Amazon launches an interesting tablet, which ranks in a price range where there aren’t many other competitors.
The world of Android tablets is characterized by-products with a fluctuating quality, supported by apps that are often not optimized for large screens. Apple iPads now seem “invincible” (60% market share according to StatCounter data), both in terms of sales and actual user experience. However, something is finally moving in the Android field in recent years and companies like Samsung (20% market share) are making many people think again.
The most interesting surprise, however, is Amazon, which with aggressive prices and discounts related to the range of Fire devices has become, again according to the data of StatCounter, the third-largest manufacturer of tablets for sales worldwide, thanks to its 5.46% market share.
We already talked about these pages in 2018 of how the experience offered by these devices should not be underestimated, but today it is good to return to the topic, given that in the last few weeks we have had the opportunity to try the 2020 model of Amazon Fire HD 8, a tablet sold for just 99.99 euros (version with 32GB of internal memory and special offers), a cost in line with those to which the company of Jeff Bezos has accustomed us with previous generations.
Design and unboxing
The sales package goes straight to the point, in pure Amazon-style: the orange box contains only the tablet, the USB Type-C cable, various manuals and the 5W charger. In short, the equipment is the classic one, but already from here, we note the first novelty of the 2020 model of Amazon Fire HD 8: the presence of a USB Type-C port. For the uninitiated, we have reached the tenth generation of this tablet and the US giant usually renews it from year to year (or every two years).
The last generation of the tablet, released in 2018, still mounted the standard micro USB. The writer is still using the Fire 7 as a secondary device released in 2017: we assure you that in recent years the absence of a Type-C has been a limit, given that some new accessories do not work without adapters. In short, Amazon has finally decided to make its low-cost tablets more modern.
The colossus of Jeff Bezos did not give up on the 3.5mm audio jack for headphones. In fact, it peeps into the top of the tablet, alongside the aforementioned USB Type-C port, the microphone, the power button and the volume rocker. On the left side, there are speakers, while on the front we find a screen with evident edges, flanked, on the side, by the front camera. The back cover is plastic and features only the Amazon logo in the centre and the rear camera. The slot for memory expansion is on the right side, behind the appropriate “door”.
The dimensions of the tablet are 202 x 137 x 9.7 mm, for a weight of 355 grams. Amazon Fire HD 8 is not too heavy and has a constructive solidity in the norm: if you have already had a tablet from the Fire range, you know how the US company works from this point of view. In any case, we are talking about a low-cost product, do not expect “premium” materials. The only colour available in the Black one.
In terms of design, we are completely faced with a tablet from the Fire range. There is not much more to say: the constructive solidity and the quality of the materials are perhaps not at the top, but in the range, under 100 euros it is practically impossible to find better. Considering that USB Type-C has arrived this year, we can only promote Fire HD 8 from this point of view.
Amazon Fire HD 8 mounts a MediaTek MT8168 quad-core processor operating at a maximum frequency of 2.0 GHz, flanked by an ARM Mali-G52 GPU, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal memory (expandable via microSD up to 1TB). The performance is certainly not the best available on the market, but don’t be fooled by the datasheet: the US company knows how to work very well at the software level, making all the apps available on the Amazon AppStore work a little.
The screen is an 8-inch IPS with HD resolution (1200 x 800 pixels). The mere specifications “lie” also here: in reality, if contextualized in the low end of the tablet world, we are talking about a very valid panel. The maximum brightness is excellent and the colours are well balanced: the panel “suffers” a little only under the sunlight, but we are talking about a Wi-Fi tablet to be used mainly indoors.
Among other things, there is no problem of visualization at the level of multimedia content, since the aspect ratio is a classic 16: 9, all the main video streaming services are available (YouTube works in the “website” version ). The average user to whom the device is addressed will certainly appreciate this panel.
We also quickly analyze the photographic sector of Amazon Fire HD 8, although in reality, it is not so important in a low-cost tablet. we find a front and a 2MP rear camera, capable of recording videos up to 720p resolution.
There is very little to say: the quality of the photos is just enough and perhaps we would not use the final result even for social media, but as we said it is not a device designed to take photos. In any case, we are on discrete levels for those who use the tablet every now and then to make some video calls.
Amazon declares up to 12 hours of continuous use. During our test, we often came to about two full days, a bit like many tablets that we have tried in the last period. In short, the autonomy is good: shame only for the 5W recharge, which takes almost 5 hours to bring Amazon Fire HD 8 from 0% to 100%. In reality, the tablet would also support charging up to 15W, but in that case, you need to purchase a USB Type-C / Type-C cable and a charger, sold separately.
Do not underestimate the connectivity sector, where we find support for Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac dual-band. Not bad also the audio, with the dual stereo speaker, a gem that is hardly found in this price range.
The Fire range is a world apart from other software-based Android tablets. The most correct definition of the FireOS operating system, now in version 18.104.22.168, is probably “Amazon-oriented”. In fact, everything revolves around the Amazon account. You notice it already at the first start when you get to the main screen of the tablet. The home page is divided into sections: For you, Home, Books, Videos, Games and apps, Buy and Music.
All screens are contextualized according to the user’s interests and allow, for example, to quickly make purchases, find their favourite books or take advantage of the myriad of possibilities guaranteed by the subscription to Amazon Prime. In short, Jeff Bezos’ company has created its very interesting ecosystem.
This is certainly a solution that may not please everyone, but there is no doubt that Amazon has managed to optimize its software customization for low-cost tablets, giving life to a user experience that can satisfy those who want to watch movies and streaming TV series, playing some casual titles, surfing on social networks and completing the classic daily operations that are usually carried out with a tablet.
The operating system is always fluid, despite the low-end hardware, and we assure you that this is a very important plus point. In the past, Android tablets under 100 euros even struggled to open certain applications, thanks to solutions such as Amazon today is no longer so.
The operating system is based on Android 9 Pie, but Google services are absent. This means that to download the apps you need to rely on Amazon AppStore, the official pre-installed store that covers a little bit of all needs (except banking apps and the classic missing software). In case you can’t find some apps, you can rely on third-party solutions such as APK Pure or APK Mirror. For more information, we advise you to consult this in-depth analysis dedicated to third-party stores.
Amazon has clearly designed its store for its tablets and therefore many popular apps are available and fully functional, from Disney + to Netflix, passing through Skype, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, just to mention some widely used software. Obviously, there is no shortage of apps of the services owned by Amazon itself, from Prime Video to Twitch. In addition, you can download a YouTube app that essentially acts as a shortcut for the mobile website, but opens it outside the browser. In short, the available software is able to satisfy most users.
From our point of view, the solution of the US company is excellent despite the absence of Google services. An aspect that is worth addressing is that relating to the two versions of the tablet, with special offers and without. The first has some advertisements appearing on the lock screen (the lock screen).
The ads are not at all annoying and by choosing this version it is possible to save a little on the purchase price of the tablet. However, if you really don’t want them, you can spend 15 euros more to take home the version without special offers.
Regarding the evolution of FireOS, the software has been refined in terms of design from different points of view compared to the Amazon Fire 7 of 2017 that we still use today as a second device. However, the features have remained more or less unchanged, except for some improvements here and there. Today FireOS is solid customization, designed to simplify the life of the average user who points to the low end of the market.
Amazon has continued to update this tablet from 2017 to today at a more or less regular pace, releasing mainly security updates. To give you concrete examples, under 100 euros there are many tablets that come out today with Android 8.1 and that are not even updated. In this context, you understand well that Amazon’s support is excellent, given that the new Fire HD 8 2020 already has a version of FireOS based on Android 9 Pie and, if everything goes as we have seen in the past, maybe it will also receive the update to a major Android major release during its support period.
To test Amazon Fire HD 8 properly we have chosen some of the most famous titles available directly on the Amazon AppStore: PUBG Mobile and Subway Surf.
PUBG Mobile runs properly with details on “Balanced” and frame rate to “High”. Going up with the details, you begin to notice dips here and there. Subway Surf works perfectly, but we are talking about a game that is not very expensive in terms of resources.
By the way, FireOS features a game mode that optimizes performance, hides notifications and turns off Alexa-related features while you’re playing. In short, Fire HD 8 is a tablet that allows you to play a few games every now and then at some casual title, without too many pretensions.
Amazon Fire HD 8 is a low-end tablet that falls into a world apart from other Android devices. Jeff Bezos’ company has created its own software customization, which, despite lacking Google services, is able to perform well all the classic operations that the average user performs with a device of this type. The hardware is not the best, but the optimization allows you to take full advantage of it, ensuring good performance. To these are added an excellent screen (albeit with HD resolution), good autonomy, an audio sector with dual speakers and better software support than most other low-cost solutions. Too bad only for a refill, not the fastest and some other burrs (plastic body, no Face Unlock). In any case, for 99 euros it is definitely difficult to find better.