Amazon’s Fire HD 10 Is Still the Best Cheap Tablet Around
The Fire HD 10 isn’t the best tablet you’re ever going to use. Not even close. But it is cheap, decently powerful, and good enough for many of us.
Amazon’s 2021 update to the 10-inch Fire HD 10 mirrors what we saw last year with the 8-inch model. There are now two variants, one with 3 gigabytes of RAM and a “Plus” model with 4 GB. Amazon has also added something it calls the Productivity Bundle, which consists of a Fire HD 10 tablet (3-GB RAM model), a Bluetooth keyboard case, and a 12-month subscription to Microsoft 365 (which automatically renews if you don’t cancel it).
Yes, you read that right. Amazon is positioning the Fire HD 10 as a device you can get real work done on. Surprisingly, this turns out to be true as long as you don’t need to use Google apps. The Fire HD 10 is still hamstrung by Amazon’s Fire OS, which doesn’t have the bevy of apps you’ll find on Google’s Play Store. Still, with a keyboard and slightly better screen, the new Fire HD 10 is something like a netbook—a small, cheap, capable, go-anywhere device.
The new Fire HD 10 has uniform bezels on all sides, but otherwise isn’t much different on the outside. It still sports a 1080p, 10.1-inch display, although Amazon claims it’s 10 percent brighter than the 2019 model. I wasn’t able to compare them side-by-side, but I didn’t have any trouble using the Fire HD 10 in bright light. The screen isn’t going to knock your socks off, but it’s fine for browsing the web, watching videos, and anything else you’re likely to do with it.
The extra RAM is immediately noticeable. There’s no longer any jittering when scrolling, and opening apps is fast and smooth. I didn’t notice any pauses or noticeable delays, which have always plagued low-end Android tablets. Like last year’s 8-inch model, this update finally makes the Fire HD 10 fast enough to no longer even realize you’re using a low-end device.
Battery life remains at about 12 hours. Obviously, this depends on what you’re doing. Streaming back-to-back movies will eat up battery faster than just browsing the web. But it’s still within the range of much more expensive competitors. As for the build quality, Fire tablets have always been surprisingly durable despite their bulkiness and plastic shells. I’ve cracked the screen on two iPads, but I’ve never had the same happen with a Fire.
If you opt for the Plus model ($30 more) you get an extra gigabyte of RAM, the option to charge it wirelessly (see our guide for our favorite wireless chargers), and some extra colors to choose from. Amazon sent me both the regular and the Plus models for testing. Most of the time I did not notice a big difference, but for only $30 more, extra RAM will make for a more future-proof purchase.
The most interesting upgrade is the Productivity Bundle with the Bluetooth keyboard and Microsoft 365 subscription. That latter makes up for the fact that Google software is noticeably absent from the Fire HD 10. That means no Google Docs, Sheets, Drive, or even Gmail (you can connect with Gmail through Amazon’s default email app). Worse, even the web versions won’t load in the included Silk web browser, and there aren’t any popular alternative browsers available in the Amazon App Store.
Microsoft 365 is capable of doing everything Google’s online office suite can do, but if all your colleagues are using Google, and you need to be able to edit shared documents in Google, then that’s a moot point. After playing with Microsoft 365 for a week, I actually came to prefer it to Google’s offerings, but that still doesn’t help me long term, since I rely on Google apps for work.
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