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Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet gets small upgrades for same low price

Along with a better front-facing camera and increased memory expansion, you can also issue Alexa voice commands even with your screen on standby.

David Carnoy
David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
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The new Fire HD 8 will still cost $80.

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An "="" fire="" hd="" 8"="">"all-new" Fire HD 8 tablet is on the way, but it's much more of a refresh than a major upgrade. Shipping on Oct. 4 and available in the same colors and chassis as the previous model, the latest Fire HD 8 adds a 2-megapixel front-facing camera with 720p video, support for up to 400GB additional storage via its microSD slot and hands-free Alexa support even when your screen is in standby mode. It will cost the same as the last HD 8: $80 (£80).

A few months back Amazon introduced Show Mode for its Fire HD 10 and Fire HD 8 tablets along with a Show Mode Charging Dock accessory that essentially allows you to turn your Fire tablet into an Echo Show. The always-ready Alexa feature that's built into Amazon's Echo devices is available for the previous generation Fire HD 8 via a software upgrade (after the software upgrade you no longer don't have to touch the screen to enable voice commands). However, it didn't work when your screen went into standby mode unless the device was plugged into power.

Like the HD 10, the new HD 8 has access to the always-ready Alexa feature and Show Mode without being plugged in. You need to be connected to Wi-Fi to use the always-ready Alexa feature.

Watch this: Amazon Show Mode Charging Dock puts on an Alexa show

The only downgrade I noticed in the specs is that battery life has decreased by 2 hours. It was rated at 12 hours for "mixed use" in the previous model. Now it's rated at 10 hours.

"[The] Fire HD 8 includes always-ready, hands-free Alexa, which impacts battery usage," an Amazon spokesperson explained to CNET. "There are hardware capabilities that help manage battery impact,  but Alexa hands-free is also an optional feature. If you choose to turn it off, you may gain about 2 hours of battery life. You can still access Alexa by pushing the Home button."

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The new Fire HD 8 now has the same hands-free Alexa feature as the HD 10 (shown here).

David Carnoy/CNET

Amazon also announced that the new upgrades will be available in the "all-new" 32GB Fire HD 8 Kids Edition for $130 or £130, which includes a protective case, a two-year free replacement policy and one year of FreeTime Unlimited. It's also introducing a new Spanish language experience within Amazon FreeTime and FreeTime Unlimited.

"Kids now have access to over 1,000 age-appropriate books, videos, educational apps, and games, plus thousands of hand-curated websites and web videos -- all in Spanish and included with a FreeTime Unlimited subscription," Amazon says. "Parents can choose to enable Spanish-only content, English-only content or a combination of both. Settings can be customized for each individual child profile."

Watch this: Amazon's Kids Edition Fire tablets don't fear cracked screens

FreeTime and FreeTime Unlimited in Spanish will be available on Fire Kids Edition tablets, in the FreeTime app on compatible Fire tablets, and on compatible iOS devices, via a free software update that will begin rolling out on Oct. 4 and is coming soon to compatible Android devices.

I'll post a full review as soon as we get our hands on a review sample, which should be just before it ships on Oct. 4. But much of what we said about the previous HD 8 and latest HD 10 will apply to this model. At $80 -- and sometimes less during Amazon sales -- it remains an excellent tablet value. That said, I hope Amazon will move to USB-C charging in the next generation.

Here's a recap of the "all-new" Fire HD 8's key specs and features:

  • 8.4 x 5 x 0.4 inches (214 x 128 x 9.2mm)
  • 12 ounces (341 grams)
  • 8-inch widescreen (1,280x800 pixels) HD display with over a million pixels (189 ppi).
  • Quad-core 1.3GHz processor and 1.5GB of RAM
  • 16GB or 32GB options with support for up to 256GB of expandable storage via microSD
  • 4,750mAh battery for up to 10 hours of mixed-use battery life for a full day of power (up to 12 hours with Alexa hands-free turned off)
  • Always-ready Alexa hands-free: Even when your screen is in standby, Alexa is enabled (you don't have to touch the home button to enabled voice commands).
  • Show Mode: Essentially turns your Fire tablet into an Echo, with full-screen visuals that complement voice responses from Alexa.
  • New front and rear cameras, both 2 megapixels, both with 720p HD video recording (and free, unlimited cloud storage for all photos taken on Fire devices)
  • Fire HD 8 dual stereo speakers are optimized for Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Atmos "for enhanced realism and dynamic range"
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi support
  • Screen sharing: Let an Amazon expert guide you remotely through any feature on your screen, available 24/7, 365 days a year -- for free
  • Amazon-exclusive features: Alexa, ASAP, X-Ray, Second Screen, Amazon FreeTime, Family Library, Blue Shade, On Deck, Prime Video downloads and more
  • Access to millions of movies, TV shows, songs, books, magazines, apps and games with free, unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content
  • Color options: black, punch red, marine blue and canary yellow
  • Available in 16GB ($80; £80) and 16GB ($100; £100) configurations, as well as 32GB Kids Edition for $130 or £130 that includes protective case, two-year free replacement policy, one year of FreeTime Unlimited

Amazon Show Mode Charging Dock

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