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Amazon upgrades its Fire HD 10 tablet with USB-C and a faster processor

The company's largest tablet gets a performance boost, just in time for the holidays.

The new Fire HD 10 now comes in white with a ship date of October 30.

David Carnoy/CNET

Earlier this year Amazon made some small upgrades to its entry-level tablet, the Fire 7. Now its top-of-the-line, value-priced Fire HD 10, which starts at $150 for the 32GB version, gets a similar update, adding a faster processor, 2-megapixel front camera and something we haven't seen before in an Amazon tablet: USB-C charging. The new Fire HD 10 is available for pre-order now in four color options and ships on October 30.

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Among the iterative changes are are improved Wi-Fi performance, Amazon says, thanks to a second antenna: One is activated if you're holding the tablet in landscape mode while the other is used if you're holding it in portrait mode. The new octa-core MediaTek 8183 processor with 2GB of RAM is supposed to deliver a 30% speed boost and also help with multitasking, too. Otherwise, not much else has changed. The new Fire HD 10 has the same better-than-1080p (1900 x 1200) HD display of the previous model and the same MicroSD expansion slot for additional storage up to 512GB. At 504g, the new Fire HD 10 weighs a touch more (the previous model weighs 500g).

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The Fire HD 10 is the first Amazon tablet to be equipped with USB-C charging.

David Carnoy/CNET

While the battery capacity hasn't increased, like with the Fire 7, Amazon has managed to improve the tablet's battery life through software updates. The Fire HD 10 runs on Amazon's latest Fire OS, a customized version of Android P, which was released last fall.

I played around with the new Fire HD 10 at a pre-launch event and it does appear to be a little zippier. As part of the performance upgrade, Amazon is touting a new feature -- picture-in-picture mode -- that allows you to keep a small window streaming video in the bottom corner of the screen while you browse the internet or use other apps. Apple's iPads have had this feature for a while. 

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The tablet in four color options: plum, twilight blue, black and all-new white.

David Carnoy/CNET

Needless to say, Fire tablets are designed to give you easy access to Amazon's ecosystem, which includes a lot of "free" content for Prime members. In recent years Amazon has added such features as hands-free (always-on) Alexa voice-assistant support, essentially turning its tablets into Echo devices that you can also use control Alexa-enabled smart devices in your home. The tablets don't have the multiple-microphone arrays that Echo speakers are equipped with, but their voice recognition works well at close range.

As usual, the Fire HD 10 is going to be available in a Kids Edition that includes a 2-year replacement guarantee (Amazon will replace your tablet if anything goes wrong) and a year of Amazon's FreeTime Unlimited service ($70 value). The Fire HD 10 Kids Edition starts at $199 for the 32GB version. It includes a padded case and -- for the first time -- a built-in stand.

Here's a look at the new Fire HD 10 key specs, according to Amazon. We'll have a full few in the coming weeks.  

  • Full HD 1080p display (1920 x 1200) with over 2 million pixels (224 ppi)
  • New MediaTek 8183 octa-core 2.0 GHz processor with 2GB of RAM is 30% faster than its predecessor
  • 20% longer battery life -- up to 12 hours of mixed-use battery life
  • 504g (predecessor weighs 500g)
  • 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage with support for up to 512 GB of expandable storage via microSD (free unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content and photos taken with Fire tablets)
  • 20% faster charging with USB-C (4 hours for a full charge; 3 hours with 15W charger)
  • Stereo speakers tuned by Dolby
  • Enhanced dual-band Wi-Fi with enhanced 802.11ac Wi-Fi support
  • New picture-in-picture mod: Watch videos from Prime Video, Twitch, Netflix, STARZ and more while also browsing the web, checking email, reviewing your calendar, or visiting Facebook 
  • Alexa hands-free -- always-on access to Alexa allows you to control video and music playback, launch apps, get news and sports scores, display the weather, and more
  • Front- and rear-facing cameras (both are now 2 MP 720P)
  • Amazon FreeTime—Parents can use Amazon FreeTime to create child profiles to limit screen time, set educational goals, and manage content
  • Screen Sharing: An Amazon expert will guide you remotely through any feature on your screen (available 24x7, 365 days a year for free)
  • Price: $150 with 32GB; $190 with 64GB; $200 for Kids Edition (32GB only)
  • 4 color options: Plum, twilight blue, black and all-new white
  • Pre-order now, shipping October 30

Separately, Amazon also announced its first-ever Kindle Kids Edition. Its kid-centric Freetime service is also coming to Fire TV devices.