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Amazon Fire HD 8 review

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Summary

Our Score:

7

Pros

  • Very low price
  • Decent battery life
  • Plenty of storage

Cons

  • Ad-riddled interface
  • Basic nagivation a little slow
  • Very poor cameras

Key Features

  • 8-inch 1,280 x 800 LCD IPS screen
  • 8/16GB storage
  • Quad-core MediaTek MT8135 CPU
  • 1.5GB RAM
  • VGA selfie camera
  • 2-megapixel rear camera
  • Manufacturer: Amazon
  • Review Price: £89.99

Amazon has just updated the Fire HD8, here's what's new

They might not be the most constantly evolving pieces of tech, but Amazon’s various Fire tablets certainly have plenty going for them. They’re cheap, virtually impossible to break and a decent gateway to Amazon’s ever-growing content library.

And, luckily for you, there’s a brand-new model going on sale soon: the Fire HD8 (2017). Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot that’s revolutionary here; instead, the Fire HD8 sees a minor internal upgrade alongside a lower price and some new colours.

Fire HD8: Buy from Amazon here

The most significant update is on the software side: the Fire HD8 (2017) is the first Fire tablet in the UK to ship with the Alexa digital assistant. A feature already available in the US, Alexa is basically the same as she is on the Fire TV, Echo and upcoming Echo Show, offering control over your smart home, divulging the football scores, playing books from Audible, and a whole lot more.

An Amazon spokesperson said these features should be rolling out to the older Fire HD8 too, but a release date wasn’t specified.

Related: Best Budget Tablets 2017

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The big issue with Alexa functionality in the Fire HD8 (2017) is that it needs to be sparked into life and won’t respond to a simple “Alexa” voice command. This is clearly to keep the costs down, but it dampens the usefulness of the assistant.

The new Kindle HD8 has an 8-inch 1280 x 800 display that looks sharp enough, but individual pixels are easy to spot on close inspection. Colours are vibrant, and there’s a surprising hit of brightness.

The body is the same tough plastic as on previous models, but the HD8 is available in a few new colour options, including a vivid bright yellow and red.

Inside, the unnamed CPU sees no change and is accompanied by 2GB of RAM. However, Amazon has improved the Wi-Fi module, which now offers dual-band support for a more consistent connection when streaming.

Storage options of 16GB and 32GB can be expanded via microSD, and Amazon is claiming a 12-hour battery life. That’s an improvement over the current model.

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The 16GB model of the Fire HD8 (2017) comes in at £79/$79 and the 32GB version costs an extra £20/$20. Both versions will be available from Amazon on June 7, along with a new Kids HD8 that adds in a bumper case, a two-year warranty and a year’s subscription to the Prime Kids service. The Kids version is only available in 32GB and will cost £129.99/$129.99.

Continue reading for our full review of the previous HD8 and stay tuned for an updated review of the new model.

What is the Amazon Fire HD 8?

The Amazon Fire HD 8 is one of the cheapest tablets you can buy from a recognisable brand. It costs around £90, making it £50 less than the Samsung Galaxy Tab E – a larger-screened tablet, but one with otherwise comparable specs.

If you consider yourself a tech-head and aren't buying for someone else, you may want to consider spending a little more. However, the Fire HD is perfect for those with more modest expectations, and easy to recommend to family buyers that aren't after something as fancy as an iPad mini.

Amazon Fire HD 8 7

Amazon Fire HD 8 – Design

One of the best aspects of the Amazon Fire HD 8 is that while it is a cheap tablet, it doesn’t appear instantly dated like some others in this price category. It isn't thick or heavy, and it doesn’t sport an ultra-wide screen surround that can make a tablet seem bulky and old-fashioned.

Just look at the space to the left and right of the screen; there’s enough room to fit your thumb, but not so much that the Amazon Fire HD 8's footprint appears much larger than the display at its centre. It’s a little thicker than the last Fire HD 8 at 9.2mm, however.

Amazon Fire HD 8 3

Its build is solid for the price. There’s just the tiniest bit of casing flex under significant hand pressure and the display doesn’t distort when you press down on the front.

The top-most part of the plastic casing does move inwards by about a millimetre under finger pressure, but this is more likely to be the battery cover. While non-removable, it’s mostly there to look nice and take the brunt of any impact; the real structure of the Amazon Fire HD 8 is inside.

Amazon Fire HD 8 11

I’m looking at the blue version of the Amazon Fire HD 8. It’s a pleasant shade and has a textured finish that both looks and feels better than glossy plastic. The tablet is also available in red, purple and black.

The Fire HD 8 succeeds in a manner that sounds like an insult: it isn't rubbish. However, I’ve used many sub-£100 tablets over the years that are, frankly, rubbish – and a constant reminder that you opted to cheap out.

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Despite its price, there are areas where the Fire HD 8 impresses. For example, it includes 16GB storage. This was ample to allow for me to install a handful of data-greedy games; many sub-£150 tablets provide only 8GB. The Fire HD 8 also has a microSD slot on the side, an important extra if you want load up some movies for a long plane journey.

Amazon has tried to make a tablet that isn’t going to disappoint buyers quickly. I don’t think many of you will feel let down by its build, or become irritated by the amount of storage space with which you have to play.

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Amazon Fire HD 8 – Screen

The screen, however, may put a few folk off. Its specs are basic, as is the case with all the lower-cost Fire tablets, but what is most evident is the lack of display contrast in a well-lit room.

The screen is highly reflective, making blacks appear quite grey. This isn't the usual symptom of the LCD screen’s backlight showing through, but is a result of the different layers of the screen’s structure reflecting a small amount of ambient light.

As such, the Amazon Fire HD 8 will look quite low energy compared with your smartphone, unless you increase the screen brightness by quite some margin; this will make the contrast seem better. There’s no Auto brightness setting here, so you have to make any alterations manually.

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Other parts of the Amazon Fire HD 8 screen are perfectly fine for the £90 price. 1,280 x 800 pixels spread across 8 inches doesn’t look super-sharp, but the software does a good enough job of smoothing out fonts so they don’t appear ugly.

This is one area where the more gadget-savvy among you may be disappointed, given that Amazon calls this an “HD” tablet. It’s only just sharp enough to avoid looking awful, and small fonts in the browser are unflatteringly pixellated.

How good colours appear will depend on how liberal you are with the brightness slider. The contrast-sapping screen style makes colours appear quite low-energy until you jack up the backlight. However, in isolation colours are actually respectable; they’re not anaemic.

The Amazon Fire HD 8 display goes pretty bright too, which is handy to combat all those screen reflections if you're going to use it outdoors.

Bugblatter

October 27, 2016, 8:11 pm

We got a second-hand HUDL 2 for about the same price and it's pretty good for the simple duties we need it for. And it's proper Android with Google Play and no ads.

You can get a new one for around £150 (from ebay as Tesco has discontinued them) but that's quite a big step-up of course.

TerFar

November 7, 2016, 12:30 pm

It is a great 8" tablet, but as you say it is riddled with ads and crap, crap, and even more crap.

More important is the lack of Google Playstore access. So you have to hack the device to get Playstore, which also has the benefit of eliminating those pesky ads.

I know that Amazon are selling this cheap and want us all to use all the Fire products (Movies, Music, Books, etc.), but so many good apps are missing from their store that it is unacceptable unless they make far more apps available and remove much of the 'Amazon OS' overlay masking Android.

I'd only recommend this if you are willing to root the device and install one of the many 'raw' Android versions available. Then it is stunning value for money kit.

Geode1010

December 30, 2016, 9:13 am

The only ads on it are on the lock screen... Also, moving Google Play on this is as simple as installing 4 apk files. If you can find a better tablet for this price, show me...

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