Amazon's (AMZN) - Get Report latest tablet, the Fire HD 10, is an odd offering for a company that has rapidly improved its hardware chops in recent years. It's almost as if the Internet giant went back in time to when it cared less about design and performance and just focused on ease of use.
The company was kind enough to send me the latest offering, a 16 GB Wi-Fi Fire HD 10 and while Amazon claims that it's continuing to improve the device's performance, this review shows that isn't actually the case. The Fire HD 10, which starts at $180, is Amazon's mid-range offering between the $50 Fire tablet and the Fire HDX 8.9, which starts at around $200 and runs upwards of $400.
The HD 10 comes with a quad-core 1.5 gHz and 1.2 gHz processor and while that doesn't mean much to most people, it's supposed to mean that it's fast and responsive, with no lag time switching between tasks and apps. I found that not to be the case, however, and in some cases, it lagged horribly. I even tried different networks to make sure it wasn't anything I was doing, but alas, it was the tablet.
In performance tests, testing features such as screen responsiveness and speed, the two-year old Kindle Fire HDX actually performed better and more smoothly than the Fire HD 10. Last year's Fire HDX 8.9 also blows away the Fire HD 10 when it comes to performance.
The screen was clear, with an extremely high number of pixels, but I felt the resolution and color blending weren't as pleasing as the Fire HDX. I played with screen brightness, but could never get it just the way I wanted it.
At just over 10 inches, the Fire HD 10 is definitely meant to be a content consumption tablet, and that is where Amazon continues to shine. As Amazon Prime continues to become a force against Netflix, the ease of navigation for Video, Books, Games, Apps, Music and more clearly positions this as a way to enjoy the best Amazon has to offer.
Unfortunately, there's duplication of this, as Amazon throws apps on the tablet that you don't need since you can navigate right to them, but you can easily delete the apps if you so choose.
Battery life on the Fire HD 10 continues to be strong, with the company claiming 8 hours of Web browsing, movie playback and the like. In my tests, I found it averaged just a hair under 8 hours, so Amazon is spot on with its claims, something that is sure to please people who hate having to constantly charge devices.
The Fire HD 10 comes with Amazon's latest operating system, Fire OS 5, which is a clear step up in aesthetics over previous versions. As part of Fire OS 5, Amazon has greatly improved the reading experience, introducing Word Runner, which helps you read faster by keeping your eyes focused on what you're reading.
Amazon also recently introduced new features for Fire OS 5, including a way to make it easier to read at night, more tools for parents to monitor what their children are doing and even a kid-friendly Web browser, which has access to more than 40,000 hand-curated YouTube videos that are deemed age-appropriate.
I did not care for the back of the tablet, which you can see comes in either white or black. It's very slippery, unlike the polished metal backing of an iPad or the sturdy finish of the HDX 8.9. I never dropped it, but I felt too often as if I was just one slip away from dropping it, something that's not a good sign.
I've also gotten used to the button placement on the Kindle Fire HDX and Fire HDX 8.9, so the switching up of the button placement on the HD 10 took some getting used to, but nothing more than a couple of minutes.
The cameras continue to get better, with the back camera being a 5 MP camera that's capable of taking 1080p video. The front-facing camera is 720p, standard on most tablets, and you can use it to Skype with loved ones.
Amazon continues to impress with the sound on its speakers, and while this isn't a high-end tablet like the aforementioned Kindle Fire HDX and Fire HDX 8.9, Amazon does users right with Dolby Atmos dual speakers to provide an enjoyable listening experience.
The app store, and especially Underground, where Amazon gives away apps that are not free, continues to be a major improvement since Amazon first started selling tablets. The major social networks are all there, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn, but as before, there's no official Instagram app. There's also no official YouTube app, but that's a bit more understandable, since Fire OS 5 is a forked version of Android, and there are also workarounds. Netflix is also there, so for those who want to just Netflix and chill, you can do so.
As Amazon continues to introduce more tablets, one would expect that it would want to have the very best as it seeks to compete against the Apple (AAPL) - Get Report iPad and Alphabet (GOOG) - Get Report (GOOGL) - Get Report Google Nexus lineups.
The Fire HD 10 should be Amazon's mid-range tablet that should appeal to a lot of people, but the drawbacks may push more people towards the higher end Fire HDX 8.9, down the line to the Fire HD 6 or Fire HD 8 or, perhaps worst of all, towards other companies' tablets altogether.
Final Grade: 8.2/10