• Adam Doud

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8+ Review: Prime Time



One of the hardest questions any reviewer has to answer is just who the hell is this thing for? Often you have to break it down into niches, or get in the mindset of someone who is looking for just this piece of tech. Then, there's the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8+. I know exactly who this tablet is for. I should probably save this for the end of the review, but I can't because it's in your face. It's for Amazon Prime subscribers. That's it. This tablet is designed and manufactured explicitly to feed you Amazon content, allow you to use the content you've already bought, and to sell you more Amazon content. If you are not an Amazon Prime subscriber, don't buy this tablet. We'll get to why that is in a bit, but first, let's get the particulars out of the way, starting with the hardware.


Hardware



This is an 8" 1200 x 800 IPS LCD display with unspecified glass covered that is a bit of a fingerprint magnet. On the side you have a power button and volume rocker. You also have a headphone jack and USB Type C - finally. On the inside you have a Mediatek MT8168 processor that runs at 2 ghz, 3gb of ram, and under the back, you have wireless charging coils for the first time. There are two cameras on this tablet, but

  1. They're garbage, and

  2. They're on a tablet, don't use them except for...maybe...video calls, and then only if you can't avoid it.

Our review unit came with 32 GB of on board storage, but you can spice it up with 64 if you're so inclined. Also you can expand that with a memory card if you want to make this tablet somehow even slower. Our review unit also came with the wireless charging stand which turns the Amazon tablet into a sort of Echo Show, which we will talk about in a bit.


Battery life is pretty good on the tablet - you can get around 8 to 10 hours of video watching time depending on brightness. The speakers aren't very loud which is unfortunate. The Speakers on the Fire HD 10 and amazingly loud, so this is disappointing.


The big addition to the Kindle Fire HD 8 Plus is USB type C charging and wireless charging. On the Kindle Fire HD 8, you only get one of those - USB type C. Here's a fun fact, I never did a charging test for the kindle Fire HD 8 plus because I never wore down the battery. I used it plenty, reading books and watching movies, but when I wasn't using it, it sat on the wireless charging dock. And speaking of the charging dock…


Makeshift Echo Show



I put off this review by a few weeks because when I got the tablet, the charging dock hadn't come yet. At the time, I wasn't sure how much the charging dock would account for my review, but I guessed it would be a small percentage. I was wrong.


It turns out, this charging dock makes the Fire HD 8 + worth a lot more. It turns an otherwise ordinary tablet into an Echo Show, which is both a blessing and a curse. First, let's talk philosophically about Amazon.


Amazon wants to be where you go to get everything. Books, Movies, Music, Photo Storage, and stuff - soooo much stuff. So it designed its tablet experience around all of that.

You want to read a book, here are thousands of books you can or already have bought. You want to watch a movie? Here are thousands of movies you can or already have bought. Here's some extra freebies. By the way, according to your order history, you might be low on detergent too. We've got that.

This is a tablet designed to sell you stuff, and more importantly to use the stuff you've already bought. You can pick up an iPad and get a lot if not all of the same stuff, plus a lot more. But don't forget, this tablet is $100. The cheapest iPad is 300. The cheapest chromebook you should buy is around $250.


The tablet itself is pretty slow, and the operating system FireOS is really old, and a nightmare from a design standpoint. Who designs an operating system with moving buttons? With the Mediatek alphabet soup processor in there, the tablet is slow, even with 3GB of RAM. But this is not meant to be a horse. This is meant to be a consumption and purchasing machine and that's absolutely it.


Software


Before we move past this point, I want to take a few minutes to talk about the Amazon App store. Mostly, it's crap. I wanted to make this my only tablet for weeks and weeks and give it a proper review, but beyond movies and books, there' just not much to do on it. The App store is not awesome. There are some titles that I wouldn't call triple A titles, but you can find Clash of Clans, Bloons Tower Defense and Asphalt 9. Those are about the only tent poles apps I found.


Most of what I found in the Amazon app store fell into three categories. The first was legitimate apps which is a very, very small category. The second was cheap copies. Then there's abandonware - games and apps that made it into the store, but they

  1. haven't been updated in months or years or

  2. don't work very well or

  3. are just gross.

So, once you download the dozen, or maybe two dozen not-useless apps from the store, you're left with a tablet that can play maybe one or two games, which is not great. But you can watch hours and hours of content or read hours and hours of books, so that's nice.


But I'm sorry to say that's not the only place the software starts to fall apart. Let's get back to that Echo Show thing. When you plop the tablet down in either portrait or landscape orientation, the Qi charging kicks in and the tablet switches to show mode. If you've ever had an Echo Show, you know what this is like. You control everything through Alexa, asking questions, monitoring your Ring doorbell if you have one. Stuff like that. However, once the tablet is on the charger, you can't interact with it by touch. You can't bring up the main menu, or any menu. You can't pick apps, and this is the most annoying part - if you had a movie paused in Disney Plus, or Netflix, or even Amazon Prime, you can't just simply resume it. You need to try and find the right audible command to relaunch the app. That can be really frustrating.



Instead, what I had to do was tilt the tablet forward a bit, so the tablet popped out of Show Mode, and then I could do whatever I needed to accomplish. It was really annoying. I get that you cannot or would not normally do this kind of stuff on a Show, but this isn't an Echo Show. This is a tablet wearing an Echo Show's clothing. If that's the case, then you should be able to do tablet stuff along with Show stuff. This isn't hard. Put in a swipe or a gesture that gets you back to the main menu.


But all that being said, having the tablet on the charging cradle works very well. Like I said, in the weeks since I've had the device, I've never plugged it in. I just set it on the cradle and let the charging do its thing. When a movie is actually playing, it works well. I can also ask for weather, to adjust smart home settings, or buy something which are the only non-frustrating questions you can ask alexa because alexa is still a moron.


When it's off the cradle, it's nice to hold in one admittedly large hand and read a book. Once again, the performance is terrible, but you don't need much performance to play a movie or read a book.


Because at the end of the day, this is an Amazon machine and a consumption machine and that's it. End of story. But that's ok. If you are an Amazon Subscriber this is a great little tablet to pick up for under $100. Now the big question - is the extra RAM and wireless charging worth the extra money for the Fire HD 8 Plus? That depends. If you want the wireless charging and the wireless dock and a makeshift Echo Show functionality, then it probably is. But keep in mind, you're tacking on extra money for the dock as well, so overall it's not particularly cheap. It is fun though, if you can get past the obvious software shortcoming.



If you do not care about the Echo show functionality or the wireless charging, then just go with the Fire HD 8. You're losing a gigabyte of RAM. The Fire HD 8 + is already pretty slow, and less RAM will make this slow tablet slower. But how fast do you need it to be to watch movies and read books? Put simply, you don't need it to be fast at all, and you should absolutely not do anything else with this tablet. No spreadsheets, no email, no Zoom, even though it's supported. You can do all that stuff, but really, don't. If you want to do that stuff, use the iPad or the Lenovo Duet.


But if you want a knockabout tablet - and by the way, Amazon markets these things as pretty sturdy - that you can read and watch movies on, then yeah, it's a good deal, grab one. Just like my iPhone SE review, I'm going to call this one good hardware, with the key weakness being the software. Software can always be fixed, so keep your fingers crossed. You can pick one up below. As always, you'll be helping the show out. Be sure to let me know if you pick one up via email or twitter, and we can chat all about it.



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