Amazon Fire HD 10 review: Amazon is filling out its tablet lineup with some new HD-screen toting mid-rangers. We went hands-on with the larger Fire HD 10.
Amazon’s newest slate family slots in between its basic £50 Fire offering and last year’s beefier HDX lineup. The big-screened experience offered up by the HD 10 makes it the closest to the company’s more powerful tablets but it’s essentially the same as its smaller 8-inch sibling both inside and out.
As with the HD 8 the highlights of the exterior fall to the tablet’s stereo speaker grilles and a microSD slot for expandability, located in the corner along the device’s edge. It’s one of the company’s thinnest slates at 7.7mm, but based on its size and weight (432 grams) one-handed use can quickly become a strain on your wrists, particularly if you’re trying to use it in landscape – most likely for watching movies or gaming.
The slate’s body is essentially a sturdy metal frame with a glossy polymer topcoat. Whilst the edges are finely textured for better grip, the tablet’s bezel and back are very shiny and very prone to smears, smudges and fingerprints, so a case might be advisable if you want a low cost slate that retains its good looks.
Unlike the other new Amazon tabs, the HD 10 is the only one that also works with a dedicated keyboard cover, adding not only a fully QWERTY typing experience with decent travel, but a trackpad, two adjustable viewing angles and a one-month battery life (it connects to the HD 10 via Bluetooth and charges via microUSB).
You’d expect a big-screened device to be tailor-made for enjoying media and whilst colour and contrast are appealing on the HD 10’s 10.1-inch display, its lacklustre 1280×800 resolution and poor excuse of an IPS panel mean that it lacks detail and punch to be a serious contender in the entertainment space.
If you want a budget big-screened slate and you’re not too fussy, you can still happily enjoy the viewing experience offered up by the HD 10, but it’s without question a little way down the list in terms of visual fidelity and quality.
Along with its launch siblings, the Fire HD 10 is one of the first of Amazon’s devices to debut its new Fire OS 5. The update translates to an improved user experience with the all familiar Amazon experiences and services dressed in a new, prettier garb.
As the groundwork is based on Google’s Android platform, you’ll recognise a lot of the Fire OS 5 styling, even if you haven’t used a Fire tablet before. The biggest departure is in the home screen layout, which doesn’t just show content you own, but content you might like to own.
Each home screen is split into a familiar Amazon category, such as Books, Video, Games, Audiobooks and so on. Along the top you’ll typically see items you’ve already purchased or downloaded (if they were free), but beneath that you’ll see recommendations, popular or trending purchases and more.
Fire OS is really the whole reason behind Amazon’s Fire tablet family, it’s designed to push you in front of everything the company sells like a virtual storefront and on Fire OS 5, that means a visually engrossing experience with quick access to every main facet of Amazon’s products and services.
As with its screen, the internal hardware of the HD 10 comes across as pretty lacklustre, at least on paper. Despite packing a conservative MediaTek 1.5GHz/1.2GHz quad-core processor paired to a single gigabyte of RAM however, general usability with this larger Fire tablet feels pretty good.
Navigating the UI felt responsive (when it worked – the event’s WiFi connection was rather patchy), streaming video was a fairly painless process and even 3D gaming was fluid enough to be enjoyable.
Whilst Amazon didn’t get into specifics, the HD 10 also promises eight hours of battery life and 16GB or 32GB inbuilt storage options (expandable via microSD up to an additional 128GB), making it a more suitable media device over its 8-inch sibling, which is restricted to 8GB or 16GB internally.
The bigger the tablet, the more we’d try to dissuade users from snapping selfies in the street with it. The Fire HD 10 uses a VGA/5-megapixel pair which the company says they’ve tailored to work better in poor lighting conditions, namely artificial light as you’d likely find in the home – the Fire tablet’s natural habitat.
At the launch event where lighting was less than ideal, a notable amount of grain and noise was visible, but no more than you’d expect for a low cost offering like this and both snappers are wholly usable if all you plan on doing is hopping into a video call over a service like Skype.
The Amazon Fire HD 10 is a mixed bag, with its design and screen being the most obvious weak points, but respectable real-world performance and an impressive software experience mean that it has a place for certain users.
The £169.99 price tag is a little steep for what’s on offer and the keyboard dock adds an additional £99, despite feeling a little flimsy, but if you’re already entrenched in the world of Amazon, this might be worth a look. We’ll pass full judgement come the full review.