Amazon and Samsung have each created tablets targeting customers looking for a full-size tablet with a low price. The Galaxy Tab A 9.7 and Fire HD 10 have quite a bit in common, so it’s not easy for consumers to choose which is the best option for them.
The HD 10 starts at $230, and the Tab A 9.7 is currently $249, so the prices are roughly equal. And both run Android, though Amazon has heavily modified its version.
We’re here to help people decide which of these two is the right fit.
Build & Design
Amazon’s latest tablet has a 10.1-inch screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio, but Samsung went for a 9.7-inch display with a 4:3 ratio. This makes the Tab A 9.7 shorter but wider overall than its rival. These devices are equally thin, but the Fire is slightly heavier — justified by its slightly larger screen.
Specifically, the HD 10 is 10.3 x 6.3 x 0.30 inches, and it weighs 0.95 pounds. The Tab A 9.7 is 9.6 x 6.6 x 0.30 inches, and 1.1 lbs.
Amazon went with an all plastic casing, but Samsung went with metal, making its tablet look more professional. The Fire is available in black and white casings, while the Galaxy Tab comes in those colors as well as blue.
The Tab A 9.7 has a screen resolution of only 1024 x 768, so it has a low pixel density of 132 pixels per inch. The HD 10’s display is 1280 x 800, resulting in a density of 149 ppi. This means the Amazon device has a screen that’s marginally better looking, but neither is all that great, as other models have pixel densities around 250 ppi.
As mentioned, Samsung chose a 4:3 aspect ratio, which many people prefer for accessing the Web, word processing, and other productivity tasks. Amazon picked 16:10, which makes it a better option for watching wide-screen movies and TV shows.
The Fire’s screen is slightly larger with a higher pixel density, but which of these screens is better depends heavily on what the user wants to display.
Buttons, Ports, and Speakers
The Tab A 9.7 has a physical Home button on its front, with a silk-screened buttons on either side. The HD 10 uses on-screen controls, but both have hardware buttons for power and volume control.
Each of these tablets have a microSD card slot for easily expanding their storage capacity by up to 128GB, and each of these slots is covered with a door so the card isn’t accidentally ejected.
The Fire model has a pair of speakers on its long edge, while the Galaxy Tab put them on its short edge. Neither device has the speakers facing the user, but each provides adequate sound for watching video with the screen within a few feet of the user’s eyes.
Neither tablet is noticeably better than its rival anywhere in this category.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 is built around a 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm APQ 8016 processor. It scored around 1450 on the multi-core portion of the Geekbench 3 benchmarking application.
The Amazon Fire HD 10 is powered by a quad-core MediaTek chip, with two cores running at 1.5GHz and two at 1.2GHz. Its Geekbench 3 multi-core score was 1480.
The HD 10 has 1GB of RAM, but the Tab A 9.7 has 1.5GB. By and large, more RAM is always better.
As these models have roughly equal performance, neither is outstanding. And these scores are near the low end for tablets in this price range. For example, the Asus ZenPad S 8.0 costs just a bit more and it benchmarked at 2860.
There are 16GB and 32GB versions of the Galaxy Tab, and the same is true of the Fire tablet, so no winner there either.
Amazon uses a modified version of Android 5.1.1 on the HD 10. This has been changed enough that it has been re-dubbed Fire OS 5, but in many ways the user interface looks and acts quite a bit like the standard version of Google’ a operating system. The most significant difference is the addition of very prominent links to Amazon services, like its video and ebook store. The typical Android applications that tie into Google’s services have been removed and can’t be reinstalled. Amazon has its own app store where Fire OS users must buy their software.
Samsung puts Android 5.0.2 Lollipop on the Tab A 9.7, and has promised an upgrade to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. This isn’t a stock version of the operating system, but it’s close. Those who have used a recent phone with this OS shouldn’t have any problems figuring out the tablet version. All the standard Google applications are bundled, as well as a link the official Play Store for acquiring more. This tablet also has Samsung’s system for displaying multiple apps on screen at the same time.
The more standard version of Android on the Galaxy Tab is generally preferable, but those who are big fans of Amazon, especially Amazon Prime subscribers, will see real benefits from the Fire model.
Both these tablets sport Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac dual band, so they can make speedy connections to nearby hotspots. They also have Bluetooth and can work with external keyboards.
Neither model can have 4G LTE built into it.
The Tab A 9.7 has a 5 megapixel main camera, with a 2 MP secondary one. The HD 10 also has a 5MP rear camera but it includes a 720p front-facing one.
None of these cameras are particularly good because both Samsung and Amazon know that a majority of people prefer to take pictures with their phones. Still, the front-facing ones are adequate for video chatting.
The battery life of the Fire model, according to Amazon, is 8 hours of mixed use, and our test bore this up, and we sometimes were able to get more
Samsung says its offering is good for up to 14 hours of use on a single charge, something we confirmed in our tests of this device.
This is an area where the Galaxy Tab has a definite advantage.
The Amazon Fire HD 10 has a slightly larger display with a higher pixel density than its rival, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 has a much longer battery life, but for the most part these two tablets come out neck-and-neck.
The major difference between them is that the Galaxy Tab uses a nearly standard version of Android while the Fire uses a heavily modified one. Those who already have an Android phone, especially one made by Samsung, will probably be better off with the Tab A 9.7. On the other hand, Amazon Prime subscribers will find significant advantages with the HD 10 and should gravitate toward that model.
The 16GB version of Samsung’s device is available for $249, and the version of the Fire with the same storage capacity is a bit less: $229.99. Although the Amazon product is slightly cheaper, the difference isn’t great enough to make it really a better value.
Taken together, both of these sell for less than many other tablets with the same size screens. Most other Android devices in the same price range have 8-inch displays, so each can be considered a good value.