Review: Amazon’s inexpensive new tablets are no iPad, but they’re fine for entertainment on the go

Technology

For years, I’ve shied away from recommending Amazon tablets because I feel like the iPad is worth the extra money. Recently, Amazon has upgraded their Fire HD 8 tablet lineup and I figured it was a good time to take fresh look at what these inexpensive tablets have to offer.

The affordable Fire HD 8 Tablets come in three variations, but they all have an 8 inch touchscreen and expandable memory up to 1 terabyte! They also run (slightly) faster than previous models thanks to a bit of extra RAM and charge quicker thanks to a the latest USB-C connector. There’s also hands-free Alexa!

The base model costs $90, but I would recommend spending the extra $20 on the “Plus” version, which adds wireless charging and a faster wired charger in the box.

For $140, a Kids Edition comes with a tough foam/rubbery case and a built-in stand. It also includes a year’s access to FreeTime, which has 20,000 kid friendly books, videos, apps and more. If your kid breaks the device in the first two years, Amazon will send you a new one, no questions asked. 

The hardware on these tablets is just okay. They’re not the snappiest devices, don’t have the sharpest screens and you certainly won’t be framing photos from the cameras. They are heavy on Amazon offerings and a Prime membership is a given to access all of the music, movies, books and more included in the yearly fee. Also, there are various up-sells for Amazon services populating every screen. 

A selfie taken with the Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet

With all of that said, my kids thoroughly enjoyed testing out these devices and described them as a great size and even a bit more responsive than their aging iPad Minis. They played a ton of games on these things for hours on end.

Make no mistake: this is a consumption device. Sure, you can check email or check a work spreadsheet, but you are primarily here to surf, socialize, shop, watch and read. It does a fine job at those things.

Keep in mind, there is no Google Play Store on the Kindle Fire tablet lineup. Apps come from Amazon’s own App Store. Sure, you could “side load” apps if you’re somewhat technical, but they’re not guaranteed to run properly and there are potential security issues there.

In Amazon’s App Store, popular apps are represented, including Disney+, Facebook, Netflix, Zoom, Roblox, Minecraft and even Instagram. When it comes to Google apps, though, the website versions will have to suffice.

There is no YouTube app, no Gmail app and no Google maps app officially available for Amazon’s tablets. Even more troubling, if you search the App Store for these items, you’ll often get imitation apps masquerading as the real thing. I really hope that Amazon takes a look at this issue and cleans it up.

I do love one feature: you can set the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus model on a wireless charging stand in something called “show mode” and it basically becomes a smart display! You can bark out Alexa commands or see an ever changing array of photos and information glide by as you work. It’s a great “standby” use of a tablet.

Bottom line: If you want the best tablet with the greatest selection of amazing apps, you still have to go iPad. If you just want a device to watch, read and play on, Amazon’s Fire HD 8 lineup is a good value for the price you’re paying.

NOW: Listen to the Rich on Tech podcast, where I talk about the tech news I think you should know about and answer the questions you send me!

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