Amazon Fire HD 10
Nearly Android for less
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