With mobile phones getting bigger and bigger, tablets are becoming an odd category. The ones with big screens and flashy screens, like the large iPads of the world, are expensive. And the budget ones are often too small and underpowered.
Then we have Amazon’s Fire HD line. These tablets are almost in a category of their own – they’re bigger than your phone, and they’re not as powerful – but they’re super affordable.
In comes the new Fire HD 8 Tablet, an updated (2022) version of Amazon’s 8-inch device. Powered by a 30% faster processor (compared to the previous generation), this tablet is an excellent content consumption device – it’s perfect for watching a show in bed, or on the tube, and you can answer some e-mails and even play a game or two.
Even its size – which I was a bit wary of at first, proved to be just the right size (and weight) for something you just slip in your bag and forget about (until you need it). And the tablet’s biggest feature is its relatively low price.
Of course, the Fire HD 8 has its downsides – the primary one being no support for the Google Play Store, and a somewhat underpowered CPU – for some tasks (don’t bother with heavy, complex games for example).
So, is this the right tablet for you? Let’s dig in…
Quick Look – Amazon Fire HD 8
What is it: A budget-priced HD tablet that’s perfect for media consumption (12th Generation, 2022 model).
Interface / Usage
Value for Money
- Excellent for basic functions like watching videos, reading and simple games
- Good battery life
- Competitive price for what you get
- Hands-free voice control with Alexa
- Doesn’t have the full Google Play app store (so many important apps are missing)
- Lots of screen glare, hard to use outside
- Can get sluggish
Features and Specs
- Size: 201.90 x 137.34 x 9.60 mm
- Weight: 337 g
- Processor: Hexa-core 2.0 GHz
- RAM: 2GB (“Plus” model has 3G RAM)
- Screen: 8″ IPS 1280 x 800 resolution, 189ppi
- Storage: 32GB / 64GB / MicroSD slot (up to 1TB)
- Cameras: Front 2MP / Rear 2MP / 720p video recording
- Battery Life: 13 Hours (5 hours charge time, less with optional adapters)
- Connectivity: USB-C / WiFi / Bluetooth 5 / 3.5mm headphone jack
- Cellular Data Sim: No
- Apps: Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Sky GO, BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All 4, Plex, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and many others
- Extra Features: Alexa voice control
If you’re OK with the 8″ screen size (I think it’s perfect for everyday use), the price makes this tablet almost unbeatable for watching videos on the go, browsing the web and doing some very light work. The lack of a proper Google app store is the main downside, as many major apps are sorely missing. And, don’t count on heavy apps or games, as it’s still somewhat underpowered.
Table of Contents
Who Is The Fire HD 8 Tablet For?
8″ Tablets, like the Fire HD 8, are kind of stuck in the middle in terms of size. They’re not as portable as a 6.5″ mobile phone, and they’re not big enough for actual work like the 10″+ tablets (Amazon also sells a Fire HD 10 Tablet (see our review).
And yet – as someone who’s used to larger tablets, when I first started using the Fire HD 8, its size clicked for me. For people of a certain age, this is the tablet we dreamed about as kids – very lightweight, small enough to hold in one hand, but big enough to be a cool entertainment device.
And that’s exactly what the Fire HD 8 does best: entertainment. It’s an excellent streaming video screen (with most of the major UK streaming services supported), either for watching a film in bed, or a short clip on the tube. And it’s great for reading a couple of articles on the web, or those e-mails you’ve been pushing away.
The Fire HD 8’s best feature, however, is probably its price: at around £99, and much less if you catch a good deal – it provides excellent value for money.
The 2022 version has a few upgrades over Amazon’s Fire HD 8 from 2020: the CPU is “30% more powerful” (though it’s not something you’re really going to notice much), the battery life has been improved (up to 13 hours) and there’s a USB-C charging port this time around.
All that being said – this is certainly not a perfect tablet. It’s still underpowered for certain tasks, and can often feel sluggish – especially if you’re browsing complex websites, trying to run a heavy game, or opening several apps one after the other (the 2GB ram limit on the standard version is to blame for that).
And then there’s the lack of a Google Play Store, so you only get Amazon’s limited app store (more on that below) – that’s a major downside for some.
And yet – as a cheap, lightweight device that you can take anywhere for some quick entertainment – the new Fire HD 8 has a lot going for it.
Fire HD 8 VS HD 8 PLUS
The Fire HD 8 comes in several variants, colours and price points: the main difference is between the HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus.
Most of the features are the same, as is the screen size – but while the regular HD 8 has just 2GB of RAM, the Plus model comes with 3GB of RAM.
The Plus also has a 5MP rear camera (instead of 2MP), it supports wireless charging, and comes with a faster 9w charger in the box.
Both variants come with two storage options – 32GB or 64GB. While the 32GB may be enough if you’re only going to watch streaming videos, the 64GB is a better option if you plan to install a lot of games – or download videos for offline viewing.
And finally, you can get both Fire HD 8 models “With Ads” and “Without Ads”. The Ads version costs £10 less, and shows you adverts on the tablet’s screen saver (when it’s locked).
It’s not a big deal, really – but you can just go for the version with the ads, and then, if you find them annoying – later pay £10 to remove the ads.
Using The Fire HD 8 Tablet
The first thing you’ll notice with the Fire HD 8 is how lightweight it is – at just 337 grams, it’s lighter than many iPads and other competing tablets.
The bezel is, well, huge by today’s standards – especially when compared to high-end phones and iPads – but with tablets, it can help to have a place to put your fingers.
There are just two physical buttons on the side of the tablet – the Power button, and the Volume Up/Down. There’s also a USB-C charging port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack (which is pretty rare these days).
There’s a tray for the optional SD card (up to 1TB), built-in microphones (used for video calls and for voice control), two built-in speakers, and two cameras – one on the front and one on the rear.
As with older versions of Android, on-screen control is done with a row of three buttons at the bottom (Back / Home / App Switcher). These are not physical buttons – you can pull them up by sliding your finger up from the bottom of the screen.
And, you have a choice of three colours – Black, Denim and Rose.
Screen And Sound
The Fire HD 8 comes with an 8″ screen (the clue is in the name). The resolution is 1280 x 800 (same as with the 2020 model), which is not even Full HD (1080p), so don’t expect a particularly high video quality.
In-doors, the brightness levels are perfectly fine, but the screen suffers from terrible glare when you’re outside in the sun – so much so that it’s almost impossible to use even without direct sunlight. But give it a little shade – and you’re OK.
Indoors, the colours on the display are pretty good at this price level – which makes it ideal for watching streaming videos, playing casual games, or just having a look at your photos library.
The display is not as crisp and accurate as what you find today on high-end phones, and the less-than-full-HD resolution is disappointing – but for the price – it’s more than adequate.
As for the sound, there are two integrated speakers, and the Fire HD 8 even boasts about Dolby Atmos support – which is kind of silly with such tiny speakers.
However, the volume levels from these two tiny speakers were surprising – they’re quite capable of playing back videos and music (as long as you’re not in a VERY noisy area), and while earphones are still the better option – the speakers work well when you’re in a pinch.
App Selection And Fire OS
Now we come to the most important bit you need to know about the Fire HD 8: it’s not an Android tablet. Instead, it uses Fire OS – which is Amazon’s own operating system.
So yes, it’s based on Android – which is why you’ll see many similarities. But with this not being an official Android device, you don’t get the official Google Play Store – and can only use Amazon’s App Store.
Yes, there are backdoor ways to install the Google Play Store on Amazon’s tablets – and they’re not even too complicated – but even then, some Android apps won’t work.
Furthermore, in my experience, these tablets get even more sluggish and slow to use when you install the Google store – so for this review, I only used the native Amazon app store that comes out of the box.
Amazon’s app store is pretty varied – but there are a lot of apps still missing. For every Facebook, TikTok and Zoom app that is present, you’ll come across a Gmail, YouTube or WhatsApp that is not available.
Yes, none of Google’s apps are available on this tablet – so no Google Drive, no Chrome browser, and – that’s right, no YouTube app, which is particularly annoying for such a good video consumption tablet.
You can, of course, use those services on the web via the browser (which is “Silk” – Amazon’s own browser) – and in fact, the app store is filled with “Shortcut Apps” that just open a browser window with a Google web app such as YouTube – but it’s not as convenient as having a native app.
As for video streaming services and apps, the situation is OK – and most of the major streaming services and UK catch-up apps are here: Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, All4, ITVX, Plex and others.
The same thing is true for games – there’s a wide selection of games on Amazon’s app store, but it’s nowhere near as big as the selection on the Google Play Store.
Furthermore, since the stores are separate – any games (or apps) you bought on Google’s Play Store (on your phone, for example), will have to be repurchased here, if you want to play or use them on your tablet.
One thing you will quickly notice about some of the apps – and the tablet in general – is that it’s very Amazon-centric, and keeps pushing you towards Amazon’s services.
You will keep seeing recommendations and subscription offers for services such as Amazon Kids+, Audible (which is owned by Amazon), and of course – Prime Video, which comes preinstalled.
From the home screen, you can also swipe left to get to a “For You” screen, or right for a “Library” screen. I’m not sure why BOTH were needed, as they’re pretty similar – these “hubs” show you content that you’ve purchased / downloaded, and recommendations for more things you might want to get. And, of course – most of the content is from Amazon’s services.
If you’re already a big Amazon user, and you’re a Prime member, then these shouldn’t matter too much – and in fact can be helpful, as so much content is “free” thanks to Prime. But if you’re not an Amazon fan – this may not be the tablet for you…
Performance And Battery
The bottom line? This is not a snappy tablet. Unlike Amazon’s Fire HD 10, which manages to feel faster despite a budget-priced CPU, that magic doesn’t work as well with the Fire HD 8.
Apps sometimes take their time to load, websites can be slow to materialise, and heavy games with top-notch graphics should be avoided.
However – if we go back to this being a video consumption device first and foremost – then the speed of the OS won’t trouble you too much.
Prime Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer and the other streaming apps are quick enough to load – and once they’re running, and you’re watching an episode or a film – you won’t run into any speed issues.
You’re watching on less-than-full-HD, so that’s a factor, of course – but you’ll soon forget about that with a tablet of this size.
The Fire HD 8, being an Amazon device, also supports Alexa voice control: if you’re at all familiar with Amazon’s voice assistant, this will all be quite familiar.
By saying the wake word (either Alexa or Amazon – there are no other choices, unfortunately, which is a problem if – like me – you have an Echo device in almost every room), the voice assistant wakes up, and you can ask it questions or give it commands related to the tablet.
So you can run apps, search things, or tell the Fire HD 8 to play a specific song – it’s quite convenient if you remember to use it.
The Fire HD 8 also has a “Show Mode” you can switch to – which turns it into a makeshift “Echo Show” device.
Everything on the screen gets bigger, and you can see things like the date, weather, and your calendar. Then, you can control it with your voice – and can ask to play a cooking video, for example – so the Fire HD 8 can turn into a kitchen-worktop device, albeit a rather small one at 8 inches.
As for the battery – Amazon promises a battery life of up to 13 hours this time around.
As always, your mileage may vary, as it depends a lot on what you’re doing with the tablet – watching a video with the built-in speakers would drain the battery faster than, say, reading text articles.
During my testing (watching videos, some gaming, etc.) – the battery always lasted more than a day (and even several days with very moderate use).
A full charge can take up to 5 hours with the supplied cable, which is quite a lot in this day and age. You can buy a 9w charger (it comes in the box for the Plus version), and a full charge goes down to 3 hours – which is still a lot.
Fire HD 8 Cameras
I always feel like cameras on tablets are a weird beast – I can understand the front-facing camera, now that we’re all video chatting and Zooming – but why would you need a rear-facing camera on a tablet?
Well, they’re both here, and you can use them if it’s the only device you have on you – but don’t expect anything too impressive. Both cameras are just 2MP – and it shows.
They can help when you’re in a pinch, I guess – but it mostly feels like you’re taking a camera (or video chatting) with a phone from 10 years ago.
You can also capture videos – but only at 720p and not Full HD.
Bottom Line: Is The Fire HD 8 For Me?
Unlike phones, tablets have very specific use cases. And even though some have huge screens and are very powerful – it feels like most people still end up just watching videos and playing some games on their tablets.
Therefore, if that is indeed your main use case for a tablet – why spend an arm and a leg on it?
So yes, the Fire HD 8 can get annoyingly sluggish at times, and the separate app store is annoying – but if you’re looking for an 8″ screen that will let you watch videos in bed, look at recipes in the kitchen, and play a game on a bigger screen here and there – then, at this price, the Fire HD 8 is a great choice.
If you can snag it for less (which is often the case before holidays and other sale periods), then it’s almost a no-brainer – as long as you remember its limitations.
Note: The Fire HD 8 was supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.