Amazon's new Fire HD 8 tablets let you use Alexa without speaking

They're also faster and more durable.


Amazon is revamping its 8-inch tablets for the first time in two years, but their biggest improvement might rest in the software. The company has introduced new Fire HD 8 models that introduce a "Tap to Alexa" feature. You can not only control the assistant exclusively using touch, but pair with a supporting Bluetooth switch or use text-to-speech to have commands spoken for you. This is particularly helpful for people with speech and mobility disabilities, but could also be useful if you just don't want to speak (say, to avoid waking your baby).

There are some meaningful hardware upgrades. Amazon claims 30 percent faster performance through a new six-core processor, and the design is billed as thinner, lighter and more durable than its predecessor. You can also expect a slightly longer 13-hour battery life. You're limited to 2GB of RAM and wired charging on the base model , but an uprated Fire HD 8 Plus (pictured above) bumps up to 3GB of RAM while adding wireless charging, faster wired charging and a higher-quality five-megapixel camera.

Don't expect dramatic improvements in other areas. The 2022 Fire HD 8 starts at $100 with the same 32GB of (thankfully expandable) storage, and tops out at 64GB. You'll pay $120 for the 32GB Plus model, which also has a 64GB option. You don't need to buy one to get Tap to Alexa, at least. Amazon is making the feature available today for 8th-generation or newer Fire tablets in the US, UK, Germany and Japan.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro tablet

Parents may appreciate the expanded child-friendly selection, though. The Fire HD 8 Kids includes the familiar two-year "worry-free" warranty, year-long Kids+ subscription and rugged case for $150, but there's now Disney Princess- and Mickey Mouse-themed variants for $160. You can also buy a $150 Kids Pro tablet (shown at middle) for ages 6-12 that provides parent-controlled store access in addition to the other Kids edition perks. As in the past, these may represent the best values — you can give young ones a tablet that will hopefully survive years of rough-and-tumble use.

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