Packing your new, ultra-slimline tablet into your luggage for a weekend away – with its camera to capture all the glorious sights, and its ability to stream some engaging entertainment – isn't possible for many of us right now; but we’re an optimistic bunch, so let’s hope it soon will be.
Over the past few years, we have found much to celebrate when testing Amazon’s entry-level Fire HD tablet series. The new Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020) has received its first update since 2018 (we gave that version four stars), but with twice the storage, a claimed 30 per cent faster performance courtesy of its new 2.0GHz quad-core processor, up to 12 hours of battery life (two more than its predecessor) and easier charging with a USB-C charging port, we have high hopes for this new version.
Add to this 2GM RAM and 64GB of storage onboard that's expandable by up to 1TB with a microSD card, plus an asking price of just £120 ($120), and we’re intrigued. Can it match the success of its Award-winning, larger Amazon Fire HD 10 sibling?
Amazon’s Fire HD tablets have largely been plastic affairs, but our Twilight Blue sample (there are Black, White and Plum finishes too) feels resoundingly durable and, save for the subtle logo on the back of the tablet, Amazon branding is almost non-existent.
On test here is the 64GB Fire HD 8, though there is also a 32GB storage model for just £90 ($90). The HD 8 is bundled with a 5W charger, but since it now sports a USB-C socket, if you have a 15W USB-C charger it will charge in closer to three hours.
Note that there is also an HD 8 Plus (£110/$110 for the 32GB model; £140/$140 for the 64GB variant), which boasts 50 per cent more RAM, wireless charging support, and a bundled 9W USB-C charger that claims to charge the tablet in less than four hours.
Screen 8in Full HD
Resolution 1280 x 800
Storage 32GB, 64GB
Bluetooth version 5.0
Battery life Up to 12 hours
Audio output 3.5mm jack
Dimensions (hwd) 20.2 x 13.7 x 0.9cm
The Fire HD 8's 8in Full HD display (as with all Amazon Fire HD tablets, the model number denotes the screen size) makes it roughly the same height and width as a paperback book, but the tablet is slim, rounded at the edges and surprisingly light – perfect for holding and slipping into a bag.
One small gripe is that the power button is situated towards the left of the top edge of the tablet when held in portrait mode, and since the USB-C charging port, 3.5mm headphone jack and volume controls are also found along this top edge, it can make the functions feel a little busy. It’s a minor issue, mind you. The HD 8’s dual speakers with Dolby Atmos support are found along the left side of the tablet when held this way.
You get the same battery life (up to 12 hours) and 2MP front and rear snappers as you do with the HD 10, and though the 1280 x 800 (189ppi) screen resolution is a step down from the HD 10’s 1920 x 1200 (224ppi) 1080p Full HD screen, it still looks remarkably good.
At five hours, the HD 8 takes an hour longer to reach full charge than the HD 10, and the HD 8’s new Quad-core 2.0GHz processor is a slight step down from the HD 10’s Octa-core 2.0GHz processor, but in our tests both tablets perform just as snappily.
Considering the Fire HD 8 starts at just £90 ($90) and gives you hands-free Alexa, there are plenty of tablet perks on offer here for the money. Alexa works brilliantly and the HD 8’s voice pick-up is admirable. Responses are accompanied by a visual, too – ask Alexa how many teeth a dog has and your tablet pulls up a picture of a pooch to go with the verbal response (the answer is 42, by the way).
You will need an Amazon account to use the tablet, and it prompts you to take up a Prime subscription, which grants access to Amazon Prime Video and makes the most of the tablet’s features – though it isn’t essential. This Amazon-centric approach might make the Fire HD 8 less desirable than a conventional Android-based tablet to those who don't wish to buy into the Amazon ecosystem, but there’s still plenty for everyone to enjoy here.
We stream amateur baking show Nailed It on Netflix and the contestants’ hilarious creations-gone-wrong are revealed in all their ghastly colourful glory. The picture runs remarkably smoothly, even when one participant frantically hits the panic button as their dinosaur celebration cake collapses. There’s a short moment of judder as the money gun sprays cash around the winning contestant, but it’s a competent performance overall.
Some nice features in the Fire HD 8’s display settings include Adaptive brightness (a toggle that optimises brightness levels according to the surrounding light) and Blue Shade, which reduces the amount of blue light on the screen. As a tablet of this size will often be used for reading before bed, this is a nice touch.
The Fire HD 8’s new gaming mode also makes playing Candy Crush Saga a joy – sweets zip across the screen and explode snappily as we swipe to make our connections on the touch-screen. We try the more graphically challenging Alto’s Odyssey and there is a nice level of detail as we surf the endless desert.
We start our listening with the sonic accompaniment to the BAFTA-nominated Alto’s Odyssey. It’s a textured and layered performance alongside the game’s ambient chimes. Whooshes and swoops as we jump, collect coins and somersault over cliff edges are three-dimensional and detailed, too.
We pair the Earfun Air true wireless earbuds over Bluetooth and stream Our Planet: The High Seas on Netflix. Sir David Attenborough’s voice is central as the crashing of dolphins being chased by false killer whales, alongside a frenzied classical piece, come through with energy and zeal.
It’s an expansive presentation, too, with excellent separation as a baby Blue Whale emerges from the depths in our left ear and calls for its mother, whose response is heard through our right. We cannot fully support the Fire HD 8’s Dolby Atmos claims – after all, there's only so much three-dimensional audio small speakers on a tablet can offer – but it’s still a good-sounding tablet for this money.
At this affordable level, we couldn’t ask for more in a tablet. No, the Amazon Fire HD 8 isn't as good as the latest Apple iPad, which boasts greater screen resolution, cameras and processing across the board; but it's three times cheaper than Apple's entry-level offering.
The Fire HD 8 is an easy-to-use device that looks and sounds splendid for the money and has all the apps and features it should have, plus hands-free Alexa.
If you’re looking for an Android tablet on which to download TV shows, movies or books for a journey, or a hands-free Alexa-enabled device for answering queries and so on, we don’t think the Fire HD 8 can currently be bettered for the money.
- Picture 5
- Sound 5
- Features 5
Read our guide to the best tablets
Read our Apple iPad (2020) review
Read our Amazon Fire HD 10 review