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Friday, November 10, 2017

First Impressions: Kindle Fire HD8 2016

Kindle Fire HD8 tablets are well known for being cheap. Cheap, however, does not mean good value, and I thought I'd avoid getting the 16GB model since I've had so many struggles with 16GB phones running out of storage. Well, Amazon's currently running a 25% sale on refurbished 2016 Kindle Fire HD8s, which meant I got one for $40. I figured with Amazon's generous return policy I could return it if I didn't like it.

The refurbished model looks indistinguishable from a new one. I booted it up and it was reasonably fast, but what's amazing to me was that when I opened up the storage setting I discovered that it had 12GB free, which was much more than what I'd experienced from similarly sized Android phones. Amazon's done some significant shrinkage on their version of Android.

One of my prior objections to the Kindle Fire tablets were that they didn't have the Google Play store. That's not quite true if you're a technie: there's a well-known way to get the Google Play store on the tablet, and it works just fine. Everything works as you might expect from a tablet.

The shortage of RAM is an issue: these devices come with only 1.5GB of RAM, rather than the 3-4GB that regularly ship with even midrange phones. On the other hand, the device is only driving a 720p display, which meant that even games ran reasonably well. The only times when the device stutters is when you're switching between apps rapidly: garbage collection pauses and app swapping pauses then become apparent.

The reason I bought the tablet was for reading comics: those don't translate well on the Kindle Paperwhite (which I still love, but costs 3X as much as this tablet). Those work great on the Kindle Fire HD8.

Amazon does a better job of integrating SD Card storage than Google does on its phones and tablets. This is important for a consumption tablet that has limited storage. By default, once you install a microSD card, all media gets moved into the card. Not only that, FireOS has retained the old Android feature where apps can also be moved to the external storage, which means that even a 16GB Kindle Fire is usable.

I've often complained that Google's product managers seem to live in a world where internet is everywhere, with unlimited, free bandwidth. Amazon's PMs clearly don't live in that world, which is a great thing for the products. Recommended.

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