Amazon Fire HD 8 and Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids edition review: Surprise price cut unveiled
Amazon’s move away from premium tablets with a focus on the budget was abrupt, but not unwarranted. The tablet market has fallen a long way from the heights it reached a few years back. For the most part, tablets are now commodity items handed out for free with mobile phone contracts and given to small children as affordable Christmas presents.
It’s the latter camp that the new Amazon Fire HD 8 falls into: an 8in tablet that costs just £80, that’s about as far from modern tablets such as the Apple iPad Pro 9.7 as it’s possible to get.
Amazon followers might feel like they’ve seen this product somewhere before, and they’d be right. In its original incarnation, the Amazon Fire HD 8 was released at the back end of 2015, along with the Amazon Fire HD 10 and the 6in, £50 Fire. This, the 2017 version, looks identical, comes with the same quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek MT8163 processor and 1.5GB of RAM, but there’s something a little extra up its sleeve. This is the new Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet, now with Alexa.
Amazon Fire HD 8 review: Performance and battery life
With zero change to its innards, the Amazon Fire HD 8 – unsurprisingly – performs near-identical to the budget tablet it supersedes. it’s not particularly quick, as expected, and suffers from serious slowdown issues, but will serve you well for the most part.
In a serious case of “you get what you pay for” the Fire HD 8 scored 644 in the Geekbench 3 single-core test, and 1,854 in multi-core. That’s not the fastest, not by a long shot, but menu navigation was reasonably smooth, and general navigation didn’t raise any red flags.It’s not a particularly accomplished gaming device either, returning a sluggish average of 7.1fps in the GFXBench onscreen Manhattan test, which runs at the screen’s native resolution of 800 x 1,280. Keep your sights low, though, and install only basic and puzzle-based games, and you’ll be okay.
Importantly, too, the HD 8 will get you from A to B in Fire OS without chugging too much, it copes fine with Netflix and BBC iPlayer streaming, and it’s a reasonably accomplished tool for browsing the web. Amazon’s Silk browser does a good job of keeping all but the most media-heavy websites feeling responsive and usable.
Where the Fire HD 8 shines is its stamina. In our video-rundown test – in which we set the screen to a standard brightness of 170cd/m2, put the device into flight mode and play video continuously until the battery dies – the Fire HD 8 lasted 13hrs 4mins. It’s the longest-lasting Fire tablet we’ve tested, and lasted longer in this test than the larger Amazon Fire HD 10 by roughly four hours.
Amazon Fire HD 8 review: Design
Elsewhere, little has changed. Physically, it’s the same as last year’s Fire HD 8. It’s available in the same four colours – black, blue, magenta and tangerine – and made almost entirely of plastic. Although slim, it’s hardly the most arresting of sights.
The screen surround is so wide that I initially thought Amazon had sent across the wrong tablet, and it feels chunky. It also feels pretty cheap. But then, that’s to be expected in an £80 tablet, and despite the plastic construction, the Fire HD 8 does feel reasonably robust, which is exactly what you want in a tablet likely to be handed to a child as a birthday or Christmas present.
Amazon Fire HD 8 review: Screen and camera quality
Where budget tablets usually suffer in comparison with pricier models is screen quality. That’s the £50 Amazon Fire tablet’s weakest suit afterall, and I fully expected it to be the Fire HD 8’s worst area as well. Here, the HD 8 put in an unexpectedly accomplished performance.
Although the resolution isn’t all that high, reaching only 800 x 1,280, its fully laminated IPS panel produces a watchable, balanced image that’s easy on the eye. I measured the contrast ratio at a punchy 968:1 with maximum brightness reaching 455cd/m2, so even in difficult conditions – in the window seat on a train or in the car on a bright day, for example – it remains usable. For an £80 tablet, that’s impressive enough.
Where the screen surprises, however, the 2-megapixel rear-facing camera resorts to type. It simply isn’t all that good, with all of my test shots – even those captured in good light – looking grainy and severely lacking in detail. It’s a token effort, nothing more, nothing less.
Amazon Fire HD 8 review: Alexa
The best bit about this new Amazon Fire HD 8 is all about Alexa, and its integration with which is fantastic. Amazon’s own digital assistant is an impressive one, she’ll read you audio books, tell you the weather or give you a heads up on any important events in your calendar, all at your beck and call.
To take full advantage of Alexa, you’ll have to head over to Settings, Device options, and you’ll be presented with an option to access Alexa directly from the central home button. In doing so; just hold down the home button and bark away. She won’t bite, I promise.
Of course, Alexa can be disabled should you wish, and she’s completely option should her creepy eavesdropping put you off when browsing the internet. But, why would you? Not when this is the Fire HD 8’s best, and shiniest, feature. Don’t buy an Amazon Echo I say, get a Fire Tablet with Alexa for cheaper.
There are those who don’t like Amazon’s Fire OS (the software running on the Fire HD 8 tablet), citing incompatibility with Google Play and a lack of core Google apps. Those are valid criticisms, but they ignore Fire OS’s many strengths, which include superior (and free) parental controls, and much tighter integration with Amazon’s various services.
Amazon Fire HD 8 review: Verdict
The Fire HD 8 isn’t the slickest tablet around. Its camera is a bit naff, it isn’t particularly quick and it feels a touch on the cheap side, but for £80 the rest of it isn’t half bad. For media streaming and web browsing, it’s great, the battery life is exceptional, and I really like Amazon’s family-orientated Fire OS software. That, and this new Alexa integration as standard is perfect. This is one of the cheapest means of taking full advantage of everything Amazon’s digital butler has to offer.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 is an excellent option for those looking for something a little larger than the bargain-basement £50 6in Amazon Fire. Now that the Tesco Hudl has died a dramatic death, Amazon’s budget tablets reign supreme.