I thought I would start by saying that I give the Fire Tablets 3 stars overall. They could be 4 stars, but because of stupidity, they only get 3. I am writing this review using a Fire HD 8.
In terms of general usability I think they, both the 50 dollar 7 inch tablets and the 8 inch HD tablets I have used, are a 3.5 star. It takes a little getting used to but after playing a bit, it is relatively easy to figure out and use the apps productively.
Battery life on both is very good and WiFi connectivity is also very good. The on screen keyboard is less than desired and clunky to use. It forces you to change keyboard screens too often just to use punctuation and special characters instead of making better use of double functions such as the letter/number keys.
The Silk browser is ok but again, not as preferable as the chrome browser. However, adding chrome browser you find limitations that are frustrating because they should not be there.
The biggest problem I have with Amazon's tablets is their inability to cooperate with Google apps and sites. They unnecessarily hinder the access to Google use accounts limiting the ability to use Google docs, drive, etc... on the Fire Tablets.
If they offered an online alternative of their own to Google apps o s, docs, drive, etc... it wouldn't be as much of a problem. However, they actively build in restricted access to Google without giving users any alternatives.
Personally, I think it's a stupid, petty decision on Amazon's part because it just forces Google users to leave the Amazon platform to make use of the Google services they have usually had a long term established history with.
I know I just use my Samsung Android phone to use Google instead of even bothering to find something similar on Amazon. In the long run, just because of that issue, I am very seriously considering buying a Samsung or other Android based tablet after this Amazon hd 8 bites the dust.
Amazon needs to learn the lesson that low price doesn't meet all needs and that a quality user experience will retain more business for them. It's not even competitive because Amazon has no comparable services to offer instead of the blocked Google ones. Simply stupid.
That is what prevents me from giving the Amazon tablets a 4 star or higher rating. I like the tablets a lot. I like that I can port apps from my android phone to the tablets if Amazon doesn't have them in their own app store.
I want to give these a higher rating but as long as they inhibit usability in this way, I can't justify it. I am an Amazon fan. I like Amazon Prime and ordering online through smile.Amazon.com to help my favorite non-profit, the Omaha Bee Club. I like the tablets because with my big fingers, they are easier to use than my smartphone.
Back to my Google soapbox because I was Google fan first. I have an account using various Google services and apps that spans years and I will not jump ship just because Amazon wants to play games. Like Microsoft is finally learning, Amazon needs to realize that being proprietary about everything, especially where hardware meets software, people will rebel if forced to choose. It's a stupid choice to force, especially with nothing to offer in it's place. Of course, Google is also being less than cooperative in the whole debacle as well.
Add unhindered access to Google and more apps in the Amazon app store and this becomes a 4 or 4.5 star rating.