Amazon just announced their new Fire HD 8 tablet and in doing so, have dove deeper into their tablet strategy of: less is more. Amazon’s Fire Phone failure marks a turning point where the company stopped trying to go after the upper-end flagship hardware market, and started dominating the lower-end of the hardware spectrum. Last year’s line of new tablets reduced hardware specs across the board and cut prices by more than half. In doing so, they became Amazon’s best selling tablets to date, and include Amazon’s single best-selling device ever, the $49.99 Fire 7″ tablet, which incidentaly took the title of best-selling device from Amazon’s other budget device, the Fire TV Stick. This year’s new Fire HD 8 continues the trend of less is more.
The new Fire HD 8 has a weaker CPU, poorer camera’s, and slower WiFi than last year’s model, but it’s better for it. Amazon is pushing the new tablet as a media consumption device and has made hardware changes that best suit that task while reducing the device’s cost. Thanks to dedicated h.265 hardware decoders in modern devices, the CPU sits mostly idle while consuming content, so the slight drop in CPU clock speed in the new Fire HD 8 will go mostly unnoticed. High definition video streams at less than 10 Mbps, which is well below 802.11n’s 300+ Mbps limit, so again, the spec drop will go mostly unnoticed by the average consumer. Lastly, reducing the camera quality to save money just makes sense on a tablet, which will likely always have a poorer camera than the phone in your pocket anyway.
Amazon increased specs where it helps media consumption most. RAM was bumped up a bit to 1.5 GB, which helps when browsing through seemingly endless thumbnails while trying to find something to watch. Doubling internal storage to 16 GB means you can store twice as many movies and TV show episodes for offline viewing as before. Lastly, increasing battery life by 50% is obviously great for binge watching on long roadtrips or layovers.
Reducing specs that will go unnoticed, while increasing specs that matter, and knocking 40% off the retail price is a great direction for Amazon’s tablets. If you’re looking for a tablet to serve as a laptop replacement, obviously Amazon’s line up is not for you. You’ll be much happier with the cheapest iPad than with the most expensive Fire tablet in that scenario. But if you’re looking for an inexpensive media consumption device to toss in a bag while on the go, Amazon’s new Fire HD 8 is going to be hard to beat.