AMAZON HAS UPDATED the wildly popular Fire HD tablet line for 2016 with a longer battery life and more RAM. It’s also the first tablet to come with Alexa, although this feature is available only to US punters.
Can it hold its own as a tablet, or is it just a battering ram for Amazon’s own services?
The Amazon Fire HD 8, now in its sixth generation, is thicker and heavier than last year’s model. The glossy rear has been replaced with a rather unattractive plastic shell.
The body exhibited some light flex when tested, and we detected creaking coming from the plastic case. Moreover, the buttons don’t have the tightest fittings causing them to wobble slightly.
In terms of inputs, the Fire HD 8 has USB 2.0, a 3.5mm headphone port and microSD expansion hidden behind a flap.
We appreciate Amazon’s attempt to make the Fire HD 8 accessible through its colour options, but we’re not sure the Blue, Tangerine or Magenta are all that appealing. Luckily there’s a nondescript Black model for those who don’t want to draw attention to the device.
For a tablet that comes in at under £100, we were never expecting the Fire HD 8 to blow our socks off. The quad-core 1.3GHz processor and 1.5GB RAM are a little on the stingy side (and to think that the RAM is already a 50 per cent improvement over the previous generation).
The tablet ran just about everything we threw at it during tests, including Sonic Dash, Knights of the Old Republic and Monument Valley, with only a little slowdown when the screen got too busy. The rear warms up during load but never uncomfortably so.
The Fire HD 8 is best in landscape mode for entertainment purposes as this takes advantage of the Dolby Audio stereo speakers along the long bottom edge. However, output weighs heavily towards the top end and there’s little to no bass, so the end result comes across as tinny. You wouldn’t want to binge on Amazon Video for hours without headphones.
The rear-facing camera is basic at best, but at 2MP and lacking flash it was never going to be any good. That’s not to the detriment of the device, because at the end of the day you’re not buying the Fire HD 8 to take pictures.
The under-powered engine room is aggravating, but paired with the gaudy colours it makes some semblance of sense. This is a child-friendly device through and through, and now sits towards the top of Amazon’s tablet offerings (seeing as the similarly sized 8.9in Fire HDX has vanished from Amazon’s comparison tables). You’ll have to look further than the Fire range if you want to do anything more than a bit of light gaming or streaming.
The “beautiful display” is 1200×800 resolution making it well below par in 2016. It’s the same tech as the last generation, and you’d think that in a year Amazon might’ve moved on, but instead we get the same 189ppi and HD which just don’t cut it anymore.
You could argue that at £89.99 you’re not paying for pixels, but our ageing Sony Xperia Tablet S does as good a job so the Fire HD 8 will need to impress elsewhere to justify its existence.
The Blue Shade feature is welcome. It reduces the amount of blue light, which inhibits your ability to fall asleep, and reduces eye strain. We made full use of this mode during testing and liked how it could also be scheduled to come on automatically when daylight starts to fade.
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