Recently Amazon had a party releasing a bunch of new devices including new Echo devices, tablets and a new FireTV stick here in Canada.
I have a couple echo devices already and as much as I would love to pick up the new ones to test I am not made of money so I passed on those. That isn’t to say I am not happy with my first generation Echo Plus because I am. I love the fact that I can command my room light to turn off and on from my bed across the room.
I also have a FireTV stick and while I do not use it as often as it requires external power (the built-in USB port on my older but awesome Samsung TV does not provide power).
The Amazon Fire tablets have always interested me. Cosidering their 7 inch 8GB model starts at an incredible $59.99 CAD. They now have newer updated models out on 8 inch model side and I decided to take a plunge and pick up an “All-New Fire HD 8 Tablet” at a price of $139.99 CAD. I preordered this when it was announced and received it not too long ago.
I have had tablets in the past. My first was a Blackberry Playbook 32GB model (after they had dropped the price to almost liquidation levels). That was and still is a pretty good tablet and the OS is still the most tablet friendly ever made in my opinion. IOS and Android have never felt so smooth and simple to use with hand guestures. The Playbook had (well has as I still have it) a 7 inch screen and felt great in the hand with the rubber back. Also had a fantastic high contrast screen. Oh and the speakers are the best I have ever heard from any tablet device. Seriously, you are doing yourself a disservice never hearing the audio quality from this thing.
Another tablet I owned in the past was the Samsung Galaxy Tab III 8 inch 16GB model. I still have this tablet as well and one of the great selling features was how thin the thing was. Still thinner than a lot of devices today. It was also my first foray into Android.
Wait, I’m lying. before all these devices I picked up no name piece of junk with Android 3 or something on it. Didn’t even have a capacitive touch screen. It was a terrible experience. It also made me write-off Android.
Back to the present-past?
Anyways that Samsung had good battery life, a nice camera but Samsung stopped supporting it and as such it was left with Android 5. The hardware is more than capable of handling the newer Android software and there are ways to hack it on to there but I haven’t had any luck in doing so.
I did also have a retina iPad when that came out. 32GB model as I remember. I liked it only for Garage Band. The device was far too large and way too heavy.
Anyways, today we’re looking at the new Fire HD 8 from Amazon. Amazon was smart when they configured these devices. They use relatively low end quad-core arm CPUs and 1.5GB of memory. This seems paltry but for surfing the internet and playing some games it’s fine. They use this configuration across all the Amazon tablets and it’s worked out for Amazon making the devices incredibly cheap.
Connectivity is what should expected at this price point. It is compatible with 802.11a, b, g and n. Sadly no AC but it is dual-band so that’s cool. Bluetooth is here as well so wireless headphones and other bluetooth devices are a go.
Amazon claims 10 hours of battery life. I think with use I have seen 7 or so hours but no more than that. That still isnt bad but don’t expect to use the device all day without charging. Gaming or watching video cuts the battery life more. There’s no quick-charging here people so be ready for a few hours to charge fully.
The Fire HD 8 is also Dolby Atmos certified. Uhhh, whatever. It does have two pretty decent speakers for a tablet (nothing in comparison to the Playbook) but don’t expect anything like room filling sound.
It does have a back and forward camera both 2MP which is not that impressive but useful. You can still record in 720P. I’ll be honest, I haven’t used these features as I use my phone for that.
The 1280×800 screen while nowhere near retina in pixels per inch is bright except in direct sunlight. Being 8 inches it’s perfect for reading Kindle books or Comixology comics. I never once wished for anything better during use though the screen is not quite as nice as the one in my older Samsung tablet. Colours aren’t quite as vibrant but unless you are picky and holding devices side by side you probably won’t notice.
The tablet is a good weight even though there is no metal anywhere on the body. The shell is made of plastic. Screen is as well so keep that in mind. It will scratch. Mine hasn’t yet but I’m being pretty careful with it. All your buttons are along the top of the tablet along with the micro-USB port. There is a MicroSD card slot along the left side for adding more storage as well.
As for usability it comes with Amazon’s highly modified version of Android. I was not a fan of the interface initially. I even tried installing my own launcher but the device will only default to another launcher if you have rooted it. I don’t care about rooting it so I have left it with the default design. You can scroll side to side along the top for different parts of Amazon store universe. This includes Kindle, Prime Video and the actual Amazon store. This is a bunch of excess to me and would rather have just seen access to these things via their own apps which are also installed on the device. Obviously Amazon wants this device to make it easy to make purchases on their stores which I understand fully and probably why they are willing to sell their devices at such a low price.
Using the Fire HD 8 is a pretty good experience. The quad-core ARM cpu is sufficient to power through web browsing and streaming video content. Multi-tasking is where it falls a bit short. Don’t expect to leave a bunch of apps open and still get a lot of performance out of the Fire HD 8. The memory on board just isn’t enough. I have found that if I have a browser open, play music in the background and have say Marvel Strike Force open in the foreground (which by the way must be loaded by way of side-loading the Google Play Store) switching between these becomes a chore. I have had a few times where the screen just goes black and one where the Fire HD 8 has froze and restarted after a minute.
One should also note that the Fire HD 8 is an Alexa device as well though I have that functionality disabled on mine. Not because I don’t like it, I just don’t need it on the road.
Overall for $99.99 CAD in the 16GB version I think this tablet is an incredible steal. This is a no frills tablet that you can take with you anywhere and if you lose it or it gets damaged, well, it didn’t cost you $400 up front like some more well featured tablets. And considering Echo Show functionality will be coming to the device in the future it is even more of a steal considering a Show device costs $299 for essentially the same hardware but in a different configuration. The $59.99 7 inch 8GB version is a steal too and since it uses the same specs but a lower resolution screen you may see slightly better performance.