The Amazon Fire HD 10 is powered by a quad-core MediaTek SoC, running two cores at 1.5GHz and two at 1.2GHz, along with 1GB of RAM. The processor is comparable to other mid-range tablets, with the 1GB of RAM in line with budget tablets.
In use, the Fire HD 10 is a step above sluggish. Swiping between pages is noticeably jittery, but just so, while apps take a bit too long to open and close. This carries over to many of the Amazon apps, including the Silk browser and email client. They are both perfectly usable, but are slow enough to frustrate users.
Other apps fare better, including games. Seemingly demanding titles like Game of Thrones from TellTale Games run smoothly, as do all the streaming apps we tested, including Netflix and Amazon Video. So it’s hit and miss overall, with the Fire HD 10 hitting where it counts.
The benchmarks do justice to the Fire HD 10’s real-world experience. It scored 1478 on the Geekbench 3 multicore test. Current flagships like both the Apple iPad Air 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S 9.7 scored around 4400, but the lower end of the mid-range score closer. The Lenovo Tab 2 A8-50 scored 1720, while the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 scored 1450.
The Fire HD 10 ships with either 16GB or 32GB capacity. Of that, about 5GB is taken up with preloaded apps and content. There’s no annoying bloatware as the preloaded Amazon apps prove useful.
The Fire HD 10 supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, including 5GHz networks, as well as Bluetooth 4.0. This is as it should be for a media consumption tablet.
Amazon promises up to 8 hours of juice. Streaming Netflix over Wi-Fi with the screen brightness maxxed out, the Amazon Fire HD lasted 4 hours and 10 minutes. That’s about the minimum you’ll get out of it. This is an average result for tablets this size. Smaller tablets typically last longer because smaller displays require less power. The $50 Amazon Fire lasted 5 hours and 30 minutes on the same test, and that has only a seven-inch display.
The Fire HD 10 runs Amazon’s Fire OS, which is built off of the open-source version of Android. While the Fire OS doesn’t look like traditional Android, it does retain some of its core navigation, including the three on-screen icons for back, home, and all apps. In addition, a swipe down from the top brings up notifications and quick access to Wi-Fi, settings, alerts, and other common features.
Otherwise, Fire OS is built around Amazon content. The tablet is divided into 10 home screens, which include a “Recent” page for recently-opened apps and content, and “Home” for new content and app shortcuts. The rest are dedicated to Amazon content, and that includes user-owned and Amazon-recommended. Each page has a shortcut to the user library and Amazon store. These include books, video, games, “Shop” (Amazon.com), apps, music, audiobooks, and newsstand.
Amazon takes every opportunity to push and promote its wares. Even the lock screen includes ads, or “special offers,” as Amazon puts it. These can be turned off for $15.
Thankfully, Amazon includes plenty of parental controls for restricting purchases, limiting the web, and other features that might get kids into trouble. The Fire HD 10 also supports user profiles, which provide more granular controls through Amazon’s Free Time service.
Since Amazon doesn’t use the Google-approved version of Android, it doesn’t have access to the Google Play Store and other popular Google apps, like Gmail and Chrome. Instead, Fire HD 10 users get their apps from Amazon’s own Appstore. While not nearly as robust as the Play Store or Apple’s App Store, it’s still pretty well stocked with just about anything a user might need, including Office clones, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, and more. Where Amazon has Google beat is in the free apps it offers in Amazon Underground. Excellent games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Goat Simulator, and various Sonic titles are absolutely free.
Amazon recently updated the Fire HD 10 to Fire OS 5.1.1, codenamed Belini. It’s based on Android Lollipop, which is one step behind the current Android Marshmallow. New Belini features include an interesting Blue Shade mode, which mutes blue light, giving the display a sepia tone. This is supposed to make the Fire HD 10 better for night reading, as blue light from displays may suppress melatonin production.
We can’t speak to whether it works as intended (and honestly, get a traditional Kindle eReader if tablet displays disrupt your sleep), but we can say Blue Shade does make for a less harsh display when viewed in a dark room.
Other Belini features include a new kid-friendly browser for Amazon Free Time, and an activity center for tracking tablet activity via an external app. Both are great additions, and make the Fire HD 10 perhaps the most child-appropriate tablet not exclusively built for children.
The Fire HD 10 does not support Amazon’s vaunted Mayday customer support feature, but it does have screen sharing, email, web, and phone support. Amazon is really good at this, and even without Mayday, the Fire HD 10 is a very customer-friendly device.
Any Amazon tablet is made all the better with Amazon Prime. In addition to free two-day shipping, the $99 a year Prime includes a ton of content services. These include:
- Prime Instant Video: A Netflix-like streaming service with tons of movies and TV shows
- Prime Music: A Spotify-like streaming service with no ads
- Prime Photos: Unlimited cloud storage of your photos
- Prime members can download certain Prime movies and TV shows for offline viewing.
- Prime members can try the Washington Post for free for 6 months and subscribe at a reduced price.
- Prime members get free 2-day shipping on Amazon orders as well as reduced prices on one day shipping, offers for using standard shipping instead, access to some deals early, and reduced prices on some items.
- Prime members can borrow one book a month from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.