• The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus (left) versus the Walmart Onn 8 Tablet Pro. Both cheap tablets with very long names.

    Ron Amadeo

  • Amazon’s tablet is actually designed for horizontal mode, but here they are in the same orientation.

    Ron Amadeo

  • The backs. Amazon has a grippier texture, while Walmart goes with a smooth silver flake.

    Ron Amadeo

  • The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus. If it looks a little washed out at this angle, well, that’s normal.

    Ron Amadeo

  • Here you can see the wicked air gap between the display and the display cover, resulting in a dimmer screen with a smaller viewing angle.

    Ron Amadeo

  • Make sure you have the tablet in the right orientation, or it will be sad.

    Ron Amadeo

  • Amazon is clearly going for a simplified design here. The headphone jack, USB-C port, microphone, power, and volume buttons are all on the same edge.

    Ron Amadeo

  • Amazon’s MicroSD slot. You can also make out the round, pillowy sides at this angle.

    Ron Amadeo

  • The speakers are left and right stereo, provided you’re in landscape.

    Ron Amadeo

  • This is what happens on the Walmart tablet when you press the Walmart button.

    Ron Amadeo

  • This Walmart button is a contender for one of the worst Android navigation bars of all time.

  • You can hide the Walmart button with gesture navigiation. HA!

    Ron Amadeo

  • Walmart speaker placement, at the bottom, is less friendly for media.

    Ron Amadeo

  • Another plastic display cover with an unbonded air-gapped display. The viewing angle is not great.

    Ron Amadeo

  • Walmart’s MicroSD slot.

    Ron Amadeo

  • On this side you get the power and volume buttons.

    Ron Amadeo

Amazon versus Walmart! Two of the world’s biggest retailers compete in endless ways, but they’re currently going head-to-head in an unexpected market: dirt-cheap Android tablets. And after spending some time recently with the $109.99 Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus and the $99.99 Walmart Onn Tablet 8 Pro, these two cheap tablets look like a microcosm of the companies’ retail efforts at large. Walmart is the old-school brick-and-mortar outfit doing its best to keep up with the modern times, while Amazon is the trailblazing technology company and has been doing this tech-focused tablet thing for a long time.

Cheap, but useful

The designs of the two tablets could not be more different. Amazon is on its 10th generation of Android tablets and has the hardware design down to a science. This is only Walmart’s second-generation Onn tablet, and it’s mostly a cookie-cutter device that has room for improvement. While Amazon wins on hardware, its tablets also come with Fire OS, a fork of Android (Android 9) that doesn’t have the Play Store, Google apps, or a huge app selection. Getting the apps I’ve wanted has been a nonstop sideloading fest, and Fire OS, since it was designed by a retail company, often acts like its primary goal is to get you to spend money with Amazon. Walmart, on the other hand, ships regular-old Google Play Android, which is much less of a hassle to use, has a much bigger app selection, and is actually a newer version: Android 10.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus Walmart Onn 8 Tablet Pro
SCREEN 8-inch 1280×800 (189 ppi) LCD 8-inch 1280×800 (189 ppi) LCD
OS Android 9 with Fire OS Android 10
CPU MediaTek MT8168

(Four Cortex A53s, 2GHz)

MediaTek MT8768

(Eight Cortex A53s, 2GHz)

GPU Mali-G52 MC1 PowerVR Rogue GE8320
NETWORKING 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS
PORTS USB Type-C, headphone jack
BATTERY 4850mAh 4500mAh

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus and Walmart Onn 8 Tablet Pro

Buy Now
Fire HD 8 Plus: $110 at AmazonOnn 8 Tablet Pro: $99 at Walmart

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

Amazon’s Fire tablet is designed primarily for horizontal mode—so it’s a media tablet—while Walmart’s tablet is designed for vertical mode, which means big phone apps. With auto-rotate, of course, you can use both tablets in either direction, but what you can’t change is the location of the hardware components, and you’ll see the camera, speakers, power button, and volume buttons arranged differently on each tablet since they favor different orientations. The Walmart Onn 8 Pro is a vertical tablet with two speakers on the bottom edge, so in landscape mode, they aren’t really “stereo” speakers since they’ll both point out the same side of the device. The Fire tablet, when held in landscape mode, has two speakers on left and right sides of the top edge, so they’re roughly in line with your ears. You’ve got to pick a primary orientation for the speakers, and it’s hard to argue against landscape, which is the primary orientation for media and maybe half the games. So that’s a point for Amazon.

In just about every aspect, Walmart’s tablet is as generic as possible, and the body sticks with this trend: it’s pretty much just a rectangle with straight sides and lightly rounded corners. There’s nothing wrong with it, but nothing special about it either. On the other hand, the Fire HD 8 Plus represents Amazon’s 10th generation of tablets, and the company definitely knows what it’s doing. The Fire 8 Plus has big, bulbous sides that puff out past the display cover and fit into your palms without any pressure points. The pillowy sides mean the tablet won’t dig into your hands the way a more rectangular design would, and since this is a tablet meant for media consumption that you’ll be holding for an extended period of time, this is a big deal.

I’ve yet to find a teardown of the Fire 8 HD Plus, but Amazon also seems to be doing its best to simplify the internal design. Most major components are in a single cluster, with the headphone jack, USB-C port, microphone, power button, and volume button all on the same edge. Flip the tablet over and you’ll find the rear camera in the same spot, along with one of the speakers. Everything is squished to the right side of the tablet, with the front camera and left speaker being the only remote components.

At around $100, these are both cheap tablets, and one of the things that immediately jumped out at me about both of them were the plastic screens. Compared to the usual glass covers on phones and tablets, the plastic display cover has noticeably more friction, so sliding my finger around isn’t as easy as I’d like. The plastic cover is also a fingerprint magnet, lacking the oleophobic coating that typically comes on a more expensive device. There’s also a lot more give to a plastic display than a glass one, and if you press hard on them, you can actually affect the LCD pixels. It’s all a major difference compared to an unbending, literally rock-hard glass display.

Both displays are also not the clearest, brightest things on Earth because the displays are not bonded to the display cover. There is an air gap between the cover and the LCD, which scatters some of the light from the LCD. Compared to the usual glass phone with a bonded display, these tablets are dimmer, cloudier, and have a smaller viewing angle. All the phones I’m thinking of are several times the price of these tablets, though, so it’s an excusable difference, though it’s a major one.

The justifiable cheapness continues in the tablet bodies, where you’ll find both are plastic with a good amount of squish to them. Walmart prefers a smooth finish with a silver flake paint that looks like it came from a Radio Shack, while Amazon has a matte black plastic with a slight texture to it. Again, Amazon is better at this.


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