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Fire HD 8 Plus review: Amazon’s tablet is hard to beat when it comes to budget

Whether you’re video streaming, cooking, gaming or reading, this tablet has you covered

David Phelan
Tuesday 04 January 2022 10:26
<p>The latest tablet from the online giant  </p>

The latest tablet from the online giant

When it comes to tablets, there are two kinds: premium models with glass and aluminium design and with prices to match (these are made by Apple) and more affordable tablets. The best of these are very keenly priced and made by Amazon, which tends to sell them at or around cost price, something other manufacturers can’t compete with.

Amazon can do this because it sees the Fire tablet range as a way to lure customers into its ecosystem, hoping to sell services such as Amazon Prime or ebooks that can be read on the device.

Amazon has its own, special operating system, Fire OS. It’s basically a special version of the Android operating system, but the difference is that Amazon tests every app before it allows it on board. This guarantees the apps will work perfectly, but also means there are far fewer apps available in Fire OS – though the number is still considerable.

Amazon sells its Fire tablets and most of its Kindle ebook readers in two versions, with or without ads. If you choose the tablet configured with ads then you see an Amazon advertisement, such as a special offer on an ebook, which appears on the lock screen. They vanish swiftly enough, and are not hugely intrusive.

Buying the tablet without ads on most models, such as the Fire HD 8 Plus, costs £10 more upfront. You can buy it at the cheaper price and get rid of the ads later for the same £10 fee.

Read more:

How we tested

We tested the Fire HD 8 Plus for ease of set-up and use, elegance of design, performance speed, display quality, build quality and battery life. We ran the battery flat, played games, streamed video, typed messages and shouted at Alexa, the built-in voice assistant.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus: £109.99, Amazon.co.uk

  • Rating: 7/10
  • Display LCD screen: 8 inches, 800 x 1280 pixels, 189ppi
  • Dimensions: 202 x 137 x 9.7 mm
  • Weight: 355g
  • Storage: 32GB/64GB
  • Expandable memory: Yes
  • Battery life: 12 hours
  • Headphone jack: Yes

Design

Like many tablets, this is essentially a small, flat touch-sensitive screen. The only buttons on the Fire HD 8 Plus are the power button and volume rocker on the short edge. All controls are done through the display. The bezel around the screen is not huge, but certainly noticeable. Still, this means you’re less likely to brush the touchscreen accidentally.

Where some tablets, such as the Apple iPad, have a Home button on the front, this does not, so there’s a better screen-to-body ratio here. On the long edge at the front, there’s a front-facing camera peeping out of the bezel. There’s also a camera on the back of the tablet, though like all tablets, the flat slab of glass is not ergonomically suited to being a camera replacement. Although, of course, the display is a sumptuous viewfinder for framing your shot. Both cameras are 2-megapixel resolution.

Read more: 8 best compact cameras for the perfect shot every time

The eight-inch display is effective and colourful, although the resolution is no match for that of the iPad. Pixel density on the iPad is 265 pixels per inch (ppi) but here it’s 189ppi and the difference is noticeable. It’s detailed and immersive, but sometimes graphics lack definition. That said, reading a book on the tablet works well.

Unlike some iPads, this tablet has a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can listen to what you’re watching, or to an audiobook, in privacy.

Storage on the Fire HD 8 Plus is either 32GB or 64GB. Neither is huge but Amazon has included something Apple does not: a memory card slot. This means you can add up to 1TB extra storage if you buy a separate memory card.

The back of the tablet is plastic and while this keeps the device light, it reminds you that this is not a premium tablet (although it’s worth bearing in mind with this tablet that it’s an absolute snip at the price). The smooth plastic is matte-finish, which makes it less likely to slip from your hands, with one central patch of gloss: the Amazon smile logo is etched into the tablet.

Read more: 10 best tablets from Apple, Android, Windows and more

Another design note: Amazon has switched from microUSB to USB-C for the connector you use to charge the tablet. This is increasingly the connector used on smartphones (apart from iPhones) which makes it more convenient and also promises faster charging. Indeed, compared to the Fire HD 8, the Fire HD 8 Plus can recharge faster by an hour, taking four hours to fully recharge.

This Plus version of the Fire HD 8 has an extra benefit: it’s capable of wireless charging so you can place it on any compatible wireless charging pad to boost the battery. Amazon makes its own wireless charging pad for the tablet, which cleverly props it up at a great angle for watching video. If you buy the dock at the same time, it costs an extra £50.

Finally, the HD 8 Plus comes in only one colour, a dark grey shade called Slate, while the less powerful HD 8 is available in four colours: black, plum, twilight blue and white.

Set-up

Switch on the tablet and enter your Amazon ID to set up. It’s not quite as quick as it might be because you’re immediately presented with special offers, such as free trial subscriptions to Audible, the Amazon-owned audio book company and Kindle Unlimited, which provides access to over one million ebook titles. After your free trial, this costs £7.99 a month. A smaller range of ebook titles is included with an Amazon Prime subscription.

Performance

This tablet comes in two versions, Fire HD 8 and this, the Fire HD 8 Plus. Though many elements are identical, such as the display, size, weight and battery life, there are differences. To start with, the active memory (RAM) is 2GB on the HD 8 but 3GB on the HD 8 Plus which means faster performance, especially when you use Game Mode, which dispels distractions and turns off Alexa, for instance, to optimise performance.

Even so, this doesn’t always feel like a super-charged tablet. It takes time when you’re switching between books, for instance, and sometimes it takes a little too long when you’re switching between titles in Prime Video. Once playback is underway, however, it’s an immersive experience.

Battery life is good, beating Apple iPad by two full hours, that’s 1-hours against Apple’s and several other rivals’ 1-hours. Real-world use is often less than this, but it will still easily outlast most usage sessions.

Read more: The best tablet stands and holders for elevating for viewing experience

The tablet is designed to give easy, seamless access to the world of Amazon. There’s a dedicated app called “shop Amazon” where you can buy anything the site sells with a couple of clicks. There’s the Prime Video app front-and-centre, though of course similar apps, from Netflix and Disney+ to BritBox are also available with one quick download.

The brilliant Kindle ebook reading app is also here, along with Alexa, the advanced voice assistant. Say Alexa’s name, even if you’re sitting halfway across the room from the tablet, to check the time, hear a joke, see the weather forecast or launch an app. Place the Fire HD 8 Plus on its dock, or just prop it up, and it makes an excellent recipe device. You can even ask Alexa to turn the page in some cases, to avoid smudging the screen with flour or oil, say.

The verdict: Amazon Fire HD 8 plus review

The Amazon Fire HD 8 plus is not the most powerful or fastest, or best-looking tablet around. But there’s still an awful lot to like, from the seamless interface with all things Amazon to the simple design and excellent battery life. Video streaming is good and for the most part, games are fast and smooth enough to be highly enjoyable. This is a versatile media playback device.

And then there’s the price. This tablet costs around half of the cheapest iPad, and since Amazon frequently has special offers, it could cost even less than that. It’s around a quarter of the cost of the small Apple tablet, the iPad mini (which costs £479 or more). In terms of good-value tablets, this one is very hard to beat.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus

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For discounts on games and offers on consoles, try the links below:

Still torn between which tablet to go for? Take a look at our Ipad January sales round-up

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