- Expandable storage
- First to run Fire OS 5
- Fingerprint magnet
- Cheap aesthetics
- Lacklustre screen
Amazon Fire HD 8 review: There’s a new family of tablets on the block courtesy of Amazon and we went hands-on with the middle sibling, the Fire HD 8.
As ever affordability is high up on the list of priorities for these new tabs and that’s reflected in the HD 8’s design.
At the device’s launch event we were told that the HD 8’s body is predominantly metal protected by a layer of polymer on top. This ensures the tablet feels sturdy and can remain impeccably thin (at 7.7mm), but leaves the slate with a glossy plastic finish that unfortunately screams ‘budget’.
The styling overall is a little less subtle when compared to the more premium HDX series and if the shine doesn’t give it away, the giant Amazon logo on the back and bright colours (magenta, burnt orange and blue) will (gloss black is also an option).
There are some nice touches however – stereo speakers, a port for microSD expandability and the fact that overall the HD 8 retains a pretty low weight for a tablet of its size at 311 grams.
Of the two new ‘HD’ tablets in Amazon’s arsenal, we’d recommend this model as it boasts the same 1280×800 resolution as its 10-inch sibling, but thanks to its smaller 8-inch panel that means a higher pixel density and better clarity as a result (189ppi).
Amazon has clearly whacked the contrast way up as colours pack plenty of punch, especially for an LCD panel. IPS technology paired to a zero-gap design mean low reflectivity and solid viewing angles too.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of any of Amazon’s new slates is that they debut Fire OS 5. As before it’s still related to Android and you can see similarities everywhere; from the tiled app layout on the home screens, to the notifications menu that can be swiped down from the top of the screen, but the overall aesthetic has been significantly reworked since Fire OS 4.
Amazon’s hardware has always served as a facilitator for pushing users in front of its products and services, first and foremost. Fire OS 5 achieves this with greater flare, boasting a more visually stimulating UI that includes relevant, dynamic wallpapers relating to the content on screen.
Each home screen groups content by Amazon’s main channels; such as apps, games, music, books, audiobooks and video. There’s even a store tab so you can purchase products directly from Amazon without needing to log on to the website. Each of these channels features existing purchases as well as recommendations and trending or popular items too.
The Kindle experience is particularly slick, with star ratings for books and unique features like Word Wise offering up definitions of tricky words with a simple long press, as well as Word Runner which is Amazon’s take on spritzing – displaying text one word at a time in quick succession. The science behind it suggests that you cover sentences faster and you can tweak the feature’s speed in words per minute.
Despite the entertainment focus of the HD 8 this slate packs some surprisingly low-level internals. There’s a MediaTek 1.5GHz/1.2GHz quad-core processor twinned with just 1GB RAM which doesn’t sound like a promising pairing.
In practice however, the HD 8 feels smooth when swiping around the UI and despite some long load times when opening and closing apps, even 3D games ran smoothly enough on our first encounter, particle effects and all.
Amazon also cites eight hour battery life, which sounds a little short for such a big device that doesn’t posses a high resolution display or LTE, but we’ll have to test its longevity for ourselves come full review time.
The headline price tag that you’ll likely come across first if you look the Fire HD 8 up on Amazon’s website relates to the smaller 8GB model (£129.99), but there’s also a marginally pricier 16GB version (£149.99) and both support expansion by up to an additional 128GB via the aforementioned microSD slot.
The camera experience on the HD 8 is little more than functional, built for video calling through popular apps like Skype. The front-facing VGA sensor produces grainy results and struggles in low light but there’s a more promising 5-megapixel snapper on the back that Amazon’s engineers have tuned for better performance artificial light.
If you really want to take snaps with your tablet you can leverage HDR for select scenarios and film in HD as well.
This new ‘HD’ tablet family and the Fire HD 8 in particular round out Amazon’s device family nicely, bridging the gap between the basic Fire slates and last year’s update HDX pairing.
Aside from some striking new colours, the device really showcases the updated Fire OS 5 experience, which looks to be where most of Amazon’s time and effort has been placed.
The low price tag sounds appealing and whilst initial experiences offered up respectable performance, in the long-run it might not be the most logical purchase in the tablet space as the internal hardware will likely age quickly. We’ll have a better idea of whether that’s the case come the full review. Stay tuned.
|Screen resolution||WXGA (1280x800)|
|OS||Amazon Fire OS 5|
|Processor||1.5GHz/1.2GHz quad-core MediaTek|
|Storage||8GB/16GB. Expandable via microSD up to 128GB|
|Bonus features||Word Wise, Word Runner|