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Amazon Fire HD 8 (2018) review: Small upgrades sweeten the deal just a bit

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The Good The 2018 version of the Amazon Fire HD 8 has a few small upgrades, including a better front-facing camera and the ability to issue Alexa voice commands even with your screen on standby. Its 8-inch screen is bright, the speakers are loud and it offers expandable microSD storage and ample parental controls. Amazon Prime members can access gobs of free video, music and other content with their subscription.

The Bad Display isn't as sharp as the iPad's; to truly take advantage of what the tablet has to offer, you need an Amazon Prime membership; slow charging (takes 6 hours to fully cap battery).

The Bottom Line The latest HD 8 isn't much of an upgrade over last year's model, but the "always-ready" hands-free Alexa feature is a nice addition to what remains the best tablet value.

8.1 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

The new Fire HD 8 will still cost $80.

Sarag Tew/CNET

The "all-new" Fire HD 8 tablet for 2018 is much more of a refresh than a major upgrade. Available in the same colors and chassis as the previous model, the latest Amazon 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 starts at the same cost as the last HD 8: $80 (£80) for the 16GB with built-in "special offer" ads, which you can buy out at any time for a flat $15 fee. 

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.

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 around 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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