Amazon Fire HD 8 Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Affordable price; Decent display ; Improved camera quality; Alexa improved; Available in a range of colors

The Cons

Battery life a bit below average; Lack of Google Play apps

Verdict

The Amazon Fire HD 8 is an affordable 8-inch media tablet with good Alexa integration and improved camera quality.

Amazon has updated the Fire HD 8, but I wouldn't blame you for confusing the 2018 (8th generation) and 2017 (7th generation) versions. The newer slate comes in the same four colors, packs the same processor and offers a near-identical set of features as last year's model.

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Yet, there are two key ways this model is better than last year's: Alexa can now be activated without a tap (just with your voice), and the new slate's selfie-cam is much better than before. Unfortunately, the Fire HD 8's battery life is noticeably shorter than that of last year's model. At the end of the day, though, the new slate's still worth the money at its low price.

Amazon Fire HD 8 cheat sheet: What's new, what's different

  • No more taps: Fire HD 8 lets you control Alexa with just your voice.
  • The 9 hours of battery life is decent, but it's less than last year's model had.
  • The selfie-cam photos are a lot better.

Design

We tested a black version of the new Fire HD 8, which is also available in hues Amazon has dubbed Marine Blue, Punch Red and Canary Yellow. The tablet's plastic chassis feels durable, and while the device's top and bottom bezels are a little chunky, its left and right sides are slimmer.

At 0.8 pounds in weight and 0.4 inches thick, the Fire HD 8 is a pretty light and slender piece of tech. The 9.7-inch Apple iPad (1.1 pounds, 0.3 inches) is both slightly heavier and slightly thinner, while the 8-inch Lenovo Tab 4 (0.7 pounds, 0.3 inches) is both lighter and thinner.

A headphone jack on the top of the Fire HD 8 allows you to listen to music and movies privately, and a microSD reader on the right of the slate lets you to expand the device's memory by up to 400GB.

MORE: Amazon Fire HD 8 Gets Better Selfie Camera, Hands-Free Alexa

The Fire HD 8, just like its siblings and predecessors, still charges over micro USB, which is starting to age poorly. I wish Amazon would consider the reversible Type-C port, as I found it hard to remember which side of the USB cable connector was up (it's the side with the circular groove); I wasted seconds figuring that out.

Display

Watching an episode of Netflix's Ugly Delicious on the Fire HD 8, I noted decent color quality, slight pixelation and overall dullness.

As tomatoes danced in a stop-motion animation circle on a blue background, I admired the strong reds and blues, as well as the yellows of tortilla shells. Also, that image -- as well as interviews performed by famous chef/restaurateur David Chang -- appeared slightly washed out. In short, this screen is pretty good for $80, especially since consuming content is one of the most important things you do with a tablet.

According to our colorimeter, the Fire HD 8 produces 80 percent of the sRGB tablet, a score that's less than the 106 percent tablet average, as well as the ratings from the iPad (119 percent) and Tab 4 8 (90 percent).

The Fire HD 8 produces up to 307 nits of brightness, which is less than the 411-nit tablet average. The 489-nit iPad is brighter, as is the 427-nit Tab 4. The Fire's 8-inch screen is not bright enough for group viewing, though, as I saw images get cloudy and dark when I viewed the HD 8 from 30 degrees to the left or right.

MORE: Amazon Fire TV Cube vs Fire TV vs Fire TV Stick

Scrolling through web pages in the Silk browser in the Fire OS app switcher and swiping between home screens, I noted that the Fire HD 8's screen was plenty responsive, though its animations felt a little slow.

Software: Alexa done right

The Fire HD 8, like all Amazon tablets, runs Fire OS, the company's forked version of Android. That means the operating system looks slightly similar to what you find on most Android phones, but with a different coat of paint -- and no Google Play app store. Also, it means Amazon gets to bake in its own tricks, such as its digital assistant, Alexa, which is now voice-activated.

If you're wondering how Alexa wasn't voice-activated before, you're not alone. I'm still surprised that the 2017 Fire HD 8 shipped with tap-to-trigger Alexa, making that device more like an Echo Tap than a traditional Echo speaker.

Alexa worked well on the Fire HD 8, clearly interpreting (and correctly answering) questions about my local forecasts, suggesting nearby pizza restaurants and setting timers. I noticed a slight pause, though, between when it received questions and when it answered them.

If you're using the Fire HD 8 while you're in the same room as another Alexa-enabled device, there's one setting you'll need to understand. In Settings, under Alexa, you'll notice an option called Tablet ESP Behavior, which is followed by a lengthy, slightly confusing explanation.

Turning this setting on means Alexa triggers will activate the nearest Alexa device that isn't the Fire HD 8. One reason to enable this option is if you want Alexa to play music on a better-sounding device in your home, such as the Echo Plus, Echo Dot or Echo Show.

MORE: The One Alexa Feature You Need to Turn Off

Also, let's talk about YouTube, or at least the limited version of it that comes on the Fire HD 8. Those who pay for YouTube Premium will be annoyed to find that the popular video platform is limited to the tablet's browser, as there's still no YouTube app for Fire OS. That means you can't watch videos in the background and you can't save clips for offline play. While Amazon doesn't get all the blame for this -- it's shared with Google -- this is still a dent in the Fire OS platform.

Performance

The Fire HD 8 (powered by a quad-core, 1.3-GHz processor and 1.5GB of RAM) isn't exactly speedy, but it has enough kick for casual productivity. I saw slight pauses while moving between tabs and longer, significant ones when moving between apps, such as from Netflix to the Camera app.

The Geekbench 4 general-performance test gave the Fire HD 8 a score of 1,678, which is similar to the 1,847 earned by the Tab 4 (Qualcomm MSM8917 Snapdragon 425 with 2GB of RAM). The tablet average is a higher 3,819, and the iPad (Apple A10 Fusion chip with 2GB of RAM) notched an even-higher 5,983.

MORE: Google vs Amazon Goes Nuclear: YouTube Yanked From Fire TV

The Fire HD 8 fared similarly on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test, posting 5,815, which is below the 20,120 tablet average. We saw higher scores of 37,117 from the iPad and 6,029 from the Tab 4.

Battery life

I wouldn't call the Amazon Fire HD 8's battery life short, but I expected more. The Fire HD 8 lasted 9 hours and 12 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web browsing at 150 nits), which is just slightly under the 9:38 tablet average. The iPad (10:07) and Tab 4 (10:07) lasted longer.

While this time result initially shocked me -- the 2017 model lasted 10 hours and 58 minutes -- I realized that Amazon advertised the 2017 Fire HD 8 as offering "up to 12 hours" of battery life, while it pegs this year's Fire HD 8 as offering "up to 10 hours of battery life." So, our test more or less lines up with Amazon's claims.

Webcam: Improved

In our review of the 2017 Fire HD 8, we noted that its 0.3-megapixel, front-facing selfie cam shot images that contained a "green cast that made human skin look sickly and that the front lens is extremely zoomed in."

This year's selfie-shooter is heaps better. The new Fire HD 8's 1.9-megapixel lens accurately captured the hue of my skin -- and included details of my quite-short stubble -- without requiring the arm stretching of yesteryear's HD 8 tablet. That clarity should come in handy during video calls, using Amazon's own Drop-In chats.

You get similar quality out of the 1.9-megapixel rear camera. When I shot a still-settling cup of nitro-based cold-brew coffee, the Fire HD 8 accurately captured the gradient created by the nitro bubbles.

Audio

Don't expect the Amazon Fire HD 8 to kick out the jams. It pumps out enough volume to fill only our smallest private office, and even then, the sound quality isn't great. Sure, I could hear the Idles lead singer, Joe Talbot, belt out the words to "Never Fight a Man with a Perm," but the song's guitar riffs and drum work weren't differentiated in this soundstage.

How much does the Amazon Fire HD 8 cost?

The Fire HD 8 starts at $79.99, for the model that has 16GB of storage, with only 9.6GB available to the user. You can increase the available storage to 23.8GB for an extra $30, with the 32GB model. For another $30, you can buy either Fire HD 8 with its Show Mode dock, which enables the tablet to function like the Echo Show.

MORE: Alexa Can Now Send Texts: Here's How

Want to rid the Fire HD 8 of Amazon's so-called Special Offers, its ads that run on the tablet's lock screen? That'll be another $15.

Bottom line

The affordable Fire 8 provides decent picture quality and battery life for its price, especially when competitors cost more, with the price increases ranging from $50 (Samsung's Galaxy Tab 4) to $250 (Apple's iPad). Still, though, we're sad to see the Fire HD 8 drop nearly 2 hours in battery life from last year's model, even if the new slate's selfie cam is better and Alexa is easier to activate.

For only $50 more, you can get another hour of battery life and a brighter screen with the Lenovo Tab 4 8. Dollar for dollar, though, the Fire HD 8 is still a solid budget tablet and definitely worth considering.

Credit: Laptop Mag

CPU Quad-Core 1.3 GHz
RAM Included 1.5GB
RAM Upgradeable
Storage Drive Size 16GB
Storage Drive Type
Display Size 8
Display Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics Chip
Graphics Memory
Wi-Fi Dual-band Wi-Fi
Has Bluetooth Yes
OS Amazon Fire OS
Camera Resolution 1.9MP
Front-Facing Camera Resolution 1.9MP
Ports Micro-USB
USB Ports 1
Card Readers microSD
Card Reader Size 400GB
Warranty / Support 90-day limited warranty and service included.
Size 8.4 x 5.0 x 0.4 inches
Weight 12.8 ounces
Company Website https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0794RHPZD
Add a comment
25 comments
  • Jahid Says:

    this is very good informative post...I'm from Bangladesh.According to my knowledge has this product in here https://www.startech.com.bd/tablet-pc/amazon Or any tablet or mobile available in this site https://www.muthophone.com.bd/

  • Robert Lowry Says:

    You may be thinking the Kindle Fire HD is a poor man's ipad. WRONG!! This machine is garbage. It is slow. It's hard to turn on (not going anywhere for a while?). Mine won't fire up unless plugged in or battery is at least 95%. It is nearly impossible to read outside on sunny day. It runs advertisements at every turn. It is hard to navigate through it's functions b/c they are NOT intuitive. Forget navigating the web. The biggest problem - Once you get a kindle and buy some books and apps, you can only use them on a kindle so you are stuck. Don't get stuck. Pay the extra money. Buy the ipad. It will be the best money you ever spent.

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  • nonya Says:

    Amazon Fire is the most worthless piece of junk I ever purchased: All it does is harass and spy on you. I broke mine in half, and will never buy anything from Amazon again.

  • Yingo Says:

    I barely get 7 hours battery life ..

  • JimCbb Says:

    The new Amazon Kindle products are, to put it as kindly as possible, borderline garbage in comparison to the earlier HDX products (3rd gen & 4th gen). I purchased the Fire HD 8 for my wife after her heavily used but never abused 4 yr old Fire HDX 7 started having problems with the sound. It was returned after 2 days of frustration. The Fire HDX Kindles were a little pricey, but well worth what they cost. The only reason the new Kindles are getting relatively good reviews is because those who bought them don't know any better. I believe the HD 8 version was available during the Prime supersale for under $50 (was still overpriced). And on top of that, if you bought the version "with special offers", you were paying them a bonus charge to allow them to annoy you with their garbage advertising.

  • Stuart Says:

    How do you turn on location in kindle fire 8

  • Seamus OBrien Says:

    Yes you can add Google Play on these tablets by installing four applications incredibly easy to do so I have a number of Google Play apps running on my new HD8 without any issues

  • shimon Says:

    On the Amazon Fire HD 8 is it possoble to access foreign languages?

  • betty cooper Says:

    is there a cable that i can stream move to put on my tv.if there is where do i get one.

  • betty cooper Says:

    is there a cable that i can stream move to put on my tv.

  • debbie hammel Says:

    I would like to have a printed manual that I can refer to when I have a question. I would be happy to pay a fee if one could be mailed to me so I have it for future reference

  • PamPamPam Says:

    You can install YouTube on the HD8. It's one of the first things I did...

  • William Nonnast Says:

    Not good performance. Can't hear instructions and screen won' stay lit. No place to get instructions.

  • beverley Says:

    Hi
    Can you ajust the size of the print when reading onthe amazon fire 8 new addition and has it a back light for reading.
    Many thanks for your help.
    Bev

  • Brick Says:

    Bought one 9/15 and updated to the new OS 6/16. Soon after the Fire HD 8 stopped connecting to wifi and upon researching, this problem is endemic to Amazon tablets. Amazon's response? Silence, though they did offer a $0 refund.

    There are 10 other computers/phones/tablets (including an older Fire 2) in the household and the Fire HD 8 is the only one that cannot connect to the household wifi.

  • James B. Lumsden Says:

    Memory question- see the above.

  • Kanderson Says:

    I don't know about you guys but I have rooted and disabled amazon programs as well as installed google play. Search up xda forums

  • Pat vogel Says:

    Worst of four kindles. Slow, beyond anything I have had.cuts out in middle. Send s old email in a chain to friends.
    Useless and frustrating.

  • MistyH Says:

    Very sluggish browser & I dislike that I have no control over the lock screen wallpaper. Otherwise, it's fine.

  • Phyl L Ledbetter Says:

    Need an owners manual to assist this senior citizen in using her new Fire HD-8. I can print once I find it or can order one if its available. Thank you.

  • Barbara Says:

    I got an amazon fire 8 as a gift. After reading your review I am wondering if I should trade it in for an older model or another economically priced e-readee. I don't do much on mine except read books and download newspapera.
    Thank you for your help.

  • Lynn Hasenstab Says:

    Same question as the others. Why no owner's manual?

  • PJ Lawrenace Says:

    Ditto the need for a printed HD8 owners manual or one to download to a PC that can be printed. When will anyone make one available?

  • Genevieve Says:

    I received a fire HD8 kindle but there was no owner manual, how can I obtain one?

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