The Amazon Fire HD 8 is an Android-based tablet designed to lure in buyers who don’t want to spend lots of money. It will set you back £129 – or £139, if you don’t want its screen to be plastered with "special offer" ads for Amazon products as soon as you try to turn it off.
This reveals the true purpose behind Amazon’s tablets: The company wants to expose you to its wares 24/7, to make sure that whenever you buy a new book, album or movie, it’ll come from Amazon's shelves.
Thanks to great new services such as Amazon Underground, this isn't necessarily a bad thing for the casual crowd. However, owing to the Amazon Fire HD 8’s somewhat slow performance and low-resolution screen, there are better choices out there for most buyers, such as the Tesco Hudl 2 and Asus ZenPad S 8.0.
Related: Best Cheap Tablets 2015
Some tablets are happy being plastic, like the Nexus 9. Others plastic tablets like the faux-aluminium EE Harrier Tab are desperate to be metal. The Amazon Fire HD 8 reverses this by having a metal frame coated in plastic.
The result is a tablet that looks and feels like a cheap plastic tablet, but has the rigidity of a metal one. It’ll no doubt cut down on customer returns, but makes the tablet seem low-end on first feel. The Amazon Fire HD 8’s back is ultra-glossy and desperate to pick up fingerprints as soon as it can.
It’s a curious design choice, but one that means the Amazon Fire HD 8 is actually better-made than it at first appears. That said, there is a wide seam between the screen and the top plastic edging in our sample. It’s still a pile ‘em high and sell them cheap operation.
Why not make a full metal tablet? The metal is likely an ugly skeleton that sits under all that plastic, and doesn’t seem to extend to the extreme edges.
This design style lets the Amazon Fire HD 8 get super-thin. It’s 7.7mm thick and weighs 311g: Just a shade thicker and heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4. As a list of bullet points on a product page, the Fire HD 8 looks great. But its feel is that of a cheaper model.
The baseline Amazon Fire HD 8 gets you 8GB of storage, which can be upgraded to 16GB for £20. Every pound matters here, though as the more you spend the closer you get to being able to buy a competing Android tablet which won't tie you to Amazon services.
Having used the Amazon Fire HD 8 for a while now, one of the issues that continues to annoy is its screen. The core technologies it uses are all the right choices. It has an IPS LCD screen with a slimline screen architecture.
This ensures viewing angles are good, colour performance is at least OK, and makes the display image appear right by the surface of the tablet rather than recessed underneath it like the cheap tablet displays of former years.
What’s harder to accept is the resolution. 1280 x 800 pixels spread across the 8-inch screen provides pixel density of just 189ppi. Pixellation is obvious. Sure it’s worse in the 10-inch Fire HD 10, but it reminds me of the old iPad 2, iPad mini 1 or original 2012 Nexus 7 a bit too strongly.
To give you an idea of how far we should be beyond tablets with this sort of pixel density, the Nexus 7 (2013) and LG G Pad 8.3 are both over two years old, didn’t cost much more and fit in Full HD displays. If this tablet had a Full HD screen, I’d like it a lot more.
Other elements are better. The black level is acceptable for a budget LCD, and while colours don’t have the punch of a higher-grade tablet, the warm-skewed white balance is at least easy on the eyes. As playing a deliberately pixellated game like Sonic CD proves, this is a fairly nice screen aside from pixel poverty.
Calling all enthusiasts: I think the screen resolution alone is enough to wait for a good deal on a Nexus 9, Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4, or just buy a Tesco Hudl 2. Alternatively, the Asus ZenPad S 8.0 offers a 2K-resolution screen for £170.