Amazon’s made a new tablet and, at £90, it’s bargain basement. However, it’s also far from perfect, so read on to ensure you can live with its various… quirks… before reaching for your bank card.
What Is It?
An unusual follow-up to last year’s model. This newer version of the Fire HD 8 is actually chunkier, heavier and -- let’s make no bones about it -- uglier than its predecessor, but it’s largely thanks to these downgrades that it’s also a more compelling option, as it’s £30 cheaper.
Who Is It For?
Anybody that doesn’t want to pay through the nose for a tablet... and also happens to be calm enough to put up with Fire OS. Potentially one for the kids.
As mentioned above, the Fire HD 8 is not a pretty specimen. It’s drab, it’s blocky, it’s functional.
Amazon’s gone with a plastic body, which feels every bit as cheap as you’d expect it to. It’s easy to flex and the volume rocker and power key rattle around in their cutouts. However, it’s surprisingly durable, surviving a week in and out of my battered old bag without suffering so much as a scratch.
Though it’s only an 8-incher, it feels significantly more substantial due to that chunky 9.2mm frame. However, it’s still light enough to use one-handed, coming in at a perfectly manageable 341g, and the rounded corners make it comfortable to grip.
In portrait mode, the microUSB port, headphone jack, power button and volume keys sit way up on the top edge, with the microSD slot on the right and the speakers on the left.
The Fire HD 8’s widescreen display -- and name, to some extent -- suggests that this is a tablet designed primarily for video entertainment, but that’s not quite the case. Its 8-inch, 1,280 x 800 IPS display is decidedly average, offering 189 pixels per inch.
That said, while image quality isn’t exactly crystal clear, it’s more than adequate if you limit your expectations. After all, we’re talking about a £90 tablet here. Viewing angles are actually very impressive, though you’ll have to pump screen brightness up to maximum in order to see anything in bright sunlight.
The speakers are pleasantly loud too, but the audio sounds messy and lacks clarity, as though the tablet’s perpetually stuck playing music inside an echoey chamber.
We have no qualms with performance though. The Fire HD 8 has a quad-core 1.3GHz processor paired with 1.5GB of RAM, and the combination is powerful enough to keep performance zippy and smooth, whether you’re playing with apps, watching videos or gaming.
I only experienced any lag when I had several demanding programs running simultaneously, which is to be expected at this price
Stamina is solid too, with the Fire’s 4,750mAh battery capable of burning through around eight hours of consistent use. If you plan on indulging in a lovely movie-binge, however, expect between five and six hours, especially if you have screen brightness cranked up, as I consider to be necessary.
Unfortunately, the powering up process is unbearably slow, with a full charge taking over five hours.
If you’re pretty happy with everything that’s come before this point, here’s where you’re almost certainly going to be challenged. Though the Fire HD 8’s operating system, Fire OS, is based on Android, the interface is far, far different to what you might be used to.
You have very little control over your home screens, with Amazon instead treating them like store departments, in order to get you to sign up for Prime and direct you to its numerous products and services. There’s a screen dedicated to Amazon Books, another to Music, another to Audiobooks, and one of them’s simply called Shop. You can’t hide or get rid of any of them.
I, along with many others, dislike the approach. There’s too much going on, and almost all of it’s branded with the Amazon logo. You’ll even see an ad every time you unlock the tablet, though a Fire HD 8 without these ‘Special Offers’ is available for an extra tenner.
What’s more, the Fire HD 8 doesn’t provide access to Google Play, with Amazon instead offering up the contents of its own Appstore. It’s more limited than Play -- Spotify’s a huge miss -- though you’ll be able to find and download most of your go-to apps.
The parental controls, on the other hand, are pretty comprehensive, so it won't be difficult to ensure your little ones stick to Thomas & Friends and nothing more sinister.
This is a short section. The Fire features a 2-megapixel main camera and a VGA selfie sensor. Both are pretty terrible, which is fine because taking pictures on a tablet is silly anyway.
It’s far from the perfect package, but the Amazon Fire HD 8 packs plenty of bang for your buck. It’s a reliable tablet with a decent screen and solid specs, but Fire OS is a potential deal-breaker.