Amazon tablets are widely lauded and popular among buyers and the latest addition to the lineup, Amazon Fire HD 10, recently sent to Android Headlines for review, is no exception to that.
In a sea of super-cheap, tablets of all shapes and sizes, from just about every manufacturer imaginable, these devices stand out. Not only for their size — the Amazon Fire HD 10 is a 10.1-inch tablet. But also for their features and for their stability. When it comes to the software experience, display quality, and longevity, Amazon Fire tablets are among the best gadgets to be had.
The only question that remains is how, exactly, the latest addition to the family stacks up. Let’s dig in and see.
Amazon Fire HD 10 hardware doesn’t break any molds but that’s not a bad thing
Now, Amazon didn’t only send its Fire HD 10 tablet for review. The company also sent out their 11th generation Fire HD 10 cover in a matching “Olive” color, available as a pack-in. For clarity, the Amazon Fire HD 10 is available in four colors — Olive, Black, Lavender, and Denim — and there’s a matching case available for each.
That is, of course, in addition to the included USB-C charging cable and brick. Both of which fit neatly and solidly into their respective ports without jostle or wiggle. Including the 3.5mm audio jack and cover for the SD Card slot. Like the tablet’s buttons, those should each last a long time. Potentially outliving the tablet itself.
So there was a lot to try out and review here.
The included protective case is not necessarily anything to write home about. It’s a standard plastic construction with a snap-in design. The exterior of the cover is coated in woven fabric for durability and a more premium feel. But there’s nothing on the interior to prevent the plastic casing of the Fire HD 10 tablet from damage.
Amazon magnetized the cover too. And that helps to both keep it closed and keep it open. This is useful since the diagonal crease in the front cover is intended to fold out into either a vertical or horizontal stand. In both orientations, the Amazon Fire HD 10 stayed stable and standing, even when bumped during my testing. All while keeping all ports and buttons free and open for easy access.
Summarily, it’s a nice cover when in place and worth the money to keep the tablet safe. There’s also one massive caveat with the cover. We’ll discuss that later on in the camera segment. But, in any case, it’s nice enough but not breaking any molds.
The tablet itself is a matte coloration and feels great in hand, despite its non-metal build. The curved edges fit snugly in hand and the lightweight design makes Amazon Fire HD 10 a comfortable tablet to hold anyway. With or without the included case. The buttons, ports, and dual top-edge-mounted speaker ports are smooth and shouldn’t catch on anything.
On the display side of things, Amazon included a thicker-than-average bezel. That would ordinarily be a downside to most devices. But not for a tablet. That edge, as with the overall shape and design, while also not groundbreaking, lends to a more comfortable experience. In effect, it gave me a place to grip the tablet, without worrying about accidental touches, taps, or swipes.
Fire HD 10 touts a brilliant display for just about anything
In terms of the display, Amazon says that the Fire HD 10 tablet has a screen that’s 10-percent brighter than prior tablets in the line. And that shines through in real-world use too. Especially when it comes to using this tablet outdoors.
With a 1080p resolution and plenty of pixel saturation, Amazon Fire HD 10 thrived under every circumstance under review. That includes near-direct sunlight, with only slight dimming under direct sunlight. And, of course, that’s despite being thinner and lighter than previous generations. All thanks to a new strengthened aluminosilicate glass display panel.
The crispness of the colors and edges portrayed by Fire HD 10 go beyond visuals too. In fact, this tablet is easily one of the smoothest-handling I’ve tested to date. Taps and swipes are responded to almost instantly by Amazon’s software. And that responsiveness goes a long way toward making the subject of the next segment all that much better.
Throughout my review, the display on Amazon Fire HD 10 never failed to react to inputs exactly as expected. And it never became too difficult to see or use either, due to environmental lighting. Although, under brighter conditions, it does drain the battery significantly faster.
Need to game? This tablet will do that
On the performance front, Amazon’s Fire HD 10 is the most powerful base-model tablet yet released by the company. In fact, its octa-core processor is backed by 50-percent more RAM than the previous generation at 3GB. And storage starts at 32GB or 64GB and can be expanded by microSD card up to 1TB. But these are just numbers and do say a lot about how Amazon’s tablet performs in the real world.
Summarily, Amazon’s tablets have always been some of the most stable and best-performing among Android-based tablets. And that’s carried through here. With even more power and RAM to play with, these tablets are great for just about every app you could want to use.
That includes apps in a split-screen configuration. And I was even able to use a photo editing app and play a game while those photos processed all at once. Without lag or latency to be concerned about.
However, that does come with one caveat. The power of this tablet isn’t quite good enough to process large photos and video files — or audio for that matter, for those who’d like to edit those via the available Appstore apps — quickly. Or at least not quickly enough that I couldn’t play a short mobile game in between some of the edits.
With that said, the processor is powerful enough to get the job done without complaint and without heating things up. And for those that want to play more intensive games, this tablet has a hidden feature to make that easier too.
In short, Amazon’s included Game Mode takes that all to another level. And that game mode enacts itself automatically when you launch a game, optimizing performance, notifications, and other features with remarkable efficiency. While this tablet will likely never perform at the same level as the Pro or Plus models, it will be powerful enough to play even the most intense games available on Amazon’s Appstore. And that’s without latency, lag, or overheating.
Battery life is acceptable, not brilliant
Based on my previous experiences with Amazon’s Fire tablets, I had expected battery life to be among the highlights. And, for the most part, it was. At the very least, compared to other tablets I’ve used in the same price bracket. In total, with all battery-saving features such as adaptive brightness deactivated, and with near full audio volume played over Bluetooth with screen brightness at near 90-percent, this tablet lasted six hours and 30-minutes.
Of course, battery life is exceptionally subjective. It varies based on usage as well as based on brightness and other features. So splitting up that use, based on my test of the Amazon Fire HD 10 battery under review, can be useful.
In total, three hours of that time what spent in a music streaming app, with the screen-on. Three more hours were evenly split between gaming and video streaming at high quality. And a further 30-minutes were spent in general use. That includes things like web browsing, checking my email, and other day-to-day use tasks.
A further one hour was spent on standby, bringing the total time to seven hours and 30-minutes. So this tablet was, at the very least, long-lasting, given my test circumstances.
Charging up the battery was much less impressive. And there are several reasons for that. Not least of all, Amazon Fire tablets turn on when plugged in. Even when they’re completely drained. That means that they don’t really stop working, even when charging. Another minor annoyance, of course, is that I had to dig into settings to turn off the somewhat loud charging indicator noise. That sounds whenever the tablet is plugged in or unplugged.
Now, the fact that Amazon Fire tablets stay on while charging also means that they take much longer than average to charge. Especially if you’re accustomed to charging while your device is turned completely off. Overall, the Amazon Fire HD 10 took three hours and 35-minutes to charge. It’s worth bearing in mind too, that this was with the 9W charger. A 15W charger is available via a bundle for this tablet.
Audio from Amazon Fire HD 10 is better than expected
Now, audio from phones and tablets has never been a strong point. And with Amazon Fire HD 10, the experience under review wasn’t necessarily “fantastic” either. It also wasn’t nearly as bad as some other devices.
That’s thanks, at least in part, to the fact that Amazon utilized dual stereo speakers. With both speakers embedded along the top edge, the sound doesn’t get muffled in stand mode in the included protective cover. And it also doesn’t get muffled when held. But those speakers are also powered by and support Dolby Atmos.
So, while the bass tones don’t quite punch enough to be felt, the audio is extremely clear. Especially when compared to most other tablets, let alone tablets in this one’s price bracket. Put another way, you won’t find better audio from a tablet under $500.
That’s not to say the audio is perfect, of course. As noted already, bass frequencies, while present, don’t really punch. They aren’t drowned out by the near-crystalline highs and mids either. And balance in the audio is well above average. But these speakers simply don’t do justice to the overwhelming majority of songs. Even if they were good enough to get in some acoustic guitar practice using one of the many available tablature apps in the Amazon Appstore.
In movies, games, and for most music, though, these speakers will be more than just adequate. As are the dual-mics for video calls and recording. Although those aren’t necessarily the best I’ve used under review either.
It also goes without saying that using the 3.5mm audio jack for listening or Bluetooth 5.0 is going to improve that experience significantly.
Software is so close to Android and yet so far
Amazon’s Fire & Kindle platforms are, at the very basest of levels, built on top of Android. But that doesn’t mean I was able to simply pick up a Fire HD 10 tablet and review it like I would an Android tablet. There are some very significant differences to be found. Not least of all, this tablet is all about Amazon and effectively leaves Google out of the equation.
Not least of all, while the wallpaper can be changed and other personalization is possible, the “Home” page for a Fire tablet is split into three screens. Those are the “For You,” “Home,” and “Library” tabs. And each of those houses something a bit different. The For You segment is a place to discover recent apps and recommendations, for instance. Quite separately from the Recent Apps icon and UI, which is also present.
Conversely, the “Home” tab is similar to an Android home screen, complete with apps and games laid out as icons on a grid. And the “Library” tab showcases movies, music, books, and apps that are already downloaded. That screen is fully customizable, allowing for a unique but still incredibly easy-to-use experience.
There are no Google apps in sight either. Amazon instead loads the Fire HD 10 up with Amazon shopping apps, video streaming, Appstore, utilities, and its own Silk Browser. As well as a few third-party experiences such as Goodreads, Microsoft Office, and the Washington Post app. Each of these works as a proxy to Google’s apps, but supplied by Amazon. And each works as well on this tablet as on any Android phone or tablet.
And for those who hope to share this tablet with children or as part of a family group, that’s also easy to accomplish here. In fact, the Amazon Fire HD 10 even has a dedicated Kids Mode to help you keep an eye on kids’ activities. Or to help lock younger kids down to designated applications and other experiences. That includes a Setting for adding profiles and managing the Family Library as well.
All of these features work as they’d be expected to. And the entire experience was as smooth as ever with the latest of the Amazon Fire HD tablets. Albeit, disconcertingly, if you happen to be tied in too deeply with the Google ecosystem.
Connectivity is spot-on for an Android-based Wi-Fi-only tablet
Now, we’ve already discussed at least some of the connective options with Amazon’s Fire HD 10 tablet in this review. Namely, the 3.5mm audio jack, USB-C, and Bluetooth 5.0. Each of those works precisely as would be expected. And each of those ports fits snuggly without any unwanted wiggle. Even with significant jostling.
But this is, after all, a Wi-Fi tablet. So those aren’t the only connections to discuss.
While there’s no mobile-data variant available, and there’s no peer-to-peer or ad-hoc network support, Wi-Fi is strong from Amazon Fire HD 10. At the very least, the connections were as solid as with any other gadget currently occupying my home network. So taking this tablet out onto the lawn, more than 75-feet from my router, still allowed for a great experience when reading, listening to music, watching a movie, or playing games.
Better still, that strong connectivity lends itself to Amazon’s Alexa AI and smart home ecosystem. Both of which are headlining features on this tablet. And both of which are part of the initial setup process. There’s also always a home-shaped settings-like button at the bottom-left of the UI. That’s used for accessing Alexa’s deeper features, such as smart home integration.
Summarily, Amazon Alexa can be toggled on or off for hands-free use with associated smart speakers, cameras, and other accessories. Effectively allowing this tablet to work as a central hub for those networked devices. And with full voice recognition enabled, the features on those accessories only become even more useful. All without any of the drawbacks or caveats that might be expected from such an affordable tablet.
Don’t expect Amazon Fire HD 10 to replace your dedicated or smartphone camera
Summarily, the camera included on Amazon Fire HD 10 is not great. It doesn’t necessarily fail where other tablets don’t fail. But the experience with these types of devices is, generally speaking, awful. And the Fire HD 10 doesn’t do it any better either.
Amazon did, in fact, include a Night Mode and HDR support. But I wasn’t able to take any truly great captures during my review of Fire HD 10 either. In bright light, for instance, details tended to get lost and colors tended to get washed out. Placed in shadow, colors and details had better retention. But then other details were lost in heavily shaded areas.
Indoors, pixelation was an immediate problem, conversely. And that pixelation happened even under reasonably good lighting indoors too. Leaving alone Night Mode, where the pixelation was shifted to blur instead. And that’s with no discernable improvement to overall image brightness or detail compared to shots with Night Mode turned off.
Unfortunately, there’s another caveat to this camera too, well beyond the issues above. And well beyond the problems just about every Android-based tablet presents on the camera front. And, in fact, this caveat has to do with the included, bundled protective cover.
Summarily, the included case is a real obstruction when it comes to taking photos. And that’s because there are only two ways to take photos with the case installed. While the case does feature a cut-out for snapping images, that cutout doesn’t go through both the front and rear flap. Just the rear flap. So, with the case opened up all the way, the camera is completely covered. Photos have to be taken with either the case removed or held — uncomfortably — open.
Surprisingly, for front-facing camera shots, quality is greatly improved. Especially compared to other tablets I’ve tested. And for video calls, that sensor will work great. But the cameras, not to put too fine a point on it, are the one area where Amazon’s newest 10-inch tablet utterly failed to impress.
Fire HD 10 is better than ever
If you’re in the market for a new Android-based tablet, there are very few options that review better than Amazon’s Fire HD 10. And none of those are going to be more affordable.
Of course, there are a few things that this tablet also won’t do. Or at least won’t do well. The cameras, for instance, are not going to perform well at all, outside of the odd selfie and video calls. And the cameras aren’t really usable anyway, with the case on. Not comfortably, at any rate.
What’s more, the battery life from this tablet is middling, rather than great. And charging up isn’t fantastic either.
All of that is setting aside the fact that, unless you’re already heavily invested in the Amazon and Alexa ecosystems, you could have a difficult time finding the apps you want or integrating the special features on this tablet into your life.
With all of that said, however, Amazon Fire tablets remain one of the most desirable tablets on the market. And that comes down to several factors well beyond the low entry cost. The Amazon Fire HD 10 offers one of the best experiences available on a tablet anywhere. From great performance from relatively low-power hardware to ready-access to the best book and media apps around.
The display panel Amazon chose, conversely, is fantastic. It’s brighter than ever, crisp, and responsive. If you’re in the market for a budget-minded Android-based tablet and aren’t too invested in Google’s apps or ecosystem, Amazon Fire HD 10 is absolutely a solid choice.