PROS / The revamped Fire OS operating system is cleanly designed.
CONS / The Fire HD has an average processor and display.
VERDICT / The Amazon Fire HD 10 and HD 8 offer reliable but limited performance at an accessible price point.
Along with its well-known retail side, a big part of Amazon's portfolio is its consumer electronics. Beyond offshoots like the Dash Button and Echo, the Fire remains a focal point for Amazon. As the company's main tablet series, Fires focus on portability. As the latest update to the Kindle Fire HD series, the newest Fire HD – which comes in 8-inch and 10-inch models – follows suit. While some audience-targeted concessions limit the tablet's performance and keep it from earning best-in-class marks, the Amazon Fire HD earns the Top Ten Reviews Silver Award.
The Fire HD runs the latest version of Amazon's Fire OS operating system, which takes full advantage of the tablet's spacious display options. Home screen tabs are cleanly separated by content types such as applications and music. While Amazon-branded recommendations take up a large portion of each tab, Fire OS's large icons and clean menu design make it easy to navigate through the tablet.
Like the rest of the Fire series, the HD functions both as a standard tablet and an eReader. Using the tablet, you can download popular applications or books from Amazon's store, play back multimedia content and browse the web through Amazon's Silk Browser application. All of these features have been fine-tuned through past Fire releases and work just as well on the Fire HD.
The Fire HD 8 and 10 do suffer from a notable misstep: Both tablets are built with an identical ARM Cortex processor setup. While there were no glaring issues during basic tasks like web browsing, the processor showed a modest performance ceiling in our hands-on testing. In benchmarking program Geekbench 3, the Fire produced a moderate multicore score of 1,454 points. By comparison, the 2014 Fire HDX 8.9 – powered by a faster Snapdragon processor – had a mark of 3,082 points in the same test. The Fire HD can still handle basic tablet tasks with ease, but it struggles with processor-intensive tasks like high-end gaming.
The Fire HD's screen suffers from similar design concessions, as the HD 8 and 10 both rely on 1280 x 800 displays. In general, tablet displays around this resolution are good enough for basic tasks like web browsing and displaying text. However, they're markedly behind the best premium tablets, which typically have screens with resolutions of around 2048 x 1536. At this higher tier, tablet displays have stellar image and text quality.
The HD 8's smaller screen makes up for some of these issues, as it competently handled photos and text in our hands-on testing. However, the HD 10's larger display made the tablet's shortcomings much more visible, as onscreen content had noticeable pixelation and visual dullness.
Both tablets benefit from straightforward designs. The Fire HD's glossy backside and plastic case are relatively basic, but it has a clean port layout and decent build quality. The tablet has a comfortable amount of heft – the HD 10 weighs 15.2 ounces and the HD 8 is only 11 ounces – and seams on the case are virtually imperceptible. With similarly lightweight dimensions – 8.4 x 5 x 0.3 inches for the HD 8 and 10.3 x 6.3 x 0.3 inches for the HD 10 – the tablet is easy to hold.
Both Fires have battery life ratings of eight hours, and our hands-on testing found only moderate differences between the HD 8 and HD 10. In benchmarking program PCMark's battery stress test, tablets simulate basic tasks like web browsing and video playback. At identical brightness settings, the HD 10 had a mark of five hours and 24 minutes versus the HD 8's four hour and two-minute score. Amazon also sells the HD 8 and HD 10 in configurations with 8GB, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. If you purchase a microSD card, you can add additional storage to the Fire.
Help & Support
As with all of Amazon's Fire and Kindle products, the manufacturer offers a stock one-year warranty on the Fire HD. You can reach support agents through a variety of channels, including email, phone and live chat, and the website has a thorough online troubleshooting section. In addition, the Fire HD can use Amazon's Mayday service, which directly connects you with a support agent through the tablet.
As the newest tablet in Amazon's lineup, the Fire HD's ceiling is clear. With its modest performance and screen, it's notably limited compared to other top tablets on the market. Still, the Fire HD is helped by Amazon's strong software ecosystem. The tablet lacks stellar specifications but still covers enough bases to meet the needs of mainstream users.