When eyeing up an Amazon tablet, the choice has, historically, been relatively limited. You either paid very little for the Amazon Fire 7 and forwent the HD screen, or you had the choice of paying two to three times more for either the 8-inch or 10-inch versions.
Last year, however, Amazon threw us a curveball with the release of the Fire HD 8 Plus. It offers everything the Fire HD 8 does, outperforms the HD 10 in a number of ways, and comes with the addition of wireless charging. An addition that costs just £20 above the original Fire HD 8’s £90 price tag. With such a small price increase, the Fire HD 8 Plus seems like the obvious choice, but is it? Is there still a place for the original Fire HD 8 in 2021?
In our Amazon Fire HD 8 review, we compare the cheaper model with its more expensive sibling; we look to see if there are any performance differences and help you decide which 8-inch Amazon tablet is best for you and your needs.
- Amazon Fire HD 8 review: summary
- What is the Amazon Fire HD 8?
- How much is the Amazon Fire HD 8?
- Amazon Fire HD 8 features
- Amazon Fire HD 8 screen and sound quality
- Amazon Fire HD 8 design
- Amazon Fire HD 8 set-up
- Amazon Fire HD 8 battery and performance
- Our verdict
- Where to buy
Amazon Fire HD 8 review: summary
- 8-inch HD tablet powered by Amazon’s take on Android – Fire OS
- Built-in Alexa voice controls
- Pre-installed Amazon apps allow you to control Echo devices from your tablet
- Can be used for browsing, media streaming, games, and reading
- Doubles up as an alternative to the Echo Show
- Great value for money
- Easy to set up and use
- Great battery life
- Average display and cameras
- Basic design
- No Google apps – including Google Drive and Google Docs
The Amazon Fire HD 8 is available at Amazon for £89.99.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 is a mid-range tablet offering a handful of the advanced features of the Fire HD 8 Plus and 10 while being closer in price to the Fire 7.
It has an 8-inch HD screen, runs on 2GB of RAM, and comes with a minimum of 32GB expandable storage. On both, the front and rear is a 2MP camera, and Amazon promises a 12-hour battery life.
If you’ve read our Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus review, a lot of this will sound strikingly familiar. In fact, the only differences between the two models – other than their price – is that the more Fire HD 8 Plus has wireless charging, an extra GB of RAM, and charges a tad faster (four hours vs five).
Both are powered by Amazon’s take on Android, called Fire OS. Both come with Alexa built-in, and both are designed for streaming, gaming and surfing the web. They’re the same size, shape and have the same cameras, display resolution, storage options, speakers, and battery life.
Compared to the cheaper, £50 entry-level Amazon Fire 7, the Fire HD 8 has dual speakers, tuned by Dolby Atmos, and it’s much faster thanks to having three times the RAM and twice the power.
Compared to the £150 Amazon Fire HD 10, the Fire HD 8 actually outperforms when it comes to expandable storage. Offering up to 1TB for the Fire HD 10’s 512GB. They share the same amount of RAM, but the Fire HD 10’s processor is more advanced. The Fire HD 10’s display is also higher quality.
What does Amazon Fire HD 8 do?
All of Amazon’s tablets put entertainment front and centre, largely as a route to plug its own services. Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, Audible and Kindle are all pre-installed and promoted heavily during the setup, on lock screen ads and from the homepage, by default. The tablet additionally comes with a host of games and streaming services via the Amazon App Store.
- Media streaming with Amazon Prime Video installed by default
- Netflix, BBC iPlayer, All 4, ITV Hub, SkyGo and Disney+ available from the Amazon App Store
- Kindle e-reader and access to the Kindle Store, plus Kindle Unlimited (for an extra fee)
- Audible audiobooks
- Show Mode turns the Fire HD 8 into an Echo Show, complete with Alexa Skills
- Alexa built-in means you can use the Fire HD 8 to control Echo, plus other Alexa compatible devices, using your voice or the Alexa app
The Amazon Fire HD 8 comes in two storage sizes – 32GB and 64GB – and you can expand both up to 1TB. As with all Amazon Fire tablets, you can choose to buy with Amazon ads on the lock screen and pay less as a result. Or you can pay extra for the tablet with the adverts removed.
The prices, when bought directly from Amazon, are as follows:
- Amazon Fire HD 8 32GB storage with home screen ads: £89.99
- Amazon Fire HD 8 32GB storage without ads: £119.99
- Amazon Fire HD 8 64GB storage and ads: £139.99
- Amazon Fire HD 8 64GB storage without ads: £149.99
You can also buy the Amazon Fire HD 8 from the following places:
Is the Amazon Fire HD 8 good value for money?
Paying £90 for an HD tablet, especially one with the versatility of the Amazon Fire HD 8, is always going to be a good investment, especially if you’re already an Amazon customer and have Echo devices in your home. When you throw in the fact that for this price, you also effectively get an Echo Show and a Kindle in the same device, £90 feels like a steal.
The issue here isn’t whether the Fire HD 8 offers good value for money, but whether it’s better value for money to pay £20 more and get the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus instead. We’d personally opt for the latter, and if you can stretch to it, we highly recommend it. The wireless charging is a gamechanger.
If you can’t, though, you can’t go all that wrong with the Fire HD 8. Especially not at this price.
Before diving into the Amazon Fire HD 8 features and what it can do, we want to highlight what it can’t. There is always a catch when you get this amount of hardware for a relatively low price, and in this case, it’s the Amazon App Store. None of the Amazon tablets on Fire OS supports Google’s suite of apps.
If you’re an avid Google user (Drive and its range of productivity apps, Gmail, and YouTube), you won’t be able to use these services like you normally would on any other Android or iOS tablet. It is possible to access them all via the mobile browser, but not as standalone apps. For example, YouTube is available but only as an optimised mobile site accessed via a bookmark from the App Store.
For some people, this won’t be a problem, but it’s worth noting because, for us, it feels like a big deal.
Speaking of Fire OS. It’s what’s known as an Android Skin in that it takes the original Android software and adds layers on top to make it look and work more like Amazon wants it to. This means, on the whole, it looks and feels much like Android. If you’re used to Google’s operating system, Amazon’s version won’t feel too tricky to get to grips with. The only real differences are just how many Amazon ads and apps and options are all over the software.
All Fire tablets come with Amazon’s bespoke Silk Browser pre-installed, alongside Amazon’s array of services – Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, Audible, Kindle and, of course, the Amazon Shopping app.
The standout feature for us in the Fire HD 8 is the introduction of Show Mode. Rather than paying extra for an Echo Show 8, simply ask Alexa to enable Show Mode on your Fire HD 8, and you have a fully-fledged alternative.
Show Mode gives you the full-screen Alexa experience. It removes all the normal menus and app icons with a simple screen you control with your voice. This means you can prop it up in your kitchen and get step-by-step recipes, see weather and news headlines from a distance, catch up on your favourite shows hands-free, make video calls and add to your Amazon shopping list.
You then disable it by saying: “Alexa, turn off Show Mode.” There’s also an on/off switch in the control centre, accessed by swiping from the top of the screen.
We’ve been reluctant to buy an Echo Show because our small network of Echo speakers largely does what we need it to do. With the Fire HD 8 Plus, we get all the benefits and portability of a tablet, with all the benefits of an Echo Show. For a single lower price.
We’d even go as far as to say the Fire HD 8 in Show Mode is better than a standard Echo Show because it’s more portable. You don’t need to keep it plugged into the mains. Just be aware that if you’re using multiple Alexa-enabled devices in the same vicinity, they’ll all spring into action when you call their name.
Like its Plus sibling, the “HD” in the name of the Fire HD 8 could be slightly misconstrued. The tablet does have a high-definition display, but it’s not Full HD.
Technically, any image that contains around 921,000 pixels or more is classed as HD (or high-definition). Full HD screens sit above the 2 million pixel mark. The Amazon Fire HD 8 and HD 8 Plus both come in at 1 million pixels. Slightly above the bare minimum, but half the quality of Full HD.
In reality, the difference is slight between HD and Full HD. Especially on a screen of this size. It becomes more noticeable as you move to bigger tablets, laptops or TVs. And only then is the difference truly highlighted when you put two different resolution screens next to each other.
Given that the HD 8 and HD 8 Plus share the same size screen and resolution, the overall colour and definitions are the same. You’ll notice slightly blurry graphics in certain games, and colours across the board look a little more muted than in real life. The biggest impact is on smaller icons and text. These don’t have the sharp edges seen on better-quality displays, and they end up looking pixelated.
The screen is highly reflective, which can create some problems with reflections and glare. You can just about get away with dropping the brightness on the screen to around 50% in direct sunlight. At this level, you can largely see what’s going on, but dropping it lower will cause issues.
These aren’t deal-breakers. Certainly not on a tablet of this price, and they don’t really get in the way of watching TV shows or films. Unless you’re opting for the likes of Avatar or Godzilla vs Kong et al.; films made to be watched with full surround sound and super high definition displays.
Speaking of sound. Thanks to the partnership with Dolby Atmos, the quality of music that comes out of the Fire HD 8’s dual speakers is decent. It’s not super loud, but it does do a good job of making voices stand out in podcasts and makes drum beats and bass feel immersive when wearing headphones.
Unsurprisingly, given Amazon’s credentials with voice recognition and beaming technology, the tablet picks up our commands clearly. This also makes video calls clear, without sounding tinny, and without distortion.
In terms of design, the Amazon Fire HD 8 is basic, to say the least. Its large bezel, chunky shape and size, and plastic casing all remind you that this is a cheap tablet.
However, this cheap, basic design not only makes it feel robust, but it can take a few whacks, spills and knocks before it even starts to show signs of wear and tear. If you want an 8-inch tablet for the whole family and not just one that your kids will use, we recommend you go for this version and set up parental controls and profiles.
The tablet’s balance was a complaint we had with the Fire HD 8, and the same applies here. When reading a book, hence holding the tablet in portrait mode, the tablet feels extremely top-heavy. As if it would tip out of our hands at any moment.
This is because the battery and components appear to be better positioned to suit the tablet being held in landscape mode. When held in this way, the Fire HD 8 is both well-balanced and the perfect size to hold for long periods.
Moving onto the ports on the Fire HD 8, there’s a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, a USB-C charging port and a microphone.
The Fire HD 8 comes in black, blue, purple or white. If you’re going to use a case with the tablet, this is largely moot, but you may not need a case given how robust this tablet feels.
Amazon knows that the people buying its tablets may be new to technology or want simple pieces of kit that just work without too much fuss. This plays out in its tablets’ setup processes.
The step-by-step guide on the Fire HD 8, followed by a brief video tutorial, makes setting up the tablet a doddle. All you need to hand is your Wi-Fi password and your Amazon login details. If you’ve been bought the tablet as a gift and don’t already have an Amazon account, you’ll need to set one up, but even this can be done via the guide.
If you don’t want an Amazon account, unfortunately, this tablet isn’t for you. You won’t get very far through the setup without one, and the whole Fire HD 8 experience is centred around this account.
You do need to wade through a series of promotional messages and notices for Amazon’s services, but they’re quick to dismiss. Annoyingly, you can’t delete the Amazon apps on the tablet, which will make a dent in your storage capacity, but you can disable them in Settings. This will stop you from using data or extra cache space unwittingly, at least.
Amazon promises a battery life of 12 hours and, in our looping video test (in which we play an HD video on repeat at 70% brightness and with aeroplane mode enabled), it took 9 hours 3 minutes to go from full charge to flat. It also felt hot at the end of the test.
Its battery life is lower than what Amazon promises and three hours lower than the battery life on the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus. This is surprising. Yes, the HD 8 has 1GB less RAM, but the processors, and components, are seemingly the same. Consequently, we’d expected a closer result.
When using the Amazon Fire HD 8 for everyday tasks – playing SimCity, watching TikTok, scrolling through social media, a video call and occasional Alexa commands – the tablet lasted more than 27 hours. Even better, when used in the same way as we’d use our Kindle – reading for an hour or so a day – this battery life extended to almost three days. This impressed and surprised us.
Sadly, we can’t say the same about the Fire HD 8’s performance. The HD 8 Plus was noticeably sluggish at times, and the Fire HD 8 is even worse. Scrolling through a page on a browser lags almost every time. Not by much, but enough to notice. Apps take longer to load, and videos take longer to buffer. Pressing any menu generates a slight delay which, when it happens once or twice, isn’t that big a deal, but if you’re using the tablet for long periods is tedious.
We were also disappointed by the cameras. We can’t remember the last time we actually used our everyday tablet (the iPad Mini 5) to take photos, so this may not even be a factor for many people, but 2MP is poor. Even at this price, when we’re used to so much better.
Our family would often complain that the picture quality wasn’t great on video calls, which – when coupled with the general lag and performance delays – soon became frustrating.
We began this Amazon Fire HD 8 review by asking the question: Is there still a place for this tablet in 2021? The answer is no.
If you’re looking for a versatile tablet that won’t break the bank, it’s worth spending £20 more to get the Amazon Fire HD Plus. Not only does it come with wireless charging, it brings all the features and design elements of the HD 8 but with more power and better battery life.
We can’t think who would benefit from buying the Amazon Fire HD 8 over the 8 Plus. Unless you can’t stretch to the extra money, or you want a choice of colours. The latter could be key if you have multiple children and need to identify whose tablet is whose.
If you are limited by budget, the Fire HD 8 is a good tablet that does what a good, entertainment-led tablet should – plays games and streams videos. You don’t get any bells and whistles, but you also don’t get any drama or hassle. Effectively getting an Echo Show and a Kindle for this single price is also very appealing.
As with all Amazon tablets, we don’t think you need to pay extra to remove the Amazon ads. They’re really not that bad. Plus, if you only have the money to pay for an upgrade on the Fire HD 8 or removing the ads, the former is the best option.
Screen and sound quality: 3/5
Battery life and performance: 2/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5
Want to know more about the latest 8-inch model? Check out our Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus review.