Amazon has offered truly hands-free Alexa on the Fire HD 10 tablet, but not its 8-inch counterpart -- you've had to wake it up first, which isn't much use when you're across the room. The company is taking care of that omission today with an updated Fire HD 8. The new model touts always-on Alexa that lets you bark commands even when the device is asleep, turning it into an impromptu Echo speaker. The battery life drops from last year's 12 hours to 10 hours as a result, a spokesperson told CNET, but you can turn off the always-available feature if that extra running time is valuable.
You're otherwise looking at a modest improvement to a familiar formula. The most conspicuous upgrade is a newer 2-megapixel front camera that promises 720p video chats. You can also install apps to microSD cards if the built-in 16GB or 32GB of storage won't cut it. The slate won't win any performance contests with its 1,280 x 800 screen, 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 1.5GB of RAM and 2-megapixel rear cam.
The refreshed Fire HD 8 ships on October 4th and starts at $80, although that's for a 16GB version with lock screen ads. If you want it ad-free, you're spending $95. The 32GB edition sells for $110 with ads and $125 without. It's not quite an impulse purchase (especially in higher-end versions), but it could be a particularly solid value if it spares you from buying an Echo or two.