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Amazon Fire HD 8 2018 review: Basic to the extreme, but hands-free Alexa is a nice bonus

Very affordable at $79.99 with special offers • Display is good enough for ‘consumption • ‘ with great color accuracy • Sound is surprisingly balanced • Front facing camera is good for video calls • Hands-free Alexa
Processor is average but slow for heavy tasks and games • No access to the Google Play Store for apps • YouTube is not supported
At $80, the Fire HD 8 can be a cheap Echo Show replacement, or a basic Android tablet that works well for consuming media.

Mashable Score3.5

At $80, you can’t expect much from the Amazon Fire HD 8.

While the company is calling it a brand-new device, the Fire HD 8 remains largely unchanged. It retains the same design as its predecessor and there are slight hardware improvements. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Amazon isn’t competing with Apple’s iPad Pro or a Pixel Slate. This is a basic tablet running a customized version of Android (coined Fire OS). You get Alexa on board, and chances are it’ll be used for consuming content like shows from Prime Video or Netflix. Plus, it’s great for listening to music, web browsing, and even video chatting.

Special offers are a lot less discrete

Is it worth it?

Is it worth it?

Image: zlata ivleva/mashable 

The idea of selling a Fire tablet for less (supplemented by ads) is a neat idea, especially since it doesn’t interrupt the user experience.

In the end it can be a double-edged sword, since you do save some money up front, but said ads may inspire you to make more purchases down the line. It can be even worse if your shiny new tablet leads you down the path of an addictive game with in-app purchases. 

One of the first things that struck me about these special offers is that they’re more in-your-face and encourage impulse purchases even more than in the past. They’re littered with bold, vibrant graphics and more explicit “buy now” or “download now” buttons.

While my unit had special offers, I could see myself paying the $15 fee to remove them. Especially if I intended to use the Fire HD 8 as an Echo Show-like device.

A basic design

A simple low-end plastic design.

A simple low-end plastic design.

Image: zlata ivleva/mashable

The Fire HD 8 has a basic plastic design that screams cheap. Unlike other tablets that offer more grip, the HD 8 has a smooth and matte plastic back. You can get it in either black, blue, yellow, or red. I’ve been testing out the blue version, which is a dark navy. But if you’re looking for a pop of color, you should opt for the neon yellow.

Amazon also packed a rear-facing 2-megapixel camera in the left-hand corner. It seems like a strange addition for such an affordable tablet, but I’ll touch on that a bit later. 

If you want an almost bezel-less tablet, you should probably stop reading now. The bezels are the first thing you’ll notice when you pick it up. They outline the 8-inch 1,280 x 800 HD display, which feels like an older-generation iPad minus the home button. The bezels are mostly there as a cost saver and to make it easier to hold the device. They also house the 2-megapixel front-facing camera. 

The I/O is in a weird spot.

The I/O is in a weird spot.

Image: zlata ivleva/mashable

The charging port, volume rocker, power button, and headphone jack are found on the top of the device. There are two sets of speakers on the left, and a microSD card slot on the right. The volume rocker on the top is a plus for watching a video while in landscape orientation.

Overall, it’s a comfortable tablet to hold. It doesn’t scream high-end, but at just 363 grams and 9.7 millimeters thick, it’s portable enough. I also found that watching movies and reading some news from the web browser was quite comfortable. Even better, it didn’t add too much weight to my backpack for commuting. 

Aging specs

While the cameras got an upgrade and new features were added this time around, Amazon didn’t opt to update the processor. A 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek still powers the Fire HD 8 2018 with 1.5GB of RAM. Simply put, it can handle the basics, but pushing it even a bit can lead to slowdown. It’s lackluster at best when it comes to gaming. (Forget about playing something like Fortnite or PUBG.) On Geekbench it scored a 530 on single core and 1,502 on multicore, which isn’t great.

Amazon didn't really refresh the hardware.

Amazon didn’t really refresh the hardware.

Image: zlata ivleva/mashable 

Streaming Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime video should be just fine. The same goes for web browsing and light utility tasks. The processor can’t handle multiple taxing apps running at the same time, though. I had several apps crash while testing, so it’s best to play it safe.

The 8-inch HD display is still pretty basic. I would have liked to see some improvements with brightness and NIT levels, as well as the reflectiveness. For that reason, it can be hard to use outside when the sun is shining, but for watching videos indoors or in bed, you’re fine. 

Image: zlata ivleva/mashable 

The speakers performed pretty well. Just be sure not to cover them up. It doesn’t get nearly as loud as an iPad Pro, but it presents a balanced mix that will be fine for a lot of people. 

Go full throttle with hands-free Alexa

One welcome upgrade is hands-free Alexa, which means the Fire HD 8 is basically an Echo Show when it’s in Show Mode. So yes, at $80 you can get a cheaper Echo Show, albeit with some compromise. You’ll get a considerable amount of savings, given the $229 price tag for the second-generation Echo Show. It’s the most significant change and works pretty well.

However, leaving Alexa on can deplete your battery quickly. Moreover, while you can turn the feature on or off, Amazon says to expect a maximum of 8 hours on the 2018 version with or without Alexa. That’s down from 12 hours on the 2017 model. Heavy use will bring it a little under, but I found with Alexa on and with typical use you hit 8 hours easily. 

With the feature enabled, you can talk to Alexa from the other side of the room, and the far-field microphones do a decent job. These speakers aren’t the loudest, but if you’re not an audiophile, this will remain a minor nitpick. Amazon also sells a Show Mode Dock for $39.99 that basically turns your device into an Echo Show. Bonus: It also solves the power problem as you can leave it plugged in.

Limited apps

Image: zlata ivleva 

If you’re hoping you can get any app your heart desires, you’ll be profoundly disappointed. Amazon is still at odds with Google, and the Google Play Store is not available on the Fire HD 8 or any Fire tablet. While you can side-load it through an APK, it’s a bit of a complicated task.

Instead, you’ll be stuck with Fire OS-compatible apps in the Amazon App Store. You’ll notice some big ones missing, especially as many developers aren’t as eager to go for this store. It usually takes a few weeks or months after they launch on iOS or Android before it arrives to Fire OS. 

So, fair warning: while you can get Netflix, Hulu, and other big-name apps, indie options will be hard to find.

For media consumption and light tasks only

At the end of the day, you can’t complain much about an $80 tablet. You have a good idea of what you’re getting going in and the Fire HD 8 is a simple device. For media consumption, light tasks or casual gaming, and even using it as a kind of portable Echo Show, you’ll be fine.

Image: zlata ivleva/mashable

However, this isn’t going to be a computer, iPad, Chrome OS, or full Android device replacement. For that, you’re better off looking at the $329 iPad or an older iPad Mini. 

However, if you’re in the Amazon ecosystem with a Prime membership, you’ll get access to plenty of TV shows and movies from the get-go. Add in Kindle Unlimited, and you can do some reading. Just be sure that you’re OK with a limited app selection and performance that might be slower than you’d like.

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Amazon Go gets an 8th store, and you’ll never guess where

Image: David Ryder/Getty Images


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We’re still getting used to the idea of a store where there’s no checkout, but Amazon isn’t standing still. It’s just launched a new, much more compact version of its cashierless Go stores.

Jeff Bezos is more than happy to dive into a new market and start disrupting it, but Amazon’s success is due to how the company keeps relentlessly pushing an idea in new directions. That’s why we don’t just have one type of Go store anymore.

As Reuters reports, in Amazon’s Seattle offices a new version of the Go store now exists and it counts as the company’s eighth store. It’s only a quarter of the size of the first Go store, which is also located in Seattle, and the products offered cater specifically to the needs of employees. That’s why it’s full of salads and snacks.

By launching a compact version of the store within the company’s own building, it will be easy to monitor how well it does without the public looking on. It works just like the other Go stores, with payment automatically taken without the shopper needing to do anything other than take what they want and leave. In Amazon’s opinion, the best point-of-sale system is one you don’t even notice. It’s hard to argue against that.

The implications of a compact store will surely have Amazon’s competition worried. Amazon created this smaller store because it sees a place for them in new locations such as the lobby of an office block, in hospitals catering to staff and those waiting to see patients, and also in the communal areas of tall buildings, which would offer a much more convenient way to shop than having to take the time to leave the building.

Amazon is already proving that the cashierless concept works by now having eight functioning Go stores. The biggest concern for rivals such as Walmart won’t be that Go stores will pop up to compete with its own stores, but that Go stores will soon start appearing where Walmart has no presence at all and no way of competing with Amazon… yet.

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This article originally published at PCMag
here

Review: Amazon Echo Input is the easiest way to stream media to speakers

This is the Echo I’ve been waiting for.

Throughout my house, I have Amazon Echo Dots connected to stereo systems. In my office, I have a Dot connected to an Onkyo receiver and amp. In my basement, I have one hooked up to a small bookshelf system. Outside on the deck, a Dot serves audio to a small amp that powers outside speakers. There’s more, but the point is made. The Dot is a great device to add voice services to existing speakers. But with its built-in speaker, I’m paying for features I’m not using.

That’s why Amazon made the Echo Input.

The premise is simple: The Input is a Dot without a speaker. It has a mic, two buttons, and most importantly, a 3.5mm output. This output lets the Input serve media to amps and powered speakers — just like I’m doing so with a Dot.

Since the Input doesn’t have a speaker, it’s much smaller. It’s only a half an inch thick. It’s a tiny thing, and I found it does the job as well as a Dot

Plug it in, set it up, and the Input adds voice services to speaker systems. From Bluetooth speakers to bookshelf speakers, it’s a great way to bring the convenance of Alexa to speakers.

The device is basic. To be clear this is not a Hifi device. To me, that’s okay on most speaker systems since I’m just streaming Spotify and NPR. Hopefully Amazon makes good on producing the Input’s HI-Fi cousin, the $199 Echo Link. This device was announced a few months back and does the same job as the Input, but features TOSLINK and coaxial digital audio outputs for connections to a proper DAC. The $299 Echo Link Amp does the same but features a built in amplifier to directly power a set of speakers. The Input is great for smaller speaker, but the Echo Link should provide a higher fidelity experience — and now that Tidal is available on the Echo, there’s a proper source too.

The Echo Link is said to be released on December 13.

For $35 the Echo Link does its job well. However, during the holidays, the Echo Dot is only $29.99 or less and features the same 3.5mm output. Unless size is a concern, I would recommend buying the Dot while it’s on sale just in case you need the speaker at a later time.

The best UK deals for Tuesday: Huawei laptops, PS4 games, Fitbit smartwatches, and more

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.
Deals for every occasion.
Deals for every occasion.

Image: amazon photo composite

Every day we endeavour to bring you the very best deals to save you money. We also try our best to keep these deal round ups as varied as possible. Sure we could probably hit you with 20 laptop deals but what if you aren’t in the market for a new laptop? With that in mind, we try and give you a flavour of deals from across a wide spectrum of products. 

And that is how we arrived at this deals round up, that includes the best offers on laptops and accessories, video games, smartwatches, and celebrity fragrances. So even if you don’t need a smartwatch, you might be in the market for a Beyoncé branded scent. Let’s face it, we all want to smell a bit like Beyoncé.

In this selection of deals you can save big on a Huawei Matebook X PRO 13.9-inch Laptop, a Fitbit Unisex Ionic Smartwatch, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Pro Edition (PS4). We’ll let you make up your own mind, but if we had to pick a top deal, we would point towards the Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam that has been reduced to £24.99 from £89.99. That’s a massive 72% saving on list price.

These are the best deals from across the internet for Dec. 11.

Computers and accessories

The Huawei Matebook X PRO 13.9-inch Laptop is down to £1099.99.

The Huawei Matebook X PRO 13.9-inch Laptop is down to £1099.99.

Image: amazon

Video games

Only for truly serious gamers.

Only for truly serious gamers.

Image: Amazon

Smartwatches

The NICEAO Fitness Tracker is down to £23.99 from £89.99.

The NICEAO Fitness Tracker is down to £23.99 from £89.99.

Image: Amazon

Celebrity fragrances

Smell like Beyoncé for under £10.

Smell like Beyoncé for under £10.

Image: amazon