I picked up the 32gb Fire HD 10 for £149.99 (with Special Offers). An extra £30 takes storage to 64gb but it’s cheaper to put a micro SD card in the port under a plastic protective cover on the right hand side. Available in Black, Punch Red or the Marine Blue I bought it in; there is just enough choice for everyone. The Special Offers is Amazon’s term for putting adverts on the lock screen and buying it like this saves you a tenner. Whilst the ads are not particularly annoying, I decided to write to customer support and asked if they’d remove them for free; given that “I’ve been a loyal Prime member for several years”. Within a few hours the ads had gone and I had an email confirming I wouldn’t be charged. This is worth knowing before you pay to have them removed, but I can’t help but feel it should be done automatically for any of their tablets registered to a Prime member.
The majority of people who buy from Amazon’s range of Fire tablets will indeed be Prime members or at least it is advisable to be in order to get the most out of the device. Amazon’s services are given prime (sorry) real estate on the home pages through the heavily skinned version of Android, Fire OS. Fire OS 18.104.22.168 is the latest release for the tablets and is a fork off Android 5 (Lollipop). Amazon have waited two whole releases before releasing Fire OS 6 based on Android 7.1 (Nougat) but this is currently only available on Fire TV. It’s a shame they haven’t followed Google’s release schedule more closely but I guess this is due to the work required to modify Android to their style and remove all Google’s services (more on this later). There are at least fairly regular updates when compared to the almost non existent support that other Android tablet makers have got a reputation for – even large manufacturers like Lenovo and Asus are guilty of device abandonment. I’ve been unable to find any definitive answer that Fire OS 6 is coming to the tablets too so if you do please let me know in the comments below!
The tablet arrives in what could probably best be described as a carton, a simple cardboard case with none of the pomp and ceremony of a high end device – this is not the beautifully designed box that your mobile phone probably came in. The positive to this is that you don’t need to find somewhere to store the case and all the packaging is recyclable. In the box you’ll find a small quick start guide, a micro usb lead and a 9W 1.8A charger.
First thoughts are that it appears really sturdy. At 9.8mm thick it is bulkier than an iPad but, with the rounded edges, I find it comfier to hold for extended periods. If you are after a smaller form factor then you can’t beat the Fire HD 8. It seems equally natural to hold it on both landscape and portrait mode depending on whether your browsing the web or watching a film. Watching Netflix or Amazon Prime Video is better than an iPad due to the 16:10 aspect ratio (iPad is a boxy 4:3) which removes the requirement for black bars top and bottom. The 10.1″ screen is decent and whilst the 224 ppi is way off flagship spec, at 1920×1200, it is at least Full HD. The IPS screen looks good and viewing angles are reasonable although the colours seem very slightly off. You really can’t quibble for the price though and it blows away the screens on other sub £200 tablets.
Another feature that destroys the competition is the dual Atmos speakers on the left edge of the device (in portrait). When assembled into the official Amazon case, and held or placed in landscape, the two speakers point up and provide decent sound quality and volume. I only wish that the headphone jack was on the lower edge of the tablet as, when using the device in portrait and listening to music, the cable tends to get in the way of the screen. I understand why it is laid out as such; having all ports (bar the SD card slot) on one face does make manufacture easier and therefore cheaper. I do like that the volume rocker changes direction if the orientation is changed and as far as I can remember this is the only device that I’ve used that does this.
Keeping the screen to just Full HD instead of boasting of 2K, or higher, resolutions, allows the tablet to feel snappy in use. This is despite having fairly basic technical specs and is most noticeable when you compare the gaming capability of the Fire HD 10 against other low cost tablets. Most users won’t notice a huge difference between 1080p and 2K on a screen this size. Frame drops and low frame rates caused when the processing power is required to pump out data for the extra pixels is much more irritating and can really mar the experience of operating a cheap device. This is a huge plus to Amazon for keeping specs sensible whilst still providing a buttery smooth user experience.
Not only does Fire OS run smoothly but Amazon also suggest battery life is a pretty impressive 10 hours and in my use this appears bang on. I’ve ended up charging my tablet every three days with pretty heavy gaming, web browsing and Netflix in the evenings. Reading on the screen is not a Kindle experience as this is a glossy screen not a e-paper screen but I still find myself reading on this more regularly than on my Kindle as it is usually the device I have to hand when I decide I fancy dipping into a book.
The Silk Browser is okay but I am more used to, and thus prefer, Chrome (more on how to get this on your device later). Whilst it is possible to change the default search engine to Google from Bing within the browser settings, this doesn’t seem to change the search engine used by the search bar on the home screen. If you know how to do this, please please let me know how it is done in the comments below!
Whilst the whole 2017 Fire range has Alexa built in, the 10″ model is the only one with voice activation through the keyword “Alexa”. This is a hardware difference not software, so don’t buy a HD 7 or HD 8 expecting the feature to be added later. We already have an Echo Dot and a Google Home speaker and so I haven’t felt the need to speak to my tablet. It is nice how well it plays with the Dot, allowing whichever device hears you better to answer but also displaying messages on the Fire’s screen.
The Amazon Fire HD 10 comes with all Amazon’s services pre-installed including the Amazon Appstore which, whilst better than a few years ago is still no match for Google Play Store. You will also see that, although Netflix and other useful apps are slowly filling the Appstore, no Google Apps are available through it. If you want the proper YouTube app (the one in the Appstore is only really a link to the website) or Google Maps, etc. you’ll need to side load a few Google Services to your device. This isn’t as scary as it sounds but according to some commentators online, some people haven’t been able to get it to work. I had no problems (be sure to install in order and don’t open any of them before restarting after installing the last APK) so follow the instructions at this link to give your tablet access to the full Google Play Store. While you’re at it, why not download Shadow Horse 😉
The Fire HD 10 (2017) is an incredibly impact resistant tablet (see this video here, skip to 1min30s) but if you want something to help you prop it up while reading or watching content on it you’ll want to fit a case anyway. It is still fairly new so there aren’t many cases available for it, however Amazon’s offering is an excellent choice, if a little expensive. The fit is perfect as you’d expect, the textile finish good looking and comfortable to hold, and the stand an interesting change on the generic flap or triangle method.
Overall, if you are in the market for an Android tablet the options are pretty thin on the ground. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is widely hailed as the best Android tablet available, complete with a stylus and great for productivity, but comes at a high price. Asus and Lenovo tablets are certainly well received but poorly supported and at the top end of cheap which puts them in competition with Apple’s 2017 iPad 32gb (non-expandable storage) which is available for around £320 from Amazon. The Fire HD 10 (2017) improves on the previous generation of Fire tablets and does it for cheaper, filling the tablet sized hole in my life perfectly. It won’t suit everyone but if you are the kind of user who wants to browse the web in bed, play a few games and watch some Netflix, without the screen constraints of your phone, then I don’t believe you can go wrong with this tablet.
With Black Friday just around the corner this is likely to be offered even cheaper, so follow me on Twitter @incompletegeek to stay up to date with any bargains I spot. If you have any questions about the device hardware or features or even whether a certain app will run on the HD 10, pop a request in the comments below and I’ll be sure to let you know.