I will confess. Despite some serious reservations about the company, I’m a fan of Amazon’s cheap, no-frills Fire tablets.
Sure, they are hampered by Amazon’s limited app store offerings, the slow Silk web browser, and push Amazon content as if the AOL business model were still viable. But these days, Fire Tablets are both affordable and Surprisingly powerful for a device under $ 100. There isn’t even a lot of competition in this price range. The entry-level iPad can draw circles around it, but you can also buy four Fire HD 8 tablets for the same price.
After living with the new Fire HD 8 and HD 8 Plus for a few weeks, I keep asking myself whether you really need more power in a tablet. For many people ̵
New electricity generation
The two new Fire HD 8 models that I tested have a significantly revised design. If you have a previous Fire tablet, none of the sleeves or keyboard covers you may have are compatible. This is disappointing when you have several accessories lying around like me. But I can live with it because the new form is much better.
The somewhat more square shape makes it easier to hold the Fire HD 8 and offers a better reading experience, both vertically with the Kindle app and horizontally when surfing the Internet. The front camera has moved to the side from the top of the device, so landscape orientation is the default setting for video chatting. In addition, the new camera position makes it much easier to use the Fire 8 HD as if it were an Echo Show smart display.
Under the hood, the 2020 Fire HD 8 has an additional half gig of RAM compared to its predecessor, resulting in a total of two gigabytes. The Fire HD 8 Plus, on the other hand, adds another gigabyte and can be charged wirelessly (the package for wireless charging stations increases the price to $ 140). The basic memory has been expanded to 32 gigabytes, whereby a 64 gigabyte model is also available for both. And like the previous models, there is a MicroSD card slot that you can use to expand your storage capacity up to one terabyte.
Perhaps more importantly, the pair includes faster processors. I can happily say that I didn’t notice any of these tablets running slowly, and that’s a first for me (I didn’t use the 2019 Fire HD 10). The last good news for the hardware is that both new models, like last year’s Fire HD 10, use USB-C charging ports. You can throw away the micro USB cable. The USB-C port is reversible, therefore more convenient and widely used, so you may be able to use the same charger as your laptop or your (Android) phone.
Amazon claims the battery life can be up to 12 hours, a full two hours more than the previous Fire HD 8. In practice, browsing the Internet means reading some books, watching videos and playing games. I struck for about nine hours without trying to extend the battery life. Dim the screen a little, turn off Bluetooth and turn it on Mario Kart Tour managed to extend the battery life to eleven hours.
What has not changed significantly is the viewing experience. The LCD screen maintains the same 1200 x 800 resolution, which looks fine. Pixelation is visible, but not bad. Given the emphasis on Prime Video consumption, it would be nice to see a screen with a slightly higher resolution. The glossy finish on the screen not only attracts fingerprints like I’ve never used before, but also makes the Fire 8 HD almost unusable outdoors.
FireOS is still FireOS
Software remains a vulnerability for Amazon tablets. FireOS, the heavily modified version of Amazon’s Android operating system, is an operating system-based version of the Amazon website. Fire tablets are designed to sell you Amazon content, and FireOS is the means to sell that content. It never stops selling. Never.
There is no Google Play Store here. So, if you’re not heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem (especially Prime offers), Fire tablets of all kinds feel restrictive. There are ways to get around this, more on that below, but it’s only Amazon all the time.
But there are good things in the Amazon ecosystem. FreeTime, for example, is one of the better tools to control what your kids can access on a tablet. And of course, Prime Video, Amazon Music and Kindle Unlimited offer almost all the films, music and books you could want. If not, Amazon Appstore offers most of the apps you might want, like Netflix, Disney +, Zoom, and Spotify.
New in FireOS is the game mode, which temporarily disables all notifications and interruptions so that you can play in peace. This function is available in most new smartphones. The game mode is activated by default. So if you want to play some games but still want to receive important messages, you need to disable them.
One thing that receives very little attention is that FireOS, as much as it is customized, is still essentially the Android operating system. This has prompted a community of clever developers to figure out how to bypass Amazon software and how to install features like the Google Play Store or even a whole new operating system. The latter is not yet possible on these latest models, but it is fairly easy to install the Google Play Store. Only four files need to be downloaded and installed. Be warned – you are alone when something breaks. (In the worst case, you can always reset your Fire HD 8 to the factory default settings.) So I was able to install it Mario Kart Tour among other apps.
What to buy
WIRED senior writer Adrienne tested the new Fire HD 8 Kids Edition with her 3 and 5 year olds in the middle of a pandemic. In most cases, the experience of a 3 and 5 year old from Fire Tablet to Fire Tablet remains largely unchanged, but with the latest version, battery life has improved significantly. The old Fire HD 8 Kids Edition needs to be recharged daily or every other day after a few hours of FreeTime, but the new HD 8 Kids Edition can sometimes take up to a week.
You can use most of the Kid’s Edition features with the regular Fire HD 8, but the foam-padded case combined with Amazon’s generous replacement policy makes the extra money worth for the Kid’s Edition.
If you are looking for a tablet to replace your laptop, none of these models is the right one. If your tablet usage is significantly lower, when you surf the internet with your morning coffee, watch Netflix on the couch, and yell at Alexa from across the room, the Fire HD 8 is one of the best purchases on the market. It’s not perfect, but it’s as close as you’ll get for under $ 100.
The real question is whether you should choose the Plus model with additional RAM. Most people won’t notice, but if you want a more future-proof device or want to use it for gaming, the additional $ 20 for more RAM isn’t a bad deal. Also keep in mind that these tablets will likely be available on Prime Day (whenever this happens) or at other major sales events at prices between $ 50 and $ 60, which, frankly, is a bargain.