Amazon’s top 10in Fire OS tablet has had a makeover and now has faster performance, without costing iPad money.
The 2021 Fire HD 10 comes in either a standard version costing £150/US$150 or a “Plus” version, as tested here, costing £180/US$180, with a few more bells and whistles.
The tablet has a 10.1in LCD touchscreen that is slightly brighter than its predecessor and is designed for movie-watching with its widescreen ratio, compared with the iPad’s squarer screen. The new Fire HD 10 adopts the slimmed-down and rounded aesthetic introduced to the 8in Fire HD 8 last year, which makes it look significantly more modern, and is 36g lighter than the model it replaces.
The screen is good for the money: fairly sharp, with good viewing angles, and bright enough indoors, though it struggles in direct sunlight. The pair of top-mounted speakers are reasonable for watching movies or getting answers from Amazon’s integrated Alexa voice assistant. A 2-megapixel webcam above the screen is reasonable for video calling in good light too.
Screen: 10.1in 1920×1200 LCD (224ppi)
Processor: 2GHz octa-core
Storage: 32 or 64GB plus microSD card slot
Operating system: Fire OS 7 based on Android 9
Camera: 2MP front-facing, 5MP rear cameras
Connectivity: Wifi 5, Bluetooth 5, 3.5mm headphones, USB-C, Qi wireless charging
Dimensions: 247 x 166 x 9.2 mm
The Fire tablets are typically fast enough, but won’t beat more expensive rivals for raw performance. The Fire HD 10 Plus is no exception. It has the same processor as the regular Fire HD 10, but with 1GB more of RAM for a total of 4GB. That’s twice the amount of the previous-generation machine, which significantly improves multitasking. A dedicated game mode automatically optimises the tablet for games, turning off hands-free Alexa and other background tasks when playing.
Battery life is very good. The tablet will last a couple of days with mixed use or more than 12 hours streaming video over wifi, according to my testing – but of course, playing graphically intensive games significantly decreases battery life. The tablet charges really slowly, taking at least four hours with the included 9W power adaptor. Using a 15W charger shaved 30 minutes off that time, whether wired or wireless for the Plus model.
Amazon does not provide an expected lifespan of the battery in the tablet. Batteries in similar products typically last for at least 500 full-charge cycles while maintaining at least 80% of their original capacity. The Fire HD 10 and HD 10 Plus are generally repairable. They contain 28% post-consumer recycled plastic. The company offers trade-in and recycling schemes and publishes information on its various sustainability efforts.
Fire OS 7
The new tablet runs the same Fire OS 7.3 as the previous version and the Fire HD 8, which is based on Android 9 but lacks Google’s services and the Play store, instead relying on Amazon’s App Store and services. Amazon typically supports its tablets for longer than low-cost Android rivals, with at least several years of software and security updates.
The interface is fairly simple, with a traditional home screen of apps flanked by pages called “For You”, featuring app and content suggestions, and “Library”, listing things you own such as Kindle books, games, movies and other bits. The search bar at the top takes you to results from the web, Amazon’s shop and your content, emails and other bits.
Amazon’s App Store has most of the media consumption apps you’re likely to want in the UK, including Spotify, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Netflix, Disney+ and Sky Go, but BT Sport, Google’s various apps such as YouTube, Chrome and Maps, and Apple’s Music and TV are a no-go. Zoom, Skype and Alexa are available for video calling, while the store features a fairly large range of games, even if many of them are rubbish. Note that Fortnite is not available for Fire tablets, even through the Android Epic Games store.
You need an Amazon account to use the tablet, plus a Prime subscription giving access to Prime Video to really make the most of it.
There’s a new smart-home button in the bottom left of the navigation bar that gives you instant access to devices such as lights and speakers you’ve set up with Alexa.
There’s a little flex in the body and the screen when pressed too hard, but the tablet feels robust.
The lack of popular password managers makes logging into apps and services extremely tedious if you rely on one that isn’t available in the Amazon app store.
The 2021 Fire HD 10’s revamped design and reasonable performance have done just enough to keep Amazon at the top of the budget tablet pile.
There are very few competitors that offer the level of software support Amazon does for Android tablets at this low cost. The screen is pretty big and crisp, the speakers are fairly good, plus long battery life makes it an excellent lower-cost media consumption tablet as long as you’re happy to swim in Amazon’s ecosystem without access to Google or Apple’s apps.
The Fire HD 10 Plus version adds a soft-touch finish, wireless charging and 1GB more RAM, none of which are really required for a tablet like this and so I would recommend saving the extra £30/US$30 with the standard model. Watch out for deals too as Amazon frequently offers deep discounts on its Fire tablet range.
It won’t beat an iPad, Fire OS has a more limited selection of apps and games, and it is thoroughly undercut by its smaller £90 Fire HD 8 sibling, but the Fire HD 10 is great if you want a bigger screen for watching TV.
Pros: good screen, good speakers, great battery life, microSD card slot, USB-C charging, headphones socket, reasonable performance for the money, Alexa integration, wireless charging (Plus version only).
Cons: cameras aren’t great, slow charging, no Google Play or Apple apps, some apps missing from Amazon App Store, no Fortnite, requires Amazon Prime subscription to make the most of it, significantly undercut by Fire HD 8.