Alexa! Amazon Fire tablets now give us another way to chat!

Amazon Fire 7 and Fire 8 HD are cheap-as-hell, decent spec tablets, now with a built-in personal assistant

There are several reasons that tablet sales have tanked, for most brands. One is that they are just too good, needing replacement far less often than phones. Another is the pre-eminence of the iPad

And the other one is that Amazon keeps on putting out extremely compelling tablets that cost about the same as a meal out.

And now, the latest generation comes with a little Alexa inside, for all your kitchen-timer, weather-reading and music-playing needs…

Unlike the Echo devices, but like Amazon's Fire TV media streamer line, Alexa on the Fire tablets is activated with a button press rather than being constantly listening – yes, even when you're on the loo, or having sex (NB: joke).

You can then ask it for the weather, sports scores, news and much, much more. A little like the just-announced Echo Show, the Fire tablets add a visual element to certain replies, with a week's worth of weather highlights appearing on screen, for instance.

What it doesn't do, that the Show does, is let you make video calls or check in on elderly relatives. Although since the calling service hasn't even launched in the UK yet, that's arguably a moot point.

In fact, presumably Amazon won't roll out most of the core Show functionality to Fire tablets, because if they did, why the hell would you buy a Show?

From what we've seen of it, the integration with general tablet activities is very slick, letting you dismiss Alexa, but then call her back via a pull-down menu, when you realise you've forgotten what she said about the weather, or what this damnably catchy tune is.

Alexa's music and news feeds can play in the background as you do other tablet-related stuff, and all the usual support for a wide range of smart home kit is present and correct, for your lightbulb-dimming and thermostat fiddling pleasure.

Pleasingly, Alexa will also be available on previous generation Fire (as the 7-inch one used to be called), HD 8 and HD 10 tablets via a free software update, "in the coming weeks".

• The full spec is at the bottom if you're into that kind of thing. 

While nobody is going to accuse Fire tablets of being at the cutting edge of processing power or beautiful design, they are more than adequate for practically all standard tablet tasks, easy to grip and manoeuvre, and dirt cheap at under £50 and under £80 respectively for the 7-inch and 8-inch models.

Although the screen resolutions are not changed from the older models, contrast has been boosted to make ebooks easier to read and video to ping a bit more.

They're also robust and colourful, qualities that come into their own on the Kids Editions, both of which have also been updated. 

Amazon Fire Kids Edition tablets are identical to their adult incarnations but with a child-safe interface, a two-year, no-questions-asked warranty, one year's free access to Amazon's many many Gigabytes of kids' entertainment (after that you'll have to pay a subscription, dad), and a big bumper case.

It's worth noting that although these devices are all very reasonably priced, they do come into their own with the addition of Amazon Prime, which costs £79 per year and gives access to Netflix-style movie and TV streaming and a decent but slightly limited selection of music, as well as next-day delivery on your Amazon shopping.

If you want a more Spotify-like level of music access, that's another £79 per year, for Amazon Music Unlimited, which is a decent deal. Unlike on Amazon Echo there is no offer of a cheaper, one-device-only subscription.

 You also can't Chromecast, which seems vaguely mad until you realise that Chromecast is a rival to Amazon's Fire TV. However, you can always connect to a high quality speaker via Bluetooth. 

All devices will ship on June 7, with pre-ordering open now

Amazon Fire 7 and Fire 8 HD spec

Fire 8 HD, £79.99 (16GB), £99.99 (32GB)

Screen 8-inch, 1280x800 IPS LCD

Battery 12 hours

Processor/RAM Quadcore 1.3 GHz/1 GB

Storage 16GB with microSD up to 256GB plus "free, unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content"

Front and rear cameras Resolution not specified

Connectivity N Wi-Fi, dual band, Bluetooth

Fire 7, £49.99 (8GB), £69.99 (16GB)

Screen 7-inch, 600x1024, IPS LCD

Battery 8 hours

Processor/RAM Quadcore 1.3 GHz/1 GB

Storage 8GB or 16GB with microSD up to 256GB plus "free, unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content"

Front and rear cameras Resolution not specified

Connectivity N Wi-Fi, dual band, Bluetooth

Fire 8 HD Kids Edition (£129.99)

As Fire 8 HD but with 32GB storage plus up to 256GB via microSD, one-year sub to Amazon Fire for Kids Unlimited, "kid-proof" case, and 2-year guarantee.

Fire 7 Kids Edition (£99.99)

As Fire 7 but with 16GB storage plus up to 256GB via microSD, one-year sub to Amazon Fire for Kids Unlimited, "kid-proof" case, and 2-year guarantee.

Duncan Bell

Duncan is the former lifestyle editor of T3 and has been writing about tech for almost 15 years. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. His current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy. A cricket fan for over 30 years, he also recently become T3's cricket editor, writing about how to stream obscure T20 tournaments, and turning out some typically no-nonsense opinions on the world's top teams and players.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially like a cross between Reddit and DeviantArt, before the invention of the internet. There was also a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."