Amazon has finally made a tablet that can actually hold its own in today's market. Not only does the Fire HD 10 finally charge over USB-C, but the tablet's new octa-core processor makes it snappier than previous Amazon Fire tablets, which felt a little behind the curve. Add in more than 13 hours of battery life, and you've got one of the best tablets out there.
However, Amazon's own Fire OS — which lacks Google's own apps, including YouTube — holds this tablet back a bit. Still, this year's update makes the Fire HD 10 the best Amazon tablet period, and proves that you get what you pay for.
Fire HD 10 price and availability
Amazon's Fire HD 10 tablet starts at $149.99, but you can spring for the$189 64GB configuration if the default 32GB of storage isn't enough (or you could just add 512GB of storage with a microSD card). I'd skip that, though, and opt to pay $15 to remove the lock-screen ads that Amazon calls "special offers."
As I set up the Fire HD 10, I got a two-year "Protection Plan", which sounds similar to the no-questions-asked warranty that accompanies the $200 Fire HD 10 Kids Edition (which also includes a case and a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited). Amazon also sells a $39.99 folding case that allows the tablet to stand upright in both landscape and portrait orientations.
Fire HD 10 design
A tablet is a tablet, right? The Fire HD 10 still has a fairly vanilla design, but the slate's matte-plastic shell (which comes in black, white, plum and blue) feels relatively durable, with a minor amount of flex when pressure is applied to the center of the back.
The Fire HD 10 is a pretty standard-sized slate, at 17.8 ounces and 0.4 inches thick. The Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite (17.6 ounces, 0.3 inches), Apple iPad (2019) (17.6 ounces, 0.3 inches) and Lenovo Tab 4 10 Plus (17 ounces, 0.4 inches) are slightly lighter and thinner. The 8-inch Fire HD 8 (12.8 ounces, 0.4 inches) is predictably lighter.
The USB-C port in the Fire HD 10 may be small in stature, but it's one of the biggest (and most welcome) changes in this model. Thank you, Amazon, for helping us break free from the nonreversible micro-USB port, by giving us a modern port found in more and more devices. The MediaPad and the Tab 4 10 Plus also offer USB-C charging, while the iPad is still stuck on Lightning.
Fire HD 10 display
While watching an episode of Fleabag in 1080p on the Amazon Fire HD 10, I was reminded that Amazon can make a great tablet screen, provided that you pony up for the 10-inch model. I saw details in the hair, wrinkled brow and stubble of the "hot priest" (that's his name). The ferns outside Fleabag's cafe had a strong green hue, and the red painting in her godmother's studio stood out.
Our colorimeter read the Fire HD 10 as producing 106% of the sRGB spectrum, which is close to the 113% tablet average, the 114% rating from the MediaPad M5 Lite, the 105% from the iPad and the 109% from the Tab 4 10 Plus. The Fire HD 8 (80%) proved less colorful.
The Fire HD 10 produces a max brightness of 403 nits, which is pretty good but still outshined by the 424-nit tablet average, the 427-nit MediaPad M5 Lite and the 450-nit iPad. We saw a similar brightness from the Lenovo Tab 4 10 Plus (400 nits), but the Fire HD 8 (307 nits) was dimmer. The Fire HD 10 is bright enough for solid viewing angles. The multicolored raffle balls in the hopper at a church picnic in Fleabag popped — and stayed strong at 30 degrees to the left and right — better than I expected for a $150 tablet.
The Amazon Fire HD 10 proved relatively responsive as I tapped and scrolled around the Fire OS interface. When pinching and zooming web pages on the panel, I saw animations move smoothly but not as seamlessly as they did on an iPad.
Fire HD 10 audio
The Fire HD 10 has good looks, but its sound isn't very strong. Even though the tablet could blast Taylor Swift's "Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince" and the Keys N Krates' "Keep It 100" loudly enough to fill a medium-sized conference room, that audio wasn't too sweet, with distant vocals and practically zero bass.
Fire HD 10 performance
The new Fire HD 10 offers decent budget-tablet performance, built around its 2.0 GHz octa-core CPU and 2GB of RAM. Amazon claims this slate is 30% faster than the previous model, which featured a 1.8 GHz chip and the same 2GB of memory.
As I tapped between Amazon's various directories of content, the device outperformed my low standards for its no-name CPU, though there was still a bit of a pause as I moved from tab to tab in Amazon's Silk web browser. I think that might just be the Silk browser, as I saw a visual stutter in the new tab animation when opening a second tab. I'm not sure there are many great alternatives, either; the privacy-first DuckDuckGo is in the Fire OS app store, but it allows only one tab at a time, which is a problem.
"Functional with imperfections" also describes gaming on the Fire HD 10. I saw little visual glitches in the Marvel Strike Force role-playing game, a casual free-to-play game in which Spider-Man couldn't web-sling and kick baddies without some visual stammering. Similarly, I could drive a Mitsubishi in the Asphalt 9 racing game, but I kept seeing frames drop out of faster, more dynamic movements, such as a spinning jump from a ramp.
Fire HD 10 battery Life
The Fire HD 10 outlasts the pack with epic battery life. The Laptop Mag Battery Test took 13 hours and 45 minutes to drain the Fire HD 10, which is more than 3 hours longer than the 10:26 tablet average. We also saw shorter times from the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite (13:13), iPad (11:58), Fire HD 8 (9:12) and Lenovo Tab 4 10 Plus (13:06).
Fire HD 10 cameras
The 2.0-megapixel (rear) and 720p (selfie cam) sensors in the Amazon Fire HD 10 won't replace your phone camera anytime soon.
From a selfie to photos of a Rocket Raccoon toy and other accessories on my desk, every image from the tablet looked blurry, especially the text of the sticker on my AirPods case.
Fire HD 10 software
Amazon's Fire OS still has the same major flaw it's shipped with since day one: the lack of the Google Play Store and all Google apps. That means you need to rely on older versions of Gmail, you can't edit Google Docs and you have to use a version of YouTube that doesn't let you adjust the resolution or save videos for offline viewing (if you have YouTube Premium).
Instead, you get an operating system that's meant for consuming content sold by Amazon. For that, it's pretty good. The home screen has easy-to-navigate sections for the e-books, movies and TV, games and apps, music and more. There's even a section to shop on Amazon.
Maybe that's what you need, but hardware shouldn't be so directly tied to one software purveyor. You can download the Spotify app on an iPhone, and there's even an Apple Music app on Android. People criticize Apple for the iPhone's walled-garden ecosystem, but Amazon's setup is just as ridiculous, if not worse.
Yes, you can download apps from third-party manufacturers, but the process for installing outside applications is buried in the interface and leaves users with a security hole.
The best thing I can say about the Fire TV OS is that you can get up to six user accounts on the Fire HD 10, whereas Apple allows only one per iPad.
The Fire HD 10 is the best tablet Amazon makes. It costs more than the Fire HD 8, but for its superior screen quality and battery life, as well as the newly added USB-C port, it's worth the extra $70. If only it had the Google Play Store, it would jump right to the upper echelons of our best tablets list.
The $329 iPad (2019) has a strong app lineup and a brighter display than the Fire HD 10's, but it doesn't last as long on a charge and costs more than twice as much. Similarly, the Lenovo Tab 4 10 Plus has real Android (with all the apps), but it costs $60 more than the Fire HD 10.
If you're looking for a great tablet for watching TV and movies, the Amazon Fire HD 10 delivers a lot for less than $200.