Amazon has unveiled the latest iteration of its Fire tablet range – the HD 8 with Alexa Hands-Free. This is another cheap tablet from Amazon, but does it have enough up its sleeve to compete with the iPads of this world?
As the clunky name suggests, this new Fire tablet comes with hands-free Alexa voice assistant functionality. Essentially, this means that you’ll be able to access Alexa with just your voice, even if the tablet is on standby.
There are also updates to the cameras, including a new HD front camera. It’ll cost you $79.99 and is available to pre-order now.
All told, this is a pretty light-touch upgrade to the previous HD 8 with Alexa (sans hands-free). So, is it worth upgrading if you already own a Fire tablet?
New Amazon Fire HD 8 – Key Features
As mentioned above, the standout feature of the HD 8 is the hands-free Alexa functionality.
The hands-free Alexa tech should see the HD 8 transform into a sort of mobile Amazon Echo.
The new HD 8 offers the same Alexa functionality as you’d find on the Echo smarthubs. That means you can use it to turn on your smart lights, or set a timer. You’ll also be able to ask Alexa for some tablet-specific functionality, including making a video call or playing a movie – though one wonders why you’d need to be able to do this hands-free when you need to be close to the tablet to actually watch a movie or see the person you’re calling.
The Fire HD 8 will also work with the Show Mode, which Amazon debuted back in June. This turns Fire tablets into, effectively, Echo Shows – Amazon’s smarthub with a screen.
With Alexa functionality fully baked into the Fire tablet, the lines between the tablet and the Echo range are certainly blurring at this point.
Gone is the seriously low-rent VGA front-facing camera from the previous HD 8 – a real embarrassment for a 2018 device. In its place is a new HD 720p camera.
This means that when you make video calls, for example, the person on the other end will actually be able to see you, rather than a pixelated blob.
There’s no change to the rear camera, however, which is still a 2Mp unit. That’s truly nothing special by today’s standards, and a long way off iPad camera quality.
Fire OS Operating System
All the Fire devices use Amazon’s proprietary Fire OS. Despite this being based on Android, it doesn’t afford you the same level of customization. You’ll still get access to the Google Play Store (though you need to download it first), so you’ll still have loads of apps available to download.
Screen Size and Storage – More of the Same
There’s not much change beyond the hands-free Alexa functionality and the improved camera though.
You get the same 1280×800 resolution screen, which is HD, but hardly groundbreaking. You get the same 1.3GHz processor and 1.5GB RAM, the same 16GB or 32GB storage options though you can expand it to 400GB with a micro-SD card, which, surprise, is the same as the old model.
The price, though, hasn’t changed. It’s still $79.99 which makes the Fire HD 8, in spite of its middling specifications, one of the best-value tablets on the market.
Should You Upgrade?
If you already own an HD 8, we don’t think there’s much point in upgrading. The hands-free Alexa functionality is nice, but considering the Echo Dot costs $49.99, it doesn’t make much sense to buy the new model.
If you really want to make the most of the new Alexa tech on the Fire HD 8, you’ll need the Show Mode Charging Dock, which will set you back $109.99.
The regular Echo Show costs $129.99 and has a sharper 5Mp camera.
Amazon Fire HD 8 – Should You Buy One?
If you don’t already own an Amazon tablet, and are are in the market for a sub-$100 tablet, you won’t find one better than the new HD 8.
While it won’t make an iPad blush, the HD 8 zips through tasks and you’ll be able to play all your favorite games, stream your favorite films and scroll through all your favorite social media apps.
One thing to be aware of – you’ll be given the option to buy the Fire HD 8 (or any other Fire tablet) with or without “Special Offers.” With Special Offers, the Fire HD 8 costs $79.99 and $94.99 without.
Special Offers are, basically adverts, which periodically pop-up on screen to let you know about other, typically Amazon products, you should buy. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it will make your experience feel, ironically, a bit less special.
However, the Fire HD 8 is still a great tablet at a very reasonable price and, you can buy one here.