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Amazon Fire HD 10 review: affordable tablet that's great for Netflix addicts

Amazon Fire HD 10 review
The new, much improved Amazon Fire HD 10 is less than half the price of an iPad. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Amazon’s new 10in tablet aims to offer users media viewing that rivals top-end competitors, but for under half the price of even the cheapest 10in iPad.

While the company has found great success with its smaller and cheaper Fire 7, and now the excellent Fire HD 8, the previous Fire HD 10 was a bit hit and miss. This time round the right corners have been cut in the pursuit of a cheaper price.

A couple of things have changed for the 2017 Fire HD 10. The most obvious is the switch to a hardier, textured plastic shell – the same design used by its smaller siblings – instead of the glossy plastic used last time round. It looks particularly good in the vibrant red colour, and is comfortable to hold.

Amazon Fire HD 10 review
The Fire HD 10’s body is made of a durable-feeling plastic that looks particularly good in red. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

There’s a bit of flex and give in the body, and it’s quite thick and heavy by premium standards at 9.8mm and 500g, but it’s perfectly fine to hold on a lap or propped up on the arm of a seat for extended viewing sessions.

The other big change is a much improved, higher resolution screen. The 10.1in screen is now full HD 1080p, up from just 720p, and looks a lot crisper and brighter. Movies and TV shows look great, and photos look pretty good too. It’s not quite in the same league as Apple’s £619, 10.5in iPad Pro, but only costs a quarter as much.

Indoors it looks great, with good viewing angles, and it is still up to the task on a train in the British sun.

The speakers along the top edge are similar in quality to the Fire HD 8: they are fairly clear and loud for a tablet and make Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa sound pretty good. I couldn’t hear them over my cooker hood fan going full blast and the kettle boiling in the kitchen, but dialogue was perfectly audible in most situations.

Specifications

  • Screen: 10.1in 1920x1200 LCD (224ppi)
  • Processor: 1.8GHz quad-core
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 32 or 64GB; microSD slot also available
  • Operating system: Fire OS 5 based on Android 5 Lollipop
  • Camera: 2MP rear camera, 0.3MP front-facing camera
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth
  • Dimensions: 262 x 159 x 9.8 mm
  • Weight: 500g

Battery to last three movies

Amazon Fire HD 10 review
A microSD card slot on the side is available to expand storage if 32GB or 64GB isn’t enough. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The new Fire HD 10 has a new 1.8GHz quad-core processor and double the RAM of its predecessor at 2GB. Everyday performance is much smoother, with navigating and loading apps fairly snappy and browsing with multiple tabs in the Silk browser mostly smooth, while game performance was solid even in graphically intensive games such as Real Racing.

It’s not going to win any performance awards – a top-end smartphone will be faster – but it was more than acceptable, feeling slightly snappier than the Fire HD 8.

Battery life was also pretty good. Amazon reckons it will last about 10 hours of mixed use, which was about right in my testing. I could just about watch three full-length downloaded movies before the battery gave out with the brightness near maximum.

Charging the Fire HD 10 takes quite a while, with 80% added to the battery in three hours and a full charge taking about four hours.

Fire OS 5.5

Amazon Fire HD 10 review
Activate Alexa hands-free mode to be able to simply say ‘Alexa’ to trigger the voice assistant. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The Fire HD 10 comes with Amazon’s latest version of Fire OS 5.5 based on Android 5 Lollipop. The home screen interface filled with sliding screens dedicated to different types of content works well for a media-consumption device. There’s an improved For You section (previously called Recents), which highlights the content and apps you’ve been using recently and learns what you might like, so it can suggest things to try.

The biggest improvement is full Alexa integration. Not only can Alexa respond to queries when holding the home button, but there’s a hands-free mode that operates very much like an Echo device, listening out for the “Alexa” wake word to then take commands.

The tablet then acts a bit like an Echo Show, answering via voice and showing content on the screen, such as the current and upcoming weather. It works pretty well from across the room when it’s quiet. Alexa can also control playback, skipping forward or backwards, and volume, as well as find content via voice search.

You can turn it off, and if you’ve set a screen lock it asks you to unlock the tablet to respond for certain queries.

As with previous versions of Fire OS, there’s no access to the Google Play Store, with Amazon’s App Store your only option. In most cases that’s perfectly fine, particularly for media-consumption apps, but there are some glaring omissions with LastPass being one – if you use the password manager you’re stuck, although you can side-load it from other stores if you trust them.

Observations

Amazon Fire HD 10 review
The buttons are along one edge of the device, together with the microUSB charging port and headphones socket. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
  • The Fire HD 10 isn’t passcoded or encrypted out of the box, but I recommend using both
  • The screen is a fingerprint magnet
  • Amazon’s “on deck” feature downloads content that it thinks you might like in the background while on wifi and charging, removing it automatically when you need the space
  • Like the HD 8, the cameras are poor, producing blurry shots with little in the way of detail – only to be used in an emergency
  • There are some power-saving modes, including one that suspends the wifi connection when the tablet reckons you’re not using it for a while

Price

The 2017 Amazon Fire HD 10 costs £150 for 32GB of storage or £180 with 64GB, both with adverts on the lock screen which cost £10 to remove.

For comparison, that’s £20 cheaper than the previous Fire HD 10 and with double the base storage. The Fire 7 costs from £50 and the Fire HD 8 £80. No-brand rivals can be bought from around £70, while Apple’s cheapest 9.7in iPad costs £339 and the 10.5in iPad Pro costs £619.

Verdict

The 2017 Amazon Fire HD 10 calls into question what you want from a tablet. If it’s just to watch Netflix, Amazon Video or catchup TV services, with a spot of light gaming and browsing on the side, then the much improved 10.1in Fire HD 10 tablet is simply great.

If you want to work, create things or use powerful tools, the Fire HD 10 is not an iPad Pro and isn’t really up to the job. Instead Amazon has stuck to what it’s good at: the Fire HD 10 offers a lot of media-consuming tablet for the money. It’s a real bargain at less than half the cost of the cheapest full-size iPad. And sure, you can buy cheaper 10in tablets, but they don’t have the brand and customer support of Amazon.

In fact, the Fire HD 10’s biggest problem is simply that it’s not quite as good a bargain as its smaller sibling the Fire HD 8, which at £80 is almost half the cost. But there’s certainly something to be said for the good-looking 10.1in widescreen, making watching TV shows or movies anywhere a pleasurable experience without breaking the bank.

Pros: great screen, solid battery life, good speakers, microSD card slot, feels durable, good Alexa integration

Cons: rubbish cameras, slow charging, bit chunky and heavy, no USB-C, some apps lacking from Amazon App Store, old version of Android

Amazon Fire HD 10 review
Netflix, Amazon Video and the BBC iPlayer all work great on the tablet. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Other reviews

This article titled "Amazon Fire HD 10 review: affordable tablet that's great for Netflix addicts" was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Thursday 12 October 2017 06.00am

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