Another year, another round of Amazon’s budget bruisers – each priced and designed to muscle out the competition, or what modicum is left thereof at this point in time.
Since the Great Tablet Rush of the early 2010s, only a few players are left in the game. There’s Apple, producing iPads with aplomb, and competing only with the odd half-hearted Samsung effort. And at the budget end of the market is Amazon, which has buried what little competition it ever had under an avalanche of plastic fantastics.
But of its carousel of contenders, it is the biggest, the Amazon Fire HD 10, which is the crown jewel. With the most powerful chipset, the most advanced screen, and the strongest multimedia skills, it is the model to beat. This said, it is also the most expensive, and as such has the most to prove.
With almost no other players in the game however, is this simply an iteration on previous models and not worth the upgrade? Or is it something a little more special? Read on to find out more.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) availability and price
- Out now in the US and UK
- Not available in Australia
- Starts at $149.99 / £149.99
The Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) is out now in the US and UK, starting at $149.99 / £149.99 for 32GB of storage and rising to $189.99 / £179.99 for a 64GB model. In both cases that includes getting adverts displayed on your lock screen. If you’d rather not see these you can pay an extra $15 / £10.
Amazon doesn’t offer its tablet range in Australia so you won’t be able to buy this there.
- Show Mode lets you use it as a smart display
- USB-C replaces its predecessor’s micro USB
- A new octa-core chipset powers the slate
On the surface of it, the new Amazon Fire HD 10 feels immediately like its predecessors. That is to say, Amazon came upon a particular utilitarian design language when it first introduced the Fire line of tablets, and it has doggedly stuck to it since.
Despite this, there are a few changes with the latest model worth crowing about, though whether they constitute discrete ‘features’ in themselves is open to interpretation.
The first is a win for those who enjoy modern ports, the micro USB charging has finally been consigned to the dustbin of history, and instead we have the indisputably superior USB-C charging.
In addition to allowing for a reversible connection (which is always nice when fumbling with cables in the dark), this also allows for improved compatibility with a host of different accessories.
We also have the return of ‘Show’ mode, which is another attempt by the firm to push its almost-omnipresent ‘Alexa’ digital assistant. With a compatible dock attached, this allows your tablet to serve as a smart display – charging and displaying information at the same time. We didn’t receive a dock, and so cannot test this part, however the feature still works the same when plugged into the wall.
How much mileage you get from this will depend on how baked-in you are to Amazon’s ecosystem, and how much you depend on this ‘smart’ tech.
Lastly, there’s a new octa-core chipset under the hood powering things along, accompanied by 2GB of RAM, which is the bare minimum of what we would expect from a tablet in the present.
- Plain but sturdy
- USB-C port is a win
As with any product that costs under $200 / £200, it is the presence of design thinking that should be rewarded, sometimes regardless of the results of said efforts.
The Fire HD 10 (2019), from a design perspective, sits on a fence. On the one hand, it has different color options and feels durable, and on the other it is so bland as to almost fade into oblivion.
It may be a little trite to describe a tablet as nothing more than a rectangle with a glass panel stuck on, but even with extended use this is the overall impression the unit gives. It certainly doesn’t have the wow-factor of an iPad Pro 11.
That isn’t to say that it is necessarily unpleasant to use – where we might look to the likes of a smartphone to provide some element of flair, to satisfy our need to be seen and define ourselves by the things we own, tablets are judged by different metrics.
These are devices made for the sofa, for a bleary-eyed commute – and as such have a little more leeway than normal to be just a bit boring. The Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) is certainly that, however it is comfortable and can withstand a little bit of punishment in the process. You’ll feel no qualms about lobbing it onto the sofa when you’ve finished using it.
It has a 10.1-inch display dominating its front, flanked by a small webcam and covered with hardened glass – though there’s no word on the make. The sole bit of branding present is an Amazon ‘swoosh’ on the rear, colored the same as the body itself, the very definition of tasteful understatement.
And as noted before, this tablet charges via USB-C, which is very much a win for quality of life. For those of us who mostly see USB-C devices in their lives, and who hang on to a single solitary micro USB cable against the off-chance that some antediluvian tech will arrive, it is further cause to go full USB-C.
While USB-C wins many plaudits for being reversible, our love for the standard comes from its durability, as the port is stronger in design than micro USB and so therefore more likely to survive across prolonged usage.
On the rear, aside from the logo you’ll find another small camera, while the top edge of the Fire HD 10 holds a 3.5mm headphone jack (hooray), and the power and volume buttons.
In all, this is a tablet designed to hold up against a life in the living room and bedroom, and this it does with aplomb. Although it won’t survive the dedicated attention of the average three year old, at this price it can be easily replaced.
- 10-1.inch 1920 x 1200 screen
- Gets fairly bright
- Colors can be cold and it can suffer from glare
With a 10.1-inch panel on its front, the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) certainly has the space to give your content a little breathing room. Whether movies, TV, books or otherwise, having more acreage is an automatic advantage over any smartphone, and well suits a device that is designed almost solely for content consumption.
Beyond its size however, the screen on the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) is very decent. With a resolution of 1920 x 1200 it is decently sharp, and it also gets reasonably bright. This isn’t enough to compete with the brightest of conditions from the great outdoors, however it is certainly sufficient for the worst that the average home can throw at you.
We found that colors were a little cold (though this is par for the course with cheap LCD displays), but that this didn’t bother us overly. It is certainly possible to permanently activate the ‘Night Light’ mode as a counterbalance, though the end results may not be to the tastes of many – this Night Light mode is particularly heavy-handed.
One significant issue we found however, was glare on the panel. Although it does get reasonably bright, it is also very reflective. This likely won’t bother you in most situations, however it does mean that that one annoying beam of sunlight that you can’t avoid may ruin your leisure time.
In all, as with the design of the tablet, this is a panel made for people who want to watch TV, on their lap, indoors, and on that count it succeeds famously. As long as you aren’t expecting too much, it will not disappoint. It isn’t in any way competition for the lovely Samsung Galaxy Tab S6.