Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review

Amazon finds a way to offer more for less

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Our Verdict

The Amazon Fire HD 10 focuses its energies in the right places. You will not find a better bargain than this if you have your heart set on a big screen tablet.

For

  • Cheap
  • Full HD display
  • Alexa is useful

Against

  • Amazon’s Fire OS
  • Plastic design
  • Poor cameras

It’s no secret that the tablet market is in decline. People don’t need to buy a new tablet every couple of years, the way they buy a phone.

While Apple and Microsoft try to conjure fresh interest with a flurry of overpowered wannabe laptop replacements, Amazon has chipped away at the other end of the price spectrum with a series of solid, unremarkable slates on which to binge watch TV shows.

Improvements have been gradual, but the 2017 version of Amazon's Fire HD 10 offers a high definition display, speedier performance, and hands-free, voice activated assistant, Alexa.

The greatest trick Amazon has pulled off here is managing to reduce the price. This year’s Fire HD isn’t just better than its predecessor, it’s also cheaper, at just $150/£150.

You can get plenty of diminutive tablets without breaking the bank, but it’s harder to find big screen tablets with such a reasonable price tag.

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) price and release date

  • The Amazon Fire HD 10 costs $150/£150 (around AU$195)
  • You can pay $15/£10 extra to get rid of lock screen adverts

We didn’t much care for the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2015), which cost $230/£170 and had a terrible screen resolution, sluggish performance, and a plasticky design.

The good news is that Amazon has shaved some money off the price for this year’s Fire HD 10, and bumped the resolution and performance. The bad news is that it’s still plastic.

It starts at $150/£150 for the model "With Special Offers", which means that you get adverts for content on your lock screen. If that idea offends you, pay an extra $15/£10 and you can get the Fire HD 10 (2017) without adverts. It’s also worth noting that you can pay that money at any point in the future to turn them off.

The 64GB version of the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) costs $190/£180. Both versions come with a handy microSD card slot for cards of up to 256GB in size.

With or without ads, the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) has few, if any, easy to recommend competitors at this price point. The fact that the dollar and pound prices are largely the same makes it even more of a deal Stateside. Sadly, it won’t be released in Australia.

Talk to your tablet

  • Alexa hands-free functionality can be very useful
  • To get the best from this device you need Amazon Prime

The Amazon Echo was something of a surprise hit, and introduced many people to Alexa’s charms. The ability to request songs, get a quick news update, or play a round of "Would You Rather?" is something that grows on you over time. 

Whether you’re excited by the prospect of Alexa on your tablet will depend on how you use it.

Using Alexa on the Fire HD 10 (2017) is just as easy as it is on the Echo, simply utter her name and then ask or command. You can search the internet, open apps, get a weather forecast, or simply use Alexa to pause the movie you’re watching.

Since Alexa has a 10.1-inch display at her disposal, her spoken answers are supplemented by visuals. For example, the weather forecasts show the next few hours and days, while a quick check of what you have on for the day is accompanied by a calendar breakdown.

A lot of people still don’t really use the voice assistants that live in their phones, so you might be wondering why the Fire HD 10 (2017) would be any different?

We found hands-free commands were much more useful for a tablet. Say you’ve propped the Fire HD 10 just out of reach and want to pause the movie action for a quick break - just tell Alexa.

If you’re cooking up a storm in the kitchen and want to check a recipe - ask Alexa and get what you need without having to wash up first.

You can toggle the hands-free mode on and off, which is great if you’re concerned about Alexa always listening. Maybe it’s because we’re used to Alexa with the Echo, but we found ourselves using it quite a lot on the Fire HD 10 (2017), more than we’ve ever used Siri on the iPad, for example.

It’s a great feature for a budget tablet and it’s getting better all the time thanks to a growing library of skills that offer fun games and integration with all sorts of services.

Design and display

  • Chunky plastic build
  • 10.1-inch 1,920 x 1,200 display

Let’s be honest – the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) is plain. Some might say plain ugly. It has a thick, plastic body that curves to meet the glass front, where you’ll find big bezels around the screen.

It's 262 x 159 x 9.8mm and it weighs 500g. For a point of comparison, Apple’s new iPad measures 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm and weighs in at 469g.

The Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) feels sturdy and we found it quite comfortable to hold, though it’s heavy enough that you’ll want to invest in a stand or a case that can prop it up. 

Because the edges are curved plastic, it slides easily, so trying to prop it against something is a challenge.

You’ll find the main camera lens on the back, along with the Amazon logo. Holding it in landscape view, the metallic volume controls sit at the top with the power button at the bottom of the right spine.

In between, you’ll find a micro USB port for charging, a microphone, and the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Up top there’s the stereo speakers, one at each end of the top edge. On the bottom edge there’s a small flap for access to the microSD card slot.

The Fire HD 10 (2017) comes in black and Amazon has also tried to spice things up with bright red and blue varieties, but you’re not going to buy this tablet for the design.

Since the screen has long been one of the big caveats of any Fire tablet recommendation, it’s great to see Amazon address this in the Fire HD 10 (2017).

This is a 10.1-inch IPS LCD touchscreen with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels. That gives it 224 pixels-per-inch (ppi). For comparison the new iPad has a 9.7-inch display that’s only slightly sharper at 264ppi.

From browsing the web, to watching TV shows like Amazon’s Startup, or playing games like Star Wars: Commander, we found the display was a pleasant surprise. It’s sharp, bright, and vibrant. You don’t tend to hold a tablet screen as close as you do your phone, so the display feels plenty sharp enough.

It is a bit reflective, the blacks are far from deep, and it’s not going to work well in direct sunlight, but it’s a major leap forward compared to the old Fire HD 10, which had a 1,280 x 800 resolution.