The Fire HD 10 is Amazon’s latest full-sized tablet, but it cuts far too many corners and isn’t cheap.
Amazon’s Fire tablets have been hit and miss over the past four years. They offer a decent screen, reasonable specifications and tight integration into Amazon’s ecosystem of movies, TV shows, music, books and apps at a low cost that undercuts almost everything else. The Fire HD 10 tries to continue that trend.
The design of the Fire HD 10 is very utilitarian. Covered in a soft, glossy plastic that I managed to mark within seconds of getting it out of the box, it looks cheap.
Amazon made a big deal about the tablet being durable and surviving 200 turns in the company’s tumble test compared to the iPad Air 2’s 30. I dropped it a few times onto carpet without breaking it, but didn’t set out to try and destroy it. It feels well put together, but the body is more flexible than I would have expected.
The buttons and ports all line the top edge, which means either your hand covers the volume buttons and headphones port or power button and microUSB port when held to watch video.
At 7.7mm thick it is surprisingly thin for a low-end tablet. It also has relatively compact bezels around the 10.1in widescreen, which makes it feel narrow but long for a tablet. At 432g it isn’t too heavy to hold for a 40 minute TV show, but I found myself searching for somewhere to prop it up when trying to finish a 2.5 hour movie.
The build and body are OK. The screen is the biggest let down of all. It’s 10.1in with a 720p resolution and low pixel density of 149 pixels per inch. For comparison most tablets have at least 200ppi. Amazon’s previous large Fire HD, the HD 8.9, had a 1080p screen with 254ppi.
It doesn’t matter too much for video, which looks passable, with average colour and good viewing angles, but text, icons, photos and other static things look noticeably pixelated.
It’s particularly obvious when you attempt to read a book on it, which looks like something from five years ago. Although Amazon’s Bookerly typeface helps – switching to helvetica accentuates the problem – I found it difficult to read for extended periods as the text was just not crisp enough at the small size I would normally read.
The stereo speakers on the side of the tablet were surprisingly good and loud for tablet speakers. Still not good enough to use as a dedicated music player, but fine for watching a video while cooking.
- Screen: 10.1in (1280 x 800) LCD (149ppi)
- Processor: MediaTek quad-core (1.5GHz dual-core + 1.2GHz dual-core)
- RAM: 1GB of RAM
- Storage: 16 or 32GB; microSD slot also available
- Operating system: Fire OS 5 based on Android 5 Lollipop
- Camera: 5MP rear camera, 0.3MP front-facing camera
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
- Dimensions: 159 x 262 x 7.7mm
- Weight: 432g
Weak hardware leads to poor experience
The Fire HD 10.1 has a quad-core MediaTek processor and 1GB of RAM, which is not up to the task of powering the tablet. Some things ran fine, but actually launching them or switching between different tasks was dogged by a lag long enough to make you wonder whether the tablet had crashed.
When the tablet first starts up it operates fine. Loading the first video from Amazon’s Prime Instant Video also works fine. But it’s when you start to load the second, or switch to another app that things start to creak.
Video playback could sometimes be smooth, but would often miss frames and judder. Swiping across the homescreen could also lag badly, while installing apps brought the tablet to a crawl.
Graphically intensive games such as Real Racing 3 were virtually unplayable, while even Monument Valley stuttered from time to time.
The battery lasted around seven hours of video playback. The biggest issue for battery life is that the screen does not have an ambient light sensor and does not adjust brightness automatically, which means it’s often too bright or too dull.
Charging took forever. It took five hours to fully charge the Fire HD 10. Most tablets charge in two to three hours.
Wi-Fi reception was also poor. In the same places that a Google Nexus 6P or iPad Air 2 would pick up a strong Wi-Fi signal, around 12m from the router, the Fire HD 10 would struggle. Download speeds of apps and video were also very slow. The internet connection to the router was not the limiting factor.
Fire OS 5
The Fire HD 10 comes with Amazon’s latest version of Fire OS 5, which is based on last year’s Android 5 Lollipop. A familiar app grid is available on the homescreen, but swiping left and right to sort through categories.
Swiping across to books, for instance, displays your purchased books at the top, recommendations for free books if you have Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited and then further recommendations based on your purchase history. The same goes for video, games, apps, music, audiobooks, newsstand and Amazon shopping.
The left-most screen shows recently used or watched items, which is the fastest way of getting back into content.
It works well, and makes the best of a consumption-based tablet. It’s the first tablet software I’ve seen that has gone significantly beyond the standard app grid and is arguably the best thing about the Fire HD 10.
The rest of the software isn’t quite as good. Swipe down from the top to see notifications and what looks like a set of quick toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, screen rotation, do not disturb and others. But in fact most are just shortcuts to the settings screens, not toggles, which is disappointing.
One Amazon account has to be registered to the tablet, but multiple user profiles including children’s profiles can be setup, which is good for a family tablet.
Fire OS will run many Android apps, but only has access to the Amazon app store. It has a growing selection of apps, including paid-for apps available for free under Amazon’s Prime “underground” promotion, but it is not as extensive as Google Play and does not have all the latest apps and games.
The five-megapixel rear camera and front-facing VGA selfie camera are poor. They capture dim, dull, blurry images lacking in detail.
The 16GB Amazon Fire HD 10 with adverts on the lock screen costs £170 in black or white. The 32GB version costs £200, while removing the adverts costs £10.
Samsung’s similar 9.7in Galaxy Tab A costs £179, while the far superior 8in Galaxy Tab S2 costs £240 from Amazon with 32GB of storage. Apple’s cheapest iPad costs £219. Tesco’s Hudl 2 cost £99, and several of last year’s high-end tablets are available for around £200.
The Amazon Fire HD 10 is not a good tablet and does not live up to the standard set by its predecessors and Amazon’s other hardware.
The new Fire OS 5 has some good ideas and is a step up from the previous versions of the operating system. Amazon die-hards will like the integration of the company’s movies, TV, books and other services.
But the 10in screen just isn’t of high enough resolution to make the most of Amazon’s services, the processor isn’t powerful enough to run graphically intensive games and it lags with even simple tasks.
The biggest problem with the Fire HD 10 is that it isn’t cheap. If it was £100, most of the shortcomings could be forgiven, but at £170 there are plenty of competing tablets that offer better experiences.
Pros: great Amazon integration, survived a few drops without breaking, microSD card slot
Cons: low resolution screen, slow processor, laggy performance, weak Wi-Fi, not automatic brightness adjustment, poor cameras, very slow charging
- Tesco Hudl 2 review: a lot of tablet for the money
- Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition tablet review
- Amazon Fire TV review: simple, fast, 4K and the best TV streaming
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