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By Daniel Boan

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Whether you want to stream your favorite TV shows or read the latest books, a sleek and portable tablet is perfect for all your media needs. While the Apple iPad is one of the most popular options, Amazon is proving you don't have to pay top dollar if you're looking for a worthy alternative.

The Amazon Fire 7 tablet with 16 GB of storage retails for $49.99, and I've been surprised by how much that small price tag gets you.

Amazon Fire 7 Tablet

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I've had my Fire 7 for almost three years and have been so impressed by its durability and performance, especially for the price. It's perfect for streaming YouTube or Netflix, or for browsing the web when I don't feel like pulling out my laptop. If you download the free Kindle app, you can also use the versatile tablet like an e-reader for instant access to the most popular books. It's also a perfect travel companion since it doesn't take up much space in your luggage.

Amazon touts that it's twice as durable as the iPad mini — so it's also a great kid-friendly option, especially when paired with a durable case. I've even given them as gifts to my young nieces and nephews and they're still holding up years later.

Amazon Fire tablets are known for their durability.Amazon

Perhaps its greatest selling point is its ease of use. Case in point: My technologically-challenged 59-year-old mother, who had never even touched a smartphone before I bought her the 8-inch model for Christmas, now uses hers every day to check the weather and visit her favorite websites.

The only true downsides I've experienced when compared to an iPad is shorter battery life (I typically get four to six hours with continuous use) and a lower-quality screen. However, both of these are tolerable trade-offs for a $50 price tag.

Amazon updated the Fire this year to include new colors and a thinner design, so these are going to the top of my list for go-to gifts this holiday season.

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