Over the past year, Amazon has updated nearly all of the devices in its Fire tablet lineup, from the bare-bones, impulse-buy Fire 7 to the more expensive and immersive Fire HD 10. The company has even updated its Kids Edition versions of these tablets in lockstep with the regular ones. However, Fire fans like myself have been waiting nearly two years for an update to the HD 8, which I've often called the Goldilocks of tablets for its "just right" balance of price, performance, and value. Now that the Fire HD 8 has been updated along with a more premium Fire HD 8 Plus, what is someone in the market for a great mid-size tablet to do?
Nit-picking the differences between the new Amazon Fire HD 8 tablets
Since this is the first time we've seen separate devices in the exact same product line (aside from the Kids Edition versions), let's take a look at just what the differences are between these two tablets.
|Fire HD 8 (2020)||Fire HD 8 Plus (2020)|
|Display||8" HD||8" HD|
|Resolution||1280 x 800 (189 ppi)||1280 x 800 (189 ppi)|
Expandable up to 1TB
Expandable up to 1TB
|CPU||Quad-core 2.0 GHz||Quad-core 2.0 GHz|
|Charging Time||5 hours||4 hours|
|Cameras||2MP front and rear||2MP front and rear|
|Weight||12.5 oz||12.5 oz|
|Dimensions||8.0" x 5.4" x 0.4" (202 mm x 137 mm x 9.7 mm)||8.0" x 5.4" x 0.4" (202 mm x 137 mm x 9.7 mm)|
As you can see, there isn't that much that separates these two versions of the Fire HD 8. They look the same, feel the same, weigh the same, and can even share accessories like cases and covers. The most significant differences are on the inside (RAM and charging capabilities), and the outside (color options). But that's really about it.
What are the shared improvements between the new Amazon Fire HD 8 tablets?
Amazon didn't make a ton of substantial changes to this iteration of the HD 8, but the iterative changes it did make (to both models) are welcome improvements.
For starters, it increased the battery life from 10 to 12 hours, which doesn't sound like much, but can make a huge difference on those long road trips or flights (and if you're at home, it just means that you can wait that much longer before charging again!). It also brought USB-C to the lineup (first introduced with the 2019 HD 10), so hopefully, we'll start to see that on all Amazon device updates moving forward.
Amazon updated the color palette of the HD 8 to match better the 7 and HD 10 series, as well as its popular Kindle e-readers. It also improved the processors for a 30% performance improvement, and it upped the RAM in both devices (2GB and 3GB, respectively). While it kept the 32 and 64GB internal storage configurations, Amazon bumped the microSD storage expandability up to 1TB, which is great to store movies, music, and games for extended trips or areas with low connectivity.
This marks the first time a Fire tablet has had the front-facing camera on the side in a horizontal or landscape orientation, and I, for one, think that was a wise decision. I know that I tend to hold my tablets that way when trying to get a better view of the content on the screen, so it makes sense that this would be a better experience for video chatting with others. Also, if you want to use a Bluetooth keyboard, this orientation makes way more sense.
Finally, Amazon is introducing a distraction-free gaming experience called Game Mode. Basically, this blocks notifications from intruding on your gameplay. The best part about it? It is on by default and comes on automatically when you open a game. Of course, you can always turn this off in the settings if you don't mind the interruptions, but why would you?
What does the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus offer?
2020 marks the first time Amazon has tried to create a more premium tier in its Fire tablets with the Fire HD 8 Plus. On the surface, the device doesn't really look any different than the "regular" Fire HD 8, aside from only being available in a Slate color. No, for the HD 8 Plus, it's what's on the inside that counts.
For starters, the HD 8 Plus comes with 50% more RAM than the HD 8 (3GB to 2GB), which should help games and movies appear more fluid, and future-proof you longer than the other Fire tablets. Additionally, the HD 8 Plus can charge faster via its included 9W adapter. This is great for those who want to top off more quickly, particularly before a road trip.
Speaking of charging, the real selling point with the HD 8 Plus is the fact that it is capable of Qi wireless charging. Amazon is selling a unique Wireless Charging Dock, but I expect there to be more third-party options available over the coming months. Using this dock means that you can quickly put your Fire HD 8 into Show Mode and leave it like that without having an ugly wire sticking out, or worrying about the battery running out. This turns it into an Echo Show, but it's an Echo Show that you can pick up and take with you anywhere.
Amazon Fire HD 8 vs. 8 Plus: Which should you buy?
As a fan of Amazon's devices, I was thrilled to see that this popular tablet size was finally updated after two years, and I was also happy to see Amazon introducing more premium features in the HD 8. Both versions of the tablet are great options, but I think that for most people, the HD 8 is the way to go. Sure it doesn't have wireless charging, nor does it charge as quickly as the HD 8 Plus, but I don't think that matters to most Fire tablet customers. Yeah, they're "nice-to-haves," but they're not "need-to-haves." For the $20+ difference, I think most people will be just fine with the base version.
That being said, even at its max storage capacity and with accessories like the Wireless Charging Dock, the Fire HD 8 Plus is over $150 less than the cheapest iPad, and is thus still an excellent value for a personal or family entertainment device. Add on the fact that with that wireless dock, it can serve as essentially a full-time Echo Show replacement, and you get two awesome Amazon devices for the price of one. Not a bad deal!
Just what you need
The 2020 edition of the Fire HD 8 made all the basic improvements that you'd expect over the 2018 version, and honestly, that's more than enough for most people. It still provides a reliable device at a great value.
If you were waiting for more innovation from the Fire tablet line, then the Fire HD 8 Plus delivers. It brings all of the incremental updates from its sibling but adds fast charging and wireless charging capabilities, which isn't something you'll be able to find anywhere near this price point.
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