Showing posts with label Amazon Fire HD 8. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amazon Fire HD 8. Show all posts

Friday, 7 September 2018

Amazon updates the Fire HD 8

With no fanfare, Amazon updated their best-selling Fire HD 8 tablet. The differences between the 2018 and 2017 versions are minimal. According to Liluputing the hardware differences are:
But the new model has a 2MP front-facing camera (up from 0.3MP on the previous version) and works with microSD cards up to 400GB (up from 256GB). You can also install apps to the microSD card if the built-in storage capacity isn’t enough for you. 
Unfortunately, battery life gets a bump down from 'up to 12 hours' to 'up to 10 hours' mixed usage.

The update is focused on Alexa. With the latest Fire HD 8, it is possible to interact with Alexa anytime. It is not clear if this feature is hardware related - if it isn't, based on Amazon's firmware update track record, then the previous two generations should receive the software feature.

The tablet can also be purchased with a show mode charging dock. The dock charges the tablet and turns it into smart-display when docked. The dock isn't new, as it was released in July 2018 in the US but is only now made available in the UK. In the US there is also a version of the dock for the Fire HD 10.

Interestingly, Amazon UK doesn't sell the dock separate to the latest Fire HD 8 (Amazon US does sell the dock separately). I think Amazon UK want a reason for customers to buy the latest tablet, as the previous generation is compatible with dock. The latest iteration is about Alexa but the previous two generations should get the new Alexa software features. I also think the show mode charging dock will eventually be sold separately or made available through third-party sellers. This means if you don't care about the front-facing camera then there is no reason to get the latest model.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Amazon devices & quality control

I've had negative quality control issues with Amazon devices in the past. Recently I’ve had issues with the Kindle Oasis and the Fire HD 8.

The Kindle Oasis is the premium Kindle, so I was surprised with the problems I've experienced. When I first received the Oasis there was a permanent dark spot located at the centre of the screen. Amazon sent a replacement with no issues but recently the replacement also developed a dark spot! Again, I was sent another replacement. Unfortunately, the replacement device had a pin sized bright spot and was also registered to another user (light tears and bright spots are common with front-lit E-Ink screens <1>)! I speculate the replacement was a returned device from another customer due to the screen blemish. Amazon then sent a further replacement – this replacement was near perfect but had a barely noticeable permanent dark speck mark at the top of the screen. Thankfully the speck doesn’t affect the reading space, so I kept the device.

I also had a recent issue with an Amazon Fire HD 8 – but this is expected considering the entry-level pricing and cheaper screen. The screen developed a pressure mark – a common occurrence with LCD screens – and was swiftly replaced.

These are only two recent examples of quality control issues I’ve personally experienced with Amazon devices. I am not alone and similar blemishes are reported by other customers in their reviews on Amazon websites. Maybe it would be less wasteful and more cost effective if Amazon paid more attention to quality control.

The positive, from my personal experience, is that Amazon respect their warranty cover and do not impose unnecessary measures to test the legitimacy of claims.

<1>  I’ve had the same issue with the Kobo Aura One. Kobo sent a replacement but I had to first post the original device to Germany from the UK (Kobo, when I contacted their support, stated they don’t provide prepaid return labels). The Aura One replacement was brand new; to contrast, Amazon tend to send refurbished devices to replace defective ones. To be fair, the refurbished replacements I’ve received were in near perfect cosmetic condition; the only issues I’ve experienced were screen blemishes.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Fire HD 8's grainy screen

I've noticed that the 7th generation Fire HD 8 has a grainy coating on its glossy screen. Usually this graininess is a feature of matte displays, but I've seen it before on low-cost glossy screens. It is likely Amazon bulk ordered these low-cost IPS screens to further cut down the price. It is a not a major issue and considering the up-shot in specifications compared to the 5th generation (the 6th and 7th generation Fire HD 8 are near identical) the compromise in display quality is worth it. There is little difference between the 6th and 7th generation display but the 6th generation didn't have the coating.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Fire HD 8 or Fire HD 10?

First, the Fire 7 is not a viable option. The Fire 7 works well as a secondary tablet, something to take on a commute/travel or a child's tablet. For a primary tablet it is just too slow and its paltry 1 GB RAM makes multi-tasking frustrating. This means, as a primary tablet, choice is restricted to either the HD 8 or HD 10.

In my view, while the Fire HD 10 is clearly the better overall tablet and the one to choose, the answer also depends on the needs and preference of the end-user. If preference is for a compact and lighter tablet then the HD 8 is the better option. The Fire HD 10 is a large and relatively heavy tablet (the issue isn’t just the screen size – large top and bottom bezels make the device awkward to hold). The HD8’s screen is a downgrade, in comparison to the HD 10, but that doesn’t mean it is a poor one. Also, the tablet is zippy and the 1.5GB RAM manages multi-tasking well.

If size/cost is a non-issue then the Fire HD 10 is the tablet to choose (it is faster, comes with more RAM and the screen is far better). The Fire HD 10, for its size, is not the heaviest large tablet (the device weighs 500G). In comparison, the Samsung Tab A 10.1 weighs 565G and the 9.7 inch Apple iPad weighs 469G. In other words, if the end-user prefers a larger tablet or doesn’t need something more compact then the Fire HD 10’s weight shouldn’t be a major issue – its weight falls within the category average of larger tablets. Yes, its form-factor makes it awkward to hold but this is a minor issue.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Thoughts on Amazon's refresh of the Fire 7 & Fire HD 8

Amazon announced an incremental update to their Fire tablets. The Fire 7, released in Autumn 2015, gets an expected update. Amazon keeps the resolution the same (1024 X 600) but with an improved IPS screen that comes with better contrast and clarity. Other upgrades include a decrease in tablet weight and a bump in battery life to 'up to 8 hours'. Surprisingly there was no Fire 10 HD update, despite the HD 10 being released at the same time as the original Fire 7. The 10 HD also features less prominently on Amazon.com and this might mean it will be gradually discontinued. The Fire 10 HD is priced closer to a mid-range tablet and with more attractive alternative, from other vendors, Amazon may now exclusively target the budget end of the tablet market.

The surprise was in a supposed 'update' of the Fire HD 8, considering the Fire HD 8 was only updated late 2016. Despite Amazon's claim of an 'all new' Fire HD 8, there is no upgrade here and the near identical HD 8 2017 only brings the possibility to use a microSD slot for up to 256 GB of expandable storage. While Alexa comes with the 2017 HD 8, it will also gradually roll-out to the previous generation of Fire 7 and HD 8. In other words, this is a marketing gimmick to attract more users to Amazon Prime, rather than an attempt to convince owners of the previous generation to 'upgrade' their hardware (it may be argued that Amazon does not aim to convince users to purchase their hardware updates since the release of the Fire 7 and focusing on the budget end of the tablet market).

The goal, in this marketed refresh, it appears, is to make the Fire HD 8 even more attractive to first time users by further discounting the price of the tablet. The difference between the entry Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 is now £30 but this gets the user a larger screen, higher resolution, twice the storage (16 GB in contrast to the entry 8 GB with the Fire 7), more RAM, dual Dolby Atmos speakers and significantly better battery life. If the 2016 release was a success, I predict the Fire HD 8 to do even better and attract more users to Amazon's services.

There is no turning back to the more premium HDX line of tablets. The goal now is to get users - in a family-centric approach - to subscribe to Amazon Prime via different hardware mediums. For example, Prime Video is not available, at the moment in the Google Play store, and needs to be side-loaded to be installed. I think this is an intentional strategy to encourage users to access Amazon content via Fire tablets that are meant to offer a user-friendly 'out of the box' integration of the Amazon eco-system.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Review of the Fire HD 8: The stand-out Fire tablet

I’ve been using the Fire HD 8 (late 2016 release) for a few months and, overall, it is the best tablet in the Amazon Fire range; I would also recommend the tablet as a stand-out budget choice. Below are some reasons for making this a very good tablet in its category:
  • The 1.5GB RAM makes a significant difference compared to the 1GB version released late 2015. The performance is snappy and doesn’t freeze or slow-down when multi-tasking e.g. downloading an e-book, updating an application and streaming video content. 
  • Despite the same 1280 X 800 resolution, the display quality is slightly downgraded compared to the previous generation. This generation of the Fire HD 8 doesn’t match the colour vibrancy and contrast levels of the previous generation. However, the display is good for its price, compared to similar tablets released by other vendors, and well worth the compromise for an increase in RAM and battery life (both major draw-backs with the previous generation of the Fire HD 8).
  • Fire OS 5 is based on Android 5 Lollipop. This is a good thing, as applications not found in the Amazon app store may be externally side-loaded as an APK. The Amazon app store itself contains most popular applications and is far ahead of the Microsoft Store. This being said, you do miss the Google services and other applications tied into the Google Play store. Amazon released a tablets tightly integrated into its ecosystem and Prime services and for that purpose it works well. 
  • Amazon excels at syncing between devices tied to its ecosystem. The affordable Fire TV Stick, Echo Dot and Kindle all work seamlessly with the Fire HD 8. 
  • Compared to other Android tablets – in this price category – the Fire HD 8 generally offers more for less, with extra RAM and good battery life making the difference. However, Lenovo’s Tab range of tablets, offering a near stock Android experience, are comparable and sometimes better. The Lenovo Tab 4 8 has just been released and is priced similar to the Fire HD 8 but with 2GB RAM. The Tab 3 8, which I will review soon, is well worth considering, as it discounted and so priced slightly lower than Fire HD 8; the Tab 3 8 comes with both a better display, despite the same resolution, and 2 GB RAM. What makes the Fire HD 8 stand-out, compared to Lenovo’s Tab range, is its superior battery life. 
 Overall Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Does Amazon confuse customers and retailers with their devices?

I visited a PC World/Currys branch (the UK’s largest electronics retailer) and noted something off with displayed Fire HD 8 tablet. The information provided stated the tablet as the latest release that comes with an improved 12 hours battery life. However, the tablet displayed was the late 2015 edition with a glossy back and both a laminated and superior display. It is a possibility that a customer purchasing the device will be surprised to find the tablet’s screen somewhat dull compared to the displayed demo unit. I believe part of the problem is with Amazon confusing both customers and retailers with the labelling of their devices. For example, the 2016 refresh of the Fire HD 8 remains a 5th generation device, similar to the late 2015 release. 

As I posted before, Amazon likely acknowledged a mistake in releasing the 2015 Fire HD 8 with a mix of entry level and mid-range specifications. With this mix, the device was sold closer to a mid-range price, with better value options available from other manufacturers. The refresh is much better value and the inferior display is still acceptable for the price, considering the overall improvements that come with the 2016 Fire HD 8 - longer battery life and extra RAM that significantly boosts performance.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Amazon Fire HD 8 is now the choice Amazon budget tablet

Amazon updated the Fire HD 8 and judging from the changes, it seems we have acknowledgement that they got it wrong with the previous iteration of the device. Below is a summary of the changes:
  • First, Amazon got the pricing wrong with the 2015 Fire HD 8, with most vendors offering tablets with similar specifications at a lower price. The price of the Fire HD 8 has been slashed from £129.99 to £89.99. I think the lower price with the specifications offered now makes the Fire HD 8 a more attractive budget tablet than the Fire 7. 
  • The anaemic battery of the previous generation (advertised as ‘up to 8 hours’ but in real world use it was significantly less) is upgraded to an estimated ‘up to 12 hours’. 
  • The glossy back (a finger print magnet) is now replaced with a matte finish, similar to the Fire 7. 
  • The back camera has been reduced from 5MP to 2MP. This is a good compromise, considering many users don’t use their tablet’s camera. 
  • The processor is slightly bumped down but RAM is increased to 1.5 GB. The previous generation, while not unusable, did suffer from lags and delays when multi-tasking or opening new files or applications. The extra RAM should help with performance.  
  • The entry level storage is doubled from 8GB to 16GB. I found 8GB to be manageable on Amazon devices, as they are not bloated with Google apps and services that comes with standard Android (Fire OS is based on Android).
  • Amazon is further moving forward in the integration of its services (in my opinion, Amazon is well ahead in service integration across devices), with Fire HD 8 advertised to soon receive Alexa support. This move makes sense in the context of Amazon releasing for the first time, outside the US, updated models of the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot.