Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review: The new Fire HD 10 adds hands-free Alexa

Amazon’s refreshed Fire HD 10 tablet has Alexa hands-free, an improved spec and a lower price, too

5
Price when reviewed 
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The new Amazon Fire HD 10 is one of those products that doesn’t look all that exciting from the outside. It’s physically identical to the model it replaces and although it is available in two new colours, if you were to put the old and the new models side by side you’d struggle to tell the difference between them.

There’s plenty that’s new hidden away beneath its humdrum exterior, however, not least the addition of Amazon’s digital voice assistant, Alexa. The Amazon Fire HD 10 represents the first time outside the Echo range of products that Amazon has introduced hands-free Alexa mode; with the other Fire HD tablets and current TV streamers, you have to press a button to activate voice recognition. So, is the new HD 10 worth the investment?

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Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review: How much does it cost?

Price wise, certainly. You can pick up a Fire HD 10 for £150 with 32GB of storage space. Pay an extra £30 and you'll get double the amount at 64GB, but with a microSD card slot available, you might as well stick with the cheaper tablet and add to the storage at a later date.

Very much like the rest of the Amazon-line, you can pay an extra £10 to remove lockscreen ads. The tablet is available in Black and the two new vibrant colours: Marine Blue and Punch Red.

As for competition, there's the 4G-enabled Vodafone Smart Tab N8 that costs £129 and the smaller Amazon HD 8 that starts at £80. Neither of those devices support hands-free digital voice assistant activation in the same way that the Fire HD 10 does, though.

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review: Key specs

10.1in 1,920 x 1,200 resolution IPS display
Quad-core 1.8GHz MediaTek MT8173 processor
2GB RAM
32GB/64GB of storage
microSD card slot (supports of up to 256GB)
Dolby Atmos stereo speakers
2MP rear, VGA front cameras
Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Available in blue, red and black
Price: £150, 32GB; £180, 64GB (with lockscreen ads); add £10 to remove lockscreen ads

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review: Hands-free Alexa

So how well does the new HD 10 work compared with an Amazon Echo? The first thing to note is that doesn’t have a far-field microphone array onboard, but nevertheless, in my tests, I found the tablet to pick up my voice accurately at over 10m. This means you don't have to be right next to the tablet for it to work. Better still, the tablet doesn't have to be unlocked to work, either; although Alexa cannot unlock your device - you'll still need to input your password or PIN for that.

And when it comes to what you can do with Alexa, it's pretty much the same as it is with the Echo, or any other Alexa enabled device, for that matter. Say “Alexa… play some Daft Punk”, “Alexa… turn up my lights”, or Alexa... what’s the weather going to be like today?” and the tablet will work just like an Echo or Echo Dot without any kind of physical intervention. Plus, as with the Fire TV Stick, the results are accompanied by a full-screen graphical data card.

And if you're worried about the tablet's always listening mode, it can be disabled and muted by tapping the option in the drop-down notification bar.

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review: Display

Alexa isn’t the only improvement Amazon has made to its new budget tablet, however. The Amazon Fire HD 10’s IPS display is now slightly sharper, with a "better than Full HD" resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 where its predecessor's was 1,280 x 800.

It's a lot brighter, too. At 455cd/m2 versus last year's 375cd/m2 peak brightness, the new HD 10 is easier to read under bright conditions. The screen still lacks a little bit of punch and richness, though, with only 84.1% of the sRGB covered. Thankfully, contrast is still decent and viewing angles are excellent.

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review: Performance

Inside, there are further improvements, with a new quad-core 1.8GHz MediaTek MT8173 processor that's “30% more powerful” than its predecessor's, double the RAM rising at 2GB, and better battery life, with an additional two hours over the previous model according to Amazon.

Put through its paces, I found Amazon's claims to be pretty accurate, with the new tablet achieving a much better Geekbench score. The 2017 HD 10 achieves 1,501 in single-core and 3,096 in the multi-core benchmark. By comparison, last year's model scored 773 and 1,512 respectively.

Amazon's battery life claims are also on the money, with the new tablet achieving 11hrs 22mins in our video rundown test, which is a 2hr 17min improvement over last year's 9hrs 5mins.

The tablet is still not great for gaming, though. Achieving only 9.5fps in GFXBench Manhattan 3.0, you cannot expect to play intensive games on this tablet.

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review: Build quality and features

Elsewhere, Amazon has also added Dolby Atmos support and stereo speakers. Its stereo-speakers are located on the long left-hand side of the tablet, which makes it a little awkward with the tablet in a vertical position, but place it horizontally and the upwards (or downwards) facing speakers provide a more engaging and rich sound.

When it comes to software, the Fire HD 10 is just like other tablets in Amazon’s range. It runs Amazon’s Fire OS (Fire OS 5.5.0), which is based on Android but eschews Google’s apps and Play Store to run its own suite and app store.

Amazon hasn't left the UI alone, for this edition of its 10in tablet, though: it’s added a new section called "For You", which includes recommendations based on what you’ve bought, downloaded or streamed in the past, although this isn’t exclusive to the Fire HD 10 like the Alexa hands-free feature. It will make its way to Amazon’s other Fire tablets in due course.

Surprisingly, Amazon has downgraded the tablet’s cameras for the 2017 model, from HD to VGA at the front, and 5 megapixels to 2 megapixels at the rear. But the price makes up for that: it’s £20 cheaper than last year’s model.

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review: Verdict

Despite first appearances, then, it turns out that there’s a lot to be excited about here. The new Fire HD 10 is a responsive, sturdy tablet that provides stupendously good value. The addition of Alexa hands-free adds an extra dimension and the price reduction comes as a pleasant surprise, especially as every other manufacturer seems to be raising prices right now, not cutting them.

If you're looking for an excellent 10.1in tablet, get the new Amazon Fire HD 10.

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