Amazon Fire HD 8 review: Can’t argue with the price

10 Dec 2015

Amazon’s products, generally speaking, cost far less than competing brands – the same is true of the Amazon Fire HD 8. An e-reader and tablet all in one, we had a look to see if it’s worth the punt.

Currys PC World

Okay, full admission, I have never owned a Kindle. Actually, I’ve never owned an Amazon product before.

But e-readers have gradually been garnering my attention of late, so I was pretty curious when the Amazon Fire HD 8 (the 8 is for 8in screen size) dropped on my lap in the office a few weeks back.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted an e-reader, I wasn’t sure if I wanted a tablet, so this middle-of-the-road compromise ticked both boxes. So, what are my impressions?

Amazon Fire HD 8 review

Well, it looks nice and feels sturdy. Sturdy is an undervalued quality in smart devices because, as good as my hands are at holding things, they have also been known to drop things, too.

Not that I’m going to smash the Fire off the floor, but it’s nice to know that it’s not just a shard of thin glass with which you play a waiting game until an inevitable, shattering finale.

It isn’t an ‘oh God, that’s amazing-looking’ device, but it looks nice and the resolution on the home screen pleased me.

Although, I have a feeling if banks wanted to secure their vaults they should coat them in whatever this device is made of because it seems to attract fingerprints from miles away.

Amazon _Fire_HD_Frame

Any credit here?

Anyway, I got straight down to it. I filled in my Amazon details and the machine, ‘Gordon’s Fire’, booted up.

Then I hit an immediate snag. My Amazon account was new and, for various reasons, I didn’t fill in my credit card details with the Fire. It turns out you can’t really do this, as all Kindle-related aspects of the device were redundant. They just sat there, doing nothing.

So, I’ll leave that side of things there for a moment and look at the tablet capabilities, as that’s what I learned about first. First up, the size of the tablet, shaped like a page, is one of the better shapes for browsing the web.

But the tablet isn’t fast. It’s not slow, but it’s definitely not fast. Also, as it’s bridging tablet and reader, there are loads of home screens: Recent: Home; Books; Video; Games; Shop; Apps; Music, Audiobooks and Newsstand – that’s way too many.

Another gripe, the back button disappears when you’re looking at a full-screen video as it is housed on the front face – something which I find really annoying.

Navigating, in general, is a bit of a chore. Now, after a week or two I got used to this, and it was fine, but it doesn’t need to be this way, I feel.

Amazon Fire HD 8 review

I installed a few games like 8 Ball Pool (Guest91076070, 3 wins, 2 losses) and they worked very well, actually. Browsing the internet was good and, as with any other tablet, syncing up your emails and all that jazz was fine. Overall, a slow operating system but nothing to really fall out over considering the €179 price.

A bit of me is trying to compare this to tablets of a higher standard, but they all coast at least €100 more, so, to be honest, when I say slow, maybe read ‘not as fast as the best of the best’.

E-reader, entertain me!

Now, on to the Kindle side of things. After I tried downloading some free books to no avail, most of the office had a go at trying to work it all out. Finally, someone had an idea that I should put in my credit card details and, boom, A Christmas Carol was downloaded in an instant.

The reader is very good. The brightness switch that’s in the corner of older Kindles isn’t on this tablet, so there’s an option on screen, in the page (labeled Aa) that lets you increase font size, change font, alter the brightness or change the page colour as you see fit.

Amazon Fire HD 8 review

Given those options, it’s difficult to fault the reader capabilities. It does all the stuff you expect, like storing how far along you’ve read, and generally works very well.

Getting in and out of the store is easy too, one of the areas where the operating system isn’t clunky, actually.

A colouring book? Hmm

Weirdly, though, today when I went on the Amazon store, from the Fire, its top pick for me to buy was a Harry Potter colouring book – not a tablet-friendly publication I’d have thought.

The battery is grand, I didn’t go overboard with videos or gaming and it held up for several hours. The camera, too, was fine – the Amazon Fire HD 8 has a 5Mp primary camera on the front, and an 8Mp on the back.


Excellent value, despite my issues

All in all, considering the price, the Amazon Fire HD 8 is very good value. A bridge between e-reading and standard tablets, this already ups the usability of tablets significantly – especially considering how little most of us actually do on tablets.

The issues I had (relatively sluggish processing and an incredibly stocked bunch of home screens) gradually reduced in importance the more I got used to it.

A colleague’s mother was looking at buying an e-reader and took this for a spin and, even with a few gripes of her own, is heading out to pick one up herself. The pros, after a week or so, definitely outweigh the cons.

Also, if you are paying hundreds of euro for a tablet, you better make damn sure you use it. Doubling up as an e-reader, the Fire makes more sense than most.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic