The Amazon Fire HD 8 is the middle child of Amazon's tablet line, but has long been the best Fire tablet for most people. After 2019's Fire HD 10 got USB-C charging, it was only a matter of time before the same happened to its smaller sibling. In addition, Amazon made some smart tweaks to the tablet's design to make it fit the modern landscape.
That being said, this Fire HD 8 review will dive into how this revision doesn't change any of the problems of Amazon's tablets, such as the fact that Google apps and the Google Play store are nowhere to be found. You also need to pay more to remove lock-screen ads. But thanks to a bright screen, and amazing battery life (possibly the longest I've ever seen in a tablet) the Amazon Fire HD 8 isn't just one of the best Android tablets, it's one of the best tablets overall and probably the best for most families, with or without its Kids Edition bumper case.
Amazon Fire HD 8 vs Plus vs Kids Edition specs
|Fire HD 8||Fire HD 8 Plus||Fire HD 8 Kids Edition|
|Screen||8-inch 1280 x 800-pixel||8-inch 1280 x 800-pixel||8-inch 1280 x 800-pixel|
|Processor||2.0 GHz quad-core processor||2.0 GHz quad-core processor||2.0 GHz quad-core processor|
|Ports||USB-C, microSD||USB-C, microSD||USB-C, microSD|
|Storage||32GB, 64GB||32GB, 64GB||32GB, 64GB|
|Case||Not included||Not included||Kid-proof case with adjustable stand, in blue, pink, or purple|
|Warranty||90-day limited warranty||90-day limited warranty||two-year worry-free guarantee|
|FreeTime Unlimited||Not included||6-month subscription||1-year subscription|
|Special features||None||Supports wireless charging, 9 watt faster-charging power adapter included||None|
Amazon Fire HD 8 2020 release date and price
The Fire HD 8 starts at $89, which is $10 more than the 2018 Fire HD 8. The HD 8 Plus is $20 more, and throws in support for wireless charging, and Amazon bundles it with Angreat's Made for Amazon Wireless Charging Dock in a $139 package.
Amazon Fire HD 8 2020 Kids Edition
As has been the case in the past, the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition 2020 costs a bit more than the standard edition, but includes enough for parents to not worry about that bump. That's because the Kids Edition Fire tablets can take many more bumps.
Now $139 (another $10 price increase), the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition includes the standard bumper case (in blue, pink or purple), a two-year "worry-free guarantee" (essentially a no-questions asked warranty) and a year of FreeTime Unlimited.
Amazon Fire HD 8: Design
Compared to previous generations, the Fire HD 8 has only slight differences in its design. The best decision Amazon made is to move the webcam from the narrow side to the wider side. When you're on a video call, you're gonna be holding the Fire HD 8 in landscape orientation, especially if you and another person are sharing the tablet as you chat with your long distance friend or relative.
Measuring 0.4 inches thick and weighing 12.5 ounces, the Fire HD 8 is similar to the 8-inch Walmart Onn tablet (0.4 inches, 12.2 ounces). The slightly smaller Amazon Fire 7 (0.4 inches, 10.1 ounces) is lighter, while the 7.9-inch Apple iPad mini (0.2 inches, 10.6 ounces) is thinner and lighter.
Amazon Fire HD 8: Ports
Rare is it that I got gaga for ports, but the Amazon Fire HD 8 is helping us put an end to microUSB, replacing it with USB-C in the Fire HD 8 2020. The reversible USB-C port feels secure when you plug it into the tablet, and doesn't include all the confusion about how to correctly insert it, unlike the non-reversible microUSB.
The Fire 7 and Walmart onn are both stuck on microUSB, while the iPad mini has a Lightning port, which is OK, but we'd prefer USB-C, since you can cut down on the number of cables you need to own if you can share them across devices.
The Fire HD 8 also has a headphone jack and microSD reader.
Amazon Fire HD 8: Display
Watching an episode of 30 Rock on the Fire HD 8, I saw a bright reproduction of a shoot in midtown Manhattan, the vibrant purple of Jonathan The Assistant's tie and less-than-impressive golds in the building lobby. The textures of Alec Baldwin's suit and perfectly coiffed hair looked crisp for a sub-HD panel, right around what I expected from this 8-inch 1280 x 800-pixel panel. The Fire HD 8’s display is sharper than what you get from the Fire 7 (1200 x 600), and similar to the Walmart onn (1220 x 800). The 7.9-inch iPad mini (2048 x 1536) has a much sharper screen.
According to our colorimeter, the Fire HD 8 produces up to 80% of the sRGB spectrum, which beats the Amazon Fire 7 (66%) and the Walmart onn (73%). The iPad mini (135%) gets more colorful.
Our light meter clocked the Fire HD 8 as emitting up to 444 nits of brightness, which makes it a dimmer than the iPad mini (490 nits) and brighter than Fire 7 (370 nits) and the Walmart onn (273 nits). However, viewing angles leave something to be desired: A conversation between Tracy Jordan and Kenneth the Page darkened when I viewed it from 30 degrees to the left or right.
The 8-inch Fire HD's touchscreen proved responsive as I tapped and navigated the FireOS menus. Scrolling wasn't as smooth, however, when I tried reading a web page in the Silk web browser, which has always underperformed in my opinion.
Amazon Fire HD 8: Audio
The Fire HD 8 produces pleasing sound but with not nearly as much volume as I'd prefer. As I listened to tracks by Run The Jewels, Carly Ray Jepsen and The National, I repeatedly found myself wishing I could turn the tablet up to 11. That being said, vocals came out clearly, drum cymbals hit crisply and piano keys clinked accurately. There's even a little bass.
Amazon Fire HD 8: Performance
The Amazon Fire HD 8's 2.0 GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM make for unimpressive performance, which might be what you expect from a $90 tablet. After opening eight tabs in the Silk browser — remember, no Chrome here — I noticed pauses so long I decided to time how long it took to jump between them (on average, it was about 2 seconds). If you're impatient, you might think it didn't register your tap, but there's just a slight delay. This was more pronounced when I had Spotify playing in the background.
On the Geekbench 4 general performance benchmark, the Fire HD 8 took home a score of 2,437, which beats similarly sized budget tablets. The Amazon Fire 7 (1.3-GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB of memory) netted a 1,922 and the 8-inch Walmart onn (MediaTek MT8163 CPU, 2GB of RAM) took home a 1,415. The A12 Bionic-powered iPad mini blows all small tablets out of the water with its massive 11,515.
Amazon Fire HD 8: Battery Life
The Amazon Fire HD 8 provides shockingly long battery life — going even longer than the 12 hours that Amazon claimed it would last. On our battery test (web browsing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness) the Fire HD 8 lasted a jaw-dropping 13 hours and 50 minutes.
That’s almost twice as long as the Fire 7 (6:56) and more than twice as long as the Walmart onn (5:29). It even outlasts the iPad (12:40) by over an hour.
Amazon Fire HD 8: Webcam
The 2.0-megapixel cameras on the front and back of the Fire HD 8 capture photos that will do in a pinch (I've seen worse) but still leave me wanting more. Giving the cameras the best chance at a good photo, in a room awash with natural light, I got a selfie that got some of the details in my ever-messy quarantine haircut, including some of my shaggy sideburns, but overall the photo had a grainy quality more befitting an old Instagram filter.
Similarly, when I shot a photo of my paperback copy of Little Fires Everywhere (adapted to great success as one of the best Hulu TV shows) the cover had a slight blur to the edges, with no crisp detail.
When it's time to call grandpa on a video chat, he’ll be able to make out your features, but you don't need to blame his eyesight if he doesn't notice small changes in your visage.
Amazon Fire HD 8: Software
Amazon's tablets would be great if they weren't built as if Amazon were the end-all-be-all of life. Not only does Amazon charge you $15 to remove ads from the lock screen, but the entire interface of the Fire HD 8 is built around consuming content from Amazon services.
While I think there are some great Prime Video shows, like Fleabag and Good Omens, no one service is able to make up for the absence of important applications. Amazon's own app store doesn't have Google apps, so you need to use inferior web versions of Gmail and YouTube.
If you want the Google Play store, or any of the apps I'll list below that aren't on the Fire tablet, you need to go against best security practices and enable the installation of apps from the web browser, which lowers the barriers for possible attack. The Fire tablets have been like this for so long that this must be OK with its audience — these slates still sell well — but it's a compromise that's never felt like we got something good enough in exchange.
Thankfully, some of the modern basics, such as Spotify and TikTok, are on FireOS. But none of the major podcast apps (PocketCasts, Overcast, Downcast) are available on Fire tablets, and neither is WhatApp, one of the biggest messaging apps on the planet. Lastly, Amazon's Silk browser is still slow and stilted, and not nearly as smooth as its namesake.
The Walmart onn, for what it's worth, has the Play Store, and its biggest sin is pushing a lot of links to Walmart in the interface. Again, these companies know their audiences, and who am I to say those aren't welcome shortcuts to bargain priced products?
Amazon Fire HD 8 review: Verdict
For casual TV watching and music listening, the Fire HD 8's screen and speakers prove it to be a solid device for all the basics, and its USB-C port means you can charge it with the same cable your new laptop uses. Though, considering the HD 8’s epic battery life, you won’t need to refuel it often. The Fire HD 8 wouldn't feel so compromised, though, if it could just get Google apps, so you could use Chrome and not rely on Amazon's Silk web browser.
The iPad mini offers blazingly faster performance, a larger screen and the best app store in the world (though developers may disagree), but it costs $310 more than the Fire HD 8 on most days, and Amazon will most certainly discount their own slate come Prime Day 2020. But dollar-for-dollar, this Amazon Fire HD 8 review has explained why there is no better affordable tablet than the Fire HD 8.
I just wish it was a little less Amazon and a little more Android.