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Tablets

Amazon's new Fire HD 10 boosts performance, costs $80 less

Amazon has dramatically lowered the price of its 10-inch tablet to $150, added more memory and a new hands-free Alexa feature.

Over the last two years Amazon has upgraded its Fire HD 8, improving its performance and upping its internal storage while slashing its price to $80 (£80). Now it's running the same play with its larger Fire HD 10, doubling its RAM to improve performance, bumping the storage on the base model to 32GB while chopping the price from $230 (£170) to $150 (£150 or about AU$190 converted). Battery life has improved to up to 10 hours.

The Fire HD 10 (2017) is available for preorder today in  black, Marine blue and Punch red and ships on October 11. The 64GB version costs $180 (£180 or about AU$226 converted) and both models have a memory expansion slot for microSD cards up to 256GB.

The other noteworthy new feature is the addition of Alexa hands-free for the first time on a Fire tablet. That means you can talk directly to the tablet as you would an Echo speaker to access Alexa skills, no virtual button presses required. 

The Fire HD 10 (2017) starts at $150 for the 32GB model.

David Carnoy/CNET

In a meeting prior to the launch, Amazon reps showed me the new hands-free Alexa feature in action, using voice commands to play and pause a video, find music, dim the lights, set a timer, and show a daily calendar. You can enable Alexa hands-free to work even when the Fire HD 10's screen is off by setting set it to go into a special "standby" mode when the screen goes to sleep.  

There's only a single microphone, not the advanced seven-mic circular array (for far-field voice recognition) found in Echo speakers, including the Echo Dot and Echo Show, so don't expect quite the same kind of across-the-room performance. But from short range anyway Alexa on the Fire HD 10 worked without a hitch in a quiet conference room. 

Like the Fire HD 8, Amazon has nice new slim covers for the Fire HD 10 that allow you to prop up the tablet in both portrait and landscape orientations. They come in black, Marine blue, Punch red, and Cobalt purple for $40. The margins on the covers are presumably a lot better than the tablet, which is less than half the price of Apple's entry-level 9.7-inch iPad

We'll have a full review of the Fire HD 10 2017 edition just prior to its ship date. In the meantime, here's a look at its key specs, according to Amazon: 

  • 10.1-inch widescreen 1080p display (1,920x1,200) with over 2 million pixels (224 ppi).
  • Faster performance: Quad-core processor with up to 1.8 GHz and 2GB of RAM -- 2x the RAM and 30 percent faster than the previous generation Fire HD 10.
  • More storage: Options for 32GB or 64GB, and support for up to 256GB of expandable storage via microSD. Plus, free unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content and photos taken with Fire tablets.
  • Longer battery life: Up to 10 hours of mixed-use battery life.
  • Hands-free Alexa: When connected to Wi-Fi, simply say the wake word "Alexa" and ask Alexa to control video playback (play, pause, rewind, and fast forward), launch an app, play your favorite song, or read an audiobook aloud. You can also ask Alexa to answer questions, read the news, get traffic and weather reports, set alarms and timers and more.
  • Dual stereo speakers.
  • Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi support.
  • Front- and rear-facing cameras (same cameras as in previous model).
  • Access to millions of movies, TV shows, songs, books, magazines, apps and games. Watch downloaded videos anywhere with a Prime membership, Netflix plan or Showtime subscription.
  • Alexa provides voice responses paired with visual cards on your Fire tablet's display, and can even respond when your tablet screen is on standby (Alexa offers access to over 15,000 skills).
  • You can also use Alexa hands-free on the new Fire HD 10 to control a range of smart-home devices from SmartThings, Insteon, ecobee, Wink and more. 
  • Alexa hands-free will be available on the all-new Fire HD 10 via a free, over-the-air software update. The update will begin rolling out to customers starting October 11.
  • Amazon-exclusive features: ASAP, X-Ray, Whispersync, Second Screen, Amazon FreeTime, Family Library, For You, Blue Shade, On Deck and more.
  • Screen Sharing: Let an Amazon expert guide you remotely through any feature on your screen, available 24-7, 365 days a year for free.
  • Three color options: black, Marine blue and Punch red
  • Available for preorder now with 32GB or 64GB of storage starting at $150 or £150. (The Fire HD 10 isn't available in Australia but that converts to AU$190). Starts shipping October 11.

The optional Amazon protective covers cost $40.

David Carnoy/CNET

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Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017)

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