Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020) review: Goldilocks returns to claim her prize

The power and portability of the Amazon Fire HD 8 make it an excellent choice.

Amazon Fire Hd 8 2020 Hero
(Image: © Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

Bottom line: The Amazon Fire HD 8 won't blow anyone away, but it's not supposed to. It's designed to be durable, affordable, and flexible for individuals or families, and it gained the necessary features to make it a no-brainer upgrade over previous Fire and Android tablets.

Pros

  • +

    Still affordable

  • +

    Battery lasts up to 12 hours

  • +

    USB-C charging

  • +

    Better internals

  • +

    New colors

  • +

    Horizontal camera orientation

  • +

    Game Mode

Cons

  • -

    Still not the speediest tablet

  • -

    Cameras are not great

  • -

    It's a fingerprint magnet

  • -

    No official water or dust resistance

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Did you hear the news? There's a new Amazon Fire tablet out! Well, technically, there are three new Amazon Fire tablets out, including the Fire HD 8, the Fire HD 8 Plus, and the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition.

I wouldn't blame you if you didn't notice their arrival, given all the madness that is going on in the world right now. That, and the fact that Amazon is currently selling seven different new versions of its Fire tablets, most with varying configurations of storage, colors, and accessories. With all of these choices, it's almost impossible to keep track of all of your options and figure out why you might consider one Fire tablet over another.

I've long called the Fire HD 8 the Goldilocks tablet, because it does a great job of balancing price, performance, and specs to meet the budget and use cases of most people. It's not only the best Amazon tablet for most people, but it's also probably the best overall tablet for most people, at least when you consider those factors I mentioned. Is it particularly powerful? No. Is it exciting? Eh, not really. Is it well-made? Well, it's well-enough made.

I know what you're thinking. I don't seem overly excited about the Fire HD 8 (2020), and you know what? I'm not.

Still, I do think it's a good value, and that after a two-year wait for updates, this is still the tablet that most folks should buy. If you're someone who wants a device with good battery life, Dolby Atmos audio, and HD video output, this device is for you. If you don't want to spend a lot upfront but want a tablet that can expand to suit your needs, that can handle multi-user families and even kiddos, and that can stand up to the occasional drop or bumps, this device is for you. The forward-thinking, future-proofing gadget hounds might be more interested in the Fire HD 8 Plus, but this is the device for the rest of us.

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020): Price and availability

Amazon unveiled the Fire HD 8 in May 2020, along side the Fire HD 8 Plus and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablets. The tablet picked up two new color options, Plum and Twilight Blue, to go along with the traditional White and Black options. Pricing for the Fire HD 8 started out at $90, and though it has seen a sale or two, the tablet is currently retailing for the same launch price.

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020): So what's new on the Fire HD 8?

Fire Hd 8 Lifestyle 3

(Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)
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SpecsFire HD 8 (2020)
Display8" HD
Resolution1280 x 800 (189 ppi)
Storage32/64GBExpandable up to 1TB
CPUQuad-core 2.0 GHz
RAM2GB
Charging Time5 hours
Wireless ChargingNo
Cameras2MP front and rear
Weight12.5 oz
Dimensions8.0" x 5.4" x 0.4" (202 mm x 137 mm x 9.7 mm))
ColorsBlack, Plum, Twilight Blue, White

As I mentioned above, the last time the Fire HD 8 received a refresh was back in 2018, and while that device still performs admirably for many, a lot of its features were getting a little dated. For example, that 8th-Gen device still charged via Micro-USB, it had much lower storage capacity and lower expandability options, and it had less RAM and a slower processor.

Still, I do think it's a good value, and that after a two-year wait for updates, this is still the tablet that most folks should buy. If you're someone who wants a device with good battery life, Dolby Atmos audio, and HD video output, this device is for you. If you don't want to spend a lot upfront but want a tablet that can expand to suit your needs, that can handle multi-user families and even kiddos, and that can stand up to the occasional drop or bumps, this device is for you. The forward-thinking, future-proofing gadget hounds might be more interested in the Fire HD 8 Plus, but this is the device for the rest of us.

The 2020 edition of the Fire HD 8 (10th-Gen) makes improvements in all of these areas. It has 50% more RAM (2GB vs. 1.5GB), a 30% faster processor, twice the onboard storage (32GB or 64GB vs. 16GB or 32GB), and a battery that lasts 20% longer. Amazon is also finally, slowly, starting to bring USB-C charging ports to its devices (which began in 2019 with the Fire HD 10).

The rest of the tablet remains mostly unchanged. It has a similar size and polycarbonate construction to the previous version, and the cameras, screen, and audio are all the same, too. There are new color options for the 2020 version that bring it into the fold with the 2019 Fire 7 and Fire HD 10, and now you can get the Fire HD 8 in White, Black, Plum, and my favorite, Twilight Blue. The most significant change to the physical design is a rounding of the corners, and the front-facing camera moving from the top to the side so that it greets you in a landscape mode.

Now that we've reviewed what has changed since the previous edition, let's dive into what I liked and what I felt was lacking in this new iteration of the Fire HD 8.

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020): Things that are hot

Fire Hd 8 Lifestyle 2

(Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

The spec bumps to this device may not seem like a big deal, but they do make all the difference in being able to recommend this tablet to friends and family. USB-C charging is a long-overdue feature, but a welcome one, and any time a company can improve battery life by whatever means is a blessing (here it jumped up by two hours!).

The dual speakers and HD screen sound and look pretty much the same as the 2018 version, and that's because they mostly are the same. Some may clamor for a higher-density display, but at this price point, what you get is perfectly fine for watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, or playing games.

Don't laugh, but Amazon's setup video was super-helpful, even for me!

I know it sounds silly, but I really enjoyed the onboarding process when setting up my Fire HD 8 tablet. After you set up your Wi-Fi connection and log in to your Amazon account, you're greeted with a two-minute video walking you through some of the most compelling features and use cases. I didn't feel like I needed this introduction, but I can bet that it's proven helpful for scores of others setting up an Amazon device for the first time.

One feature that Fire tablets have had for a few years now is Show Mode, which turns the tablet into a smart screen speaker like an Echo Show or Nest Hub (sort of). That feature is once again available here on the Fire HD 8. So long as you either a) leave it plugged in, or b) remember to charge it frequently, it's a nice touch. You'll need a stand or case with a built-in stand, but when you enable it, you essentially get two devices (a tablet and a smart speaker) in one. Not bad for the price!

Speaking of price, the Fire HD 8 starts at $90 for the model with 32GB of internal storage. That's already a pretty sweet deal for what you get, but you can bet that come Prime Day (whenever that happens) or the fall holiday shopping season, this will probably be on sale for as low as $60-$70. Talk about your impulse buy.

I was happy to see the truckload of free content that I can find on Fire TV was available on the tablet as well, but here it's expanded to include books and games, too. The Amazon Insider feature showcases and surfaces compelling content and things to do with your Fire tablet. The My Stuff feature is interesting because it preloads content from your watchlist that you might want to have available offline, and dynamically adjusts that content based on the storage space available on your device. Of course, you can disable this feature, but it's sometimes helpful to have stuff waiting for you to watch for those times when you forget to load up your tablet with videos. And don't forget, even if you purchase the 32GB model, you can expand the storage capacity up to 1TB via microSD card.

The other new feature that impressed me was Game Mode. In Game Mode, all notifications and interruptions are silenced, letting you enjoy your game in peace. The best part about it though is that you don't have to do anything to activate it; it's on by default. Of course, if you want to, you can go into the settings to disable Game Mode, but I don't see myself doing that anytime soon.