Kindle Fire HD 8 (2016) Impressions

I’m a fan of Amazon’s services. From eBooks to Prime to their video service, I’ve chosen to pretty much go all-in with Amazon on a majority of my digital needs.

Why? Cross-platform availability.

I can watch my Amazon videos on a Roku, Fire TV, iPhone / iPad, Kindle or Android device (the latter app, admittedly, being a bit of a pain to obtain). My Kindle books are available on just about any device, and the same goes for my comics since Amazon purchased Comixology. These days, I rarely buy physical books or comics anymore. And as much as I love my iPhone, I wouldn’t have the same flexible options if I bought into Apple’s iBooks / videos platform.

A year ago, Amazon released a new series of 7-inch tablets at an amazing price of $49. With 8GB of storage and a microSD slot, the updated Kindle Fire was poised to be an extremely affordable option for a tablet and still offer options for expandability. I was excited by the prospect.

Unfortunately, the performance was what you expected for a $49 tablet.

I wanted to love that Kindle tablet. And I did like it a lot, but you needed the patience of a saint. Navigating the UI wasn’t horrifically slow, but web browsing was. Opening the various storefronts for books and video was maddening as the screens would take forever to load. I wondered how Amazon could think this was ever okay.

The Kindle is one of your windows into your shopping experience and this is how you release it? Subsequent updates made some headway, but the device was a dud. Sure, the price is great and for just reading books it was passable. But as a tablet it was a soft fail.

In late 2016, Amazon made the All-New Kindle Fire available, and via their marketing appeared to have learned from their mistakes. The base 8-inch model started at 16GB and $89, still a solid price point. I met their claims of increased RAM for better performance with some skepticism, as they were using a 1.3Ghz quad-core processor (actually a small step down from last year’s 1.5Ghz). But because I am either an eternal optimist or a glutton for punishment, I took a chance on the 32GB Kindle Fire 8 for $119.

Damn. I’m impressed.

Straightaway, the improvements are obvious. Not in the UI (which looks relatively untouched from the previous year, and I didn’t mind it anyway), or the browser (still feels lackluster compared to Chrome or Opera). But simply performance. The latest Kindle feels like a real tablet experience that doesn’t feel too cheap.

Sure, it’s not an iPad. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’re buying this, then most likely you’re interested in just reading and streaming, with some web browsing thrown in. The Kindle nails these with little hassle.

There remain little annoyances. The web browser occasionally gets hung when loading a page. The Comixology app still doesn’t allow you to save comics to the microSD card (memory card support overall feels half-baked; movies and shows will download to it easily, and an option was added for books to download to the microSD card, but there is no easily discernible method of placing Kindle-formatted eBooks on the card and have the Kindle pick them up seamlessly).

Also, if you’re going to pick up a slim case for the Kindle, pick up the Moko brand and not the over-priced official one.

I’ve owned the All-New Kindle Fire HD 8 (whew, that’s a mouthful) for a few months now and have been happy with it. As far as tablets it fits my needs perfectly. I opted for the 32GB model given the excellent price point. If you’re a heavy reader (particularly comics or magazines), the size and storage on the new Kindle Fire will be exactly what you’re looking for. Amazon has nailed the formula here for cost / functionality. Highly recommended.

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