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Lifewire / Jordan Provost
Crisp and bright HD screen
Restricted operating system
Poor multitasking performance
Amazon’s Fire HD 10 is an affordable, child-friendly tablet with a powerful screen for your multimedia needs—as long as you’re willing to compromise in other areas.
Amazon’s range of Fire tablets are renowned for being cheap and cheerful, with the low-end models being particularly popular with families who need a safe, affordable device to occupy young children. They also offer all of the functionality of a Kindle with a suite of extra features thanks to the Android OS.
The question remains: is this Amazon tablet still only useful for streaming content? Or is the Fire HD 10 worth the upgrade for users who want to engage in some light productivity and reap the many benefits of a Prime membership? We tested the latest Fire tablet to see.
The Amazon Fire HD 10 is a budget tablet, and it feels like it. The base is made of a tacky plastic and its 10.1-inch size means it’s just a little bit too big to hold comfortably for a long period of time—the corners of the device start to dig into your palms after a while. We would definitely recommend investing in a case that allows you to stand it up (which is better for watching streaming content anyways).
It’s also got some heft to it and is definitely not as easy to pick up as other popular tablets. The Fire HD 10 weighs a little over a pound (17.6 ounces), which is more than the latest iPad Pro (16.5 ounces) but less than Microsoft’s Surface Go, which checks in at 18.7 ounces. The device is not waterproof, but you can pick up a variety of Fire cases that provide this feature if you’re looking for it.
In regards to ports, the Fire HD 10 has both a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro USB charging slot. We appreciate seeing the headphone jack on this tablet, considering that other competitors like the iPad have opted to drop this feature.
If you want to turn this into a more productive device, you can pick up a keyboard case for the Fire HD 10. There are no official Amazon keyboards yet, but there are plenty of well-reviewed off-brand alternatives available.
The Kids Edition also bakes in a lot of very useful parental controls, a child-focused user interface, and a two-year worry-free guarantee.
The Amazon Fire HD 10 also has a toggleable “Show Mode” option, which gives it the functionality of Amazon’s popular Echo Show device including voice control and the clean Echo display that shows current weather, reminders, and more. It can cycle through photos, display videos, or show what music you’re playing. Amazon also offers a Show Mode Charging Dock for this device, which props up the Fire HD 10 while it’s in this mode to really make it look like the Echo assistant.
Of course, there is also a Kids Edition of the Fire HD 10 for $199.99 MSRP that offers a rubbery “kid-proof” case. This edition also bakes in a lot of very useful parental controls, a child-focused user interface, and a two-year worry-free guarantee. If you’re looking for a kids tablet, this is a worthwhile purchase compared to the competition. You may also want to look at smaller iterations of the device, like the non-HD Fire 7, if you’re just looking for something that a child can run free with.
The setup process for the Amazon Fire HD 10 is quick and simple. After powering on the device, we were prompted to choose a language and then connect to our local Wi-Fi. Software updates followed, and then we were asked to register the device with an Amazon account.
We highly recommend this step if you want to take advantage of your Kindle books or Audible account, as well as any apps you may have downloaded on other Amazon devices. The Fire also offered us a number of free trials on Amazon’s many services. If you don’t already have Prime, Audible or Kindle Unlimited, you will have the option to try them when you set up your Fire HD 10, which is a nice touch.
Once this was all set up, we were then walked through a short tutorial that explained how to use the Android OS.
The 1920 x 1200 IPS LCD screen is the crown jewel of the Fire HD 10 and it’s surprisingly brilliant. The difference between this display and the display on the Fire HD 8 is almost night and day.
The Fire HD 10’s screen offers 224 pixels-per-inch and is perfect for streaming video on the go, especially at this price point. For comparison, the Surface Go offers 217 ppi and the 11-inch iPad Pro has 264 ppi. This is impressive, especially when you consider that the price difference between the Fire HD 10 and the 2018 iPad Pro is upwards of $600.
The 1920 x 1200 IPS LCD screen is the crown jewel of the Fire HD 10.
To test the display we watched streaming content like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Vikings on Prime Video, and it’s safe to say the experience was fantastic, even at multiple viewing angles. The display is crisp and bursting with colour, far better than the Surface Go, which looks washed out by comparison. The Fire HD 10 falls short of the (much more expensive) iPad Pro’s superior Liquid Retina display, but for the price it is unbeatable.
The only point when it starts to falter is when you take it outside—we experienced a lot of glare on the screen in direct sunlight, which was a bit surprising considering it’s a tremendously bright screen.
Our GFXBench test of the Fire HD 10 resulted in expectedly low-brow results. The machine hit a painfully low 2 fps during the Car Chase benchmark (for comparison, the Surface Go hit 17 fps and the high-end iPad Pro hit 57 fps), which is a testament to the internals of the device. This is no graphical powerhouse, and Amazon knows it.
In Geekbench, the Fire HD 10’s Quad-Core 1.8GHz processor managed a single-core score of 1,487 and a multi-core score of 3,005. To put it in context, this is comparable, processor-wise, to the Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone from 2015.
It definitely isn’t a speedy device, but in our testing, it actually beat the more expensive Microsoft Surface Go’s Pentium processor for single-core performance, which only managed a measly 1,345.
There were a few different symptoms of the weak processor: in our testing, we encountered some rather serious problems with multitasking. When attempting to download the startup files for Real Racing 3, the system locked up as we switched between apps and we had to do a hard reset on the device.
This is a device most suited to streaming video, running 2D or low-poly 3D games … and moving between a few social media apps.
It also can’t handle graphically-intense games without dropping frames. Nothing ran too horribly, but it quickly became evident that this is a device more suited to streaming video, running 2D or low-poly 3D games (Subway Surfers and Roblox ran without a hitch), and moving between a few social media apps.
As you can imagine, the app store has lots of offerings for kids and casual users, but it tends to sidestep more popular mobile games. If you’re a gamer looking for the latest and greatest mobile experiences, we’d advise against the Fire HD 10. The games you want probably aren’t available, and this device isn’t powerful enough to be a dedicated gaming machine anyways.
But it delivers solid performance for its intended uses. Because this device is using Fire OS and not Windows 10, apps still work very well on the Fire HD 10 and feel far more natural than on productivity-focused tablets like the Surface Go.
Navigation on the Fire HD 10 is surprisingly good. We wouldn’t call it fluid like the iPad Pro, but it performs well and feels intuitively designed for the touchscreen when compared to the Microsoft Surface Go. We had no trouble getting used to it.
Due to the touchscreen-first approach, this isn’t a great device for productivity. We think you’d be better off using your phone to reply to emails or edit documents, because the Fire HD 10 has an awkwardly wide keyboard and is difficult to hold. In most cases, we wanted to prop this up somewhere to use it, and we quickly got frustrated with the compromises we were making to get work done on this device.
For file and app storage, our review model came with 32GB, but you can easily upgrade this with a microSD if you want to download tons of apps, music, and offline streaming content for when you’re away from Wi-Fi.
The Amazon Fire HD 10 is not very loud, even at its highest volume. Music sounds tinny and it’s hard to distinguish the soundtrack from the sound effects in games like Real Racing 3. We highly recommend using a pair of headphones or connecting an external speaker in this case.
The audio fairs better when streaming video content, but the stereo speakers are located on only one side of the device and can be easily muffled during use. It’s an overall lack of bass that brings the audio down, though it is certainly passable for consumers looking for a budget multimedia device.
There is a nice touch in the volume sliders, where you can choose to turn down system notifications in favor of media (and vice versa) rather than having a single slider that controls everything.
During our Speedtest, the Fire HD 10 managed 51 Mbps on Wi-Fi, with a 6 Mbps upload speed. This is solid performance for a budget device, albeit not as effective as iPad Pro (72 Mbps) or the Surface Go (94 Mbps), which are both more expensive competition.
Regardless, you’re unlikely to be downloading anything gargantuan on this unit, and we found that most apps quickly pop up on the dashboard without any problems. Even when using the tablet outside and moving away from the router, the Fire HD 10 maintained a good signal and kept up its streaming quality, even at a reasonable distance.
Both the front and rear-facing cameras on this device are laughably bad—you can actually see the framerate of the screen lagging as you move the device. The rear-facing camera takes incredibly noisy photos at 2 MP, and although it can shoot 720p video, you won’t want to once you see the results. The front-facing camera is VGA and barely worth the effort. Unfortunately, you will need to use it if you want to make video calls through Skype or Alexa.
Let’s be honest, though: the camera shouldn’t be what you’re buying it for. Tablet cameras are, in the grand scheme of things, mostly useless. The only real inconvenience is in the quality of the video calls.
The battery life on the Fire HD 10 is solid. During testing, we got around six or seven hours out of the device while streaming video content. For most basic tasks the battery barely suffers, and you are free to browse social media to your heart’s content without draining it.
We took the Fire HD 10 out to see how it would last with normal usage. We used it for music, streaming, emails, and browsing over many hours, and the battery easily lasted the entire day. Granted, it isn’t a productivity machine, so it’s always going to be a secondary device to a more powerful tablet or laptop.
The downside: fully charging the Fire HD 10 with the proprietary plug takes a very long time. During testing, it actually took up to five and a half hours, which basically puts the device out of commission for the day. This is disappointing when many other tablets in this field can provide multiple days of light use and offer a quicker charge.
The Fire OS used by Amazon’s range of tablets is simplistic but effective. It doesn’t offer you many of the conventional features of a more fully-functioning desktop operating system, but you will never really need them on a device of this nature.
Software-wise, it’s a double-edged sword depending on how much you use Amazon’s line of products and services.
It doesn’t feel like you’re compromising when using the Fire OS, especially due to the fluid navigation throughout the many menus, and the affable Silk Browser. Most apps are optimized well and don’t throw up the annoying black bars seen on the iPad Pro, making social media usage a breeze.
Software-wise, it’s a double-edged sword depending on how much you use Amazon’s line of products and services. On one hand, the base model ships with advertisements on the home screen (we thought this felt pretty dystopian). You can pay to remove these, but it belies a consensus from Amazon to sell you something on every page.
As you flick through the main menus you are constantly being shown your Wish List, book recommendations, or being courted towards one of the subscription services Amazon offers, which can be seriously frustrating. It feels claustrophobic, and you don’t get the same feeling of limitless potential usually found in other, more customizable Android tablets.
On the other hand, if you are a Prime user, the device is ultimately more streamlined. For those with active Kindle or Audible libraries, the Fire HD 10 offers you lightning-quick access to your purchased content, and if you need to order something off of Amazon, Alexa Hands-Free is built in and ready to go.
If you’re the kind of person who might jump to buy a song as you’re listening to it, Alexa is there to indulge that kind of quick purchase with a seamless voice command. And if you have Amazon subscriptions for certain products, just ask Alexa to re-order them and the assistant will sort it out for you.
These voice control capabilities are also helpful when you’re streaming or listening to music—just ask Alexa to pause or skip forward a song. It doesn’t quite have the complex functionality of Siri Shortcuts on the iPad, but Alexa’s inclusion in the Fire HD 10 is very useful if you’re already comfortable with issuing voice commands to a home hub.
The App Store on the Fire HD 10 is missing a number of official Google apps and doesn’t have top-flight Android or iOS games like PUBG Mobile, FIFA Football, or Fortnite. This is annoying considering that the Fire HD 10 is still technically an Android tablet. But it’s a very stripped-down form of Android, and more involved users may find these limitations and omissions frustrating.
At $149.99 MSRP, the Fire HD 10 is absolutely dirt cheap for the specs that you’re getting, and is a solid entry-level tablet. The screen alone stands out as being more than worth it at this price point, as does the fluidity of the (pared-down) operating system.
The Fire HD 10 also has a reactive user interface, decent speakers and network speeds, and the ability to perform basic tasks with ease. As long as you’re very aware of the limitations, it’s pretty much unbeatable at this price. Most of the competition sits leagues ahead in the $600 to $1,000 range.
This device designed less for productivity and more for pure media consumption. You could technically read ebooks on your smartphone and watch Prime Video, Netflix, and YouTube using a Fire Stick or ChromeCast (most of the features of this tablet are built into modern smart TVs). But for what it is—a media-focused tablet— the Fire HD 10 is very cheap and worth having around if you need a medium-sized screen to play around with.
However, a couple of devices do give the Fire HD 10 a run for its money. The Lenovo Tab 4 is a similar 10.1-inch tablet with an HD screen but a far better, more customizable Android OS and improved battery life. This starts at $149.99 and is certainly worth considering, though you do lose some storage space.
You could also be tempted to pick up the previous-generation 9.7-inch iPad, which is a lot faster and has more dedicated uncompromising applications, though keep in mind that it starts higher at $329.
If you’re looking for something to do more than a few basic tasks you may be tempted by Microsoft’s Surface Go which starts at $399, though to achieve its full productivity potential, it needs the Surface Type Cover for an extra $99. Already, we’re drifting away from the affordability of the Fire HD 10, and you’re probably better off considering something more high-end for the productivity use case.
It isn’t perfect, but it’s well worth the money as a media tablet.
The wonderful screen alone is worth it, not to mention the excellent Alexa integration and fluid navigation when conducting basic tasks. This would be a great budget pick if you want something that the whole family can enjoy, or a capable device to dig into during your daily commute.
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