The Amazon Fire Tablet has been one of the best bargains for the past few years for folks looking for an entry-level tablet with relatively decent build quality and specs. For a starting price of $50 you get a 7 inch IPS display, a quad-core processor, a microSD card slot, and front and rear cameras.
That’s a pretty great deal if you want a basic device for web surfing, watching videos, and playing games. But what if you’re not keen on Amazon’s app and media ecosystem? Does the recently release 2017 version of the Fire Tablet support custom ROMs, root, or other hacks?
Nope. Not yet, anyway. But you can install the Google Play Store if you want to make it easier to download and install third-party apps that aren’t available from the Amazon Appstore.
So here’s the deal: the new tablet is a little thinner and lighter than the model Amazon first release in 2015. But under the hood, the hardware is pretty much the same.
What’s new is that the 2017 model ships with the latest version of Fire OS, which is a heavily modified version of Google Android. Hackers have been modifying the older tablet since shortly after it launched, by rooting it and loading custom recoveries and custom ROMs, among other things.
But since there’s currently no simple method for rooting a device running Fire OS 5.4 (which is what the 2017 model ships with), you’re either going to have to role up your sleeves and start hunting for security vulnerabilities yourself or wait for someone to develop a new method for rooting the tablet or otherwise bypassing security restrictions that keep you from loading unsupported software.
You don’t need root access to load the Play Store though. You just need to install a series of 4 Android apps to enable all of Google’s services. Once you’ve done that, you get access to both the Google and Amazon app stores, although without root access, there’s no guarantee that Amazon won’t disable Play services in a future software update.
All told, if you want a fully functional tablet that runs something closer to stock Android software, for now you might want to look elsewhere. Barnes & Noble also has a $50 tablet with a 7 inch display, and the NOOK Tablet 7″ has the Play Store pre-installed.
Even if you’re not interested in hacking the Fire tablet to install any officially unsupported software, Amazon’s cheapest tablet is still a pretty good piece of hardware for $50 (or $30.
It has a reasonably decent (if not super high-res) display, and it’s a more than serviceable device even if all you ever plan to use it for is surfing the web or watching videos. Heck, those aren’t even bad prices if you just plan to make it an internet-connected alarm clock.
And in the future, maybe you’ll be able to root the tablet or perform other modifications: almost every Amazon tablet to date has been hacked in one way or another. It’s worth keeping an eye on the Amazon Fire forum at xda-developers to see if anyone breaks through Amazon’s security locks.