Google repeatedly bungled its attempts to make Android tablets a viable product category, but Amazon has slowly but surely grown its Fire tablet brand without Google’s help. These tablets cost next to nothing, but the specs are lacking. Amazon’s new 8-inch Fire tablet is getting a substantial boost today, though. The new Fire HD 8 and 8 Plus have faster processors, more storage, and USB-C.
Amazon’s tablets run Android, but it’s not the version of Android you’re used to seeing on phones. Amazon took the open-source parts of Android and built a UI around its content and services. That’s part of the reason Fire tablets are so inexpensive — they’re a way to get you to spend more money with Amazon. Android apps on these devices come via the Amazon Appstore, and there are no Google services pre-installed.
The new Fire HD 8 has a 2GHz quad-core chip that Amazon says is 30 percent faster than the 1.3GHz processor in the previous version. That tablet also started at 16GB of storage, a truly anemic allotment these days. The new HD 8 comes with either 32GB or 64GB. RAM is also up to 2GB from 1.5GB last time. A Kids Edition HD 8 is also available — it’s identical to the HD 8 but comes with a large bumper case and an enhanced warranty.
Charging is changing with the new Fire HD 8. Amazon has finally added a USB Type-C port to this tablet, matching the USB-C port on its recently refreshed 10-inch tablet. Amazon has long stuck with microUSB charging because it’s cheaper to implement and many households had a cache of those cables from other devices. USB-C is sufficiently common at this point that the change is warranted.
There is a “Plus” variant of the tablet as well. This device adds a Qi wireless charging coil, and Amazon has a charging dock it would like to sell you. The Fire HD 8 Plus should also charge on any standard Qi pad. The Plus variant also comes with 3GB of RAM and a 9W charger in the box, whereas the base model comes with a 5W plug. Both tablets support up to 15W thanks to the new USB-C port. Most Type-C phone chargers from the past few years should be able to hit that.
These upgrades don’t come without a cost. Specifically, the base model Fire HD 8 is now $89.99, $10 more than the old tablet. The Kids Edition is $139.99. The Plus is $109.99 — you’re paying $20 extra for wireless charging, more RAM, and a bundled 9W plug. These are also the “special offers” prices, which means you can look forward to ads on the lock screen. The version free of ads costs another $15. All three Fire HD 8 tablets ship on June 3rd.
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