Finally, a Fire slate with hands-free Alexa and a decent screen
You won’t find a better tablet value than the Fire HD 10. It’s inexpensive and powerful, and it finally brings a solid display into Amazon’s slate lineup. It’s the ideal machine for binge-watching. It features a great 10-inch screen, it’s fast enough to run plenty of apps.
Amazon took a different route with its Fire tablets. They use Android at their core, but they feature a custom “Fire OS” that puts all of the shopping giant’s services front and centre. In a way, they’re basically digital Amazon catalogues, allowing you to easily shop and catch up on the latest Prime Video shows. While the company dabbled in the high-end arena with its Fire HDX line, it eventually shifted focus entirely to inexpensive tablets. They’re not exciting, but they’re ideal for people who want a cheap and easy-to-use slate that can run the occasional Android app.
At 9.8 millimetres thick, the Fire HD 10 isn’t exactly slim, but its rounded edges make it easy to hold. It’s only a tad heavier than the 9.7-inch iPad, clocking in at 1.1 pounds.
The Fire HD 10 surprised me — first, with its sturdiness. It feels like something that could take a tumble with ease. That makes it particularly well suited to children and the chronically clumsy. It’s odd that Amazon didn’t make an extra-strong “Kids Edition,” even though it did for the smaller HD Fire 7 and HD Fire 8. Those are more expensive than the standard versions, but they come with protective cases.
The most immediate upgrade is the Fire HD 10’s 1080p screen, which is a solid bump up from the 720p display of its predecessor. it packs in 2GB of RAM (twice as much as before), as well as a 1.8GHz quad-core processor, which Amazon claims is 30 percent faster than the last models. The tablet also includes 32GB of storage, and you can add an additional 256GB via the microSD slot.
The Fire HD 10 features two stereo speakers, as well as Dolby Atmos for headphones, which helps to make surround-sound audio more immersive. Amazon also included a 2-megapixel camera on the rear, which is a laughably low resolution for a front-facing camera these days, let alone a primary shooter. There’s also a front-facing VGA (640 x 480 pixels) camera that feels like a blast from the past. It’s been more than a decade since I last saw such a low-res camera on anything. Beyond that, the HD 10’s hardware is fairly straightforward. It still charges over micro-USB — you’ll have to wait a bit longer for Amazon to jump on the USB-C bandwagon.
While we’ve seen Alexa in the Fire HD 8 before, the new Fire HD 10 is Amazon’s first tablet to offer completely hands-free communication with its virtual assistant. Instead of pressing a button to issue commands, you can simply say “Alexa” out loud, even when the tablet is asleep. It works much like Amazon’s Echo devices, except you also get some on-screen feedback in addition to the assistant’s voice responses.
Aside from the addition of hands-free Alexa, Amazon’s Fire OS hasn’t changed much. It’s still broken down into several columns: “For You,” which directs you to Kindle and Prime Video content in your library; “Home,” where all of your apps live; and sections for books, videos, games, apps, Audible and newsstand content. And, of course, there’s also one category dedicated to shopping on Amazon. It’s all fairly straightforward, though the huge variety of sections can be intimidating at first.
Really, though, the biggest improvement you’ll notice in the Fire HD 10 is its 1080p screen. That might not sound very exciting these days, but it’s a significant leap for Amazon. The higher resolution makes videos and photos much clearer than before, and the improved brightness makes everything pop. It’s also sharp enough to display text clearly, which is ideal for Kindle books. Sure, the screen doesn’t hold a candle to the insanely bright OLED displays Samsung is using the Galaxy Tab S2 and S3, but they’re also far more expensive.
Alexa can also start playing a video or song on Prime services at your request — unfortunately, that doesn’t work for other platforms like Netflix. The tablet has only one microphone, but it managed to hear my voice requests most of the time, even in noisy environments.
Compared with other Android tablets, Amazon’s interface feels far more refined, despite being a bit cluttered. You’re never more than a few swipes away from a new TV show to binge, a book to read. It’s a consumption machine, for better or worse. The Fire HD 10 lasted nine hours and 45 minutes while playing a downloaded HD video on loop. That’s pretty close to Amazon’s 10-hour battery life claim.
While you can install popular Android apps on the Fire HD 10, like Netflix, Evernote and Spotify, Google’s services are noticeably absent from Fire OS. That means no Gmail, no Google Maps and no Google Calendar. Of course, that’s been the case with all of Amazon’s tablets, but that doesn’t bother me. You can, of course, use the built-in email app and Amazon’s Silk browser, but they’re no match for native Android Gmail and Chrome.
Given just how much Amazon had to customize Android for Fire OS, there’s little chance Google would ever grant access to its apps. But since Android slates have been in a death spiral over the past few years, it’d be wise for Google to work more closely with the one company that’s built successful tablets on its platform. Let’s face it: The search giant needs to do more than just shove Android apps into Chromebooks.
Amazon basically competes with itself when it comes to low-end slates. The new HD Fire 8, with 16GB of storage, and the svelte Fire 7 , with 8GB. If you’re worried about the portability of the HD 10, the 8-inch model might be a solid compromise.
If you want something even more powerful, with a wider assortment of apps (including Google’s), then it’s worth looking at Apple’s newest iPad and features a much better screen and superior hardware. Of course, that means hopping over to iOS, but your only other alternative in the Android arena is the Galaxy Tab S2. It has a gorgeous screen and it’s incredibly thin, but its ageing hardware doesn’t seem like a good investment today.
The Fire HD 10 is a glimmer of hope in the barren Android tablet wasteland. It fixes everything we didn’t like about the last model while dropping down to an incredibly low price for a 10.1-inch slate. I personally prefer not to have Google’s services. As it stands, though, the Fire HD 10 is still the cheap slate to beat this year.
Enjoy all your favorite movies and TV shows on Amazon Video, Netflix, HBO NOW, Sling TV, and more (subscription fees may apply). Discover hundreds of thousands of TV episodes and movies, plus fling Amazon Video content to your Fire TV using Second Screen. Enhance your video experience with features you only get from Amazon, including On Deck for watching videos anywhere, ASAP for fast video streaming, and X-Ray to go behind the scenes of your favorite movies and TV shows while you watch.
Watch downloaded videos anywhere with a Prime membership, Netflix plan, or Showtime subscription—on a plane, on vacation, in the car, or wherever you don’t have a wireless connection.
Choose from millions of Kindle eBook and magazine titles that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Over 1 million titles are priced very low. Or read as much as you want with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Connect with the largest online community of book lovers on Goodreads.
Read comfortably at night with Blue Shade, an exclusive Fire OS feature that automatically adjusts and optimizes the backlight for a more comfortable nighttime reading experience.
With millions of songs from thousands of artists, the Amazon Digital Music Store brings all your favorite music to your fingertips. Music you buy on your Fire tablet is saved to Your Music Library for free, and you can play or download it anytime.
Unlock more music with Amazon Music Unlimited. Audible offers more than 180,000 titles in audiobooks, including best sellers, romances, thrillers, and much more.
Fire tablets feature instant access to over 600,000 of the most popular free and best-selling games, social media, premium TV and movie provider apps, and so much more.
Choose from top titles including Candy Crush Saga, Township, Mobile Strike, and more.
Alexa, the brain behind Echo, provides quick access to the information and entertainment you want, including video, music, games, audiobooks, and more. Ask Alexa questions, see your calendar, get news, show sports scores, and even control your smart home—just ask.
When connected to Wi-Fi, simply say the wake word, “Alexa.” Alexa will respond to you—even when the screen is asleep—and will show visual responses to certain questions. Click here for instructions on enabling hands-free mode.
Everyday tasks made easier
Alexa on Fire tablets helps make every day easier. Just ask to set alarms and timers, check traffic, your calendar, to-do or shopping lists, and more. You can order millions of items with your voice, such as household and personal care products.
All-New Fire HD 10 Tablet with Alexa Hands-Free, 10.1″ 1080p Full HD Display, 32 GB, Marine Blue – with Special Offers
All-New Fire HD 10 Tablet with Alexa Hands-Free, 10.1″ 1080p Full HD Display, 64 GB, Black – with Special Offers
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