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Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017) – first impressions of a regular user

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The 2017 Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet - first impressions of a regular user

Compare what you expect from the Fire tablet you plan to buy with the first thoughts of someone who has just received it.

Are looking for opinions about the 2017 Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet? Have you gone through dozens of tech reviews already and want a piece that discusses the topic from a different perspective? I hope you’ll find this post useful.

You will read below first thoughts of a regular guy, not a tech reviewer, who was extremely excited to order the new tablet and thinks it is good to share how reality confronted his expectations.

This post is not about tech specs, performance tests, or comparisons. Do you still need the figures and pictures? You can read a detailed summary here: Fire HD 8 (2017) – all you wanted to know.

Instead, you will read below first impressions from someone who is not interested in latest-generation most advanced tech gadget offering dozens of features he’s not going to use at all.

Fire HD 8 (2017) – first impressions

Fire HD 8 is terribly heavy

When I was about to order the 2017 Fire HD 8, my biggest fear was the device would look and behave like a cheap piece of stuff. What would you expect from an 8-inch tablet which is about to draw only $80 from your credit card?

What hit me when I finally got the package was something completely different. It was the weight.

The box was quite heavy. It is fine. We usually assume the package adds some weight to the device. You know, a paper or plastic frame to exhibit the tablet, boxes for peripherals, a leaflet, warranty card, a charger, and so on.

The thing is you don’t have these in the box of Amazon Fire tablet. Besides the device, there is only a foam frame, a cable, and a quick start guide sized like a credit card.

Almost the entire weight of the box is the tablet itself. And, yes, it is way too heavy. It is so heavy it suddenly becomes your biggest problem. It is so heavy you have to beat the initial disappointment and get used to it.

Fire HD 8, released in 2017 weighs 13 oz (369 g), which is more than its predecessor from 2015, refreshed in 2016, having “only” 341 g.

Do these 28 grams make a difference? Surely not, higher-than-average weight is typical for Fire tablets. They are all heavier than their respective competitors. iPad Mini 4, to name just one, weighs 299 g (and it’s larger because it has a 7.9-inch display).

It is more solid than you would ever expect

Start discovering the tablet, and most probably the first set of thoughts can be summed up in one short sentence: “This thing is surprisingly solid.”

When you hold it in your hand, when you unlock the screen, when you explore interface and settings – it all feels like a well-designed tablet which makes one question comes back to your mind all the time: “Why is it so cheap?”

Ironically, the fact Fire HD 8 is heavy becomes a proof you see a well-built piece of technology. When a device is light, you may get an impression there is not too much inside. Compare a toy camera to an advanced DSLR, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I still own the 2013 Google Nexus tablet with the 7-inch screen. One of the things I was doing for the first few days was comparing the old and new tablet.

Both devices have the plastic back. The Fire’s depth is 0.4 in (9.7 mm) also because of the fact the plastic shell is thick.

I made a quick test. I tapped the plastic with the fingernail. Thin plastic sounds higher than a thick one.

The plastic shell in Google Nexus 7 looks and “sounds” cheaper than in Amazon Fire HD 8.

The plastic shell in the Fire tablet is robust enough to forget about aluminum. Its surface is texturized, making it easier to hold it in your hands firmly. How thick is the plastic? Take a look at the micro-USB port, and you’ll know.

Amazon Fire HD 8 - slots and buttons

Each time Amazon was launching the new Fire tablet, there was an info somewhere it was more durable than the latest-generation iPad. I was full of doubts about this claim. Until now.

The screen is good enough

When you compare tech specs, you quickly realize the display used in Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet released in 2017 is a standard of the past.

Yes, it’s a high-definition screen. HD means the display has at least 1280 × 720 pixels. The 8-inch Fire offers a bit more – 1280 × 800 px. It’s the same resolution as in the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab A 7.

When you, hoverer, check out the resolution of the 8-inch Galaxy Tab S2, you’ll start having doubts. The Samsung tablet has 2048 × 1536 pixels! But, hey, the list price of this beauty is $399.99.

Comparing the resolution is sometimes not the best way to pick up the right screen, and, therefore, the right device.

The question is how good the display should be to make you happy. Or how bad it should be to make you sad.

Again, I picked the old Google Nexus and started to compare the two tablets. Nexus has the resolution of 1920 × 1200 px. Yes, you are right, the tablet released in 2013 has a considerably better screen than the one from 2017.

And you know what? I do not see much difference.

Obviously, if you are obsessed with the resolution of the digital picture, and dream of buying an 8K UHD TV set, you will be disappointed.

You may also complain about the display quality if you prefer smaller font size. The first thing you’ll probably do is set up the display font to be the tiniest possible. As a result, when you will be reading web articles or Kindle books for a longer time, you will find out your eyes get tired quicker, as the text is less readable.

microSD card is a blessing

Many tablets don’t offer the possibility to extend internal space with a memory card. If you are planning to download lots of apps, games, and movies, you will have to pick up a version with the bigger memory.

You don’t have to do it when you decide to buy the 2017 Fire HD 8. All Fire tablets come with a microSD card slot by default.

It’s one of the most significant benefits of Amazon Fire tablets.

In the 8-inch Fire, you can add up to 256 GB. Sure, you’ll need to buy the memory card. For the 128 GB from SanDisk you will have to pay $70-80. Wait, it’s the price of the second Fire HD 8 tablet…

On the other hand, think of the card as a flexible memory. You can use it with any device that supports it, for instance, any other Amazon Fire tablet.

Let’s assume you are supplying your family with devices connected to Amazon ecosystem. You are most probably doing it if you are a member of Amazon Prime program. Having one microSD card, packed with movies, which you can pass from one family member to another, is a convenient way to manage digital storage.

Special offers everywhere

Special offers on Amazon Fire HD 8 2017 tablet

If you purchased any Amazon device in the past, you know this rule very well: pay less but accept special offers, or pay more and don’t see the ads.

The price difference between the version with and without special offers is fixed, and it is $15.

Many people go for a cheaper version. I was among them. I bought the cheapest version of the Fire HD 8, for $79.99, the one with 8 GB of internal memory and special offers.

Users who never saw how special offers work might hope it’s something you can get used to. Yes, you can, but you also have to be careful not to tap something that will make you pay for it instantly.

If you buy the Kindle e-reader or Fire tablet with special offers, you have to learn how to ignore the ads, and how to avoid being tricked by them.

You can get tricked by the ads much easier than you think. They are a way to integrate a paid content from Amazon store into the interface. You start being confused which book, game, or video you already own, and which one needs to be bought.

Special offers are ads linking to Amazon Store products. They are displayed when you wake up the tablet. When you tap the button (and, yes, there is always a “Buy” button), you will go directly to Amazon store after you unlock the device.

There are, however, many elements of the content, which you can’t immediately identify as purchase suggestions. Almost all parts of the main menu display content from the store underneath the items you already bought.

Special offers and product recommendations on the Fire tablet are much more powerful and persuasive than on the Kindle e-reader. All ads are designed to catch attention, and color makes the difference.

No Google apps

It is my biggest problem with the Fire I own and in Amazon’s approach in general. There is no easy way to download apps directly from Google Play Store – Android’s native store with applications.

Amazon Fire tablets are powered by Android operating system, just like most tablets from other companies. Each producer modifies the system to integrate it with own store and services.

Producers make it less or more challenging to find the Google Play store on their tablets. Amazon removed it completely.

On the Fire tablet, you can only download free or paid apps from Amazon’s own App Store. And you won’t find Google apps there. To be precise, you can find “Google Keep,” or “Google Calendar,” but they are handlers that open mobile versions of these Google services in the Fire’s Silk browser.

For a regular user of Google services, it’s highly disappointing. I use G Suite apps daily – and heavily.

Everything I schedule, I schedule in Google Calendar. Everything I want to remember – no matter whether it is a thought, a doodle, or a web page – I add to Google Keep. Most of my docs I store in Google Drive. All the photos of my family, also the ones I digitized, are landing in Google Photos.

I can’t conveniently manage all these services on my Fire HD 8 tablet. Full stop.

If you are using more Google services than just Gmail, and more than once a day, think twice before hitting the “Buy” button of the Fire tablet.

Blue Shade has to be improved

It may be a small thing for you, but it is a big thing for me. I needed the Fire tablet mainly for reading.

A tablet will never be as comfortable for the eyes as an e-reader. That’s why many producers offer a feature that reduces the amount of blue light emitted by the screen. It’s especially helpful when you are using the device in the evening. Too much blue light might cause interrupted sleep and affect your inner body clock.

Such a feature, called Blue Shade, is available since the end of 2015 in Fire tablets.

You can set up Blue Shade to activate automatically for the night. You can also use the slider to set up the preferred color of the screen, from red to yellow. There is also a possibility to adjust the brightness of the screen manually.

A missing thing – and this is a huge problem – is Blue Shade intensity control.

Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet - the screen without and with Blue Shade on

Amazon Fire Hd 8 (2017) – the screen with the Blue Shade effect is visible on the right

Currently, the Blue Shade effect is way too strong. Open the Fire in the evening, when Blue Shade is on, and you can’t recognize familiar elements of the home screen, naming only app icons. Why? Because their colors are heavily changed. The colors are so immensely modified that it’s hard to get used to it.

One example. I use Sepia mode when I read on the Kindle app. The thing is that Sepia mode and Blue Shade make it almost impossible to enjoy the book. The contrast is so low, and the color is so dominated by the warm tonality, that the only way to fix it is to switch the mode in the Kindle app to White.

And all that because Blue Shade settings page doesn’t include intensity slider.

Side-loaded stuff is hard to manage

I mentioned above that one of the most significant features of Amazon Fire tablets is a possibility to expand memory with a microSD card.

What you also have to know is that all the stuff you don’t get from the Amazon store is hard to find and manage on the Fire tablet.

In other words, if you get excited that you will finally load all your ebooks, songs, and movies to the Fire, you also have to learn how to find them.

And it’s not easy, oh, no. Amazon made sure you can conveniently consume content you buy on Amazon – and nothing else.

Let’s see what happens to side-loaded ebooks. You have some of the books in mobi format that you downloaded from Project Gutenberg or other sites that offer free public domain publications.

All such ebooks are easily available in the Kindle app on the iPhone/iPad or Android. You can’t find them, however, in the Kindle app’s Library view on the Fire tablet.

You will need to find the relevant file in the Documents folder, and from here you will be able to open and read it. No personal documents in the Kindle app on the Fire tablet, remember.

I’m currently working on a set of articles that will show how to solve common problems owners of Amazon Fire tablets may have.

Let’s keep in touch, and I hope you enjoyed reading a post.

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