Ama­zon Fire HD 10

Nearly An­droid for less

Computer Active (UK) - - Contents -

When the ipad first ar­rived in 2010, we thought it was ex­pen­sive at £429 and as­sumed tablets would quickly get cheaper. Hmm. To­day, an ipad costs £339, and Sam­sung’s Galaxy Tab S2 a ten­ner less. Th­ese are ba­sic op­tions: the more up-to-date ipad Pro 10.5 or Galaxy Tab S3 will set you back 600 quid. So it’s sig­nif­i­cant that ri­val tech gi­ant Ama­zon is sell­ing its 10-inch touch­screen for a quar­ter of that.

For £150, you don’t get a sleek alu­minium uni­body de­sign. The up­dated Fire HD 10 looks much like it did last year, which means plas­tic, al­beit with a gar­ish new choice of colours. But Ama­zon reck­ons it’s bet­ter equipped than an ipad Pro to sur­vive a fall – an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion.

The screen now has Full HD res­o­lu­tion, so while it’s not as sharp as Ap­ple’s or Sam­sung’s, it’s no longer no­tice­ably coarse, and the speak­ers have also been beefed up. The screen still only cov­ers 84 per cent of the SRGB colour range, but it’s much brighter than be­fore and cer­tainly bet­ter than av­er­age for a low-end tablet.

What Ama­zon still doesn’t of­fer is the full An­droid ex­pe­ri­ence. Although Google’s mo­bile op­er­at­ing sys­tem is the ba­sis of Ama­zon’s Fire, you can’t ac­cess the Google Play Store, with its full choice of apps and games – you’re lim­ited to Ama­zon’s own se­lec­tion (see www. snipca.com/25955). That’s still thou­sands of apps, but a far cry from the choice avail­able on a stan­dard An­droid tablet like Sam­sung’s, or in­deed in Ap­ple’s App Store.

Fire de­vices are at least pop­u­lar enough for there to be tips around the web for in­stalling pop­u­lar apps such as the Kodi in­ter­net TV viewer, but this be­comes a bit of a tech­ni­cal chal­lenge rather than some­thing any­one can do just by tap­ping an In­stall but­ton. The only ob­vi­ous rea­son that Fire OS ex­ists is so Ama­zon can make sure it keeps you fo­cused on buy­ing mu­sic, films and TV shows from its on­line store. This ex­tends to dis­play­ing ad­verts – or ‘of­fers,’ as it eu­phemisti­cally calls them – on the screen when­ever the de­vice is idle, un­less you pay £10 to turn them off (see www.snipca.com/25956).

As you might ex­pect, the Fire HD 10 runs on rel­a­tively cheap processors. This model does get a bit more mus­cle, with a faster pro­ces­sor and twice the mem­ory for apps run­ning, mak­ing it about 50 per cent quicker in bench­mark tests. But we didn’t see any im­prove­ment in its abil­ity to cope with the most graph­i­cally in­ten­sive games, and se­ri­ous busi­ness or cre­ative apps are not its forte.

On the other hand, you get Alexa. Ama­zon’s dig­i­tal as­sis­tant – the same one built into its Echo home speak­ers – is im­pres­sively help­ful, and can now be ac­ti­vated purely by talk­ing to it, with­out need­ing to press a but­ton. It’s not as sen­si­tive as Echo, but still worked across a large room when we tested it. You can get the weather fore­cast, start play­ing mu­sic and videos, and all sorts of other tricks. On the other hand, if you find be­ing con­stantly lis­tened to slightly creepy, you can turn it off.

The bat­tery lasted us a cred­itable 11 hours 22 min­utes, and with a de­cent 32GB of stor­age as stan­dard (64GB costs £30 ex­tra) and a mi­crosd slot for more, this is a very us­able tablet for £150. Our only real gripe was with the cam­eras: the front we­b­cam is just barely sharp enough for video chats in good light, while the 2-megapixel/ 720p HD rear cam­era isn’t what you’d want to pre­serve mem­o­ries.

With its 10in Full HD screen, faster pro­ces­sor and Alexa – this is very us­able

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