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Fire OS is still limited in functionality and app support
Has a "last resort" camera
For years, the Fire HD 8 Plus has been one of Amazon's best-selling tablets, and I'm not surprised. It has a useful 8-inch display and just enough storage (32GB) and RAM (3GB) for apps and games, and even the latest model is relatively affordable at $120.
If you're eyeing a tablet that can play your child's favorite YouTube videos or control your home's Alexa-supported devices or even serve as a digital cookbook, then Amazon's Fire HD 8 Plus is a no-brainer at a fraction of the cost of the cheapest iPad.
But unless you're an Amazon Prime member, the Fire HD 8 Plus -- like every other Fire tablet -- is not as much of an impulse buy as Amazon's constant promotions make it out to be. For all the reasons to buy the latest tablet, there are just as many to look elsewhere. Here's the breakdown.
8-inch 1280 x 800 IPS LCD
32GB or 64GB (up to 1TB via MicroSD)
Up to 12 hours
Fire OS over Android 11
How's the design?
While the Fire HD 8 Plus wasn't designed to withstand the ruthlessness of kids -- that's what the Kids Edition is for -- it can certainly take a hit or two. Instead of the usual mix of glass and aluminum that's found on pricier tablets, the $120 Fire HD 8 Plus is decorated with texturized plastic and an 8-inch display that scratches more easily than it cracks.
So you may be surprised to hear that I'm a fan of the Amazon tablet's plastic design. Consumerism today has gotten me so used to babying my tech products that being able to use the Fire tablet without much worry about damaging it feels refreshing. My tester arrived with a kickstand case that provides an added layer of protection and functionality, but I felt confident enough to mostly review the HD 8 Plus without it.
Besides the otherwise basic design of the Fire HD 8 Plus, there's a wealth of ports and slots for maximizing your tablet's potential, including a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB-C port, and a microSD card slot that can expand the base storage of 32GB (or 64GB) up to 1TB. If you plan on using the tablet for streaming shows, browsing the internet, and playing apps and games, then the 32GB should be sufficient. For anything more, the 64GB Fire HD 8 Plus would make the most sense.
The best way for me to describe the display on the Fire HD 8 Plus is adequate. It doesn't get ultrabright for a comfortable outdoor viewing experience, but the 400-nit brightness is satisfactory for indoor use. To my surprise, the viewing angles of the 1280 x 800 panel are admirable, with a minimal shift in color when holding the tablet in different orientations.
My biggest gripe with the display is the low-quality oleophobic coating -- the layer of composite that's supposed to repel oil and grease. I've been testing the tablet for about two weeks now and the screen is absolutely covered with smudges and fingerprints. It's nothing a screen protector can't fix, but still a worrying sign for a tablet that you'd likely be using for years on end.
How does it handle daily tasks?
For $120, you really can't complain about the performance of the Fire HD 8 Plus. This year's model sees an extra gigabyte of RAM which, from what I've seen running the usual apps and services like Disney+, Amazon Shopping, Facebook, and YouTube, the tablet is more capable than ever of pushing through without struggle. Sure, there might be a minor input delay when tapping away, but if you value the big-screen functionality of a tablet more than, say, how fast it can open apps, then you'll be content with the Fire tablet.
I'd also hope that "large display size" is above "camera quality" on your priority list because the Fire HD 8 Plus has two mediocre 2MP cameras, one on the front and another on the back. Even in the most well-lit environments, the sensors would overblow the subjects, causing a white-out effect that doesn't make for the most flattering photos. Nighttime photography is worse.
Sticking with features that work well on tablets, let's talk about one aspect that sells the Fire HD 8 Plus for me: Show Mode, which essentially turns the 8-inch portable into an Echo Show, dialing between a slideshow of relevant news articles, weather information, the time, and even recipes. It's a smart way to make your tablet practical even when you're not holding it, much like what Samsung has done with The Frame TV and what Google plans to do with the upcoming Pixel Tablet.
The Fire HD 8 Plus, like every other Amazon device running Fire OS, operates on a stripped-down version of Android. That means the software experience can be almost too limiting, including what's available from the app store.
If you're an Amazon Prime member who thrives in Amazon's ecosystem of shopping, video streaming, and smart home services, then you'll find no shortage of choices in the virtual store. But for anything else, including YouTube, a web-version shortcut is the best that you'll find. It's not the end of the world. There are just a few limitations with YouTube for Web compared with the official app, which adds up to a noticeably short-handed experience.
And then there's Amazon's cost-cutting (and money-making) feature: lock screen ads. At the base level, the Fire HD 8 Plus comes with an ad-supported lock screen, meaning whenever you hit the power button to put the device to sleep, it displays a slideshow of commercials for games, apps, and services. This isn't the biggest deal breaker in my eyes -- and you can totally pay $50 more for the ad-free HD 8 Plus -- but it's still a nuisance nonetheless.
The Fire HD 8 Plus' battery life is unapologetically long-lasting. Amazon rates the tablet for up to 12 hours of usage and I got similar numbers from my two weeks of testing. That was with Show Mode turned on, which makes the screen on-time all the more impressive.
To charge it with, Amazon bundles a USB-C cable and the charging brick, the latter of which is often excluded from tablets nowadays.
If you ever wondered what tablet you should buy for casual browsing, mobile entertainment, or even for a child, and your first instinct was to search on Amazon, you're the ideal customer for the Fire HD 8 Plus. At $120, the latest model is not the cheapest of the Fire tablet bunch, but it's certainly a compelling option for its sharp visuals, enduring build quality, and exceptional battery life. The drawbacks include the lackluster camera quality and app support, and the abundance of ads should you opt for the base model. If you (or your child) don't mind those compromises, then the latest Amazon tablet is a surefire pickup.