Review: Amazon Fire HD 8 and 8 Plus (2022)
Review: Amazon Fire HD 8 and 8 Plus (2022)
acep erik luasiandi
AS MUCH AS I dislike Amazon as a company—nay, as a cultural force—I find the company’s cheap tablets strangely compelling. Fire tablets are one of the best values out there, and the new Fire HD 8 is no exception.
Note, though, that I said “value.” It’s not the fastest, the fanciest, or the sturdiest, but for the price, the Fire HD 8 is a good choice for those that are all-in on Amazon content. The Fire HD 10 remains a more versatile tablet, but the smaller 8-inch models are worth a look if you don’t want to spend that much.
Amazon has not messed much with the design of the Fire HD 8. The 2022 version looks identical to the previous model, but is a little thinner and lighter. Like the previous model, the all-plastic construction is surprisingly sturdy. I've dropped my old Fire HD 8 from about waist height (I'm around 6 feet tall) on a hardwood floor several times without doing any damage. That said, I don't recommend testing this feature yourself. A glass screen is still a glass screen. I suggest wrapping your Fire HD 8 in a cover of some sort.
The 2.0 GHz hexa-core processor is new, and in my testing was marginally faster than the previous version. Amazon claims the new Fire HD 8 is 30 percent faster. In my experience using them side by side for tasks like browsing the web or playing video, you won't notice a huge difference. Considered on its own, let's charitably say that this is not a speedy tablet. It gets the job done, but put it up against just about any other Android tablet on the market and it's going to lose. Again though, it's fast enough to do what it's designed to do, which is deliver Amazon content.
That Amazon content lands on an 8-inch, 1280 x 800 pixel display, which is … not great. It's the sort of thing that would send David Lynch into fits, but it works well enough if you don't care that much about deep rich colors and solid blacks. Pixelation is still painfully visible in text, but no worse than any other tablet at this price.
The Fire HD 8 is available with either 32 GB or 64 GB of storage—the more the better, if you can afford it. You can expand that storage capacity up to 1 TB using the microSD card slot.
One of the highlights of the Fire HD 8 is the impressive battery life. Amazon touts 13 hours. I only managed 10 or so hours while streaming video, but that's still very good. The downside is that charging is slow. The included 5-watt charger took so long that I went and found a 15-watt charger. With the 15-watt, I was able to recharge it in under three hours. Still not fast, but better than the included charger, which you'd most likely want to use for overnight charging.
If you want slightly more power, there is also the Fire HD 8 Plus ($150), which offers an extra gigabyte of RAM, wireless charging, and a 5-megapixel camera (to the base model's 2-megapixel—neither are very good, so don't let this be the selling point of the Plus). The extra RAM is very welcome, but the difference here is not as noticeable as it is with the 10-inch Fire HD Plus. If you want to get real work done, you can do it on the the 10-inch Fire HD, but neither model of the Fire HD 8 will work for you.
Along with the Plus model, Amazon has quite a few other bundles, like the Fire HD 8 Kids models, which feature protective cases, some extra software, and content bundles along with parental controls. There's also now a gaming bundle that comes with a Luna controller ($169), though given the limitations of Fire OS, I can't imagine this appealing to many gamers.
Therein lies the main rub with Fire tablets—Amazon's software.
Out of the box, Amazon's Fire tablets offer an experience that reminds me of the hyper ad-saturated world of Idiocracy.
From the moment you try to unlock your Fire HD 8, you are confronted with an onslaught of ads and dark-patterned designs engineered to get you clicking on stuff, especially if you opt for the ad-supported models. Just don't. Spend the extra $20 to free yourself from some of the ads. Don't worry, you'll still have Amazon content pushed on you every time you so much as look at your Fire HD 8. This is, as they say, the price of admission. You want a cheap tablet? You're going to get a tablet that feels like it needs to get more money out of you at every turn.
Fire OS, Amazon's fork of Android, has been updated to use Android 11, which is still two full versions behind stock Android. Other than the app-switching screen and few minor theme details, I couldn’t tell much of a difference. Fire OS still offers the same basic experience, which isn't necessarily bad, but is limited by its app store.
Out of the box, Fire HD 8 tablets do not offer any Google apps or any access to the Google Play store. The selection in the Amazon app store is what you might call lacking. Want to watch YouTube? Chat on Slack? Nope, not happening. Even if you want to argue that this is a tablet mostly for consumption and doesn't need much of what's in the Google Play Store, YouTube is a glaring omission. My suggestion would be that if you have specific apps you want to use, browse Amazon's app store before you buy to make sure what you want is available (if you have an Android device, you can download and browse Amazon's app store here).
What about "sideloading" Google Play? We do have a guide on How to Install the Google Play Store on an Amazon Fire Tablet, but unfortunately that guide doesn't work for this model. Or at least, it doesn't work with the current version of Fire OS. Some Reddit users who have received a software update to Fire OS 22.214.171.124 claim that they have been able to install and use Google Play. My review unit is so far stuck at Fire OS 126.96.36.199, which, I can confirm, will install the Google Play Store itself, but does not allow you to log in and install any apps from it. I will update our guide with info on how to do it once I can confirm that it works. At some point, you likely will be able to install the Play Store, but you can't right now.
Amazon's 2022 Fire HD 8 remains good at what it is designed to do: stream Amazon content. If you're a Prime subscriber and want a small, affordable device to use on the couch, in the kitchen, or even with a stand to impersonate an Echo Show, the Fire HD 8 isn't bad. But if you can afford it, the 10-inch model offers a much better overall experience and remains our top pick. If you really want to score a deal, wait for the next Prime Day to roll around, when, typically, Amazon's Fire tablets can be had for half-price.
acep erik luasiandi