Where Apple has dominated the premium tablet market with its iPad range, Amazon has had great success at the affordable end of the market, offering budget-friendly Fire tablets at different sizes and prices but with easy access to popular apps and services.
With its 2022 update to the popular 8-inch model, Amazon sought to make it a faster tablet and – as always – there are multiple models. There’s the regular Fire HD 8 and HD 8 Plus, but there’s also a Kids edition. We’re reviewing the regular HD 8 version here, but let’s have a brief look at the differences, so you can decide which version is for you.
Fire HD 8 vs HD 8 Plus: What’s the difference?
The truth is that there’s not a huge amount of difference between the regular and ‘Plus’ variants of the Fire HD 8 – not to mention only £20/$20 between them. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the Plus differentiates itself by having a grey textured rear surface, whereas the regular model is completely smooth. What’s more, the regular is available in three colours: black, pink and navy blue. The Plus is only available in grey.
Otherwise, the only real differences are internal. The HD 8 Plus features wireless charging, so you can dock it on an optional wireless charging stand and even have it convert to an Echo Show of sorts when docked. However, the regular Fire HD 8 can also be used in Show Mode, but not with a wireless charger. To be honest that’s not a huge loss, as it’s not the most convenient way to charge it anyway. Charging stands are usually too small to line up charging coils with those in the tablet’s rear.
Lastly, there’s some extra RAM in the Fire HD 8 Plus. You get 3GB RAM vs 2GB in the regular, but both feature the same upgraded Hexa-core 2.0Ghz processor and are available in 32GB and 64GB configurations.
No frills design
- 201.90 x 137.34 x 9.60mm – 337g
- 35 per cent recycled plastic
- 3.5mm port – USB-C 2.0
There’s nothing especially fancy or premium about the Fire HD 8 tablet’s design, but then, at this price point, you wouldn’t expect there to be. It’s about being practical and giving you a device that’s easy to grab and use. Regardless of whether you get the Plus or regular version, the device’s casing is made from partly recycled plastic and is relatively compact.
Being an 8-inch tablet means it’s smaller than your typical ‘full-size’ tablets like the iPad or Fire HD 10. That means it’s easy to carry around in your bag, even if you only have a handbag. At a push, it might even fit in a big coat pocket.
Rounded edges around all four sides make it easy to hold on to, and the thick, even bezels all the way around the display give you somewhere to place your thumbs without encroaching on the display area.
The focus on practicality means you get a 3.5mm port for headphones, for those who prefer wired personal audio over wireless. That sits on the same edge as the USB-C charging port, power button and volume up and down. As it happens, which one is up or down depends on the orientation of the device, it adapts to the way you’re holding it.
It is – however – missing any kind of biometric authentication. You don’t get a fingerprint scanner of any kind, and certainly no facial recognition. So you’re essentially forced to input a PIN code every time you unlock the tablet.
Display and software
- 1280 x 800 resolution
- LCD IPS panel
- Fire OS 8.3
Not a lot has changed on the display and media front over the past couple of years for the Fire HD 8 family. That means you get an HD resolution screen or – more technically – a 1280 x 800 panel with 189 pixel-per-inch density.
It’s not pin-sharp by any means, so you will find that elements like fine text and curves are a little rough around the edges if you look closely. The same is true of any games you might play. It’s bright enough for indoor usage, and the colours are natural and a little muted. The only thing that negatively impacts it is the display not having an effective oleophobic layer, so you may find yourself needing to wipe it clean more often than you would on your smartphone.
Still, considering what you’re paying for the tablet to begin with, that’s hardly surprising and – actually – it’s good enough that it lets you enjoy your content without much issue. Amazon’s software will let you watch pretty much anything you want to, thanks to support for most popular streaming services.
You can download Disney+, Netflix, YouTube and – in the UK – popular TV streaming apps like All 4, Now, ITV Hub and Freevee among many others. A lot of these you will need to download from the Amazon Appstore, but the tablet is pretty well set up out of the box, as long as you’re happy with Amazon’s services.
Apps like Prime Video, Kindle, Goodreads, Amazon Music, Amazon Kids, Audible, Amazon Photos and Alexa are all preinstalled, giving you instant access to Amazon’s products. What that means is that – once you’re signed into your Amazon account – you can quickly and easily go shop on Amazon, or Read from your Kindle library or watch movies on Prime Video without having to sign in again.
It’s that simplicity that makes the Fire tablets so appealing. It’s virtually ready to go as soon as you take it out of its box. Just power it on, connect to your Wi-Fi network, create or sign into your Amazon account, and that’s it. You don’t have to go through multiple set-up screens to start using it. All that’s really required is that initial sign-in, and you’ve got your Amazon services at your fingertips.
That – as we touched on already – includes using the Fire tablet as an Echo Show of sorts. It has a Show mode, has Alexa built-in and, by default, can respond to voice commands the same way an Echo would. So if you want to ask it anything while you’re using the tablet, you can. Or if you want to control your smart home from the tablet, you can.
While the tablet is best used as an access point for Amazon services, you can also use other popular third-party apps. There are thousands available in the Appstore. There’s an entire suite of Microsoft apps like Outlook, OneDrive and OneNote, plus Zoom for when you want/need to make video conference calls with friends, family and colleagues.
Hardware, performance and features
- Up to 13 hours of reading/browsing
- 2.0GHz Hexa-core processor
- Regular: 2GB RAM – 32GB or 64GB storage
- Plus: 3GB RAM – 32GB or 64GB storage
- Expandable via microSD up to 1TB
- 5MP rear camera – 2MP front camera
Budget-friendly tablets aren’t known for having iPad Pro levels of power and speed, and so the balance for Amazon is building a tablet that can do what you need it to without being too slow to use. With its latest 2.0GHz processor inside the Fire HD 8, that’s what you get – for the most part.
Amazon says it has improved speed by 30 per cent over the previous model, and we tested it with a number of different apps and games to see how it coped. With casual titles, the tablet was more than capable of keeping up with the graphics and animations.
There were a couple of games where it struggled a little. Asphalt 9 – as an example – would often suffer a little with stuttering and frame dropping, although never to the point where it would hang or crash. However, Real Racing 3 didn’t seem to pose as much of an issue, although the resolution wasn’t particularly sharp on that game.
Still, that didn’t stop us from enjoying using it when we fancied a quick game on Crossy Road or a similar low-intensity game.
One of the things we often come across with Fire tablets while using them is running out of storage space quite quickly. Amazon continues to offer relatively low storage options at just 32GB or 64GB, which isn’t a huge amount of space. However, if you buy a microSD card, and it’s fast enough, you can expand that storage and have the memory card adopted as internal storage so that you can install apps and store photos and files on it.
The only problem we found with using a microSD card and ‘adopting’ it this way was that we’d experience more instances of games crashing if they were stored on the card rather than on the internal storage, so we’d much rather see Amazon offer higher capacities out of the box.
Battery life is strong. Amazon says up to 13 hours of mixed usage is possible which, in reality, means it should last you a few days between charges. With a couple of hours usage per day, you’ll likely only have to charge it once every 4-5 days. That was the kind of usage pattern we fell into, consuming around 20-25 per cent battery per day.
One last thing worth a quick mention: cameras. It has one on the front and another on the rear, but both are low resolution and not particularly great for taking photos/selfies. Really, they’re for use whenever you might want to make a video call using Zoom or Skype. It means you get that functionality, even if the visual quality of the lenses and sensors isn’t very good. Results lack colour, sharpness and dynamic range, so you’re much better off using your phone for photos.