The Amazon Fire line of products is tailor-made with media consumption in mind. Their latest offering, the Amazon Fire HD 8 (8th Gen) takes this concept and runs with it. Offering solid performance for movies, music and books, don’t go in expecting it to compete against the iPad anytime soon.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 is a humble offering, and never is that more apparent than when you pick it up and play around with it for a few minutes. The plastic body makes it an ideal tablet for kids, taking around as you travel, or just using it around the house. It’s light to hold at only 363 grams, and while it may not be as light as some of the Kindle offerings, it worked wonderfully for media consumption and light reading on the couch.
The screen on the HD 8 is nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done. The 1280×800 LCD screen offers a 189 PPI that is bright enough to get most of its jobs done, but don’t expect it to be usable while outside on a bright day. Colour reproduction was fair, albeit a tad yellow, and the resolution on offer worked wonders for books, magazines, and the occasional comic that popped on the HD screen. While your retina iPad will do a better job in most cases, for the price and level of portability, the HD 8 hits well above its weight class in this round.
Design wise, Amazon included all you would expect from a tablet in 2018. The stereo speakers are both on the left side of the device, for use while in landscape mode. The top of the device is home to the volume rocker, 3.5mm headphone jack, charging port, and the power button. On the right-hand side of the tablet you will find the expandable micro SD slot, that will allow you to add up to an additional 400GB of storage. The 2 MP rear camera is in the top right-hand corner, with the 2 MP front-facing camera at the very top of the screen. All in all, the Fire HD 8 is a smart if not utilitarian looking tablet, that fits in line with the other devices in the Fire range of products.
Under the hood, the HD 8 runs a MediaTek 1.3 GHz Soc with a Mali-T720 for graphics running FireOS on top of Android 7.1.2 and 1.5 GB of RAM. If this all sounds like a tablet we would see from Samsung or Motorola a few years back, that’s because spec wise it is. In our benchmarks, the HD 8 only managed to score a bit better than the OnePlus 2 in multi-core tests and fell far behind the Samsung S6 in single-core benchmarks.
Yet, even with these scores and the specs on offer, the HD 8 feels snappy. The FireOS was clearly optimized for this hardware with apps, games and even HD movies running without any noticeable slowdown. The FireOS was quick to respond, and throughout our testing, we never saw any noticeable lag while using the device for what it was intended media consumption.
Wireless on the HD 8 was reliable, especially for a tablet of this price range. The dual-band wi-fi managed to get a signal throughout the office and our test location, with it achieving more than reasonable results on the 5G network for HD movies and downloading of various media. While some of our more expensive tablets in the office managed slightly faster speeds, this could be due to the limited RAM on offer in the HD 8. That being said, for most uses, the HD 8 is more than acceptable.
I’ll also outline that while the HD 8 comes equipped with front and rear facing cameras, these are more for show than practical use. In an era where phones can take studio-level photos, there is no reason to use the Fire HD 8’s 2MP camera for anything more than fun photos or selfies. The quality is just not there for anything more substantial.
For our rundown test, the HD 8 managed far better than the price tag would suggest. While running a series of movies through Netflix, we found it achieved just over 5 hours and fifteen 15 minutes of battery life at medium brightness. With mixed-use focusing on browsing and light video, we found it managed well above this, and the fact it can charge on micro USB, if you have a power backup at the ready, means that you and your kids will have little to worry about in the realm of battery.
Amazon also includes its iconic voice assistant Alexa in this years HD 8. While I am not the biggest fan of voice assistance, Alexa has evolved a fair amount since launch. The ability to use all the same voice cues and tasks on all your home speakers is a joy. Everything integrates as I would hope, and the HD 8 made a great addition to my Amazon Alexa blanketed household.
All in all, the HD 8 has performed well, especially when considering the price, but for me a major fault rests with the software. FireOS is tailor-made for media consumption, it is easy to use, and helps you get to your media with ease. But with all this ease comes compromise. The OS is constantly trying to push Amazon streaming products at you, and I would argue if you don’t’ have Amazon Prime, much of what makes the tablet exciting will be lost.
But the biggest issue, at least for me, was the lack of Google apps on the platform. It is odd picking up an Android-based device and not seeing the iconic Gmail, Search, Chrome, or PlayStore. The Amazon app store does a good job filling in these gaps, and the Silk browser managed to be a pleasant experience overall, for anyone who relies on the Google ecosystem, the lack of these apps can be jarring.
But at the end of the day, the HD 8 is a sub $100 tablet, and it is hard to compete with that price point. Yes, you will make compromises not to fork out extra money, but Amazon has done an excellent job mitigating these issues. Combine that with an overall polished and easy to use experience, the HD 8 makes a great media consumption or kids tablet that won’t break the bank.