HERE’S A SIMPLE tablet buying guide. If you can afford it, buy an iPad. If you can’t or don’t want to drop that kind of coin, buy anAmazon Fire HD. It doesn’t have the cool computer-like features the iPad does, nor does it support a stylus, but if you’re looking for a way to watch movies and play games you can’t beat the Fire tablets. Nor can you beat the price tag. For instance: the new Fire HD 8, a super-durable slate with an 8-inch screen and the latest version of Amazon’s Fire OS, costs a grand total of $90. It’s less expensive than Apple’s Pencil stylus, never mind the tablet it writes on.
The HD 8’s best feature will beAlexa, which Amazon says is going to be integrated “in the coming months.” (More buying advice: wait until then to get one, because “in the coming months” can mean literally anything.) Once the voice assistant arrives, you’ll be able to long-press the Fire’s home button and get access to everything you’d find on an Echo or Tap. Control your music, add stuff to your shopping list, make the robot read to you, do whatever else you and Alexa do together. If you’ve been looking for a cheap living room tablet to use as a controller for your smart home, this is the one.
Otherwise, the Fire HD 8 is just another middling tablet. It comes in four colors, and Amazon’s selling protective cases in the same colors. Its specs are…fine. 1280 x 800 display: fine, not great. Quad-core processor: probably enough for what you’re up to. 12 hour battery: great! The camera won’t change your life, and neither will Amazon’s still-weird take on Android. But if you’re a reader, or a viewer, and especially if you’re a Prime member, every Fire tablet is a treasure trove of stuff to check out.
Alexa’s coming to Amazon’s other tablets, too, so if you’re really hoping to save some coin you can pick up a $50 Fire. If you’ve been wanting to see what Alexa’s all about, that’s the cheapest way ever to do so. But the Fire HD 8 is a much better device, for not that much more money. And don’t forget: you can buy five of them for the price of the iPad Mini. And they both playNetflix pretty well.