and white. That's by the manufacturers' design to the detriment of the consumer.

    If the tech makers declare smaller bezels are "it", tech reviewers and bloggers fall into line and repeat that. Apple touts Pro-Motion as a "must-have", and suddenly those devices without Pro-Motion are a blurry, laggy mess. Funny how there were no complaints about any latency problems with the iPad Pro and Pencil 1 before Pro-Motion was released. (The fluidity of iOS' UI, or lack thereof, was not a function of the refresh rate)

    And on and on it goes.

    What does this have to do with the Fire 7? Well, here is a well-made, responsive economy tablet that gets completely trashed by the tech media because the specs are not on par with top-tier counterparts. To them, because it doesn't have those specs it isn't a good device. Sure, they'll soft-pedal it with, "well what do you expect for $50" as if it is only the price that makes this "sub-par" device tolerable.

    As with the Fire HD 10, I know many people who missed out (on what would be quite suitable devices) because of what tech bloggers and reviewers have said (and was parroted by their "techie" friends).

    I own a lot of tech... a LOT... spanning the spectrum from bargain-basement imported junk on up to top-tier iPad Pros, Pixelbooks, etc.

    For those willing to think outside of the box and are on the fence about devices like these, I suggest giving them a try... kick the tires, hard, within the return window to see if it can suit your needs. If so, great, money saved. If not, go to the next step and keep exploring.

    I've seen far too many people spend far too much money for devices that are overkill for what they actually use them for. So these experiment threads are to encourage people to "think different". :)

    This thread has been a bit of a progressing monologue but I really am interested in hearing from others who own and use the Fire 7. I know there are people out there doing things with it that I haven't considered, and I'm curious.
     
  14. apolloa, Mar 20, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2019

    apolloa macrumors G4

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    Location:
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    #14
    If you install the google play store, can you install here in the UK things like Now TV or Sky Go and have them work?

    Ok scrap the Sky Go app as that’s natively in the Amazon store for the tablet, but what about Now TV? And Apple Music, if it works on Android and the Echo Dot does it work on the Fire Tablets?
     
  15. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

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    #15
    If Sky Go is in the Amazon store then it is a reasonable assumption that Now TV would work also. The assumption being that since both apps stream video they will have similar requirements.
     
  16. apolloa macrumors G4

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    #16
    Thanks, one is the Sky app for its customers but Now TV is the streaming only Netflix version and is a separate app. But I see your point.
    Hmm...
     
  17. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
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    #17
    I've tested Hulu, NetFlix, Amazon Video (duh), Pluto TV, and even "sketchy" apps like Mobdro and Terrarium TV. They have all worked flawlessly. Plex runs great too, but that is streaming video from a server within my house. I'd be surprised if the Now TV app did something funky that would prevent it from working when all of these others work.

    Hopefully someone reading this thread will have either already tested it or can test it with their current Fire tablet and report back.
     
  18. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

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    #18
    I'm a sucker for these Fire tablets so I'll probably pick up an HD 8 when it goes on a Black Friday-like sale and start a similar thread.
     
  19. apolloa macrumors G4

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    #19
    I did some more searching on the net and it seems for now the Now TV app works, but you have to use a browser to start it as a work around, it used to run fine albeit you had to use an older version, but Now TV blocked that and you now have to use this workaround.
     
  20. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #20
    For Amazon Prime members in the US... the Fire 7 is on sale for $35

    As usual, anything other than black is going to take a while to arrive. :rolleyes:
    fire7.JPG
     
  21. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
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    #21
    Amazon just announced a new Fire 7 for 2019. It seems like things are pretty much the same, but I suspect that this new model will not be able to be tweaked like the older model (and Fire HD 10). The 2018 Fire HD 8 can't be modified to hide/freeze Amazon bloatware. The ability to do that makes a significant difference in performance, responsiveness, and battery life.

    So if anyone is considering a Fire 7, you might want to snag one of the 2017 models if you plan on tweaking to streamline it.

    https://www.thurrott.com/amazon/206745/amazon-updates-fire-7-tablets

    fire-7-new.jpg
     
  22. apolloa macrumors G4

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    #22
    Are you going to buy one of the new models to try out? I see it has the same quad core CPU as the 8” model, but still only with 1GB RAM.
     
  23. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
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    #23
    I don't think so... there isn't enough of a difference. The odd thing is that the 2017 Fire 7 also had a 1.3GHz quad-core processor. That's what leads me to believe that this is nothing more than a way to lock down the 7. I suspect that an update to the HD 10 will be coming soon with the same thing.
     
  24. apolloa macrumors G4

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    #24
    Oh? I thought the changes the processor in the new one? If not I’m struggling to see what they’ve changed? Unless as you say it’s been locked down and given more colours.
    Double the storage is the only thing?
     
  25. sracer thread starter macrumors G3

    sracer

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #25
    Double the storage and new colors seem to be it.

    Here's a link to an article about the 2017 Fire 7:
    https://www.pcmag.com/review/339029/amazon-fire-7-2017

    and a quote from the "Chipset and Network" section:
    "The Fire 7 runs Fire OS 5.4, based on Android 5.1, on a 1.3GHz Mediatek processor. It benchmarks like a very low-end smartphone, and sometimes even worse, because I kept running up against the limits of its 1GB of RAM."

    There are other websites that mention it is a quad-core processor.
     

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