Ama­zon Fire HD 8

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

Ama­zon has wisely de­cided that it should not try and com­pete with the best high-end tablets, but in­stead make af­ford­able de­vices that are win­dows to all its best on­line con­tent. The up­dated Ama­zon Fire HD 8 tries to per­fect a com­bi­na­tion of func­tion and value, but whether or not you’ll agree it does de­pends on whether you are will­ing to in­vest in an Ama­zon Prime mem­ber­ship.


Pre­dictably, you can buy the new, up­dated Fire HD 8 di­rect from Ama­zon. It is well priced for the specs, start­ing at £89 with 16GB of stor­age, dou­ble the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. There’s also a 32GB model that costs £109. Th­ese two op­tions dis­play ad­verts on the lock screen for games, books, films and mu­sic from Ama­zon. If you don’t want ads (we didn’t) they will cheek­ily charge you £10 ex­tra for the plea­sure. Still, we think £99 for a 16GB tablet is a great deal.


The up­dated Fire HD 8 has a dif­fer­ent de­sign from its pre­de­ces­sor, which had a black bezel and glossy black back panel. The new tablet again has an 8in screen with black sur­round­ing bezels but this time a matte plas­tic rear cas­ing in four colour op­tions: black, blue, tan­ger­ine and ma­genta.

We’d say that the black ver­sion is prefer­able, sim­ply be­cause it doesn’t give away the tablet’s cheap­ness. Our blue re­view sam­ple, while not hor­ren­dous in ap­pear­ance, did keep re­mind­ing us it only cost ninety quid. Then again, if you like bright colours or you’re buy­ing for a child, the colours are ap­peal­ing. The unit as a whole mea­sures 214x128x9.2mm, a form you will barely no­tice in a back­pack or hand­bag.

While the plas­tic back is not pre­mium in any way, the de­vice is sur­pris­ingly sturdy. There’s barely any give or flex in the plas­tic, giv­ing the tablet a re­as­sur­ing heft. The front has no phys­i­cal but­tons, all of which are re­served for its top edge. It needs only three; a lock/power but­ton on the top right next to the Mi­cro-USB port and mi­cro­phone, and a vol­ume rocker on the top left next to the head­phone jack.

On the rear is a 2Mp cam­era, while the front is a very low-res VGA lens for video call­ing and (very grainy) self­ies.

There is also a wel­come mi­croSD card slot on the top-right edge of the Fire HD 8 that sup­ports up to an ad­di­tional 200GB of stor­age – ex­cel­lent to see on such an af­ford­able de­vice. The two speak­ers, one at the top and one at the bot­tom edge of the left edge as you hold it por­trait give away the prefer­able land­scape ori­en­ta­tion that Ama­zon has in mind. It starts to give away the fact Ama­zon is ex­pect­ing you to watch Ama­zon Prime videos on the Fire HD 8.


A de­vice called the Fire HD 8 ob­vi­ously has an HD screen, with a res­o­lu­tion of 1280x800 and 189ppi. Also promised is HD video play­back, which thank­fully holds true and looks ex­cel­lent. We streamed some episodes of Mr Ro­bot us­ing our Ama­zon Prime ac­count, and the pic­ture was ra­zor sharp – but we had to have the screen bright­ness pretty much on max­i­mum. You’ll find you’ll need to do so for most use cases on the Fire HD 8, as other­wise the screen looks quite murky.

Al­though video play­back is in HD, text and icons dis­play slightly pixel­lated. This doesn’t de­tract from read­abil­ity, but the Fire re­serves its best dis­play ca­pa­bil­i­ties for HD con­tent di­rect from Ama­zon Prime. In our use, even stream­ing videos from YouTube were nor­mally slightly grainy com­pared to our ex­pe­ri­ence on more high-end tablets.

How­ever, this wasn’t too no­tice­able and as with much of the ex­pe­ri­ence of the HD 8, we were re­minded that this costs £90 – but this ends up be­ing a pos­i­tive re­flec­tion rather than a nag­ging dis­ap­point­ment. At this price point, there is al­ways com­pro­mise, and with the Fire HD 8 there is an ac­cept­able level of it.

At its heart this is a stream­ing de­vice. Ama­zon preloads it with apps for Kin­dle, Ama­zon Video, Ama­zon App­store, Ama­zon Games, Ama­zon Mu­sic… you get the idea. While a de­cent enough web brows­ing tool, the Fire HD 8 is in­tended as a por­tal to Ama­zon con­tent. An Ama­zon Prime mem­ber­ship is there­fore not just prefer­able; it’s pretty much es­sen­tial. Without one, you’re locked into the Ama­zon ecosys­tem without the key to un­lock any­thing.

The specs of the de­vice re­flect that it’s best used for me­dia stream­ing or low-re­quire­ment games. The pro­ces­sor is a 1.3GHz quad-core with 1.5GB RAM –

ba­si­cally enough for the types of con­tent you have ac­cess to. The tablet is gen­er­ally re­spon­sive, but its quick­est when deal­ing with Ama­zon’s own apps. Stray into apps like Face­book or the Silk browser and things chug a lit­tle slower.

We used the trial month of Ama­zon Prime that is pro­moted when you set up the tablet, and found that it was a breeze to boot up loads of films and TV pro­grammes, sync all of our ex­ist­ing Kin­dle books and hook it up to our (non-Ama­zon) email ac­count.

The Fire HD 8 is a pure me­dia con­sump­tion de­vice. The 2Mp cam­era will not win you any prizes, and the aw­ful front-fac­ing VGA cam­era is barely good enough for video calls – it does work, though this is more de­pen­dent on a de­cent Wi-Fi con­nec­tion than any­thing else. While it is ca­pa­ble of record­ing video in 720p HD, the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of Fire HD 8 had a 5Mp cam­era, which hints at some of the cor­ners cut to keep the new ver­sion un­der £100.

We also en­joyed the abil­ity to down­load Prime con­tent di­rect to the de­vice. Our re­view unit had 16GB, which isn’t bad, though the at­trac­tion is to stick a mi­croSD card in it. Then you can down­load a plethora of video, mu­sic, books and more to the de­vice for off­line play­back. Video in par­tic­u­lar looks great if you choose to down­load in 720p HD, but you can also choose from two lower qual­ity pic­ture files to save stor­age space.

The two speaker grills give sur­pris­ingly crisp, clear au­dio, but their po­si­tion is slightly an­noy­ing – ei­ther end of ei­ther the top or bot­tom edge when held hor­i­zon­tally. As with most tablets, we’d rec­om­mend a de­cent pair of head­phones (none are in­cluded) to best watch films or TV.

All that ca­pa­bil­ity is packed into a de­vice that weighs 314g, just a sliver over the weight of Ap­ple’s 299g iPad mini 4. Ama­zon cites 12 hours of bat­tery life with reg­u­lar use, which we found ac­cu­rate in ex­tended use. Be aware that it takes the Fire six hours to fully charge. You’ll have to plug it in overnight if you’re nearly out of juice.


As the tablet runs Ama­zon’s own Fire OS, you don’t have ac­cess to the full wealth of con­tent avail­able to users of Ap­ple’s iOS or Google’s Play Store. This isn’t to say that the Ama­zon App­store is lim­ited, it just takes us back to the ne­ces­sity of an Ama­zon Prime mem­ber­ship should you wish to jus­tify pur­chas­ing the Fire HD 8.

How­ever, if you re­ally didn’t want to buy into Prime but like the price, apps avail­able to you from the Ama­zon App­store such as Face­book, BBC iPlayer and even Sky Go or Net­flix mean that you can still use the HD 8 as a ba­sic in­ter­net de­vice with third-party stream­ing ser­vices. But given the promi­nence of Ama­zon’s ser­vices in the in­ter­face and the ease at which it al­lows you to ac­cess them with a sub­scrip­tion, we’d still rec­om­mend pair­ing the HD 8 with Prime.

It’s worth not­ing that Google apps are not avail­able from the App­store. This means it’s hard to rec­om­mend the Fire HD 8 as a work or pro­duc­tiv­ity tool (al­though the Ever­note app is avail­able) be­cause you can’t sync ex­ist­ing Google cal­en­dars, Google Drive and, im­por­tantly for ca­sual users, YouTube. You can still ac­cess it through Ama­zon’s Silk browser, but the browser is a bit clunky and un­re­fined, and high­lights again that the Fire HD 8 is best when sim­ply stream­ing via Ama­zon apps.

Nor can you down­load pop­u­lar apps such as Mi­crosoft Word. How­ever, if you want a tablet that al­lows easy stream­ing of your favourite TV shows with the bonus of ac­cess to so­cial me­dia, Skype and on­line bank­ing, the HD 8 is well worth con­sid­er­ing.

One handy fea­ture is Ama­zon’s Fire for Kids app. Should you wish to en­ter­tain your chil­dren with the tablet, you can set up a sep­a­rate pro­file for them to use. This lets you set parental con­trols, limit what con­tent they can ac­cess and even set time lim­its to pre­vent square eyes. It clev­erly time lim­its games and videos but leaves un­lim­ited time for read­ing, help­ing you to en­cour­age the right bal­ance of learn­ing through a tablet they might want to reg­u­larly get their hands on.

This and other fea­tures, such as a kids cam­era mode and a Bed Time fea­ture that en­cour­ages rou­tine, make the Fire HD 8 a good choice for a par­ent who wants ac­cess to their own Prime sub­scrip­tion with the abil­ity to mould their child’s use of the tablet around dif­fer­ent, web-safe pref­er­ences.

One thing to note is that Ama­zon cheek­ily (or mad­den­ingly, de­pend­ing on your point of view) doesn’t let you give your child ac­cess to spe­cific Ama­zon Prime con­tent without first sign­ing up to Fire for Kids Un­lim­ited. It starts from £1.99 per month, but given you al­ready may spend £79.99 per year on Prime mem­ber­ship, it’s pretty an­noy­ing. It does high­light how of­ten Ama­zon’s ad­verts and ex­tra pay­ment op­tions en­croach un­pleas­antly on the user ex­pe­ri­ence.


The Ama­zon Fire HD 8 ticks a lot of the right boxes. It’s af­ford­able, well built and plays back video to an ex­cep­tion­ally high stan­dard. But we’ll say it again – you need Ama­zon Prime to fully en­joy it. It’s not that it is a com­plete ne­ces­sity, but the promi­nence in the op­er­at­ing sys­tem of Ama­zon’s own apps and ser­vices means without a Prime mem­ber­ship it’s a frus­trat­ing user ex­pe­ri­ence. This caveat aside, it’s an in­cred­i­bly priced me­dia con­sump­tion tablet that ex­em­pli­fies Ama­zon’s place in the low-end mar­ket, which makes it an at­trac­tive and in­ter­est­ingly unique op­tion. Henry Bur­rell

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.