Amazon Fire Tablet Performs Quite Poorly, As One Would Expect For $50

Three weeks ago, launched their new Amazon Fire tablet in what sounded like an incredible $65 (without ads on the lock screen), $50 with ads. A few weeks back, I wrote here about a few things I thought were important to consumers to further research if they were considering buying the Fire for them or their friends or family. These were things like having ads on the lock screen, the use of much lower performing processors than today’s tablets, the small amount of RAM and storage, details on the display, and finally, that you won’t be able to run Google Android apps or content purchased through the Google Play Store. It was a popular post, generating more than 140,000 page views. But we never actually knew how the tablet performed on benchmarks. After all, Amazon’s product landing page states that the Fire is a “powerful tablet at an incredible price.” We know it’s cheap, but is it really powerful?


Amazon Fire Tablet. Amazon says it’s a “powerful tablet at an incredible price” (Credit: Patrick Moorhead)

I wasn’t planning on benchmarking the Fire tablet as I am an industry analyst and not an official benchmarker, and I would have expected others to test it.  When I asked benchmarkers why they didn’t test it, they answered that they already knew it would perform poorly. I really wanted to see how it did as I have a pretty extensive device and SoC research practice, so I went ahead and spent my Sunday benchmarking the unit while I watched football.

Net-net, as I expected, the Amazon Fire tablet is a very poor performer based on benchmarks and specifications scoring worse or close to as well as a tablet you may have considered from Google or Samsung Electronics in 2012, not 2015. Here is the upshot below and you can find the excruciating details here if you’re interested.

Amazon Fire tablet performs on CPU tests:

  •  42%, 23%, 47%, and 74% worse than the Samsung Galaxy Note (2013)
  • Fairly equal versus the Google Nexus 7 (2012)
  • Up to 3.9X slower than an Apple iPad mini 2 (2013)
  • Up to 9X slower an Apple iPhone 6s Plus (2015)

This makes a lot of sense to me given the Fire tablet uses a lower end MediaTek chip using a much lower performing, off the shelf, ARM Holdings A7 CPU design.

The Amazon Fire Tablet performs more like a tablet in 2012 or 2013 with lower display, memory and storage specs. You get what you pay for.

Amazon Fire tablet performs on GPU and gaming tests:

  • the same, 84% worse, 20% better, 7% better, 19% better than the Samsung Electronics Galaxy Note (2013)
  • 41% better, 29% better, 42% better, 31% better than the Google Nexus 7 (2012)
  • Up to 8X slower than an Apple iPad mini 2 (2013)
  • Up to 16X slower than the NVIDIA SHIELD tablet (2014)
  • Up to 14X slower an Apple iPhone 6s Plus (2015)
  • Up to 17X slower than the Samsung Electronics S6 edge + (2015)

Graphics-wise, the Amazon Fire tablet does well against its 2012 and 2013 counterparts with its ARM Holdings Mali 450 MP, but it gets demolished by modern-day graphics from NVIDIA, Apple and Samsung Electronics.

Finally, let’s look at some of the most important specifications, the display, memory and storage and do a quick comparisons. The Fire has:

  • half as many pixels as the Google Nexus 7 (2012) and Samsung Electronics Galaxy Note (2013)
  • 5X less pixels than the Apple iPad mini 2 (2013) and the iPad Air (2013)
  • half the memory as the Samsung Galaxy Note (2013)
  • half the storage as the Google Nexus 7 (2012)

So there you have it. I’m not saying not to buy the Amazon Fire tablet, but I hope this reinforces there are no free lunches or special deals with it. You are getting what you are paying for, and on the performance front, it’s not a lot.

You can download the gory testing details here.

Benchmarking Notes:

  • Testing was conducted on October 11, 2015.
  • Systems were run stock, were not jail-broken, with WiFi turned off, background apps closed, in the same room with the same ambient temperature. The only exception was where “WiFi on” was required by the benchmark to provide a score.
  • Systems were run three times for each benchmark and an average was taken. Benchmarks were run with the same time intervals across systems to attempt to normalize over-heating and throttling.
  • Systems were chosen based on availability at MI&S Headquarters in Austin, TX. If you’d like us to test your tablet, please contact us and we will evaluate it.
  • MI&S likes PCMark for Android, but it would not install on the Amazon Fire Tablet. Therefore it was not tested.
  • 3DMARK Slingshot will not run on Amazon Fire, Google Nexus 7, or Samsung Galaxy Note and therefore was not tested.
  • MI&S is still researching GeekBench MC to evaluate whether it accurately reflects mobile software and multi-CPU cores.
  • Basemark X 1.1 “High settings” would not run on the Google Nexus 7 (2012). Error message was “missing depth rendering capability”.
  • Basemark X 1.1 scores were pulled from the Basemark website as these apps were not available in the Apple App Store. Scores were not available for the iPhone 6s Plus.
  • Camspeed is not available on the Amazon App Store and therefore was not tested.
  • DNR= does not run
  • NA= not available in the app store