One by one, Amazon has been refreshing its Fire line of tablets. We got a new Fire HD 8 last year, a new Fire 7 back in the spring and now, finally, the one we’ve been waiting for: a third generation of the Fire HD 10, last updated back in 2017.
Why the excitement? Well, mainly because so few companies are making quality budget tablets aside from Amazon but also because this is as powerful as the company’s tablets get. So has Amazon provided a big, budget tablet fit for use in 2019?
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review: What you need to know
For plenty of people, Amazon’s 7in and 8in tablets will be more than enough, but for others a tablet really only makes sense at 10in or over, whether that’s for the bigger screen or a larger battery.
In Amazon’s case, it’s also a substantial specs jump. While the 2019 Fire 7 huffs and puffs away with a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and a lonely gigabyte of RAM, the all-new Amazon Fire HD 10 not only gets double the RAM but double the cores and an extra 700MHz of power thanks to the octa-core 2GHz MediaTek MT8183 processor. That screen is also full HD at 1,920 x 1,200.
These are hardly world-beating specs but in the world of budget tablets it’s a veritable champion, as we’ll see in the next section.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review: Price and competition
The tablet will set you back £150 for the 32GB version or £180 for the 64GB one. Given you can add a microSD card of up to 512GB to that you’re probably best off saving your money and going for the cheaper one. Oh, and those prices include Amazon ads – you can pay an extra £10 to get one “without special offers” as Amazon euphemistically calls it.
By contrast, the 7in version will cost a third of the price at £50, although as well as the other drawbacks mentioned in the previous section, it also only includes 16GB of onboard storage. The 8in middle ground is £80 but again only comes with 16GB of storage and weaker specifications all round.
All Amazon so far but rivals from other manufacturers are pretty hard to come by. Good examples, like the 10.2in 2019 Apple iPad, are significantly pricier, starting at £350, while budget rivals tend to be dreadful. Seriously, reviewing the £90 Vankyo MatrixPad Z4 tablet should be classified as cruel and unusual punishment by the United Nations. (No buying link here: trust me, I’m doing you a favour.)
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review: The Kids Edition
Before I get into the full review of the Fire HD 10, I should quickly highlight its sibling: the Kids Edition. I was sent both for this review and the hardware is identical, only the child-friendly version is £50 more. So what gives? The price discrepancy can be explained by three unique features it offers over the regular version.
First, aesthetically it’s very different on account of the brightly coloured rubber bumper case it’s supplied with. This wraps all the way around the tablet, has a handy kickstand built into the back and offers serious drop protection. In our testing, dropping it from a child’s height onto the floor and the thing literally bounces.
That’s why it gets the second feature: a generous warranty. If you somehow manage to break the device in the first two years of ownership – smash the screen or run it over with your toy tractor – Amazon will replace it with a new one, no questions asked.
Finally, it comes with a one-year subscription to Fire for Kids Unlimited, which provides access to “thousands of popular apps, games, videos, books and audiobooks” – all suitably age-appropriate.
The rest is identical: same screen, same power, same battery. If you’re planning on buying for a butter-fingered child, it’s definitely worth considering the extra £50.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review: Design
So back to the Fire HD 10. Design-wise, it’s pretty much a case of same old, same old. It still has enormous thick bezels and chunky matte plastic casing. This time around, though, you can pick from four colours – we were sent the plain old white one, which is a pity as both the plum and twilight blue shades look quite appealing.
Actually, there are some differences; they’re just not immediately obvious. Aesthetically, it’s a slightly cleaner looking product, as Amazon has taken a small step towards debranding the Fire HD 10 as it has with its Echo Dot speakers. Gone is the full embossed Amazon logo on the back, leaving just the curved arrow part. It’s certainly a neater look and makes you feel less like a walking billboard when reading on public transport.
More importantly, the micro-USB port has been replaced by USB Type-C. That not only means faster charging times, but also increases the likelihood of you having one lying around to grab, given it’s the same charger used by most Android phones, the Nintendo Switch and even some laptops. The 32GB or 64GB of onboard storage can be upped by an extra 512GB via microSD, too, which a big improvement on the 200GB cap from the 2017 edition.
It’s all good stuff and it feels nice enough in the hands, but there’s one thing that continues to divide opinion: Fire OS. This is a heavily skinned version of Android that has the main purpose of pushing Amazon products at every opportunity, whether it’s the store, Kindle books, Audible titles or Amazon Prime TV shows.
It’s basically fine but takes a little getting used to and you’ll have to sideload the Google Play store if you want access to the full range of Android’s apps: a process that’s not too daunting, but beyond the scope of most casual buyers all the same. While Amazon’s own app store has most of the popular bases covered there are some key omissions, most seriously for me: LastPass. Having to resort to an APK of a program designed to keep all your passwords safe felt too risky to try, which meant a fun time manually entering gratuitously long passwords for everything.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review: Screen
The “ten” in the Fire HD 10’s name is shorthand for the size of the screen – 10.1in to be exact. It’s an IPS panel and it’s actually rather a good one for the price.
Our colourimeter measured an sRGB coverage of 86.7% from a volume of 87.1%. Contrast is a decent 890:1, meaning that the onscreen image looks nice and lively and streaming TV is very watchable. No, it’s not the kind of high-quality panel you get on the 10.2in iPad but it does the job and is more than you have any right to expect for the price.
The only slight downer is that, at a max screen brightness of 398cd/m2, it’s far from the brightest panel we’ve tested. Indeed, it’s actually slightly lower than the 2017 Fire HD 10 and the 2018 Fire HD 8 which both reached 455cd/m2. That means it may struggle in the brightest sunshine but if you’re only planning on using the tablet indoors, you won’t face any problems.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review: Performance
If you follow technology closely you may well have sighed a little when you saw the processor in the Fire HD 10 is a MediaTek chip, rather than a Qualcomm equivalent. Historically, MediaTek chips have not exactly provided stellar performance and you tend to see them in lower-cost phones and tablets. That’s fair enough in a budget tablet, but I digress.
As it turns out, the octa-core 2GHz MT8183 chip that runs the show here is a pleasant surprise. I have the 2018 Fire HD 8 still set up in my office and remember it felt a bit sluggish out of the box – a problem that has only become worse over time. (Anecdotally, some people say sideloading the Google Play Store slows things down, so that might well be to blame.)
In any case, that isn’t an issue with the Fire HD 10 out of the box, which feels snappy and responsive in day-to-day use. Amazon suggests a whole bunch of useful apps to get you started, and I juggled between Spotify, Audible, Twitter and the built-in Silk web browser without any problems. Looking at the benchmarks, this anecdotal feeling of a smoother Fire tablet is definitely backed up by the numbers. These are the GeekBench 4 figures which show CPU performance:
Given the new Fire HD has doubled the number of cores on the 2017 version, it’s hardly surprising that multi-core performance has improved but the degree to which it has is still startling. It’s now closing in on the 10.2in iPad and leaves all other Fire devices in the dust. Somewhere below that dust is the Vankyo MatrixPad Z4, which you’ll remember is only £60 cheaper.
Okay, maybe comparisons to the iPad are overblown: in graphical performance, the 2019 Fire HD 10 is still some distance behind but it does appear roughly twice as speedy as the 2017 version, which is a decent result.
In short, gaming is fine in undemanding titles. In fact, it even plays a passable game of Asphalt 8, even if it’s not a perfectly smooth experience. Particularly strenuous titles will likely give it a bit of trouble if you can even find your favourites on Amazon’s store. Some of our testing favourites like PUBG Mobile are conspicuous by their absence.
Battery life is another area where the Fire HD 10 really excels. The 2019 version packs in a whopping 6,300mAh battery and, while Amazon didn’t reveal a capacity on the previous version, it’s clearly a long way behind:
That’s right, the 2019 Fire HD 10 lasted an incredible 17hrs 48mins in our looped video test. Not only is that an impressive total for a device with a 10in screen, but it’s over six hours longer than the 2017 version and some distance ahead of the 10.2in iPad too. Impressive stuff.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review: Verdict
The 2017 Fire HD 10 was a five-star product. The 2019 version gives a big boost to performance and battery life without changing the price – so it was always going to be another five-star Best Buy.
Make no mistake, even with its drawbacks – the hard plastic casing, the weak brightness and Fire OS – you’re not going to get a better tablet for £150 or anywhere near. The 10.2in iPad is undoubtedly a better product, but you can buy two Fire HD 10s for the price of one of those, and still have enough change left to splurge on a couple of fancy cases and a few months of Prime subscription. Good job, Amazon.