(Pocket-lint) - The Amazon Fire tablets represent some of the best value tablets on the market, offering an affordable range of devices for those who can't stretch to the price of an iPad.

Rather than drastically changing the Fire each time a revision comes along, Amazon's updates are smaller, keeping the design and much of the spec the same. That keeps the price in check, but makes it easier for owners and third-party manufacturers to provide peripherals. 

The Fire HD 10 was updated in 2019, giving a spec boost in some areas. So is this the big-screen tablet to buy? 

Design: What's new?

  • Plastic construction
  • 262 x 159 x 9.8mm; 504g
  • Black, Twilight Blue, Plum and White colours

To look at, apart from changes in the colours, there's no real difference in the 2019 Fire HD 10 compared to the previous versions. There's been a change in how Amazon displays its logo, moving to just an arrow, but otherwise the build and size of this tablet are the same as they have always been.

But there's one important change: the inclusion of a USB Type-C rather than the old Micro-USB connection. Amazon had been a little slow to evolve its devices to this newer standard of connection. While in a smartphone it makes a lot of sense to use this connector, devices like the Kindle and the Fire tablets have got away with using the older standard for some time. It's welcome, as it means you might be spared from carrying around the older charger and can just use one cable for everything. It's also easier to plug in. 

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There's no escaping that the Fire HD 10 is big and plasticky. While the Fire 7 gets away with it, once you're up to the expansive 10-inch size of this model, there's a lot of plastic to grip, so you don't have the premium feel that you get from an iPad finished in aluminium or some other tablets that might use glass. At the same time, the weight is kept down. And you always have to remember the cost: you're not paying premium prices here, so the use of plastics is accepted. It's also easy to wipe clean of sticky fingers and handles wear and tear fairly well too. 

For those wanting more protection for the sort of damage that kids might cause, there's the Fire HD 10 Kids Edition, which comes with a bumper case and warranty, along with access to Fire for Kids Unlimited for a year. It's well worth looking at if you're buying for kids.

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Hardware & Performance

  • 10.1-inch display, 1920 x 1200 pixels (224ppi)
  • Quad-core MediaTek CPU, 2GB RAM
  • 32/64GB storage, microSD slot

With a 10.1-inch display on the front of this tablet - and a Full HD resolution - there's a lot of space to touch, play and watch. That's what this tablet is really all about. While the resolution isn't as significant as some higher-end devices, for things like gaming and watching movies it's high enough, while the 19:10 aspect suits video content well. This is a great tablet for downloading shows from the likes of BBC iPlayer, Amazon Video or Netflix, to keep yourself entertained on long journeys. 

Yes, it's an IPS display, so it doesn't have the luscious dynamic range that you can get from an OLED display like you might find on a Samsung or Apple tablet. Again, that's relative to pricing: and it's hard to complain about when this Amazon tablet is half the price. 

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The Fire HD 10 offers adequate brightness for watching in daylight, although it won't quite cut through the harshest of direct sunlight - which might only ever be a problem if you're sitting next to a train window. The display does have a tendency to drop the brightness fairly aggressively, and we've found ourselves often bumping it back up again when watching movies or gaming - so you might want to consider turning the autobrightness off. 

Amazon has slowly been updating the hardware in its tablets, so it's no surprise that the Seattle company turned to MediaTek. The 2GB of RAM might not compete with your smartphone, but you're unlikely to be jumping around applications as you would on your phone. It's not the fastest tablet around, but it's fast enough. Besides, tablets tend to be used for entertainment. 

Load up a demanding game like PUBG Mobile and you'll find that things run well enough on medium settings. There's enough power, it's just a little too big to play this type of game effectively.

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There's the option of 32 or 64GB of storage, with a microSD card slot, meaning you can expand that storage up to 256GB, which is pretty generous. The performance of this tablet will slow down if you fill it to the brim with content, so we'd recommend getting a card on the cheap and managing what you store on your device to keep things running smoothly.

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One thing that lends itself to a great experience is the stereo speakers. Perhaps unusually, the speakers are on one side rather than the ends - so you need to make sure that you're not covering those openings - providing an impressively wide soundstage, with appreciable volume. There's also a 3.5mm headphone socket, which is handy for travel, or Bluetooth wireless connectivity if you prefer.

Battery Life

  • 10 hours life, 5 hours to charge 

The battery life on the Fire HD 10 will last for the stated 10 hours. You'll only really discover this if you sit down and binge movies for 10 hours, so it will likely last you a good couple of days without a charge if you're just using it during the evenings. 

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One of the things that the Fire HD 10 is pretty good at is holding onto that charge in standby. It can just sit, unused, in standby for weeks and still have charge when you come back to it. Of course, this very much depends on what you've got installed and if those background processes are constantly asking you to do things - but if you're mostly using it for movies, you'll probably find it will hold onto its charge.

It will take five hours to charge, which isn't exactly fast, given that most phones will now fully charge in little over an hour, but as we said previously, the addition of USB Type-C at least means it's using the latest type of connector. 

Software & Ecosystem 

The Fire tablets all use the same software, which is a customised version of Google's Android operating system, called Fire OS. It's designed to dovetail with Amazon's ecosystem rather than Google's - and that's exactly what it does. As such it presents your Amazon content around the home screen environment, so you can get to Kindle books you own, and access content that's unlocked by your Prime subscription

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You don't have to be an Amazon Prime subscriber, but as that gives you access to Amazon Video and some music content too - along with photos and other services - it makes sense to sign up. When you get a Fire tablet you're asked to sign into your Amazon account and then everything just falls into place. That also includes Amazon Alexa voice control, which you can have as a hands-free option on the Fire HD 10.

The downside of being a forked version of Android is that this isn't the same Android experience you'd get on an Android phone. Yes, there's some parity between apps and services, but you won't find all the latest apps here. There's no Call of Duty: Mobile, for example, most likely because it takes a little time for some of these apps to make it over to Amazon's devices - and there's no guarantee that they all will.

But most entertainment services are covered, be that Netflix or others, and you're not limited to Amazon's own content by any measure. What Amazon does do well on the Fire tablets, however, is provide a safe environment for children. It's really easy to setup Fire for Kids, so you can hand over your tablet and know that they can only access content that's appropriate for them.

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That's one of the big appeals of the Fire. At this price, there's little better if you want a big tablet for use by kids. Sure, the Apple iPad is a better all-round device, but it's double the price. For playing tap games or watching Peppa Pig, that doesn't make any difference.

Verdict

The Fire HD 10 continues to offer great value in a larger tablet format. From a design point of view it's more obviously a big slab of plastic compared to the smaller Fire HD 8, which we think hits a slightly sweeter spot. But there's little else you'll find that's this good at this price.

The immediate appeal of the Fire HD 10 is for families, with this offering much better value than a premium rivals, with a well-rounded tablet experience. Its strength is entertainment, making it great for travel or as a second screen for movies and TV.

Alternatives to consider

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Apple iPad

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The cheapest in the range of iPads, it is undoubtedly a better quality device, with a better build and display, greater range of software, and a better overall experience. But it is double the price.

Writing by Chris Hall.