Amazon Fire HD 8 review: The affordable entertainment tablet

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Amazon churns out Fire tablets at a great pace; available three sizes, with regular updates, the Fire HD tablet has been a constant of technology for a few years.

The offering hasn’t changed hugely over recent years, with minor tweaks defining the different versions, rather than the bigger steps you’ll find on premium tablets like the Apple iPad.

So is the Fire HD 8 worthy of your interest?

Design and build

  • Dimensions: 202 x 137 x 9.7mm / Weight: 335g
  • Finish: Black, Plum, Twilight Blue, White colours
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Dolby Atmos speakers
  • Plastic build

The Amazon Fire HD 8 launched alongside an enhanced version of the same tablet – the Fire HD 8 Plus, which adds wireless charging to the mix. There’s little to set these two tablets apart, except that the regular model reviewed here also comes in a wider range of colours.

Amazon Fire HD 8 review photo 9

Amazon has changed the Fire HD 8’s design slightly in 2020, making the bezels equal on all sides and moving on from the slightly elongated look of the past. We certainly think it looks better in this new aspect.

The build stays the same, however, with Amazon sticking to plastics and eschewing premium materials. That’s understandable given the price, but there’s also an honesty to it: this isn’t trying to compete with much more expensive devices, it’s designed with practicality in mind instead.

The result is that you have a tablet that will take a little more abuse, wearing scratches and marks a little better, avoiding the cracks or dents that some other tablets will accrue through their life. It also has plenty of grip, with soft, curved edges. It’s easy to wipe clean too.

Amazon has changed the Fire HD 8’s design slightly in 2020, making the bezels equal on all sides and moving on from the slightly elongated look of the past. We certainly think it looks better in this new aspect.

For those who want to use the speakers, the Fire HD 8 is particularly well equipped. There are stereo speakers, carrying the Dolby Atmos label, that are actually very good for game and movies use, with appreciable volume and respectable solidity to their delivery. There’s Bluetooth too, for those who want to go wireless.

Display

  • 8-inch LCD display, 16:10 aspect ratio
  • 1280 x 800 resolution (189ppi)

We’ve always felt that the Fire HD 8 sits in the sweet spot of the Fire tablet range. It’s large enough to be immersive, small enough to be portable. While the size and resolution on the 8 – at 8 inches, as the name suggests – hasn’t changed, the latest models of this tablet have boosted the quality a little over older models.

The resolution is modest, claiming the HD tag (but only just), but lacking the ability to render finer detail that you would get from a larger phone or the iPad mini. But given the price, that’s not a great loss, because the performance is good enough on the Fire HD 8.

The real weaknesses are in peak brightness and viewing angles. Sit in bed looking straight-on at the screen and you’ll have a great experience, but watch at a slightly oblique angle next to a window drenched in summer sunshine and the experience doesn’t exactly pop.

Amazon Fire HD 8 review photo 11

It’s a little glossy and reflecting and will need a wipe to clean off fingerprints – especially when in the hands of children where it will undoubtedly get a little grubbier – but we’ve always found it to clean up easily enough.

The real consideration, however, is the content that you’re going to be viewing on this tablet. The Fire HD’s real strengths are casual games and content from streaming services like Amazon Video or Netflix – and you simply don’t need the extra detail that some rival devices are capable of offering, but which you’d rarely use to full effect.

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