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Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review

What Hi-Fi? Awards 2021 winner. Still the best value tablet in town Tested at £150 / $150

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review
(Image: © Amazon)

Our Verdict

It's not a big update on its predecessor, but the 2021 version of the Fire HD 10 is still a lot of surprisingly good tablet for not much money

For

  • Strong, punchy picture
  • Very able for audio
  • Terrific value

Against

  • Designed to sell subscriptions

The Amazon Fire HD 10 has established itself as one the very cheapest and best value 10-inch tablets that you can buy. It includes access to most major apps and services, a very powerful voice assistant and almost all of the content you could need. At less than half the cost of Apple's cheapest iPad, but with just as big a screen, this 1080p tab has held its own as one of the few genuine tech bargains around.

The "all-new" Amazon Fire HD 10 (presumably they’re all all-new until they’re not) is slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor but the screen is still 10.1 inches. In fact, it's very much a case of evolution and not revolution for 2021 but, with very little competition around at this level, that's all that was needed.

Price

The price of Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) tablet is £150 / $150 for the 32GB version and £190 / $190 for the 64GB model. It’s worth paying an extra £10 / $10 to have the adverts on the lockscreen removed.

There are also productivity and accessory bundles to consider, which include things such as Bluetooth keyboards and screen protectors, but these can quite quickly turn a well-priced budget tablet into something that’s less of a bargain.

Build

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review

(Image credit: Amazon)

The most obvious differences between this 2021 Fire Tab 10 and the 2019 model are the size and weight. It’s shed about 40g from the previous half-kilo weight. That might not sound like much but it makes one-handed use notably less of a strain on the wrist.

It's also 15mm shorter on its longest edge and 8mm thinner. Not only does that make it more manageable but the 16:10 screen now fits more evenly into the frame, with a uniform 15mm bezel running all the way around, winning points for neatness if nothing else.

As for the choice of colour for the rim and plastic rear, that, once again, is as we were: Denim, Lavender, Olive or Black.

There are no new additions to the ports and buttons but there’s been a bit of a  reshuffle. Amazon has gone for a landscape-first look and feel, shifting the front facing camera to the centre of the long edge (something Apple should have done with its latest iPads). The covered microSD slot remains on the bottom side corner, although now it can take a 1TB card (up from the previous maximum of 512GB).

Everything else is on the same short side of the frame but the 3.5mm audio-out, the USB-C charge port and the power switch have all swapped places. The volume controls stay put and there’s now a dual mic system to pick up the Alexa wake word instead of just the one. It worked well before, and it works even better now.

Features

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review

(Image credit: Amazon)

There aren't many significant changes on the inside either. There’s still a 2.0GHz octa-core processor running the show, built-in storage is still 32GB or 64GB, and the screen is still a 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 HD display with a pixel density of 224ppi. The screen itself is made with strengthened aluminium silicate glass, which Amazon claims is 1.7 times more durable than that of the latest standard iPad.

RAM has gone up to 3GB from 2GB, making the experience nice and zippy, even during picture-in-picture mode. You can watch Netflix in a window while continuing to comfortably browse the web. There’s also been a bump to the rear-facing camera, with a 5MP image sensor where there used to be only a 2MP one.

Video recording is still set at 720p, though, and the battery life remains at up to 12 hours. You can get a full recharge in four hours with the included 9W adapter. That will drop to more like three if you can find a more powerful one.

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) tech specs

Tablet: Amazon Fire HD 10 (11th Gen)

(Image credit: Amazon)

Dimensions 17 x 25 x 0.9cm

Weight 465g

Screen 10.1in, 1920x1200px, 224 ppi

Battery life 12-hours

USB USB-C

Storage 32Gb / 64Gb (microSD-expandable by up to 1TB)

Bluetooth 5.0

Cameras 2MP front-facing, 5MP rear-facing

Processor Octa-core 2.0GHz

RAM 3GB

Colours 4

This is not an Android tablet, just in case you were mistaken. Amazon uses Fire OS for its tablet range. It’s based on Android, but Android it isn’t quite. That means that you don’t get out-of-the-box access to the usual Android apps from the Google Play Store. There are workarounds, most of which aren’t very complicated, but it doesn’t come with Android staples such as Google Maps, Gmail, Chrome, Docs and the other Drive apps. Other big utility apps such as WhatsApp or Duolingo don’t feature either, but there are third party equivalents for most things.

Fortunately, most of the streaming services are there, though, Netflix, Disney+, BT TV, Plex, VLC, DAZN, ExpressVPN, UKTV Play, Spotify, Tidal, Twitch and both Prime Video and Amazon Music, of course. All of the UK catch-up apps are present and correct, too. There’s no access to Apple services, no Deezer and no Now or Sky Store, although Sky customers can stream via the Sky Go app.

While there are plenty of games to choose from, they’re largely of the basic Candy Crush / Hungry Shark / Clash Of The Clans type. You’ll have to access Google Play to get hold of anything more exciting, and the limited power of the Fire HD 10 means it will likely struggle with more demanding titles.

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review

(Image credit: Amazon)

But while Fire OS isn’t exactly Android it does look, feel and behave very much like it. The home page experience is split into three main panels: ‘Home’ is your app tray, plain and simple; Library mixes your content from Kindle, your app games, Prime Video, Audible and Amazon Music (it’s essentially your Amazon ecosystem content hub); and ‘For You’ is a bit of a rehash of Library, only featuring content suggestions from Amazon, rather than anything you’ve already added to your lists. There’s also a weather widget and a search bar.

Alexa is, of course, central to the experience and very welcome that is. The Fire HD 10 will wake just like any Alexa-enabled device when you say the magic word. It pulls up results around tablet content, news, weather and everything else just as normal. Give it a go and you’ll find it usually beats finger tapping on the soft keyboard for speed. It also often drums up a more interesting set of suggestions.

If you really want to go the whole hands-free hog, then you can switch Fire OS to Show Mode, which gives it a look and feel along the lines of the Amazon Show devices. It’s certainly handy for following a recipe without getting gunk on the screen but you will need a cover, or stand of some sort, to prop up your tablet and use this mode best.

Fire OS is a great place to keep tabs on all your Works With Alexa smart home devices. Got a house full of cameras? You can live stream all the footage from your doorbell here.

If all of this sounds rather complicated then, fear not, set-up is very simple – too simple, in fact. These devices are cheap for a reason. They are, of course, a terrific way for Amazon to sell you all sorts of content and you're likely to sign up for a number of free trials that will soon turn into monthly bills if you're not diligent.

There are a few of these to hurdle or embrace, depending on your needs, including Kindle Unlimited, Audible and Amazon Music. The only one to be really careful with is Amazon Kids+. The button to sign up is big, yellow and looks like the only path to continue down. Next to it, in tiny, faint print is where you press to move on without adding another £1.99 / $1.99 to your monthly outgoings. It's a cynical move on the part of Amazon, and we hope the company sees its way to sorting it out.

Fortunately, this is the only part of the whole system that feels like trickery. Whether you like the company or not, Amazon sells almost everything. You don’t have to buy anything through this tablet if you don’t want to, but it’s very conveniently all at your fingertips if you do.

Picture

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon says that the display on this tablet is 10 per cent brighter than that of the last one but, while that’s believable, it’s not particularly noticeable as we fire up the first episode of Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy in HD from Netflix – It’s more like someone’s pushed up the contrast instead.

The blacks of Klaus’s leather trousers and Ben’s entire outfit are bolder and the white of Vanya’s suit is more striking. In fact, everything has a welcome extra sense of punch. There’s not as much crushing of the blacks and blowing out of those whites as there could be, either.

We can still make out all of the folds of Diego’s clothing as he appears in the alleyway on a dark and stormy night and there is still the same feel to the clouds in the sky as our heroes fight the Soviet soldiers on the streets of Dallas in an alternate version of 1963.

It’s an undeniably striking performance, and one that comfortably outstrips the very modest price of the tablet. Sure, it can be outmanoeuvred by more expensive devices but you’d have to pay at least twice as much to buy something that’s significantly better.

As with most portables, there’s no motion processing, nor in fact any display settings to get into. It’s a little juddery but no more so than anything else on the market.

Colour temperature is a little truer than the previous model, which was a step towards what you’d expect from a cinema mode on a TV with its slightly warmer tinge. The white-point feels better placed now.

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review

(Image credit: Amazon)

Despite all these positives, it’s difficult to say that the picture performance of this 2021 model is overall better than that of the previous model. There's some tonal subtlety that’s been lost in the push for picture punch and, while it’s hard to spot a difference in specific on-screen objects, each frame as a whole isn’t quite as expertly shaded as before. That said, the older Amazon tab is less sharp and striking.

The brick walls of the Dallas side street in The Umbrella Academy are sharper all the way along on the new model, but there's a greater sense of depth in the presentation of its predecessor.

Ultimately, it’s a case of horses for courses as to which one might prefer – they’re both thoroughly enjoyable, just in different ways – but really it’s something of a moot point. One replaces the other on the shelves. New buyers won’t get the choice and, as we say, we don’t see that as a problem. Either way, you’re getting a terrific picture to enjoy on the go.

Sound

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review

(Image credit: Amazon)

Given that one can’t expect the Earth from the sound performance of any tablet, let alone one at this price, what the Amazon Fire HD 10 offers in audio is really very good. Listening to Blue Monday by New Order via headphones, there’s a nice solidity to the bassline, with each pop of the kick drum sounding three-dimensional and with a satisfying sense of impact.

This is far from a bottom-heavy performance, though, the treble sounds of the electro snares and hi-hat are no shrinking violets. Although perhaps a tiny bit quieter, they’re still a decent enough partner for the low frequency and with enough space in between for Bernard Sumner’s vocals to share centre stage when he joins the track.

Timing is the only area where the new Fire HD 10 significantly misses out compared to more premium tablets, with the New Order track dragging a little bit. The drum beats could feel more crisp but, again, we’ve no business to complain about it at this price. Given limited resources, it’s impressive that the music sounds as engaging as it does here.

The onboard stereo speaker system is obviously a less appealing way to listen to your music, but it’ll certainly do the job in your hour of need. Don’t expect much in the way of dynamics or tonal balance from these tiny drivers, but the more dialogue-heavy scenes in The Umbrella Academy are delivered fairly clearly and there’s plenty of incidental detail to enjoy, all while the 1960s radio music chimes through in the background.

Even when the action heats up, we can still pick out the cracks of gunfire and zooms of fighter jets overhead. It’s far from the Dolby Atmos experience promised on the box but the sound certainly projects out quite far.

Verdict

There really is no other way to go if you’re looking for a low cost 10-inch tablet. Amazon has this end of the market well and truly cornered. If you can live with the fact that it’s a very clever vessel for selling you more Amazon products, then there really are few reasons not to buy one.

SCORES

  • Picture 5
  • Sound 5
  • Features 4

MORE:

Compare it with the Amazon Fire HD 8

Read our review of the Apple iPad

Read our review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

See our round up of the best tablets

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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