You have to fit into a specific niche to buy this tablet.
This spring, Amazon refreshed its Fire HD 8 tablet lineup with improved specs, new color options, and a new premium variant — the Fire HD 8 Plus. This marked the first time the company had differentiated devices within the same product line beyond the standard differences in color or storage. I think it will be interesting to see if this two-tiered strategy continues for the company’s other “high” end tablet, the Fire HD 10 when it is next due for a refresh, or if this was just a way for Amazon to try out some new features (which we’ll get to shortly) before it tries to roll them out more widely across the product line.
I reviewed the Fire HD 8 a few weeks ago, and my takeaway from that device was that it was basically the tablet that most people should get if what they want a tablet for is to watch videos and play games on. Mission accomplished, point to Amazon. So if that was my review of the “regular” Fire HD 8, where does that leave the Fire HD 8 Plus, and just who is this more premium device for?
Why this? Wireless.
Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus
Bottom line: Like its less expensive sibling, the Fire HD 8 Plus is generally a good value for those looking for an affordable content consumption device. But because the internal upgrades over the base model aren’t that substantial, and the added special features aren’t that useful in the grand scheme of things, I just don’t think most people should get it over the Fire HD 8.
- More RAM than the base model
- Faster charging speeds than the base model
- Still quite affordable
- The battery lasts up to 12 hours
- USB-C AND wireless charging
- Improved specs not enough to set it apart from the base model
- The wireless charging dock is a substantial additional expense
- Only one color option
- No physical camera cover while in Show Mode
- No official water or dust resistance
From $110 at Amazon
From $110 at Best Buy
- What I like
- Areas for improvement
- Should you buy it?
Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus What I like
I’m not going to rehash the specs of the Fire HD 8 or Fire HD 8 Plus since the two devices have so much in common and we’ve already covered that extensively, but I would like to focus on the areas where the 8 Plus stands out above its sibling.
For starters, let’s consider the internals. Two key areas where this device improves on the other Fire HD 8 are in its increased RAM (3GB vs. 2GB) and its charging speeds. The former is supposed to be evidenced in smoother gameplay and better memory management, and the latter with its 9W included wired USB-C charging brick is supposed to result in at least a one-hour time savings in charging. Don’t get me wrong, these are both welcome improvements over the regular Fire HD 8 and previous generations, but I don’t think they’re all that significant in everyday use.
No, to me, the biggest selling point of the Fire HD 8 Plus is its wireless charging capability, particularly when paired with the new wireless charging dock accessory. As far as I’m aware, this makes the Fire HD 8 Plus one of the only tablets capable of charging wirelessly, and certainly the most affordable Android device capable of doing so.
I first thought that wireless charging capability was just a silly gimmick, but in my opinion, it works well and is a valuable addition. It works as advertised, and as soon as you plop the tablet into the stand, within seconds, you get both a visual and auditory cue that the device is charging wirelessly. Amazon’s Show Mode, which essentially turns its Fire tablets into Echo Show-like smart displays, is turned on by default in the settings, so you don’t have to think about enabling this each time you place the tablet in the stand. You can, of course, turn this off if you’d prefer, and there is a toggle for this right at the top of the quick settings menu when you swipe down from the top of the screen.
With the optional wireless charging dock and Show Mode, you get two devices in one.
As I said earlier, the wireless charging dock and instant Show Mode are the key selling points of this device. If you do decide to purchase them together, there is absolutely no reason to have an Echo Show device or another smart screen in the same room. These features are a force multiplier that essentially gives you two devices for the price of one. You have a smart screen when docked and charging, and you can pick it up and use it as a tablet or e-reader at any time without unplugging it or fussing with wires.
As far as using the tablet goes, it’s the exact same experience as with the Fire HD 8. The screen and speakers work well for basic content consumption, and I think the sound is perfectly acceptable even while in Show Mode. Sure, the sound isn’t as full as my Nest Hub Max or any of my dedicated Echo smart speakers, but all-in-all it’s not bad either. The cameras? They’re there. They’re 2MP shooters that you should never, ever use for important lasting photography. But they work.
I mentioned in my previous review of the regular Fire HD 8 that I didn’t like just how fingerprint-y the device quickly became after only minutes of use; at least that was the case with the Black review unit I was sent. I’m happy to report that the lighter colors, such as the more gray Slate tones of the Fire HD 8 Plus, do a much better job of not showing everyday smudges and marks (though I’d still recommend a good case or cover for your tablet if this sort of thing bothers you as much as it does me).
Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus Areas for Improvement
In its promotional materials, Amazon attempts to distinguish the Fire HD 8 Plus from the Fire HD 8 by touting the wireless and fast charging capabilities, as well as improved internals. And while I appreciate the additional RAM that this device includes, I have to say that I have yet to notice much of a difference in my usage. I suppose if I played more games, that’s probably where it would be more evident, but I primarily used the tablet for watching Prime Video, reading my Kindle books, and doing some browsing. And for those tasks, it performed about the same as the HD 8.
I still noticed some stuttering, or at least intermittent scrolling issues, when browsing websites in Amazon’s Silk browser, as well as when moving from screen to screen (though interestingly not while within apps like Instagram or Kindle). Not a deal-breaker, but not what you’d expect from “updated” internals.
Another thing that struck me when initially setting up this device (as well as on the regular Fire HD 8) was all of the additional services Amazon tries to get you to sign up for. Holy heck, I know it’s Amazon’s walled garden, but that was a major turnoff (and I’m someone who loves most of Amazon’s services). I think a better move on Amazon’s part would have been to surface those sign-up requests as occasional notifications, or as lockscreen ads on their devices with “special offers.” I liken it to setting up a lower-end Android phone that you purchase from a carrier, with all of the splash screens and bloat associated with that process.
We can’t have a Fire tablet review on Android Central without mentioning the elephant in the room, which is the fact that
Google apps and services are not available without some trickery. It’s not all that difficult for those who are technically proficient to sideload Google apps and services, but I’d say it’s still beyond the reach of most of the Fire tablet’s customer base. You still can’t get the YouTube app on Fire tablets without sideloading, though you can, of course, access it just fine from the web browser or third-party apps.
The biggest question marks for me with the Fire HD 8 Plus revolve around its price and position in Amazon’s lineup. It’s not that the device is expensive in relative terms, as it is still hundreds less than some tablets from Apple and Samsung. It’s that it’s noticeably more than the regular Fire HD 8, and virtually the same price (or more) as the Fire HD 10, at least when you go all-in with the wireless charging dock and any other additional accessories.
I’m not clear where this device fits in Amazon’s tablet lineup, or who it’s really for.
Amazon does offer bundles on its devices and accessories all the time, so it would be nice if they could offer a deal for the Fire HD 8 Plus with the wireless charging dock at a discount to encourage greater adoption of the pair. Maybe Amazon is worried about cutting into its Echo Show business, or perhaps the company has production or inventory issues that mean it can’t offer price breaks on the accessory combo right now. Still, I don’t know how many people who are price conscious enough to buy a Fire tablet that are also willing to fork an additional $30-$50 for the accessories required to differentiate this device from its cheaper alternative.
If Amazon does bring wireless charging across the Fire tablet line in the future, it will be interesting to see if that feature makes it to the Kids Editions. I’d doubt it based on how thick the kid-friendly cases are, but perhaps those protective enclosures will shrink, or the wireless capabilities will improve (or both), and we might see a similar Show Mode and wireless charging feature in future Kids Edition devices.
Oh, one more thing… If you are even a little bit privacy-conscious, you’ll notice that as with the Echo Show (2nd Gen), the Fire tablets do not have a physical camera cover. This may not bother you, but for those who want to leave their Fire HD 8 in Show Mode on the wireless charging dock, it’s something to bear in mind.
Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus Competition
If you are looking for the absolute best Android tablet experience available right now, you’re going to want to take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6. It has a gorgeous display, a keyboard cover, and S Pen accessories, and it’s really well built. The only problem? It’s expensive.
If you’re willing to step out of the Android ecosystem and want a great tablet, you can’t go wrong with the entry-level iPad (2019). Yes, it’s using iOS (well, technically, iPadOS), and yes, it’s more expensive (especially with accessories), but what you get is a superbly well-made device with software support for upwards of five years.
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is technically a Chrome OS tablet, but it’s a really good one that can run Android apps, and it too comes with an excellent keyboard and case accessory. This is the device I’d recommend if you want to do mostly tablet-y things, but also want to have the option to get some “work” done as well.
Finally, if you just want to do the basics like watching streaming videos, social media, and light gaming, you are probably better off just getting the Amazon Fire HD 8 (regular edition). It has the same screen, speakers, and storage as the Fire HD 8 Plus. It only really lacks modest upgrades in RAM as well as the wireless and fast charging that the Fire HD 8 Plus offers, but not everybody will need, notice, or want those things.
For a full roundup of the best Android tablets available right now, be sure to check our comprehensive buyer’s guide.
Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus Should you buy it?
Amazon didn’t get to be one of the most valuable companies in the world by not knowing what its customers want, nor did it get there by refusing to make some bold bets and take some big chances (see Fire Phone and Echo). The company has been making reliable and affordable tablets for almost a decade and is the only other brand besides Apple’s iPad with a significant market share or mind share.
I’ve owned or used over a half-dozen Fire tablets since 2012, and they have gotten better with each generation. The Fire HD 8 Plus is no exception. Honestly, if you want the best tablet experience for consuming content that isn’t an iPad, this is probably the device you want. It’s insanely affordable, and it has a full HD screen, decent sound, and smart home utility with the wireless charging dock and Show Mode.
out of 5
Despite all of that praise, I do think the Fire HD 8 Plus sits in a peculiar spot in Amazon’s tablet lineup. As a tablet alone, it isn’t that much better than the similarly specced Fire HD 8 and is nearly the same price as Amazon’s top tier Fire HD 10 tablet. While the wireless charging capabilities are very cool and novel, I don’t think they’re worth the extra $20-$50 or more that it will cost the average person over the regular Fire HD 8. It may sound harsh, but it’s probably how this will play out. If you can afford that extra chunk of change, then, by all means, pick up this tablet and its accessories. But if you can’t, don’t worry. I don’t think you’re missing out on all that much.
Who it’s for
- Those who want “fast” and/or wireless charging in their tablet
- Those who want a smart screen and a tablet, and doesn’t have either
Who it isn’t for
- Those who want the best tablet experience
- Those who want the best Android tablet
- Those who only need the basics
Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus
From $110 at Amazon
From $110 at Best Buy
It’s the extras that count
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus is essentially the same tablet as its cheaper sibling, but where it really stands out is with the optional wireless charging dock. Together, they give you a smart screen speaker and a portable tablet in one device.