Amazon is one of a very few select companies still really pushing Android tablets at this stage of 2020 with their Fire HD line — which leads us to the Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020 edition).
Considering that support is all but minimal from Google’s side of things, it’s no wonder that Android tablets have suffered. It’s hard not to suggest you pick up an iPad over a competing Samsung or Amazon option given the choice.
At the low end, there are a few standouts. Most notably the Samsung Galaxy Tab A series but if you go even lower in price, you might have been tempted by the Fire HD series. While they are most definitely a major vehicle for all things “Amazon,” they have steadily improved with the recent release of 2020 Fire HD 8 series to the point they might be of interest to you.
This is the 10th generation Kindle Fire HD device to be released and it has quite a number of notable improvements in both the hardware and software. At just a penny under $90 or £90, is it even worth taking a look?
Hardware & Design
We can sit all day and discuss how Android tablets like the Amazon Fire HD 8 feel “cheap” or have “generic” designs but in reality, all you probably want or need or want is a large, vibrant display in a body bigger than the average smartphone.
There is tons of plastic used on the Fire HD 8, which isn’t a negative. It’s nice to have a piece of tech that can take some everyday abuse and not really come out in bruises, scuffs, and scratches. This is one of a few pieces of hardware I’m more than happy to use without any sort of case. The matte plastic finish is also surprisingly attractive, it’s easy to grip, which given the size of the HD 8 is another bonus.
It’s also pretty lightweight at under 400g. You could easily slip the Amazon Fire HD 8 into your bag every single day without really noticing that it was there. The fact that you also get a 3.5mm headphone port is one reason you might actually like the Fire HD 8.
The base Fire HD 8 comes with 32GB of storage but you can plug in a microSD card up to 1TB — which is really impressive. If you are a big Amazon Prime user, this might be worthwhile for offline video and music storage.
The usage of “HD” is one that just manages to be apt, as the Fire HD 8’s IPS LCD display just scrapes by at 720p. The exact resolution is 1,280 by 800 pixels, which on an 8-inch screen gives you a whopping 189ppi. I can’t say this is a stellar display. It’s borderline poor but it’s probably enough for what you’ll end up using it for.
It does get reasonably bright, which might be important to you, especially if you want to read your Kindle books or watch some Netflix outdoors. You will have difficulty in really bright conditions — thanks in part to the glossy finish. Fingerprints might be a bit of an issue, I’ve noticed that it really does attract grease and dirt more so than my comparable smartphone collection.
Software & Performance
Arguably one area where cheaper Android tablets really start to falter is in performance. You’ll find an upgraded MediaTek MT8168 chipset inside the Amazon Fire HD 8. It’s hard to compare directly to a smartphone chipset, but the experience is far more snappy than almost all sub-$100 smartphones we’ve tested.
If you are wanting better overall performance, you’re likely better off just using your smartphone or stumping up the extra cash for a better Android tablet from the likes of Samsung or even Huawei — even with ongoing Play Store restrictions. 2GB of RAM seems really stingy in 2020, but considering how heavily the OS has been altered by Amazon, it’s actually not as bad as you might imagine.
The biggest gripe with the Amazon Fire HD 8 is undoubtedly it’s heavily forked Android skin called Fire OS. This is one of the biggest Android overhauls you can imagine, with everything geared towards Amazon services and products.
Version 7 of Fire OS comes pre-installed on the Fire HD 8, which is based upon Android Pie. It only comes with the October 2018 security patch, which might be a concern. There are no Google Play Services or apps available “officially” on Amazon’s platform though.
If you want to watch Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, you’ll have no issues with dedicated apps available. YouTube is the most glaring and frustrating omission, especially given that Fire TV devices now have an official app to enjoy. You can sideload a ton of your favorite apps — including YouTube — but this is still an annoyance and introduces some added security concerns.
The layout is so rigid and the lack of support for third-party launchers is still disappointing at this stage of 2020 but Fire OS is yet another vehicle to push you into more Amazon products and services. If you have a Prime subscription this isn’t quite as bad, as you can access more and more content but it’s still a drag.
Everything feels a little out of date, with far too much emphasis placed on tab-style navigation. The menu system feels like a website that isn’t particularly great on a tablet. The UI definitely feels as though it was left behind during the early-Marshmallow days.
Amazon rates the battery life at around 12 hours but I’ve found the standby time to be very impressive. Leaving over a long-day weekend just on my office desk, coming back it had more than 45% left, with the odd email ping and Instagram notification going on in the background. Considering that many of my other devices died during this period, I found it pleasantly surprising to say the least.
Although considering this is a pretty large 4,850mAh with barely any wireless connections save Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, all-day battery should be expected out of the box.
I am really glad that Amazon slapped a USB-C charge port on the Fire HD 8. This makes it so much less frustrating than older models with micro-USB charge ports. Not having to change the charger cable for your smartphone is great and saves carrying multiple cables. It’s even more important as the slow charger that comes with the Fire HD 8 takes an excruciating 5 hours from 0 to 100%. If you’re a sporadic user, then I’m sure you’ll find the battery life on the Amazon Fire HD 8 to be very impressive.
Yes. The Amazon Fire HD 8 does come with a 2-megapixel camera front and rear. You shouldn’t use it though because it is horrendous — although if you want to make video calls, at least you can.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 comes with a pair of forward-facing stereo speakers — although that depends on what orientation you are holding the tablet. They produce quite a “rumble” and are definitely passable at best — plus they don’t get very loud. Luckily you can plug in some wired headphones for a better audio experience.
Amazon’s actually quite impressive voice assistant is enabled by default on the Fire HD 8. While it pales in comparison to the Google Assistant on Pixel hardware, it’s far more useful than Siri at answering your queries and questions. You can ask to open apps, set reminders, timers, and more — so long as you have an internet connection.
If you are happy to persevere with Amazon’s heavy sales tactics then the Amazon Fire HD 8 is about the first Amazon-branded tablet that I have used that I feel like I can actually recommend. Are there better Android tablets out there? 100%. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the Fire HD 8 so much that I have used it a fair amount more than I actually expected.
There is a marginally more expensive Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus, which comes with Qi Wireless charging, 3GB of RAM, and more storage. It is an extra $20 but it’s basically the same beyond those few inclusions.
That said, if you are not an Amazon Prime subscriber, this (or the HD 8 Plus) is an instant skip. The wealth of content available out of the box to Prime subscribers actually makes this is a better package than it would be normally.
Where can I get the Amazon Fire HD 8?
The Amazon Fire HD 8 and HD 8 Plus are available to purchase direct from Amazon for $89.99 and $109.99 respectively. You can pick one up in five colors: plum, slate, black, white, and twilight blue.
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