amazon fire hd 8 review

Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet review: still the best tablet for £80 | Tech Industry – InfotechBot | Prosyscom USA

By Prosyscom
In October 2, 2018
105 Views

Amazon’s latest budget media tablet sticks with the winning formula that made its predecessor so good, but is it still the one to buy in 2018?

The 2018 HD 8 is the third iteration of Amazon’s 8in tablet since it was first launched in 2016 to use the same design. It looks, feels and operates exactly the same as the 2017 version, but now with an improved camera and the latest software.

The hard-wearing plastic shell, rounded corners, robust build and stereo speakers are all the same and perfect for the job. This is a tablet that you shouldn’t have to worry about throwing into a bag on the commute.

amazon fire hd 8 review

Wielding the Fire HD 10 in one hand is fine for reading books or watching videos. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

At 363g it’s not exactly feather-light, but it is 6g lighter than the old one and wielding it with one hand for reading or video watching is easy. While text appears fairly crisp on the 720p screen, the tablet has essentially been designed for watching video.

The screen is bright and clear with wide viewing angles. It won’t win any awards on colour accuracy or brightness, but it is bright enough to watch video while on a train with evening sun streaming through the windows or anywhere indoors.

Likewise the stereo speakers mounted in the top of the tablet do a good job of being loud and clear, with reasonable stereo separation. They don’t rival those fitted to tablets more than four times the price, but they’re better than most phone speakers. They also won’t quite fill a room with sound, but you can hear what’s going on in that video you’re watching while cooking in the kitchen without issue.

Specifications

  • Screen: 8in (1280 x 800) LCD (189ppi)

  • Processor: 1.3GHz quad-core

  • RAM: 1.5GB of RAM

  • Storage: 16GB; microSD slot also available

  • Operating system: Fire OS 5 based on Android 5 Lollipop

  • Camera: 2MP rear camera, 0.3MP front-facing camera

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

  • Dimensions: 215 x 128 x 9.7 mm

  • Weight: 363g

A little sluggish in places

amazon fire hd 8 review


The plastic shell feels like it can take a beating, but there are a collection of cases available including a beefy kids edition. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The “all new” Fire HD 8 has the same 1.3GHz quad-core processor and 1.5GB of RAM as the last one, the same choice of 16 or 32GB storage but now supports larger capacity microSD cards.

Unsurprisingly it performs very similarly to the 2017 and 2016 models, which is to say it gets the job done with a minimal amount of fuss but won’t be winning any speed awards, and can feel a little sluggish at times.

It is slightly disappointing not to see a performance increase after three years, as expectations for speed have moved on since 2016, but those using the HD 8 for watching video won’t have any issues.

Battery life also remains about the same, lasting long enough to watch three consecutive movies. Charging takes a full six hours so best done overnight.

Fire OS 6.3

amazon fire hd 8 review


Amazon Video is unsurprisingly great on the Fire HD 8, but so too is Netflix and others. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The 2018 Fire HD 8 comes running Fire OS 6.3 out of the box. It looks and behaves very similarly to the Fire OS 6 versions currently available on Amazon’s range of tablets and Fire TV devices, complete with ads on the lock screen called “Special Offers” which can be removed at the cost of £10.

The most obvious is the addition of Show Mode for the UK, which takes hands-free Alexa to the next level. As the name might imply, it’s a mode that turns the tablet into a smart display like the Amazon Echo Show.

With it enabled Alexa listens out for the wake word, which is by default “Alexa”, and then answers like any other Echo device. On screen cards show up with the voice assistant’s answers, showing things like extended weather forecasts, pictures of people who you might has asked a question about, that kind of thing.

It can also be used as a digital photo frame, play videos from Amazon video, music and radio stations. The whole thing works very well. The only differences I noticed between the tablet in show mode and an Echo Show is an inability to play music from Spotify and a less responsive Alexa.

You had to shout the wake word a bit more directly at the tablet than you would at an Echo device for it to respond at first, which is unsurprising as it lacks the advanced microphone array in Amazon’s smart speakers.

Show Mode Charging Dock

amazon fire hd 8 review


The Show Mode Charging Dock comes with its own power adapter and microUSB cable to charge the tablet, but it and its angle adjustable kickstand can be used without power too. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Amazon also sells an optional Show Mode Charging Dock, which consists of a plastic case you put around your Fire HD 8 and a stand into which you slot the tablet in the case.

Magnets in the back make sure the tablet aligns correctly and charges using little metal contacts on the case, firing up Show Mode if the tablet is ideal or continuing whatever activity you were doing such as watching video.

You can therefore start a video in the lounge, slot the tablet into the dock in the kitchen then take it back with you when you shift to the dinner table.

The Dock will be sold separately at a later date to be used with older Fire HD 8 and HD 10 tablets, but for now is sold as a bundle with the new Fire HD 8 for £130.

Observations

amazon fire hd 8 review


The case fits to the back of the Fire HD 8 and slots into the microUSB socket on the side to provide power when mounted in the dock. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
  • The cameras are improved (now both 2-megapixels) since last year, but they’re still pretty terrible compared to most modern smartphones

  • You can’t use the tablet without at least a basic Amazon account, but really needs a Prime subscription to get the best out of it

  • It doesn’t come with a passcode or encryption out of the box, but the option is there in the settings

  • Show Mode will be coming to other Amazon Fire tablets relatively soon via a software update

  • Wifi support is only for the older 802.11n, not the newer 802.11ac specification, which impacts range and speed

Price

The 2018 Amazon Fire HD 8 costs £79.99 for 16GB of storage with special offers and is available in black, yellow, blue and red.

Removing the ads on the lock screen costs £10, while the 32GB storage version costs £99.99. The Fire HD 8 can also be bought with the Show Mode Charging Dock for £109.98 and £129.98 for 16 or 32GB of storage respectively.

The Fire HD 8 is also available in a kids’ edition with 32GB of storage and a child-proof case for £129.99.

Verdict

The Amazon Fire HD 8 is about the only tablet worth buying for £80. It gets the basics right with more frills than you might expect, as long as you’re happy to be embedded within Amazon’s ecosystem.

Most of the apps you need are in the Amazon app store. The tablet works great for video, comics, books and other media consumption. You can use it as a general-purpose tablet too, but most will simply just watch video on it.

The addition of Show Mode to the hands-free Alexa system on the tablet is great. If you wanted a smart display but didn’t feel like throwing down £200 on an Echo Show, the Fire HD 8 makes a great substitute, particularly with the Show Mode Charging Dock.

Amazon’s extended software support is much better than you would find elsewhere for similar money, and its help pages and bundling of services are excellent.

It can be a little sluggish at times, but you’re still getting a lot of tablet for your money with the Fire HD 8.

Pros: it costs just £80, HD screen, microSD card slot, good battery life, durable, good speakers, Alexa, Show Mode

Cons: poor cameras, very slow charging, chunky, no USB-C, bit sluggish at times

amazon fire hd 8 review


Amazon Echo Show on the left, the Fire HD 8 in the Show Mode Charging Dock on the right. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

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