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Amazon’s Fire HD 8 Plus is no iPad replacement

I’ve always been an avid reader. My physical book collection is constantly expanding, but — thanks to the countless free library books I read on OverDrive’s viral app, Libby(Opens in a new tab) — these days I tend to gravitate toward e-books. They’re convenient, portable, and perfect for reading pretty much anywhere: in bed, at the gym, on vacation, etc…and they don’t weigh down my carry-on as much as my “standard” three-book minimum.

Over the years, a majority of my e-book consumption has taken place on my iPad — and in desperate occasions my iPhone — but I was interested in trying out Amazon’s latest iteration of the Fire HD 8 Plus tablet(Opens in a new tab) as an affordable alternative to my 8th generation iPad(Opens in a new tab).

Unboxing the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus

Straight out of the box, the 12th generation Fire HD 8 Plus tablet is compact, lightweight, and sturdy. It’s roughly the same size as an iPad mini, but at a 0.37-inch thickness, it’s definitely got a bit more weight than the .25-inch thick iPad mini. As someone who is accident-prone (and terrified of dropping a $329 iPad), I appreciated the emphasis on durability, but I wasn’t sure if the plastic back cover would actually hold up to Amazon’s claims that the Fire HD 8 Plus is “twice as durable” as the iPad Mini.

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Thankfully, Amazon’s compatible tablet cover eliminates any of those fears — I popped it on the device, and I was immediately surprised by how sturdy the combination felt. It’s a little bit heavier than I expected, but I’m fairly certain that I could throw this device and cause more damage to my wall than the tablet.

The back of the Fire HD 8 Plus feels a little cheap and plasticky, but the tablet cover makes the device feel super durable. Credit: RJ Andersen / Mashable



From there, however, I was a little disappointed by the Fire tablet. It’s nothing special or impressive — it looks almost identical to the display of my Echo Show 10 — and while I appreciate the simplicity, it also looks a bit outdated. There’s a thick black frame around the 8-inch HD display, and the actual experience of using the device felt ages behind my Apple products or my partner’s Samsung Galaxy Note Ultra. The 1280 x 800 screen was pretty dim compared to my other devices, the colors were a little muted, and the screen glare was intense.

First Impressions of the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus

If you’re expecting a super fast and streamlined performance from the Fire HD 8 Plus, let’s get this out of the way: You’re going to be disappointed. While the tablet boasts a 30 percent faster processor than the previous generation, the operating system is still pretty slow and clunky. The tablet auto-wakes when you open the cover (or you can tap the power button once), but I hated how you couldn’t touch the screen to wake the tablet from there — your only option is to push the power button again. From the lock screen, you have three options: accessing your Amazon “Device Dashboard” (where you can see other Amazon Devices you have on your account), the center swipe to unlock, and another option to view more special offers…just in case the full-screen advertisement wasn’t enough.



If you opt for the cheaper version of the Fire HD 8 Plus, your lock screen is taken up by advertisements. Credit: RJ Andersen / Mashable

From there, navigating the Fire tablet is a bit of a headache. There are three options available after unlocking the tablet: a “for you” page (complete with weather, recent apps, sponsored apps, and a prompt to continue reading any books you’ve had open on the device), a more traditional “home” page, and your device “library.” You can download additional apps to the device — including Netflix, Minecraft, TikTok, and Zoom — with the glaring exception of YouTube (although there are plenty of copycats available).



Because the Fire tablet uses Amazon’s software launcher, Fire OS, you’re limited to using their app library — although I’ve heard of people loading the Google Play Store on previous versions of the Fire HD 8 Plus tablet — which means your options are a little bit limited. That’s not a huge deal if you’re someone who uses Amazon’s various entertainment options (like Kindle Unlimited, Audible, Prime Video, and Amazon Music), but if you’re looking for a little more flexibility, the Fire tablet might not suit those purposes.

Should You Get a Fire HD 8 Plus?

Here’s the thing: If you’re looking for a tablet to use primarily for entertainment (like reading or streaming), the Fire HD 8 Plus(Opens in a new tab) is a decent choice. It’s incredibly compact and sturdy, which made it the perfect workout companion — riding a stationary bike with my iPad is a terrifying experience — and the entertainment options were surprisingly robust. I could watch all of my favorite shows on the tablet without any issues, the sound quality was decent, the battery life was impressive, and I quickly put the lengthy free trial of Kindle Unlimited to good use.

Plus, at $120 for the 32GB version (with lock screen ads), the Fire tablet is incredibly affordable compared to other brands — especially because it’s frequently on sale on Amazon — which makes it a great introductory tablet for anyone interested in entertainment functions like streaming, social media, and reading on the go. And if you have kids, the durability factor alone makes it an attractive option, and there’s an impressive line-up of parental controls to make it even more kid-friendly.



If you’re looking for a more robust tablet, however, I’m not sure I would recommend this one. It’s clunky and slow, the entire experience made me feel like I was using a device from 2005. Plus, the amount of sponsored content — coupled with the app limitations — was beyond frustrating. Obviously, it’s only $15 more to get the version without lock screen ads, but there’s still a lot of promotional content tucked in various places within the device, and — while I liked using the tablet for reading — the experience didn’t come close to matching any of my other devices. It’s definitely cheaper than the iPad Mini, but it’s close in price to other compact tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 or the Lenovo Tab M7.

If you’re on the fence or looking for a budget-friendly entertainment tablet, you might want to stick with the Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet. At only $99 (and frequently on sale for much less), it’s not that much different than the Fire HD 8 Plus. The Plus has a slightly faster processor and wireless charging, but the difference isn’t going to be noticeable for most people.