Amazon tablets tend to fly under the radar, but they have been among the best tablets for years, especially for kids and those on a budget. So it’s no surprise that upgraded models are on the way.
Amazon has announced that four new Fire HD 8 tablets are coming. A brand new Fire HD 8 ($100), a more powerful Fire HD 8 Plus ($120), Fire HD 8 Kids and Fire HD 8 Kids Pro (both from $150). All four models promise to be faster and more impressive than the previous generation, though you will have to contend with the price going up.
Another new feature is Tap to Alexa, which enables users to access Alexa via touch instead of voice. You can have a dashboard of Alexa commands on their Fire tablets with their own touch-based shortcuts to more easily access popular requests.
All four models are available to pre-order today, and will be shipping sometime in October.
New Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus: Faster and tougher
The Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus include a hexa-core processor that’s 30% faster than the previous version. Battery life has been given a boost too, with a total of 13 hours (one more than before) and the HD 8 recharges in five hours with a 5W charger. As before both models charge via a USB-C port.
Storage is available in 32GB or 64GB configurations, with support for microSD cards up to 1TB. Prime members also get unlimited full resolution photo storage in the cloud, and 5GB of video storage. Both tablets are thinner, lighter and stronger than before, and Amazon claims they’re twice as durable as an iPad mini in a tumble test.
The Fire HD 8 starts at $100, but for $120 the Fire HD 8 Plus does come with some extra features. A total of 3GB of RAM, for starters, which is 1GB more than the standard model for offers better multitasking and a 5MP rear camera.
The HD 8 Plus also comes with a 9W charger, which can offer a full charge in three hours, and Qi wireless charging of an undetermined speed. Compatible wireless charging docks, which are sold separately, also automatically switch to Show Mode, letting you use the Fire HD 8 Plus as an Echo Show-style smart display.
New Fire HD 8 Kids and Fire HD 8 Kids Pro
Like previous Fire HD tablets for kids, the tablets’ hardware isn’t that different from the standard ‘adult’ model. Instead, the benefit is making sure kids have access to a device built to offer appropriate content and make sure they can interact with tech safely.
The Fire HD 8 Kids and Fire HD 8 Kids Pro both start at $150, but are aimed at very different audiences. The 8 Kids is for kids aged 3-7, and comes with a year’s subscription to Amazon Kids Plus — which offers thousands of age-appropriate books, games, videos and apps.
And like all Fire Kids tablets it comes with a “kid-proof” case, parental controls and a two-year worry-free guarantee.
The Fire HD 8 Kids Pro is designed for kids aged 6-12, coming with a protective case, guarantee and Amazon Kids Plus subscription. However, it differs by offering a digital storefront, where kids can ask parents to purchase eBooks and apps for them to use — including popular games like Minecraft and Roblox.
The case is also a little less kiddy, which older kids will appreciate, but still offers better protection from whatever accidents may occur.
Fire tablets are getting Tap to Alexa
The Fire Kids tablets don’t include Alexa, for obvious reasons, but the Amazon smart assistant is getting an upgrade on all other recent Fire Tablets — including both the new Fire HD 8 models.
Hands-free Alexa isn’t going anywhere, so you will still be able to summon and control the assistant with your voice whenever you need to.
But Amazon is rolling out a new accessibility feature called “Tap to Alexa” (opens in new tab) which lets you control Alexa without using your voice. As the name suggests, it’s all about tapping the screen.
Previously available on Echo Shows, Tap to Alexa offers on-screen tiles that give you quick access to common Alexa requests — be it setting an alarm or playing music. The feature also includes support for compatible Bluetooth switches, for those with limited mobility, while a new Text to Speech function opens up Alexa voice control to customers who would otherwise be unable to communicate with the AI verbally.
These features will come to all Fire tablets released since 2019, and sound very much like a good thing. The biggest downside to smart assistants is you almost always have to communicate with words. By offering more options for people who can’t do this, it should give them more options to better utilize smart home tech and all the other things Alexa has to offer. Hopefully, the likes of Apple and Google follow-suit.