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

The Guardian Australia - - Technology - Sa­muel Gibbs

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.

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

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

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 hands­free 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

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.

Other re­views

Ama­zon Fire HD 8 re­view: eas­ily the best tablet you can buy for £80

Ama­zon Fire 7 tablet re­view: still a lot of tablet for just £50

Ama­zon Fire TV Stick re­view: cheap, great TV stream­ing de­vice with new in­ter­face and Alexa

Ama­zon Fire TV re­view: sim­ple, fast, 4K and the best TV stream­ing

Ama­zon Echo re­view: the best com­bined speaker and voice as­sis­tant in the UK

Ama­zon Echo Dot re­view: as good as the Echo for one-third of the price

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

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

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