Amazon Fire HD 8 Review: Hey, Not Bad for $90

by Reads (8,450)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 8
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 8
      • Usability
      • 8
      • Design
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 4
      • Features
      • 5
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 10
      • Total Score:
      • 7.14
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Low price
    • Good-quality display
    • Immense battery life
  • Cons

    • Poor front and rear cameras
    • Barely adequate performance
    • Heavily tied to Amazon services

Quick Take

With its low price, the Amazon Fire HD 8 is a decent option for light personal use. The screen is large enough for ebooks and video, and this tablet makes a good choice for Amazon Prime subscribers. Those who aren't fans of Amazon should look elsewhere, though.

Tablets under $100 are often little more than junk, but the Amazon Fire broke that mold last year by delivering decent quality at $50. The new Amazon Fire HD 8 costs a bit more, but at $89.99 is still cheap, and it sports a larger display than last year’s model.

Build & Design

As a consumer-oriented tablet, the Fire HD 8 comes in a range of casing colors: black, magenta, blue, and tangerine. The sides and back of the outer shell are all plastic, but build quality is good, and buried in this product is a frame that’s strong enough to firmly resist our attempts to flex it.

Its 8.4 x 5.0 x 0.4-inch shape is mostly determined by the mid-size display. That’s not pocketable, but certainly small enough to easily be carried in a backpack or purse. It comes in at 12.0 ounces, which is a touch heavy given its dimensions; still, it’s light enough to function as an ebook reader.

Amazon Fire HD 8

Amazon Fire HD 8 in Three Colors

The Fire HD 8 isn’t going to win any design awards, and the bezels around the screen could definitely be smaller, but it’s surprisingly well built for a sub-$100 model.

Display

This tablet has an 8-inch IPS screen, as its name implies. The resolution is 1280 x 800, giving it 189 ppi pixel density. That’s good enough for images to look fine and text to be reasonably clear.

Amazon Fire HD 8

Amazon Fire HD 8

A mid-size display like this one makes for an ideal ebook reader, and is a better option than a 4-5 in. smartphone or even a 6-inch tablet for watching video, playing games, and social networking.

Ports, Camera, & Speakers

Fortunately, Amazon didn’t leave the microSD memory card slot out of the Fire HD 8, so users can easily hold plenty of music and video. It’s even protected behind a small plastic door so the card isn’t likely to be accidentally ejected.

A microUSB port on one of the short edges enables the tablet to be recharged, but it does more. It supports USB-OTG so flash drives and keyboards can be plugged in, with the right adapter.

The Fire HD 8 includes a 2MP rear-facing camera that takes poor quality pictures (dark and muddy). Anyone with a smartphone almost certainly has access to a better camera. The VGA front-facing camera is barely adequate to handling video chatting, as long as it’s used in a well-lit area.

There are a pair of stereo speakers with Dolby Audio on the bottom edge of the latest Fire HD 8. These put out more than enough sound to allow us to hear a video with the device just a few feet away.

Performance

The Amazon Fire HD 8 debuted running Fire OS 5.3 Bellini, and an update to Fire OS 5.4 has been promised soon. Both are a modified versions of Android 5.x Lollipop. While that’s not the newest version of Google’s OS, it is the most recent available for any Amazon tablet.

The device is built around a 1.3GHz quad-core processor. While hardly cutting edge, this is still a serviceable chip. We tested it with Geekbench 3, and it received a 1900 on the multi-core test. This puts it on par or better than some rival budget models, but more expensive tablets blow it out of the water. For example, the iPad Pro 12.9 and iPad Pro 9.7 scored 5411 and 5221, respectively.

chart (1)

 

The Amazon Fire HD 8 includes 1.5GB of RAM, which is adequate for light use. Given the slower processor, this isn’t device for multitaskers.

Amazon is offering versions with 16GB and 32GB of built-in storage, and its microSD card slot will support up to 200GB more. In addition, there’s free unlimited storage for books, movies, etc. purchased from Amazon. Given the price of this product, there’s nothing to complain about in storage capacity.

Specs

  • Display:
    8-inch; 1280 x 800 resolution at 189 ppi, with IPS (in-plane switching) technology and advanced polarizing filter
  • Size:
    8.4″ x 5.0″ x 0.4″ (214 mm x 128 mm x 9.2 mm)
    12.0 ounces (341 grams)
  • CPU & RAM:
    Quad-Core: 1.3 GHz , with 1.5 GB of RAM
  • Storage:
    16 GB (11.1 GB available to user) or 32 GB (25.3 GB available to user) of internal storage. Add microSD card for up to 200 GB of additional storage
  • Battery Life:
    Up to 12 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching video, and listening to music.
    Fully charges in under 6 hours
  • Wi-Fi Connectivity:
    Single-antenna Wi-Fi. Supports 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n standard with support for WEP, WPA, and WPA2 security
  • 4G Connectivity:
    N/A
  • Ports:
    USB 2.0 (micro-B connector)
    3.5 mm stereo jack

Software

As mentioned earlier, Fire OS is a modified version of Google’s Android operating system. The goal of most of these changes is to emphasize Amazon’s books, videos, app store, audiobooks, and online retail store.

Amazon Fire HD 8

Amazon Fire OS

The Amazon Fire HD 8 does not support the Google App Store or Google’s Android applications. For example, Google Maps can’t be loaded on this tablet, nor can Google Books. Users can access their Gmail account, but not through a Gmail app. A great many third-party Android applications are available in the Amazon App Store, however, as long as they don’t compete too directly with an Amazon product.

Amazon shouldn’t have a problem with this policy, especially Amazon Prime members. The HD 8 makes a fine platform for watching the videos included with this subscription. But people who don’t want to be tied to this consumer giant should look elsewhere.

The update to Fire OS 5.4 that has been promised will bring support for Amazon’s Alexa voice-activated personal assistant to this computer, as well as some other recent Fire models. As this feature isn’t available yet we were unable to test it.

Battery Life

Its maker claims up to 12 hours of battery life while reading, surfing the web, watching video, and listening to music. We put this to our torture test by streaming video over Wi-Fi while keeping the screen at 50%, and found that it was actually pessimistic. The Amazon Fire HD 8 lasted 13 hours and 5 minutes in this torture test. This is very impressive, and means this Amazon device has a longer battery life than virtually every other tablet.

Value

The 16GB version of the new Fire HD 8 is $89.99, as long as the buyer is willing to accept that Amazon special offers will appear on the devices unlock screen. This 16GB version without these sells for $104.99, but realistically anyone who has a problem with Amazon advertising to them should look for another tablet. The Amazon Fire HD 8 with 32GB of storage and the special offers is $119.99, and without is $134.99.

Amazon Fire HD 8

Amazon Fire HD 8 In Four Colors

For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 7.0 with 8GB of storage and a smaller screen also costs about $120, while the Asus ZenPad S 8.0 with 32GB of storage and a faster processor sells for around $200.

Conclusion

Despite its sub-$100 price, the Amazon Fire HD 8 is a decent option for people looking for a budget tablet for light personal use. The screen is large enough for ebooks and video, and this model makes a good choice for Amazon Prime subscribers, especially given its immense battery life.

On the other side of the coin, the HD 8 is blocked from using most standard Google applications and services, and it has poor cameras.



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