Amazon Fire HD 8 review


Affordable. Lots of available content. Unlimited cloud storage (for Amazon media). MicroSD card slot.


Unimpressive hardware and form factor. Occasional slowdown.


The Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet doesn't have a slick design or top-of-the-line performance, but a revamped Fire OS, access to Amazon's vast content library, and an affordable price make up for it.

The new Amazon Fire HD 8 may not have the same multitasking capabilities as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 $397.99 at Amazon or the incredible app experience of the Apple iPad mini 4 £344.99 at Amazon, but for $149.99, it offers everything you need to fulfill all your basic tablet needs. With access to Amazon's vast content ecosystem, enhanced by a slick new update to Fire OS, the 8-inch Fire HD 8 is a very good tablet for first-time users. 

Design and Features

The Amazon Fire HD 8 £129.99 at Amazon looks a bit different than last year's Fire HD 6 $69.99 at Amazon and Fire HD 7 tablets. Gone is the simple but distinct angled back panel—now you've got a smooth metal finish on the back, available in black, blue, magenta, or tangerine.

Amazon has outfitted the Fire HD 8 with an 8-inch, 1,280-by-800-pixel display, which shows 189 pixels per inch. That's not so sharp compared with the 2,560-by-1,600 display on the Fire HDX 8.9 £409.99 at Amazon, but then, the Fire HD 8 costs less than half the price. Taking that into consideration, the display is a little grainy, but good enough to view most content perfectly clearly. With its wide 16:10 aspect ratio, the Fire HD is clearly meant for content consumption, whether that's magazines, books, websites, or Netflix.

Amazon Fire HD 8 review

Amazon Fire HD 8 review

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On the top of the tablet are the Power and Volume Up/Down buttons, along with the micro USB charging port and a headphone jack. This is a bit of a strange design choice, as watching Netflix with earbuds in while the tablet charges in portrait mode can be a bit of a wire wrestling match. On the left side you get two speakers grilles, one toward the top of the tablet, and the other near the bottom. Also on the left is a microSD card slot that can take cards up to 128GB.

Measuring 8.4 by 5 by 0.3 inches (HWD), the Fire HD 8 is a little taller and narrower than both the iPad Mini 4 (8 by 5.3 by 0.24 inches, HWD) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (7.8 by 5.3 by 0.22 inches, HWD). Thanks to its size, the Fire HD 8 is easy to hold in portrait despite its somewhat slippery finish.

I tested the 16GB model, which adds $20 to the base price. Of this, 12.82GB is available out of the box. No matter which model you choose, you get free unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content. 

Amazon has heavily revamped the Fire OS software that ships with the Fire HD 8. Fire OS 5 is loosely based on Google's Android 5 Lollipop, but as usual, that's not immediately apparent. Many of the changes are cosmetic, and actually make the tablet look and function more like an Android device. For example, at the bottom of the screen, the Back, Home, and Search buttons have been replaced by Android's now-standard Back, Home, and Open Apps buttons. 

At the very top of the tablet are tabs you can swipe through, including Home, Books, Video, Games, Shop, Apps, Music, Audiobooks, and Newsstand. Under each of these tabs is your content; on the home screen, you see your most recent downloads beneath these tabs, with all of your installed apps under that. As expected all of Amazon's content-driven apps come pre-installed on the Fire HD 8, including Kindle Books, Amazon Games, Amazon Instant Video, and even Amazon Maps.

Amazon Fire HD 8 review

Amazon Fire HD 8 review

Amazon now offers offline content viewing with Prime membership, so you can download and watch movies and shows even when Wi-Fi isn't available. That makes the microSD card slot a very welcome addition, especially for long trips.

You don't get a Mayday button here like you do with the Fire HDX, in which an Amazon representative can connect with you over video chat. Instead you get a slightly watered-down version called Mayday Screen Sharing, where you can call a customer service rep on the phone, and they can access your tablet's screen (with your permission). It's not as quick or as handy as the Mayday button, but it still beats most of the competition's methods of just talking to you through the phone.

Like its other tablets, the Fire HD 8 gives you unfettered access to Amazon's stellar parental controls. With FreeTime you can set up a child's profile on the tablet, and give them access to Disney, Nickelodeon, and Star Wars apps and shows. A single child's subscription costs $2.99 per month. It's really just another way for Amazon to sell you its content, but if you have kids, it's a godsend.

A fair warning: If you stack up Amazon's apps ecosystem against the Google Play store, you will be disappointed. It might look like an Android tablet, but you won't be able to access all the latest apps and games available on Google Play, let alone iOS. There isn't even an Instagram app. But once again, this tablet is a content consumption machine. It's a way to access Amazon's huge silos of content. Just don't expect a tremendous app experience.


The Fire HD 8 runs on a quad-core 1.5GHz MediaTek chipset, and performs well, given its price point. It logged 766 single-core and 1,523 multi-core scores on the Geekbench 3 benchmark test. That's not an awful result by any measure, beating some very serviceable tablets out there like the Asus ZenPad S 8.0 (Z580CA)$159.99 at Amazon (640 single-core, 1,055 multi-core). But the Fire HD 8 pales in comparison with some of the more high-tech (and pricier) tablets out there, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 (1,225 single-core, 4,309 multi-core) or the iPad mini 4 (1,716 single-core, 3,116 multi-core).

Playing games like High Speed Race: Racing Need was a very smooth experience, though things can slow down a bit when multitasking. Opening a book can take a few seconds when you've just quit another application. It can also take a few seconds to suddenly quit a movie you're in the middle of. When you flip the tablet into landscape, it takes a full three seconds to re-orient. But none of this is terribly distracting, and for the most part performance is solid.

Amazon Fire HD 8 review

Amazon Fire HD 8 review

The 5-megapixel rear-facing camera takes decent, if slightly grainy, photos. I wouldn't recommend using the HDR setting, though, as you have to hold the tablet still for a few seconds, which is a bit tricky given its size. The 720p front-facing camera is fine for video calls.

In our battery test, which streams video over Wi-Fi at maximum brightness, the Fire HD 8 lasted a solid 5 hours and 44 minutes of battery life. That a little more than the iPad mini 4 (5 hours, 15 minutes) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (5 hours, 33 minutes). 


The Amazon Fire HD 8 isn't your typical budget tablet. No, it doesn't boast class-leading performance or a high-res screen, but it offers access to content in a small, inexpensive slate, and that might be all you need. Amazon's wealth of television shows, books, magazines, and movies is as much a part of the Fire HD 8's experience as its specs. And if that's what you're looking for in a tablet, you'll definitely be pleased. If you're more of a power user who wants the latest apps, then go with the iPad mini 4, or if you need top-notch multitasking abilities, then the Editors' Choice Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is for you. And if you're looking to spend even less money, Amazon's new $50 Fire tablet looks like a good option. We haven't tested it yet, but it too offers access to Amazon's content ecosystem (albeit on lower-end hardware) for a rock-bottom price.

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