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Amazon Fire HD8 review

 Review: November 2015  
 

Rating: 3 stars

In a nutshell: Amazon's low-cost Fire HD8 tablet is the ideal companion to Amazon Prime. With Prime membership, you can use the tablet to watch movies and TV shows on the move, as well as streaming music, playing games and using popular apps. You can try Prime free for 30 days. More demanding users, or anyone who doesn't have a Prime subscription, will find the device limiting.



 

A budget tablet

Amazon's 2015 Fire tablet is available in 8-inch and 10-inch screen sizes. The 8-inch version is a budget tablet, although last year's Fire tablets are still available and are even cheaper.

The tablet holds no surprises when it comes to its design. As you'd expect for a low-cost tablet, it's all plastic, although it feels solid and reasonably durable. Amazon claims that it's twice as durable as the iPad Air 2 (although to be fair the iPad is a bigger tablet.) It's available in a range of bright colours - Blue, Tangerine, and Magenta - as well as more sober Black. The look of the tablet is minimal, without even a physical home button for you to press. Measuring just under 8mm thick, it's not as slim as Samsung's latest models, nor as light, but it's not exactly heavy either. You might say that it's just what we expected from a cheap tablet.

7-inch tablets are now largely a thing of the past, and 8 inches is the smallest screen size you're likely to find on any current generation device. It's big enough for playing games, watching video, reading and web browsing, although this is by no means a high-end display, and the low resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels is typical of most mid-range smartphones. The pixel density of 189ppi is low, so this is far from being a sharp screen. It is bright though.

Audio quality from the stereo speakers is quite good, as long as you don't crank the volume up too high.

Overall, everything is exactly what you'd expect from a cheap tablet.

Android - Amazon style

Although the Fire runs a version of Android, Amazon has re-purposed it to its own ends. Gone is the Google Play Store, and instead the tablet is really built around Amazon's own store. To get much out of this tablet, you really need to have a subscription to Amazon Prime. This opens up a world of free content - games, apps, books, audio-books, streaming or downloading music and videos. This includes Amazon-exclusive TV series and some games. You also get popular apps like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and so on.

The Amazon universe is a rich and varied world to explore, and everything on Prime is free. But that does exclude some premium content, and even some free content that's normally available on an Android device. So this feature is perhaps the tablet's greatest asset, and also its greatest weakness. Whether you like it or not depends on how much you're likely to use the content Amazon provides, and how frustrated you'll be by the restrictions.

The built-in parental controls are flexible and extensive, and can be used to select which movies and apps your kids can watch, and even at what times they can use the tablet. This makes it a great option for families with younger children.

One unique feature that the Fire tablets offer, is Mayday. This is the ability to contact tech support for instant help via video chat.

A budget spec

To nobody's surprise whatsoever, this budget tablet has a budget hardware configuration. The quadcore processor consists of two cores running at 1.5GHz and two at 1.2GHz. This is sluggish, and the processor has just 1GB of RAM available to it. This is fast enough to stream video and play games on the HD screen, but apps are slow to open, and high-end games can stutter and stall.

The base model comes with just 8GB of storage, although this is expandable by the addition of a memory card. A 16GB version is also available, which offers much more room for downloads. You also get free unlimited cloud storage for your Amazon content.

The cameras are fairly basic, with a 5 megapixel rear camera that can record 1080p HD video, but not of a particularly good standard. The front camera is capable of recording or streaming HD video, but is of limited quality. OK, it's rubbish.

Connectivity

The Fire HD8 is a Wi-Fi only tablet, with no 4G connectivity. Dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac is supported, for fast data access. You also get a microUSB and a headphone jack.

If you have Amazon Fire TV, a PlayStation 3 or PS4, the Second Screen feature lets you watch content from your tablet on your TV.

Battery life

The battery life of the Fire HD8 isn't particularly strong. The official figures claim a maximum of 8 hours of mixed use. Recharge time is 5 hours.

Conclusion

The Fire HD8 is a very cheap tablet that's best suited to casual users who already have an Amazon Prime subscription. It's geared entirely to entertainment rather than productivity, with a focus on casual gaming, music and video streaming. That makes it ideal for a young family, especially since comprehensive parental controls are included. More demanding users may well find the tablet to be too restricting.

But for the core target group, it's a very good option. Prime membership opens up a wealth of free content.

The Fire also comes in a 10-inch version with identical specs apart from increased memory.


Amazon Fire HD8 features include:

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