I might be a bit late to the game when it comes to Amazon’s Fire tablets, but now that I’ve had a chance to play around with one, I’ve been enjoying the experience. Amazon recently launched the newest version, dubbed the “all new” Fire HD 8, and it’s got some good improvements over the previous generation.
What is Amazon Fire HD 8?
Amazon’s Fire HD8 is a small tablet that’s somewhere between an e-reader and a full fledged tablet computer.
With an 8″ display, and either 16 or 32 GB of memory (plus you can expand more) it lets you do a variety of things like:
- read e-books
- listen to audio books
- watch streaming TV shows and movies on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube & Netflix
- watch downloaded videos
- play games
- download and use apps like InstagramFacebook
- shop the Amazon app, see your orders and more
The tablet runs Amazon Fire OS, an Android-based mobile operating system produced by Amazon for its Fire Phone and Kindle Fire range of tablets, Echo and Echo Dot, and other content delivery devices like Fire TV.
Set up and connecting Amazon Fire HD 8
Getting this device set up couldn’t have been easier. Once it’s charged up you’ll log into your Amazon account and it automatically populates you previously purchased e-books and Prime videos. I’m in the middle of watching Bosch on Prime Video and it hooked me up with the last episode I was watching.
After that you can download other apps as you wish.
The button placements are all along the top of the device; a bit awkward for the volume rocker since it’s not oriented in the traditional up-down configuration, but it’s easy enough to adapt to.
The two speakers are located on the side (or the bottom if you’re using it horizontally).
What’s different about Amazon Fire HD 8 from previous versions?
There are some changes and improvements to this tablet from previous versions (none of which I’ve tried). While the price has increased from the Fire 7, you’re getting a bit of a bigger device; the previous Fire was 7″ to the new one’s 8″ size.
The resolution has been increased, from 1024 x 600 (171 ppi) to 1280 x 800 (189 ppi) and putting it into HD territory. Storage has been increased, as has the RAM. Storage previously was 8 or 16 GB (expandable by up to 256 GB) the new Amazon Fire HD 8 now has 16 or 32 GB (expandable by up to 400 GB). The CPU is still the same (a Quad-core 1.3 GHz) but where it had 1 GB of RAM before, now it’s got 1.5 GB of RAM. Battery life has also increased from 8 to 12 hours. Finally the speaker has been improved, going from a single mono speaker to a dual Dolby Atmos-enabled speaker.
Screen quality Fire HD 8
The screen is ok. Just ok. It’s not super bright; I preferred to take it off adaptive brightness, which adjusts the display strength to the ambient light in the room, and I cranked it up to full. Even then I thought it could have used a bit more power.
The resolution isn’t what you’ll find on most cell phones or high end tablets today; it’s not a retina display, but then again, it’s not really supposed to be. This tablet is budget priced, so you’re not going to be able to get all the bells and whistles you might with something like an iPad Pro.
Fire HD 8 includes an improved front-facing 2MP camera with 720p video for HD video calling. The previous generation Fire HD 8 featured a VGA front-facing camera.
The camera has some tweaks, though to be honest, you probably don’t want to use this device as your primary camera. The photos it takes are pretty good; enough to record some good memories, but the camera is lacking some of those high end features. Again, it’s not intended to rival the photographic qualities of something like the Pixel 3 or the Samsung Note 9 or even the iPhone X. It’s a convenience feature, and a nice one to have at this price point.
How to take a screen shot on Fire HD 8?
To take a screenshot on a Fire HD tablet, just press and hold the volume down button and the power button simultaneously.
The audio quality is also good; the tiny speakers get really loud and should be enough to annoy your whole row and everyone around you on the plane! Fortunately, the headphone jack means you shouldn’t have to.
You can play music via your Fire HD 8 tablet if you want to using Amazon Music. The sound gets loud and comes through just fine, but it’s certainly not going to give you the audio quality of an Amazon Echo or Echo Plus. Put this also in the category of, ‘just fine for the price,’ and I don’t mean that as any kind of negative criticism.
What apps are available on Fire HD 8?
This tablet is loaded with apps and productivity tools. There’s a web browser called Silk, email, maps, contacts, calendar, calculator, docs, weather and more. If you want to have much of the functionality of a small tablet computer, this device puts it all right in front of you.
The Amazon App Store comes loaded onto the tablet so you can download other apps you might want. I quickly added Spotify, Netflix, Instagram, Twitter, Google Keep (I LOVE this organizer and note keeper) and a few others. I found many of the daily apps I use on my iPhone are also available in Amazon’s app store, so that was a nice surprise.
Ports & connections
The Fire HD has a USB 2.0 (micro-B connector) to connect to a PC/Macintosh computer, or to charge your device with the included power adaptor, there’s a microSD slot for external storage. When it comes to audio you have that 3.5 mm headphone jack.
Charge time & battery life on Fire HD 8
It takes about 6 hours using the micro-USB power adaptor included in the box, or slightly longer with other micro-USB power adaptors that you may already have. That should give you about 12 hours of battery life.
Stuff the Fire HD 8 can’t do in Canada is disappointing
No Alexa connectivity in Canada… yet
Fire Tablets in the USA have Alexa smart digital assistant functionality built in, but this feature hasn’t been enabled in Canada yet. You’ll see the app on the tablet and you can click on it to open it up, but nothing works yet. I asked Amazon why it’s not working and when it should be enabled, and all they could tell me is– they’re working on it.
I’ve come to rely on Alexa most of all when it comes to smart digital assistants; I think she’s just the smartest DA by far and she does plenty for me on my Echo at home. It’s too bad tablet users can’t also enjoy this service.
And no Audible support… yet
The tablet comes pre-loaded in the USA with Audible for audio books. Sadly the Canadian version doesn’t and you can’t fine it on the Amazon App Store. I hope this changes soon. I’m not sure if it’s an Amazon or an Audible issue, but it’s mildly disappointing.
And… No Show Mode… yet
With Show Mode on your Fire HD 8 or Fire HD, Alexa voice responses are enhanced with full screen visuals. Since Alexa isn’t enabled on this tablet, the function doesn’t work, but what this feature is supposed to do is turn your tablet into a defacto Echo device with a screen, like the Echo Show.
Since this feature isn’t available in Canada, I wasn’t able to test it out.
And no Video Calling…yet
Once again I have to point out a feature that’s not yet available. For video calling to work on this tablet you need Alexa to function. Annoyingly, I can see my Fire HD tablet inside the Alexa app on my phone, but it just reads, “offline”.
Again, I hope the Alexa issue is resolved soon so all these fun and helpful features can be taken advantage of.
Overall review of Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet
I was surprised by how much I like this tablet. It’s compact and light but it is a bit on the thick side. Even so it’s quite versatile; it makes me realize just how much I’ve come to rely on Amazon for things like shopping, music and now videos.
While this tablet definitely doesn’t have the capabilities of something like an iPad Pro, it’s also a much less expensive tablet, priced at an astoundingly affordable $99CAD for the 16GB size and $129 for twice the memory at 32GB.
The screen and audio quality are fine and the variety of apps available is excellent.
What I disliked most about this tablet is all the features that aren;t available… yet. Video calling, Alexa voice control, Show Mode and more. While these will likely be delivered in a future software update, it’s too bad they’re not ready now. Even so, if you’re getting this tablet, at least you know some of its future potential. But if these are features you need and want now, you might be better off with a different tablet, though you’re definitely going to pay more for it.
Overall there’s a lot to love about Fire HD and there will be even more when Alexa comes to play. if you want a low priced but versatile tablet for travel or the kids, or to supplement another tablet you may already have, getting the all new Fire HD 8 is a no brainer.
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