Latest news: It looks like we’ll be getting proper Alexa integration across Amazon’s tablet range fairly soon. The voice-activated digital assistant works in the same vein as Cortana and Siri, helping you out with your day-to-day activities, and has already impressed with Amazon’s latest Echo device.
With the update expected to launch before the end of the year, the impressive Amazon Fire HD 8, along with last year’s model, the HD 10 and regular Fire tablet will soon become an Amazon Echo-like device on the go. Up until now, Alexa is tied to your home, but in the near future, she’ll be going mobile.
We don’t yet have any concrete details about what Alexa features will make an appearance, but we do know how to actually activate it. First, you’ll have to update your tablet to the latest version of Fire OS, then just tap and hold the home button while you’re connected to WiFi and ask away. Ask it a question, or tell Alexa to play a song or read a book. Obviously, it won’t be an always-on feature like the Amazon Echo, but it seems simple enough to activate on the fly nonetheless. I’ll be sure to update this review once Alexa rears her head.
All things considered, my original review of the Amazon Fire HD 8 can be found below.
Amazon Fire HD 8 review: In full
Last year’s Amazon Fire HD 8 was a fairly decent cut-price tablet, but it struggled to stand out against its even cheaper Fire 7 sibling, or indeed Amazon’s larger Fire HD 10. This year, though, Amazon’s revamped its 8in Fire tablet, giving it more storage and more powerful internals.
Whereas last year’s model was hamstrung by just 8GB of storage, the new Fire HD 8 now comes in 16GB and 32GB models, which can be expanded up to 200GB via microSD. There’s also a new quad-core 1.3GHz chip inside, as well as 1.5GB of RAM.
At first glance, it looks a lot like last year’s Fire HD 8. It’s still a relatively chunky piece of kit, weighing 341g, but at least its thick screen bezel comes in one of four funky colours: black, blue, tangerine or magenta. Despite its girth, it feels very robust and well-suited to the rough and tumble of general home life, particularly if you’re considering buying this for a child. It might be fairly basic in terms of design, but considering it costs just £90 for the basic 16GB version (with special offers, mind – it’s £100 if you don’t want adverts on your lockscreen), it’s easily one of the better-made tablets I’ve seen in this price range.
Amazon Fire HD 8: Performance and battery life
Start using the Fire HD 8, however, and it’s clear how Amazon’s managed to keep the cost so low. The quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek MT8163 processor, for example, isn’t particularly quick, although it should serve you well for the most part. With a Geekbench 3 single-core result of 644 and multi-core result of 1,854, it’s not the best out there, but menu transitions were reasonably smooth, and general navigation didn’t present any major hiccups.
It’s not particularly well equipped for dealing with high-intensity games, though, only managing an average of 7.1fps in GFXBench GL’s onscreen Manhattan 3 test. However, simpler games such as Threes and Temple Run ran perfectly fine, so you should still be able to get in a bit of gaming to while away a long car journey.
Web browsing was reasonably smooth, too, but I saw some noticeable performance dips when scrolling through particularly media-heavy web pages, such as The Guardian. That’s not hugely surprising given its Peacekeeper browser performance score of 568, although it’s certainly not the worst score I’ve seen.
Where the Fire HD 8 really shines, though, is battery life. Setting the screen brightness to our predefined measurement of 170cd/m2, the Fire HD 8 managed 13hrs 4mins of continuous video playback, which is hugely impressive. It’s by far the longest-lasting Fire tablet we’ve seen, surpassing both the Fire HD 10 and Fire 7 by around four hours.
Amazon Fire HD 8: Display
At £90, the Fire HD 8 was never going to have an award-winning screen, so its underwhelming 66% sRGB colour gamut coverage isn’t wholly unexpected. It’s quite a low score, sitting well behind the MediaPad M3 and Iconia Tab 10, but colours were, on the whole, reasonably well balanced and images were neither too warm or too cool, so it’s not quite as disastrous as it might first appear.
Likewise, its 1,280 x 800 resolution might not sound like much, but text is still reasonably crisp and easy to read, and its contrast ratio of 968:1 helps texts stand out against lighter backgrounds. It’s exceedingly bright, too, hitting a high of 455cd/m2. That’s more than enough for using outside, and I was able to see the screen clearly even in the relentless autumn sunshine.
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