Looking for fun? Go for a tablet, which can stream movies, TV shows, books, games, music and more. Amazon’s Fire models are basically entertainment displays, and every few years they get a modest update.
Same goes with the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus, just refreshed for late 2022. They were already great tablets for the money; now they’re a bit better, with faster processors, more storage, and slightly longer battery life.
And a price hike. Starting at $100, the Fire HD 8 is $10 more than the 2020 model. That’s to be expected these days; inflation affects everything. But here’s some good news: the previous Fire HD 8 went on sale a dozen times over the past twelve months, sometimes dropping to just $45. And the new Fire HD 8 has just been reduced to $55, which means now is the time to pick one up.
Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus: which one to choose?
The Fire HD 8 and HD 8 Plus have 8-inch displays (both fingerprint magnets, alas) with a display resolution of 1,200 x 800 pixels. While that’s well below what you get from modern iPads, it’s certainly sharp enough for books, games and movies. It’s also significantly better than the Fire 7’s 1,024 x 600 pixel display, which I found so grainy that I ultimately couldn’t recommend this tablet.
Likewise, while the Fire 7 is quite a slow device, the Fire HD 8’s recently upgraded hexa-core processor provides the power needed for basic tablet tasks.
This is where I stop to recommend spending the extra $10 (normally $20) for the Fire HD 8 Plus, which offers three key benefits: 3GB of RAM instead of 2GB (which improves performance and multitasking), wireless charging support (via Amazon’s $50 Wireless Charging Dock or any Qi charger), and a much better rear-facing camera: 5-megapixel, to the Fire’s 2-megapixel HD 8.
In fact, if you add this dock to the mix, you can better take advantage of something called Show Mode, which effectively turns the Fire HD 8 Plus into an Echo Show 8 smart display. Although you get hands-free Alexa voice commands, the Show mode turns it into a full-screen experience.
Getting back to the cameras, they’re…well. Good for kids to play with, decent in a pinch for Zoom meetings, that sort of thing. iPads offer far superior cameras, but ask yourself if you’re really going to take photos with your tablet anyway. I do it once in a blue moon.
The tablet’s built-in stereo speakers are, as you’d expect, tiny and tiny – great for listening to podcasts and watching videos, but ultimately you’ll be happier with a Bluetooth speaker or headset. couple. (There’s also a traditional headphone jack if you prefer something wired.)
As noted, the Fire HD 8 Plus supports wireless charging, but both models have USB-C ports and actually come with a USB-C cable and power adapter (unlike some Apple tablets, cough). Amazon promises up to 13 hours of charge, which is pretty good battery life, and my informal testing backs that up.
Both tablets include 32GB of built-in storage, but you can upgrade to 64GB upon purchase for an additional $30. My advice: Save your money. If you need more storage for movie and game downloads, you can pop in an inexpensive microSD card. (Example: Here’s a 64GB card for just $10.)
Let’s talk about the advertising elephant in the room…
Like other Fire tablets and Amazon Kindle e-readers, the Fire HD 8 displays ads on its lock screen. I honestly don’t mind, and in fact, I barely notice it, because the ad disappears the moment you swipe to unlock. But if you find it objectionable, you can pay a one-time fee of $15 to ban the ads forever. (On the HD 8 Plus, it’s an extra $25. Don’t ask me why.)
The other cost consideration here is Amazon Prime. Although a subscription to the service ($139 per year) isn’t strictly necessary, it offers quick and easy access to mountains of movies, music, books, and TV shows. But even without Prime, you can install apps to access Netflix, Spotify, TikTok and more, and read all the books that are already part of your Kindle library.
Thus, I disagree with the common refrain that “Fire tablets are only good for Prime subscribers”. If you already have a subscription, great; you will undoubtedly like all the extras it offers. But will you find that this tablet wants to do without it? I do not think so.
The biggest caveat is that Amazon limits you to its own app store (which, again, has nothing to do with Prime). While most popular apps are available for Fire, some aren’t, including Google’s YouTube. There are ways around this limitation (starting with: just go to YouTube in the tablet’s web browser), but you shouldn’t have to jump through any hoops to use the most popular video app. in the world.
Another complaint: Amazon’s Fire OS isn’t the most intuitive operating system. For example, if you increase the font size for better visibility, many application names are abbreviated because the text no longer fits. And I’m not sure I’m following the logic behind the For You, Home, and Library screens, because there’s so much duplication between them and not much organization within.
The warranty also remains a sticking point: it’s only 90 days. It’s kind of a puzzle; Amazon’s Fire HD 10 is covered for a full year, like most modern electronic devices. Finally, the Fire HD 8’s color choices have narrowed down to just three: black, pink, and denim. The HD 8 Plus is only available in grey.
Remember, however, that these are $100 and $120 tablets that are currently discounted by almost 50%. Thus, some quibbles are easily forgiven.
Indeed, if you want a ton of entertainment at your fingertips, in a size that strikes the right balance between visibility and portability, it’s hard to beat the Amazon Fire HD 8 or HD 8 Plus. For the extra $10, I’d choose the latter, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the former. These are value added tablets.
If you have Amazon Prime, you will of course get free shipping. Not a member yet? No problem. You can sign up for your 30-day free trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on any of these tablets as well as any other order of $25 or more.)
More holiday gift ideas
We’ve got your holiday shopping list covered with fantastic gift ideas for everyone on your list. You’ll find expert picks on the best tech gifts on Engadget, the best gift ideas for car lovers on Autoblog, gifts for the young (and young at heart) on In the Know, and picks for to pretty much everyone on your list (moms, dads, teens, nurses, etc.) in Yahoo’s holiday gift ideas section. On AOL, you’ll find senior shopping gift ideas for moms, dads, teens and toddlers.