The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus tablet offers unbeatable value for the money by doubling as an Echo Show smart display

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  • The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus is the perfect affordable family tablet for streaming movies, casual gaming, and browsing the internet.
  • Amazon's latest 8-inch tablet has a familiar budget design, but Amazon has added storage, a faster processor, more memory, support for wireless charging, and a USB-C port. 
  • Amazon also offers an optional stand that transforms the Fire HD 8 Plus into an Echo Show smart display when docked.
  • Dip into our guides to the best tablets or the best tablets for kids if you want some recommended alternatives.

Amazon has been turning out affordable tablets for years now. While some compromises are inevitable to keep that price low, the Fire range has slowly but steadily improved with each new iteration, and it continues to represent great value for money, particularly for Prime subscribers.  

This year, Amazon introduced a new option in the shape of the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus. This is a slightly improved version of the Fire HD 8 that boasts a little more memory (RAM) and wireless charging support. The tablet comes with an optional wireless charging dock that enables it to pull double duty as an Echo Show smart display. 

I've been using the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus for a couple of weeks now, and it's one of the best tablets that Amazon has ever turned out. While it has some limitations, this is a solid family device, and the wireless charging dock coupled with Show Mode adds a lot of value.  

Design

The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus won't win any beauty contests. This is utilitarian design and the only distinction compared to the regular Amazon Fire HD 8 is the color. The Fire HD 8 comes in a choice of four colors, while the HD 8 Plus has a dull, gray slate finish.  

The body is molded plastic, and there's a thick bezel all the way around the 8-inch screen. Holding it in landscape, there are two speakers on the top edge and a MicroSD card slot on the bottom. The right edge, or top in portrait, has volume controls, the power button, the USB-C charging port, and the 3.5mm headphone port.

We're happy to see Amazon finally make the switch from Micro USB ports to USB-C ports for charging. Not only does this allow for faster charging, it also means the cable is always the right way up. However, the addition of wireless charging support in the HD 8 Plus means you'll never need to plug it in. 

While it looks and feels cheap, the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus is undeniably practical. I suspect the tablet is capable of surviving a few drops and bumps, and it feels quite thick and sturdy in hand. It weighs in at 355 grams (12.5 ounces), which is quite heavy for a tablet this size; heavier than the iPad Mini at 310 grams, for example, but I find it comfortable to hold for long periods.

Display

The display in the Fire HD 8 Plus is the same as the Fire HD 8, and it remains unchanged from the last version. That means you're looking at an 8-inch LCD with a relatively low resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels. It's sharp enough to browse the web on, and it serves just fine to stream movies or play casual games, provided you're not expecting high definition.  

The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus is also good for comics, but I would recommend switching to a Kindle or another ereader for books. The glass on the screen is reflective and the brightness is limited, which makes legibility poor in bright environments, so this tablet is best used indoors. 

Specifications

Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches

Display: 8-inch LCD (1,280 x 800 pixels)

Processor: Quad-core 2.0 GHz

Memory: 3GB

Storage: 32GB or 64GB (slot for MicroSD card up to 1TB)

Camera: 2MP front and rear

Speakers: Dual speakers

Battery: Up to 12 hours

Setup and interface

The setup process is a breeze. The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus runs Amazon's Fire OS, which is a carousel interface that divides your content into sections like books, video, games and apps, music, and so on. If you're a Prime subscriber, you'll have easy access to all your Prime benefits, including Prime Video, the Kindle lending library, and Prime Music.  

While Fire OS is very accessible, it makes the Fire HD 8 Plus unlike a standard Android tablet. You can't customize the home screen, though there is a "For You" tab that recommends content based on your activity. More importantly, there's no access to Google's Play Store or other services.  

Amazon's Appstore has a good choice of apps and games, including big apps like Netflix and YouTube, but there are far fewer than you'll find in the Play Store and a lot of what is there is updated less frequently. It is technically possible to sideload Google services, but most people won't want to have to tinker around with the software. 

At its $109.99 price, the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus also comes with "Special Offers," which are essentially ads on the lock screen, unless you pay an extra $15 up front to remove them.  

Perhaps the best thing about Amazon's interface is the inclusion of Show Mode. This enables the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus to act like an Echo Show device, so you can use it hands-free and 

ask Alexa to play your favorite show, search for things online, and lots more.

Performance and features

Amazon's Fire tablet range has always been weak in the performance department, so it's a relief to find that the latest Fire tablets have a bit more grunt under the hood than the 2018 model. Both the regular HD 8 and the HD 8 Plus have quad-core chips rated at 2GHz clock speed. They've also been beefed up in the RAM department, to 2GB for the HD 8, and 3GB for the HD 8 Plus.

I wish I could tell you that Amazon's new hardware makes for a silky-smooth experience, but much depends on what you're used to. The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus is a little slow to respond when you tap and swipe around. It takes a beat longer than I'd like to load an app or switch from a game to the home screen. Compared directly to the 2018 HD 8, the newer tablet is definitely faster, but if you switch from a newish phone or an iPad, it's going to feel lethargic.

It may not be the fastest tablet around, but it gets the job done. You can play a variety of games on it; I had a blast of Clash of Clans and Minecraft. It works well for streaming video; the dual speakers are inevitably a little tinny, but there is a 3.5mm headphone jack. I'm not a big fan of Amazon's Silk browser, but the Fire HD 8 Plus is ideal for reading the morning news on, as it's a nice size for lounging in bed with.

You can set up different profiles for different family members and dictate age appropriate content for kids with the onboard parental controls, which makes the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus an ideal family tablet. I also like the fact that it automatically downloads some of the latest movies and TV shows from Prime Video, based on your preferences, with the "On Deck" feature, so they're ready to watch offline. 

There are 2-megapixel front and rear-facing cameras on this tablet. The front-facing camera is adequate for video calls and can come in handy when the tablet is docked in Show Mode. There's little reason to use the rear-facing camera as your phone almost certainly has a better camera. 

Battery life

Amazon suggests up to 12 hours of mixed use for the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus before you'll need to dock or plug in and that feels about right. This is a two-hour jump on the previous model. 

The tablet can be fully charged from empty in four hours with the charger supplied, but if you use wireless chargers, it can get a top up every time you dock it. I've been using it this way and it has rarely dipped below 50% and then only after a long gaming session.

Show Mode and wireless charging

The presence of Show Mode on the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus is very welcome, and you can drag down the notification shade and toggle it on to effectively turn the tablet into an Echo Show whenever you like. The tablet also automatically switches into Show Mode when you place it on a wireless charger. If you already use Alexa with skills and smart home devices set up, then this will be very appealing. 

You can ask Alexa to play movies or music for you, perform web searches, or even display recipes. It's a genuinely useful hands-free mode that works well in the kitchen or on the nightstand. The fact that you can use the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus like an Echo Show, then grab it off the dock when needed, really boosts its potential utility. 

For anyone who has already adopted wireless charging, the HD 8 Plus is going to be a more compelling prospect. I like Amazon's purpose-built Wireless Charging Dock. It's a black plastic stand with a special groove that holds the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus perfectly in place. The grey fabric covering elevates the look a little, so it doesn't stand out too much when the tablet isn't docked, though it is quite large. The big advantage is stability, but there's no real need to buy Amazon's dock if you don't fancy it. I tested it with a few different Qi wireless chargers that I use for phones, and it works perfectly, switching into Show Mode as soon as it's docked.

The bottom line

The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus will serve you well as a family tablet and as an Echo Show when docked. It's not exceptional in any way, but it has lots to offer for the price and proves ideal for a spot of streaming, reading, and gaming, with the bonus of hands-free Alexa onboard.

Should you buy it? 

Yes, if you subscribe to Prime and already use Alexa, or want a cheap, versatile, family device, then the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus is great value.

Which model should you get? 

At $124.99, the Fire HD 8 Plus without special offers feels a little pricey, but Amazon frequently runs deals that I recommend keeping an eye out for. If you can stomach the ads, then you can knock $15 off, and if you don't care about the wireless charging, then you can save yourself another $20 by opting for the regular Fire HD 8, which is $89.99 with special offers.  

The best option is the Fire HD 8 Plus without ads, but with the Wireless Charging Dock, which is currently $154.99.

 What are your alternatives?

Amazon's cheapest tablet, at $49.99, is the Fire 7, but it's underpowered and has a low-resolution screen, so we don't recommend it.

If money is no object, then Apple's iPad Mini is the best small tablet you can get, but it starts at $399.00. For something bigger, the regular iPad is tough to look past at $329.00. 

If you're set on an Android tablet, then maybe consider the Samsung Tab S6 Lite, which starts from around $349.99; or, if that's too expensive, maybe the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 from $229.99.  

Pros: Affordable, perfect for Prime subscribers, Alexa and Show mode, wireless charging, strong battery life, USB-C port

Cons: Dull display, feels slow at times, locked into Amazon ecosystem, limited apps and games

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