The Fire HD 10 was always the odd one out in the Amazon Fire tablet line up. Neither premium enough to warrant its £170/$230 price tag, nor cheap enough to excuse cost-cutting concessions like a 1280×800 pixel resolution screen (resulting in a paltry 149 PPI when stretched over 10-inches), there was little reason to recommend the HD 10 over its cheaper and smaller cousins.
I would, however, recommend the new Fire HD 10. Amazon has fixed the tablet’s most glaring issues—the most important of which is the introduction of a full HD 1080p IPS display—while reducing the price to an impressive £150/$150. It even features a hands-free integration of Alexa, instead of the touch-to-talk of other Fire devices.
Few tablets boast a quality, full HD screen for £150, let alone robust build quality and the backing of one of the biggest names in tech.
Amazon has made concessions to hit that price point, of course—mostly via the limitations of Fire OS—but let’s start with the good stuff. The 10.1-inch, 1920×1200 pixel IPS screen is colourful, bright, and has excellent viewing angles. It’s laminated to the glass, too, making it clear and easy to read. The shiny rear surface of the old Fire 10 has been given the shove, replaced with a hard-wearing, textured plastic that provides plenty of grip, without feeling cheap (or, at least more premium than the price tag suggests).
Internally, the Fire HD 10 has had an upgrade, too. It’s powered by a 1.8GHz, quad-core MediaTek processor that promises to be 30-percent faster than the processor in the old Fire HD 10. While not as sprightly as the Apple or Qualcomm equivalent, it provides more than enough grunt to navigate Fire OS smoothly. The front-facing HD camera and 5MP rear-facing cameras remain unchanged but are adequate for video calls and some light video recording (up to 1080p), if not still photography.
The Fire HD 10 has an excellent IPS panel.
Hands-free Alexa is activated via the notification pane.
Alexa can show visual information as part of her responses.
The Fire HD 10 is a comfortable tablet.
Battery life has been given a boost to a claimed 10 hours of mixed usage, there’s 2GB of memory, and the base level of storage has been increased to 32GB from 16GB. There’s even a microSD card slot for memory expansion.
Like all Amazon tablets, the Fire HD 10 is powered by Fire OS, Amazon’s own proprietary operating system based on Google’s Android. If you have an Amazon Prime account and make most of your digital purchases through Amazon, this is no bad thing. Everything you need to watch films, TV shows, read books and listen to music is built-in from the off. So, too, is Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, which can do everything from tell you what meetings you’ve got lined up for the day, to searching for songs via snippets of lyrics.
The twist with the Fire HD 10 is the introduction of hands-free Alexa, which can be toggled on and off via the notification pane. Instead of having to hold down the virtual home button to activate Alexa, you can now just say “Hey, Alexa.” Quite why it has taken so long for this feature to make its way onto Amazon’s own tablets (well, one of them at least) is a mystery, but now that it’s here it’s easily the best way to interact with Alexa. Anything you can do with an Echo Dot or an Echo you can do with the Fire HD 10, with the addition of handy visual cards like weekly weather reports and Wikipedia summaries.
Amazon won’t say whether hands-free Alexa will make its way to other Fire devices, but given it brought Alexa over to the Fire 5 after launching with the Fire 8 and Fire 7, it’s more than likely.
Really, the only reason not to buy the Fire HD 10 is if you’re not enamoured with Amazon services. Sure, the Amazon App Store features essential apps like Spotify and Facebook, but without access to the full Google Play Store, many simply aren’t available (technically minded people can side-load any missing Android apps, however).
Personally, I don’t think it matters. If all you want to do is watch videos, flick through Facebook, and do a spot of online shopping, the Fire HD 10 is ideal. And the money saved over the more productivity-focused iPad Pro 10.5 can be put towards an Amazon Prime, Spotify, or Netflix subscription instead.
This post originated on Ars Technica UK