With prices starting at 110 Dollars, the new Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus is one of the cheapest tablets you can buy. The tablet got a new design and you can get it with a Wireless Charging Dock which is unique for a tablet. However, the Google Play Store is not pre-installed. In this Fire HD 8 Plus review, you’ll learn if this is a great buy for Alexa fans only or whether it’s a good tablet in general.
I’ll also mention the normal Amazon Fire HD 8 along the way which costs just 90 Dollars. Originally, I wanted to review it separately, but the differences are so minor, that it’s not worth it.
Design & Build Quality
Even though the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus got a new design, the tablet feels very similar as its predecessor did. Sure, Amazon wants you to hold it in landscape view now and it’s a nice feature that the webcam is placed accordingly, so the position is great for video chats. But the tablet continues to feel cheap. That’s because it’s made of a cheap-feeling plastic and the body is 9.7mm thick which is quite a lot.
The black screen bezels are pretty wide too. So, design-wise, Amazon is not winning any awards. Both the Lenovo Tab M8 HD and the Huawei MatePad T8 cost about the same and are much more premium-feeling.
Design-wise, the standard Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus are almost identical. While the Plus is available in black only, you can get blue, white, grey, and plum versions of the normal HD 8.
On a positive note, Amazon is finally giving us a USB C 2.0 port and both tablets continue to have microSD card slots and a headphone jack. I also like that we’re getting two separate speakers which are not outstanding, of course, but do sound better than similarly priced competitors.
Both cameras have a resolution of 2 megapixels. And, as you might expect, the quality is not great at all. But it’s usable if you don’t need the best quality for video chats or so.
Fire HD 8 Plus With Wireless Charging
The Fire HD 8 Plus supports the QI wireless charging standard which means you should be able to use pretty much every QI charger to charge it. Amazon is selling a bundle with the tablet plus a wireless charging dock which costs around 140 Dollars.
Yes, this charging dock is made of plastic too, of course, but I think it looks nice. Once you place the tablet in portrait orientation on it, the Fire HD 8 Plus gets charged. If you place it in landscape orientation, it gets charged too, but also automatically activates the Alexa Show Mode. That way you can use it as an Echo Smart Display.
The standard Fire HD 8 does not support wireless charging. So, if you want this feature, you’ll have to get the Plus version.
Now, let’s get to the 8-inch screens, which are identical on both tablets. Like its predecessor, the tablets have an aspect ratio of 16:10 and an HD resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. I think that’s okay in this price range but if you look closely, you’ll be able to see pixelation and the screen is certainly not as sharp as you’re used to from your smartphone and higher-end tablets.
Brightness, contrast, and color reproduction are okay. Actually, it’s a bit brighter than most 8-inch tablets. But that doesn’t matter much, because the screen reflects a lot outside so that it seems a bit too dark outside. That’s because the Fire HD 8 and HD 8 Plus are among very few tablets that still don’t have a laminated screen in 2020. It means that you can see a small air gap between the touchscreen and IPS layer.
I think that’s very disappointing. Direct competitors like the Lenovo Tab M8 HD and Huawei MatePad T8, which I mentioned already, all do have laminated screens. So, I’d say the screen is usable, but you can get better ones at a similar price.
Hardware & Performance
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus features a MediaTek quad-core processor that consists of four Cortex A53 cores that are clocked at up to 2GHz. It has 3GB of RAM and you can get versions with 32GB and 64GB of internal storage. There’s no LTE option. The normal Fire HD 8 has the same hardware, mostly, but here we get 2GB of RAM only.
I tried to see a real difference between the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus and the Fire HD 8 – but I failed to do so. Even when opening lots of tabs in Chrome and lots of apps, they seem to perform the same. And that goes for benchmarks too. They get almost the same results in all benchmarks. So, maybe you’ll notice those 3GB of RAM with some tasks, but I think most won’t notice a difference because these tablets are not made for intensive multitasking anyways. You can’t even open two apps side by side.
The benchmark results are quite impressive. The CPU performance is similar to what we usually get in this price range. But the graphics performance is noticeably better than on the Lenovo Tab M8 HD, for instance.
Exactly this is what a gaming test shows too. While you can play Call Of Duty Mobile with the lowest settings on the Lenovo only, you can play it with medium settings on both Fire tablets. To get no stutters at all, you’ve got to play it with the lowest settings on the Amazon tablets too. But then they run smoother than on the Lenovo.
At around 100 Dollars, you can’t expect great gaming tablets, of course, but the gaming performance is not bad at all. Sure, games often look much worse than they do on an iPad or so. But most games run and I think these are great, cheap gaming machines for kids or so.
For other tasks, the performance is okay too. YouTube, the Chrome browser, Netflix, and pretty much all simpler apps work okay on this tablet. You can never expect a great performance at this price, but the performance is okay for many things.
Fire OS: Software & Alexa
Both the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus are running the Fire OS in version 7.3 which is based on Android 9. With that being said, the Fire OS does not have much to do with Google’s Android anymore. It’s still Android, but the interface looks different and the Google Play Store and all Google apps like Chrome, Gmail, and YouTube are missing out of the box. A couple of standard Android features are missing too. You can’t open apps in a split-screen-view, for instance.
Instead of those Google apps, you get lots of Amazon’s apps. Almost all of Amazon’s services are deeply integrated into the operating system. By swiping through the home screen, you can easily switch to Prime Video, Kindle books, Audible audiobooks, Amazon Music, their online store, and Amazon’s own App Store.
The Amazon App Store has many apps like Netflix, Microsoft OneDrive, PUBG Mobile, and a lot more. But the selection continues to be much smaller than what you’re used to from the Google Play Store. There’s no Adobe Lightroom, for instance, no Microsoft Word, and chances are high, that you won’t find especially newer and trendy apps.
Fire OS is still Android. And that means that if you want to, you can install almost every Android app as long as you can find the APK on the internet. In fact, you can even install the Google Play Store very easily and once you do that, you can install apps from the Play Store. Among those can be YouTube, Chrome, Gmail, and so on. Now, I’m sure not everybody wants to deal with that, so I still count the missing Google Play Store as a major downside.
Alexa & Show Mode
A major highlight of both Fire tablets is Alexa. That’s the voice assistant and I’m sure you’ve heard of it before. On both tablets, the voice assistant works pretty much just as it does on an Echo device. You just call her name, give an order, and she executes on it. That works surprisingly well for such a small, cheap tablet.
In both cases, you can activate the Echo Show Mode manually which transforms them into a smart display, and then the voice assistant shows you visual data in addition to voice output.
As I mentioned earlier, the Fire HD 8 Plus is the only one with wireless charging support and the optional charging dock. So, if you want the Show Mode to start automatically once you place it on the dock, you’ll have to get the Plus version. Alexa and the Wireless Charging Dock are pretty much the only reasons why you would want to get the Plus over the normal HD 8.
The battery life of the Amazon Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus is fantastic. When watching HD YouTube videos at maximum brightness, both tablets last around 9 hours. When looping an HD video locally at medium brightness, both can last up to 21 hours.
Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus Review: Final Verdict
Let’s get to the end of this Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus review. I think it’s a great tablet if you use lots of services from Amazon and want to spend as little money as possible. Especially when you consider how cheap it is, the gaming performance is surprisingly good and I like that we get a USB C port and that it supports wireless charging. Together with the Wireless Charging Dock, you get a tablet and a smart display in one device, which is a good value.
The cheaper Fire HD 8 is a good choice if you don’t need wireless charging and wouldn’t get the Charging Dock anyways.
Now, the tablet has quite a lot of downsides too. I’m very disappointed that the screen is not laminated. And I wish we would get a better build quality too. The missing Google Play Store is a huge downside. Sure, you can install it yourself, but many people don’t want to deal with that.
If you don’t use all those Amazon services and if you’re not using Alexa, then I think most people will be better off with the competition.
Let’s take a closer look at the alternatives.
I think for many people the Lenovo Tab M8 HD is the better tablet. It costs about the same but has a more premium-feeling metal body, it has a laminated screen, and it’s running almost vanilla Android including the Google Play Store. The graphics performance is not as good, so if you’re a gamer, you’re better off with the Amazon. But I think for everybody else this is the more interesting choice.
If you’re looking for an 8-inch premium tablet, the only good choice right now is the Apple iPad Mini. Sure, it costs much more, but you do get a much better screen, a much better build quality, a much better performance, pen support, a fingerprint scanner, and much more. There’s no decent high-end option with Android right now.
In case you want to spend even less, you can check out the Amazon Fire 7. It has a smaller screen, a weaker performance, but it’s much cheaper and the experience is very similar to the Fire HD 8. It’s one of the cheapest tablets in general.
- Alexa Voice Assistant
- Wireless Charging Dock (optional)
- Good Graphics Performance
- Very Affordable
- Decent Speakers
- Long Battery Life
- Screen not laminated
- No Google Play Store
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