A cheap tablet, with a catch
Last year’s 8in Fire HD was the best of a questionable bunch of tablets from Amazon. At £129, it cost more than twice as much as the very cheap 7in model, but worked more smoothly. With the same number of pixels as the 10in, its screen looked sharper.
Given the plunging pound, £129 in last year’s dollars is about £165 at the time of writing, yet Amazon is asking just £90 for the 2016 model. That would make it a bargain even if it wasn’t any better. And it is. For a start, it comes with 16GB of storage instead of 8GB. You can double this again to a very practical 32GB for an extra £20, or add a microSD card for up to 200GB.
The processor has also been beefed up, and is now just about quick enough to make the Fire HD 8 feel pretty fast. Gaming is limited to less demanding titles, but only the most complex web pages slowed our browsing noticeably.
A pretty good cheap tablet, with an impressive 12-hour battery life.
On the outside, the Fire HD’s chunky case, in a range of colors, looks much the same. It’s 50 per cent thicker than an iPad Mini 4, but weighs only 15 per cent more. The screen remains relatively coarse and covers only 66 per cent of the sRGB color range, but brightness and contrast are really quite good, making it perfectly usable. And we found Amazon’s claim of 12-hour battery life more than credible – we played videos constantly for 13 hours four minutes before it ran out.
1.3CHz quad-core MediaTek processor • 16GB flash storage • 8in 1280×800-pixet touchscreen • 2-megapixel rear camera • 0.3-megapixel webcam • 802.11n Wi-Fi • MicroSD card slot • 214xT28x9.2mm (HxWxD) • 341g • One-year warranty
Sadly, the 2-megapixel rear camera is still poor, with no flash, and the front camera, with an even lower resolution, is just about adequate for video chat. A bonus is that Alexa, the voice-activated assistant built into Amazon’s new smart speaker Echo, is coming to its tablets as well. Soon you’ll be able to tell your Fire HD 8 to answer questions and perform tasks when you speak to it.
But there’s a catch. Like previous versions of the Fire it runs Amazon’s version of Android, which means you can buy all the music, books, TV and films you want from Amazon, but you can’t install apps from the Google Play store. As before, the default price includes ‘Special Offers’ – Amazon’s euphemism for adverts shown at the bottom of your home screen and on the whole screen when the device is idle. If you don’t like them, you can pay £10, at the start or later, to remove them.
VERDICT: If entertainment, books and the web are your main interests, this is quite a decent tablet at an excellent price
Alba 8in tablet
Exclusive to Argos, this 16GB Android 5.1 tablet is similarly equipped, but has very short battery life