Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus review: Amazon's next-generation tablet charges forward

For the price, this tablet punches way above its class.

Amazon Fire Hd Lifestyle 1
(Image: © Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

Like its less expensive sibling, the Fire HD 8 Plus is generally a good value for those looking for an affordable content consumption device. But because the internal upgrades over the base model aren't that substantial, and the added special features aren't that useful in the grand scheme of things, I just don't think most people should get it over the Fire HD 8.

Pros

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    More RAM than the base model

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    Faster charging speeds than the base model

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    Still quite affordable

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    The battery lasts up to 12 hours

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    USB-C AND wireless charging

Cons

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    Improved specs not enough to set it apart from the base model

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    The wireless charging dock is a substantial additional expense

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    Only one color option

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    No physical camera cover while in Show Mode

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    No official water or dust resistance

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This spring, Amazon refreshed its Fire HD 8 tablet lineup with improved specs, new color options, and a new premium variant — the Fire HD 8 Plus. This marked the first time the company had differentiated devices within the same product line, beyond the standard differences in color or storage. I think it will be interesting to see if this two-tiered strategy continues for the company's other "high" end tablet, the Fire HD 10 when it is next due for a refresh, or if this was just a way for Amazon to try out some new features (which we'll get to shortly) before it tries to roll them out more widely across the product line.

I reviewed the Fire HD 8 a few weeks ago, and my takeaway from that device was that it was basically the tablet that most people should get if what they want a tablet for is to watch videos and play games on. Mission accomplished, point to Amazon. So if that was my review of the "regular" Fire HD 8, where does that leave the Fire HD 8 Plus, and just who is this more premium device for?

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus: Price and availability

Amazon unveiled the Fire HD 8 Plus in May 2020, alongside the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablets. Like the standard model of the Fire 8, the Plus folded in the same new colors — Plum and Twilight Blue — to go along with the traditional White and Black options. Pricing for the Fire HD 8 started out at $110, and though it has had a few sales since its debut, the tablet is currently retailing for the same launch price of $110.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus: What I like

Fire Hd 8 Lifestyle 2

(Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

I'm not going to rehash the specs of the Fire HD 8 or Fire HD 8 Plus since the two devices have so much in common and we've already covered that extensively, but I would like to focus on the areas where the 8 Plus stands out above its sibling.

For starters, let's consider the internals. Two key areas where this device improves on the other Fire HD 8 are in its increased RAM (3GB vs. 2GB) and its charging speeds. The former is supposed to be evidenced in smoother gameplay and better memory management, and the latter with its 9W included wired USB-C charging brick is supposed to result in at least a one-hour time savings in charging. Don't get me wrong, these are both welcome improvements over the regular Fire HD 8 and previous generations, but I don't think they're all that significant in everyday use.

No, to me, the biggest selling point of the Fire HD 8 Plus is its wireless charging capability, particularly when paired with the new wireless charging dock accessory. As far as I'm aware, this makes the Fire HD 8 Plus one of the only tablets capable of charging wirelessly, and certainly the most affordable Android device capable of doing so.

Amazon Fire Hd 8 Plus Show Mode 1

(Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

I first thought that wireless charging capability was just a silly gimmick, but in my opinion, it works well and is a valuable addition. It works as advertised, and as soon as you plop the tablet into the stand, within seconds, you get both a visual and auditory cue that the device is charging wirelessly. Amazon's Show Mode, which essentially turns its Fire tablets into Echo Show-like smart displays, is turned on by default in the settings, so you don't have to think about enabling this each time you place the tablet in the stand. You can, of course, turn this off if you'd prefer, and there is a toggle for this right at the top of the quick settings menu when you swipe down from the top of the screen.

(Image credit: Future)

With the optional wireless charging dock and Show Mode, you get two devices in one.

As I said earlier, the wireless charging dock and instant Show Mode are the key selling points of this device. If you do decide to purchase them together, there is absolutely no reason to have an Echo Show device or another smart screen in the same room. These features are a force multiplier that essentially gives you two devices for the price of one. You have a smart screen when docked and charging, and you can pick it up and use it as a tablet or e-reader at any time without unplugging it or fussing with wires.

Amazon Fire Hd 8 Plus Wireless Charging Dock

(Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

As far as using the tablet goes, it's the exact same experience as with the Fire HD 8. The screen and speakers work well for basic content consumption, and I think the sound is perfectly acceptable even while in Show Mode. Sure, the sound isn't as full as my Nest Hub Max or any of my dedicated Echo smart speakers, but all-in-all it's not bad either. The cameras? They're there. They're 2MP shooters that you should never, ever use for important lasting photography. But they work.

I mentioned in my previous review of the regular Fire HD 8 that I didn't like just how fingerprint-y the device quickly became after only minutes of use; at least that was the case with the Black review unit I was sent. I'm happy to report that the lighter colors, such as the more gray Slate tones of the Fire HD 8 Plus, do a much better job of not showing everyday smudges and marks (though I'd still recommend a good case or cover for your tablet if this sort of thing bothers you as much as it does me).

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus: Areas for improvement