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Amazon Fire HD 10 review:

A cheap, big-screen conduit to Amazon's digital content

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The Good The Amazon Fire HD 10 lets Prime subscribers easily stream or download movies and TV shows in the library, as well as download games that are exclusively free for Amazon users. It houses powerful speakers and a microSD card slot for extra storage. Its robust parental controls make it family-friendly.

The Bad Images aren't as sharp as on the 8-inch model. Performance is sluggish when downloading apps. Its plastic construction feels cheap.

The Bottom Line The Amazon Fire HD 10 is satisfyingly large and loud enough for indulging in Prime digital content, however a tablet with a sharper screen can be found in the same price range.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.7 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 6.0

The Amazon Fire HD 10 is the biggest, cheapest way to get Amazon Prime perks on a tablet.

If you're an Amazon Prime member, easy access to the throng of digital content that comes with your subscription is only a few swipes away. Not only can you stream Prime movies and TV shows, you can also download them for offline viewing -- onto your internal storage or a microSD card. The Prime membership isn't mandatory, but it unlocks an extra level of value for the inexpensive tablet.

The entire Amazon Fire tablet lineup boasts the same Prime benefits, and the range of models vary in size and price. Starting at $230 (£170 or AU$215, if converted), the Fire HD 10 is the biggest Amazon tablet available, and it's essentially a super-size version of the Fire HD 8 . However in this case, bigger doesn't necessarily mean better; their identical screen resolution looks fine on the 8-inch model, yet on the 10-incher it looks stretched out.

The smaller Fire HD will only cost you $150, and if you're really trying to spend as little as possible, the 7-inch Fire tablet costs a mere $50. To be sure, the Fire tablet feels as cheap as it costs, yet -- like the Fire HD 10 -- it's one of the best deals around for a tablet its size. You can't download apps from the Google Play Store; instead you have access to Amazon's curated app store. It still has a good number of apps available, including free ones courtesy of the new Amazon Underground feature, just not as many as Google's. Due to its big low-resolution screen, the Amazon Fire HD 10 isn't as impressive as the 8-inch model (which packs more pixels into its smaller screen), but it still has a lot of good going for it.

Editors' note: The Amazon Fire HD 8 is an almost identical version of the Fire HD 10 (reviewed here). Portions of their reviews are similar.

Editors' note, October 15, 2015 : The review has been edited to clarify that Amazon Underground is available to all Amazon users.

Design

The Fire HD 10 is Amazon's biggest tablet ever. It looks just like the 8-inch model, just larger. Unlike the Fire HD 8, the 10-inch version comes only in black or white color options.

Dimensions compared

Tested spec Amazon Fire HD 10 Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7
Weight 0.95 pound (432g) 1.10 pounds (499g) 1 pound (450g)
Width (landscape) 10.3 inches (262mm) 9.7 inches (247mm) 9.5 inches (241.3mm)
Height 6.3 inches (159mm) 6.7 inches (171mm) 6.6 inches (167mm)
Depth 0.30 inch (7.7mm) 0.35 inch (8.9mm) 0.30 inch (7.5mm)
Side bezel width (landscape) 0.75 inch (19mm) 0.5 inch (12.7mm) 0.5 inch (12.7mm)

The tablet brandishes a plastic body with a polished sheen. The smooth and glossy back attracts fingerprints and smudges easily, though the finish feels comfortable when holding it. The slick plastic back can feel slippery if it's not gripped securely.

In landscape orientation, the right edge of the tablet is home to the power button, volume rocker, Micro-USB port and headphone jack. The expandable microSD card slot is located on the right, while the speakers are inconspicuously located on the bottom edge.

The power and volume buttons, as well as the Micro-USB port and headphone jack are on the same edge. Josh Miller/CNET

The Fire HD 10 is far from the thin and lightweight design of the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9. Contrary to the Fire HD tablets, the high-end 8.9-inch Fire HDX tablet is a performance powerhouse with a supremely skinny and sleek aesthetic. The Fire HDX 8.9 also costs almost twice as much as the Fire HD 10. This goes to show that design is often a compromise when manufacturers are trying to meet a low price point. That said, the Fire HD 10's dimensions are in the wheelhouse of comparable tablets in the same price range.

The glossy plastic design of the Fire HD 10 evokes a toy-like impression that's part fun and part chintzy. The polished aesthetic doesn't really feel high-end or premium. At its low price, the Fisher-Price vibe is no surprise.

The rounded edges make it comfortable to hold. Josh Miller/CNET

In some way, the flagrantly plastic construction is refreshingly unpretentious. To be sure, the design is one of its weakest aspects, but considering it's a tablet meant for entertainment rather than productivity, the playful aesthetic all kind of makes sense in a way.

Features

The new Fire HD tablets debut Amazon's latest Android-based operating system, Fire OS 5 Bellini. The updated user interface has a fresh design that's easy to navigate and new features to enhance watching video, gaming and reading. Though it runs a modified version of the Google OS, you don't get the full breadth of Android apps available in the Google Play store. Instead, you have the Amazon App store, which is highly curated and somewhat limited in its selection. It's a downside to the Amazon OS, but if you don't care for downloading many apps, it's not a big deal.

If you swipe right from the home screen, you see a page full of recently used apps. Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

Fire OS 5 Bellini

Fire OS 5 Bellini is refreshingly different from previous iterations. Gone is the giant app carousel and gloomy black-and-gray motif of previous Fire OS versions, and in its place is a spruced-up, colorful, content-focused UI.

The home screen now consists of a row at the top of the page with new library content and an array of apps on the bottom. The top row is very useful if you subscribe to newspapers or magazines; whenever a new issue is released it automatically shows up on the home screen. A new screen with recently used apps is accessed by swiping right from the home screen, and if you swipe left from the home screen, you'll find that menu screens are organized by content. Books, videos, games, apps, music, audiobooks and newsstand each have their own separate page dedicated to that specific content type. There's also a search bar at the top of each page that automatically categorizes search results into three sections: search results from Bing, search results from the Amazon store, and matches in your content library. It's a one-stop-shop for your searching needs.

Like any good friend, Amazon suggests new music, videos and apps to try. Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

In addition to displaying media you own in your library, the menu pages also show Amazon's recommended content. Based on your previous purchases and downloads, Amazon tries to show you other Prime content you might enjoy. I found the recommendations pretty spot on, especially with music, but I wasn't being shown anything new, just things I liked that weren't in my library.

On that note, for the first time ever, Amazon has put microSD card slots in their tablets, and to make the deal even sweeter, you can download your Prime content on to the memory card. This allows your tablet more breathing room with its internal storage and increases the amount of media you can download.

You can expand the storage up to 128GB via microSD card. Josh Miller/CNET

In streaming-video upgrades, the new ASAP function (which stands for "Advanced Streaming And Prediction") tries to guess what shows and movies you'll watch before you even select them, based on your viewing habits, and prebuffer the video so you don't have to wait for it to load. Since it's a behind-the-scenes type of function, it's hard to notice the effects unless you're watching closely. When I was continuously streaming a TV show, I noted how quickly a new episode would start after the last one ended. But when I was choosing something new to watch, buffering still took a few seconds after I made my selection. The inconsistency might be because our review unit was running an early version of the OS. Either way, when it's working, the ASAP feature seems to competently live up to its name.

Let's not forget that Amazon tablets are also great for readers. The Fire HD 10's seamless Kindle integration now includes the Word Runner feature. It's a speed-reading function that displays individual words at a pace that you can control. You might have heard of the similar software Spritz, but Word Runner is built into the Fire's operating system and works with most English-language books. I can see how it can aid in reading comprehension, by making you focus on one word at a time, however I personally didn't enjoy it more than reading an entire page at my leisure. Maybe it's acquired taste -- or sight, in this case.

Magazine subscriptions land on your homepage when new issues are released. Josh Miller/CNET

If you're already overwhelmed with what the Fire HD 10 can do, Mayday Screen Sharing is a useful feature for helping you figure it all out. When you call Amazon for assistance with your tablet, you can share the tablet's screen with the customer service rep so they can see what's going on and help walk you through solutions.

Amazon Underground

Amazon Underground allows you to download tons of games in the Amazon App store for free -- literally. Think of it as the gaming version of Amazon Prime Video. You get access to a bevy of different titles, and sure, the selection is limited, but it's free so you can't complain too much.

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