Keeping up with its yearly product refreshes, the Amazon Fire HD 10 has been given a new lick of paint for 2019. That isn’t to say the paint job is all that’s new here, but owner’s of last year’s model might as well click away now.
This latest iteration of one of the world’s best tablets offers a deceptively strong-sounding eight-core processor, 2GB of memory, a full-HD display, a headphone jack, (dreadful) front and back cameras, Alexa commands, and a MicroSD port to expand its 32/64GB storage options. You can even pick up a nice charging stand to turn it into a kitchen assistant for checking out recipes and video-calling friends and family.
On paper, it ticks quite a number of boxes, but the cost-cutting measures are plain to see once we dig a little deeper. If you're looking for a premium tablet to rival the iPad Pro, then look elsewhere. But if you like things cheap and cheerful, then the The Amazon Fire HD 10 is a still a solid choice.
Amazon Fire HD 10 review: Design
The Amazon Fire HD 10 is a sleek looking device - at least, it would have been back in 2016. You’re not getting any premium materials with the price being so low, but what you do get is a thin and light 10-inch tablet with a smooth matte finish and matching logo. Gone is the full-fat “Amazon” wording at the top of the device’s backside, which is instead reduced to the company’s famous not-quite-Nike swoosh.
So what makes this tablet look like something from a bygone era? The screen. Or, more precisely, its bezels. The 10-inch Full-HD panel in this thing will be clear enough for almost anyone outside of direct sunlight, but the chunky bezels framing its acceptable screen are nothing short of an eyesore. On the bright side, the large frame eating up the display will reduce the risk of accidental screen taps while you’re holding it, so you shouldn’t be too concerned of skipping two chapters ahead when you go to turn the brightness up a tiny bit.
Speaking of conveniences, here’s the biggest - the move to USB-C charging. It’s exclusive to the 10-inch variant for now, but it’s a sign of money well spent. We lamented that Amazon didn't make the same choice with the Kindle Oasis e-reader, so we're glad to see that it has seen sense with its tablets at least.
Compared to the outgoing MicroUSB, it’s more durable and even reversible, meaning there’s no wrong way to put it in. You won’t be using it to connect to a TV like some more expensive devices, but it retains the connector’s best feature - fast-charging. More on that in the Battery Life section.
Amazon Fire HD 10 review: Performance
Stuffing an eight-core processor into a device smaller than a magazine is truly a sign of the times. And while it may sound luxurious to some, the powerful chip doesn’t have the room to stretch its legs in this particular piece of hardware.
Amazon powers its tablet range with what it likes to call Fire OS. In reality, this operating system is a heavily customized version of Android. The key difference here is that Amazon curates which apps can be installed to its devices. You’re tied to its own version of the app store. You’ll find most of the “must have” apps are available, but the user experience is simplified to create something that shouldn’t befuddle the less tech-savvy out there. Don’t expect graphically intense games or complicated photo-editing apps to work well.
Most of the Amazon Fire HD 10's performance issues boil down to the octa-core processor being paired with the paltry 2GB of memory. Videos won’t stutter, websites should load just fine, and Facebook shouldn’t grind it down to a halt, but try to multitask on this budget device and it will begin to show its cracks. It’s built for light, occasional use and very little more. The processor will make sure your focus app works just fine, but if there’s too much going on in the background, expect other apps to reboot when you switch back. If you have an old laptop that’s too aggravatingly slow to get anything done, expect the same issue here.
Amazon Fire HD 10 review: Battery Life
A major selling point with any 10-inch tablet is the ability to cram a massive battery under the hood, and Amazon has stuck to tradition here as well. There’s no mention of the actual size of battery out there just yet, but battery tests by our sister site TechRadar indicates the “12 hours of mixed usage” claim on the product page isn’t just some marketing fluff - it’s a real-world expectation.
Unless you have a very unhealthy relationship with the internet, burning through this battery should be a matter of days (or weeks) rather than hours. And, to make a good point even better, the USB-C port and included charger can refill a depleted battery in around four hours. You can even reduce that to three with a 15W after-market adapter. That’s twice as fast as the 8-inch version for 50% more total battery life.
What all this comes down to is a device that’s more than likely going to be ready to roll after being stuffed in a drawer for a week or so. And, so long as you hook it up to a power point during some last-minute packing, it should last for anything but the most long-haul of flights. Load this thing up with movies and TV shows from Prime Video or Netflix and you’ve got yourself a reliable media machine ready to save you from just about any boring situation.
Amazon Fire HD 10 review: Price/Value for money
The main thing to take into account here is that Amazon almost always sells these devices at a loss. Each one retails for less than it costs to make. But just being cheap doesn’t automatically mean value for money. Thankfully, the Amazon Fire HD 10 is a good value option providing you don’t overestimate its capabilities. There are many far more competent 10-inch tablets out there (like the Asus Zenpad 3S 10), but since the Apple iPad gobbled up market share, they’re all far more premium products fetching fittingly premium prices.
One thing to consider is the reason Amazon sells these at a loss. It’s to entice you into its ecosystem. Without an Amazon Prime subscription, most of what this tablet flaunts won’t be of much use, and Big Bezos wants you to spend. The regular $150 asking price means Amazon ads show on the lockscreen, and you need to pony up an extra 15 bucks to get it without that “feature.” Combined with the curated app store, the whole Amazon Fire HD experience is what Techradar calls a “walled garden.” There’s no better way to put it.
Should I buy the Amazon Fire HD 10?
If all you’re looking for in a tablet is something you can pick up off the coffee table for a quick search, or something to pass off to some unsettled kids in the house, then the Amazon Fire HD 10 is a fine choice. It won’t blow anyone away with screen quality or high-fashion looks, but it serves the most common needs of anyone who hasn’t already snapped up an iPad or a phone the size of their face. The Amazon Fire HD 10 knows who it’s for and is appropriately priced. Just pay the extra $15 and get rid of those ads.