When Amazon released their Fire tablet several years ago it was to universal surprise that they’d go with Android but skin it themselves to not get the advantage of the Google Store. They did this so that they could control the interface and bend it to something that would encourage you to shop more at Amazon. Fast forward several years and the tablet market has changed significantly. Amazon is among the last big names standing and has built out an entire Prime ecosystem to support their fork.
The hardware has come a long way as well and dropped in price to the point where they were able to put out a useable 7″ tablet last year for £50 but in the last couple of weeks they’ve launched a mid-range specced and still budget 8″ tablet – the Fire 8″ 2016.
Let’s look at the hardware. It starts with a mid-range 1.3GHz MediaTek MT8163 and 1.5GB of RAM which while it’s not going to stand up to the most demanding games lets the tablet work smoothly and is perfect for browsing and video playback. Storage is 16 or 32GB and there’s a microSD card slot that takes up to 200gb cards. The screen is again mid-range in terms of resolution at 1280 x 800 but it goes amazingly bright and is usable even in direct sunlight. The camera isn’t up to much but will suffice for the odd video call and a desperation snap. Finally, the battery powering the whole thing was far more impressive than it’s quoted 4750mAh specification, running through 15 or so hours of hard use which is very impressive.
Retailer: Amazon +
Price: ± £ 90.00. Add £20 for the 32GB version and £10 to remove the screensaver adverts. There are also sometimes savings on color – get the blue at the time of writing and Amazon will cut £5 off the price.
Amazon probably needs little introduction to any internet user. The company started setting books online in the late 1990’s and expanded to fill the market and began reselling almost everything else you can possibly think of. They started their own electronics arm making the Kindle which iterated to become the dominant e-reader and then expanded to a small range of other electronic devices based on Android including tablets, a phone and media streamers.
The 8″ Kindle Fire takes a page out of its smaller brothers playbook with a very simple design. It has an all plastic body which curves around the edges. The two long edges have the microSD card slot and the pair of stereo speakers. All the controls and ports are at the top of the tablet with a 3.5mm headphone jack, volume up and down, a microUSB charge port and a power button. The front back of the tablet only has the Amazon logo and the camera in the top corner. The front of the tablet is also simple with a single camera in the middle of the top and software rather than hardware home button and controls.
The tablet runs FireOS which is a fork of Google’s Android. This means that you get a stable system with a good if not great range of apps but that Amazon has been free to skin it to integrate with their services rather than Googles. This means having the Kindle Store, Prime Video, Prime Music, Audible audiobooks upfront and bold and a multitude of adverts. Amazon have also said that the tablet is due an over-the-air update to get Alexa functionality on a long press of the home button and it if you have an Echo now its possible to start a video or load a web page remotely using it.
At £90 the Fire is much better specced and made than rival cut-price tablets and matches up well with Samsung and Lenovo’s offerings which are usually around the £150 to £200 mark. Part of that cost-effectiveness is because Amazon fully expects to sell to you on the Fire and that that extra money will compensate for the cost reduction. The result is that if you want a well-specced tablet the Fire is probably the cheapest possible way get it.
Product dimensions: 214 x 128 x 9.2 mm
Item Weight: 341g
Colour: Black, blue, orange or pink
Release date: September 2016
Operating System: FireOS – based on Android
Processor: Quad-core 1.3GHz
RAM Memory: 1.5GB
Storage: 16 or 32GB (microSD available up to 200GB)
Display: 8″ 1280 x 800 (189 PPI) IPS
Camera: 2Mp Rear facing, VGA Front Facing
Connectivity: USB 2.0
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz) capable Dual-band
Warranty: Worldwide limited one year warranty.
The Fire Tablet requires an Amazon account to operate and you’d be strongly encouraged to use it with an account with Prime membership. It will work without it but many services will not function or will charge on a per use or watch basis.
Some individual services such as Audible or Kindle Unlimited have extra costs associated with use.
Over the years I’ve been alternately impressed and frustrated by Amazon’s Fire Tablets. They’ve gone from the cut-price model that sacrificed specs to reach the price point to something increasingly well designed but which didn’t quite match up from a services point of view. The upward trend has been clearly upwards and with the 8″ 2016 Fire Amazon have hit the perfect balance of cost and specs in something that’s well designed and has decent services to back it up. If you’re already an avid Amazon user the tablet has much to recommend it but as long as you’re a Prime member it’s the best budget tablet on the market.
The review is based on the 16gb Orange 2016 8″ Kindle Fire kindly provided by Amazon. Read more about Ergohacks’ eco and access icons used in reviews. This article was first published on 13th October 2016.