Iterative updates bring welcome improvements.
Did you hear the news? There’s a new Amazon Fire tablet out! Well, technically, there are three new Amazon Fire tablets out, including the Fire HD 8, the Fire HD 8 Plus, and the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition.
I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t notice their arrival, given all the madness that is going on in the world right now. That, and the fact that Amazon is currently selling seven different new versions of its Fire tablets, most with varying configurations of storage, colors, and accessories. With all of these choices, it’s almost impossible to keep track of all of your options and figure out why you might consider one Fire tablet over another.
I’ve long called the Fire HD 8 the Goldilocks tablet, because it does a great job of balancing price, performance, and specs to meet the budget and use cases of most people. It’s not only the best Amazon tablet for most people, but it’s also probably the best overall tablet for most people, at least when you consider those factors I mentioned. Is it particularly powerful? No. Is it exciting? Eh, not really. Is it well-made? Well, it’s well-enough made.
I know what you’re thinking. I don’t seem overly excited about the Fire HD 8 (2020), and you know what? I’m not.
Still, I do think it’s a good value, and that after a two-year wait for updates, this is still the tablet that most folks should buy. If you’re someone who wants a device with good battery life, Dolby Atmos audio, and HD video output, this device is for you. If you don’t want to spend a lot upfront but want a tablet that can expand to suit your needs, that can handle multi-user families and even kiddos, and that can stand up to the occasional drop or bumps, this device is for you. The forward-thinking, future-proofing gadget hounds might be more interested in the Fire HD 8 Plus, but this is the device for the rest of us.
A hot upgrade
Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020)
Bottom line: The Amazon Fire HD 8 won’t blow anyone away, but it’s not supposed to. It’s designed to be durable, affordable, and flexible for individuals or families, and it gained the necessary features to make it a no-brainer upgrade over previous Fire and Android tablets.
- Still affordable
- Battery lasts up to 12 hours
- USB-C charging
- Better internals
- New colors
- Horizontal camera orientation
- Game Mode
- Still not the speediest tablet
- Cameras are not great
- It’s a fingerprint magnet
- No official water or dust resistance
From $90 at Amazon
From $90 at Best Buy
So what’s new on the Fire HD 8?
|Resolution||1280 x 800 (189 ppi)|
|Storage||32/64GBExpandable up to 1TB|
|CPU||Quad-core 2.0 GHz|
|Charging Time||5 hours|
|Cameras||2MP front and rear|
|Dimensions||8.0″ x 5.4″ x 0.4″ (202 mm x 137 mm x 9.7 mm))|
As I mentioned above, the last time the Fire HD 8 received a refresh was back in 2018, and while that device still performs admirably for many, a lot of its features were getting a little dated. For example, that 8th-Gen device still charged via Micro-USB, it had much lower storage capacity and lower expandability options, and it had less RAM and a slower processor.
The 2020 edition of the Fire HD 8 (10th-Gen) makes improvements in all of these areas. It has 50% more RAM (2GB vs. 1.5GB), a 30% faster processor, twice the onboard storage (32GB or 64GB vs. 16GB or 32GB), and a battery that lasts 20% longer. Amazon is also finally, slowly, starting to bring USB-C charging ports to its devices (which began in 2019 with the Fire HD 10).
The rest of the tablet remains mostly unchanged. It has a similar size and polycarbonate construction to the previous version, and the cameras, screen, and audio are all the same, too. There are new color options for the 2020 version that bring it into the fold with the 2019 Fire 7 and Fire HD 10, and now you can get the Fire HD 8 in White, Black, Plum, and my favorite, Twilight Blue. The most significant change to the physical design is a rounding of the corners, and the front-facing camera moving from the top to the side so that it greets you in a landscape mode.
Now that we’ve reviewed what has changed since the previous edition, let’s dive into what I liked and what I felt was lacking in this new iteration of the Fire HD 8.
Amazon Fire HD 8 vs. HD 8 Plus: What’s the difference and which should you buy?
Things that are hot
The spec bumps to this device may not seem like a big deal, but they do make all the difference in being able to recommend this tablet to friends and family. USB-C charging is a long-overdue feature, but a welcome one, and any time a company can improve battery life by whatever means is a blessing (here it jumped up by two hours!).
The dual speakers and HD screen sound and look pretty much the same as the 2018 version, and that’s because they mostly are the same. Some may clamor for a higher-density display, but at this price point, what you get is perfectly fine for watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, or playing games.
Don’t laugh, but Amazon’s setup video was super-helpful, even for me!
I know it sounds silly, but I really enjoyed the onboarding process when setting up my Fire HD 8 tablet. After you set up your Wi-Fi connection and log in to your Amazon account, you’re greeted with a two-minute video walking you through some of the most compelling features and use cases. I didn’t feel like I needed this introduction, but I can bet that it’s proven helpful for scores of others setting up an Amazon device for the first time.
One feature that Fire tablets have had for a few years now is Show Mode, which turns the tablet into a smart screen speaker like an Echo Show or Nest Hub (sort of). That feature is once again available here on the Fire HD 8. So long as you either a) leave it plugged in, or b) remember to charge it frequently, it’s a nice touch. You’ll need a stand or case with a built-in stand, but when you enable it, you essentially get two devices (a tablet and a smart speaker) in one. Not bad for the price!
Speaking of price, the Fire HD 8 starts at $90 for the model with 32GB of internal storage. That’s already a pretty sweet deal for what you get, but you can bet that come Prime Day (whenever that happens) or the fall holiday shopping season, this will probably be on sale for as low as $60-$70. Talk about your impulse buy.
I was happy to see the truckload of free content that I can find on Fire TV was available on the tablet as well, but here it’s expanded to include books and games, too. The Amazon Insider feature showcases and surfaces compelling content and things to do with your Fire tablet. The My Stuff feature is interesting because it preloads content from your watchlist that you might want to have available offline, and dynamically adjusts that content based on the storage space available on your device. Of course, you can disable this feature, but it’s sometimes helpful to have stuff waiting for you to watch for those times when you forget to load up your tablet with videos. And don’t forget, even if you purchase the 32GB model, you can expand the storage capacity up to 1TB via microSD card.
The other new feature that impressed me was Game Mode. In Game Mode, all notifications and interruptions are silenced, letting you enjoy your game in peace. The best part about it though is that you don’t have to do anything to activate it; it’s on by default. Of course, if you want to, you can go into the settings to disable Game Mode, but I don’t see myself doing that anytime soon.
Things that are not
You knew it was coming. No device is perfect, and each has room for improvement. What follows are my complaints, both minor and major, on how the Fire HD 8 could be improved.
For starters, this device is still not for power users. Despite improving the processor speeds by up to 30% and the RAM by 50%, the Fire HD 8 can still fill a bit sluggish and jittery at times. I didn’t notice this so much when I was using an app, but more so when navigating the system UI. Swiping between screens and navigating settings takes a tick longer than I expected it to, and that’s a little bit of a bummer.
It’s probably no surprise that the cameras on this tablet aren’t great. That doesn’t bother me personally, as I would only ever use the rear-facing camera in a worst-case scenario. The front-facing camera is honestly good enough for your Zoom, Skype, or Alexa video calls with Grandma, particularly since the webcam on her laptop probably isn’t much better.
This tablet picks up more grease than a fast-food worker’s apron.
One of the things that bothered me most about the Fire HD 8 was that it is a fingerprint magnet, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. The matte plastic coating on the rear showed every touchmark, and the front looked greasy when the screen was turned off. I don’t always advocate for cases or covers on tablets, but in this case, I’d advise you to go ahead and grab one. I’m partial to the first-party flip covers, but there are a ton of great third-party options as well. While you’re at it, grab a screen protector, and be sure to check out the first-party Mickey Mouse and National Geographic covers, too!
The last major gripe I have is with the lock screen ads. Now, usually, I am perfectly fine getting the discounted Amazon devices with lock screen ads, as I’ve found them to be unobtrusive and often accurately tailored to my interests. However, in the first few days of using the tablet, I saw an excessive amount of ads for gambling and lotto-style games that I have zero interest in. The good news is that the device seems to be learning from my habits, and is now starting to show me more ads for books instead.
Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020) Should you buy it?
I said at the beginning of this review that I wasn’t overly excited by this new Fire HD 8, but that does not mean it’s not a great device. This is hands-down the tablet that I would recommend to 90% of folks who ask my opinion on such things. So do I think you should buy one? Probably so.
out of 5
If you are looking for an affordable tablet that is comfortable to hold for long periods, that looks and sounds excellent, and that can deliver just about any content your little heart desires for under $100, then, by all means, get this one. Even if you have a large investment in Google apps and services, it’s not that difficult to sideload those apps and get the best of both worlds.
Yes, there are other decent-to-great Android tablets out there, but those tend to cost two, three, even five or more times above and beyond what the Fire HD 8 costs, and even though their build quality is better, the overall experience isn’t noticeably so. The other option is to purchase one of Apple’s admittedly fantastic iPads, but that brings a whole new operating system with it, new apps you might have to repurchase, and even the cheapest iPad is more than three times the price of the Fire HD 8.
It was true in 2018, and it’s still true now. The Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet is genuinely the Goldilocks of tablets: not too cheap or underwhelming, not too expensive or premium, but just right in terms of performance, price, and expectations.
Buy it if
- You’re looking to upgrade a two-year-old or older Fire tablet
- You want something affordable for the family
- Battery life and expandable storage matter to you
Don’t buy it if
- You have a lot of Apple content
- You don’t feel comfortable sideloading Google Play services
- You want a productivity tablet
Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020)
From $90 at Amazon
From $90 at Best Buy
The tablet for the masses
The 2020 edition of the Fire HD 8 made all the necessary improvements that you’d expect over the 2018 version, and honestly, that’s more than enough for most people. It still provides a reliable device at a great value, and we can still recommend it as the default tablet to get.