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(Pocket-lint) - Amazon has been offering a range of tablets for many years. For many, they have been the first port of call when looking for an affordable tablet, because it's hard to question the value for money.

But in recent iterations, Amazon has looked to move things up a notch. The Fire HD 10 Plus is a perfect example of that, looking to do more than just entertain.

Design and build

  • Dimensions: 247 x 166 x 9.2mm
  • Weight: 468g
  • Plastic build

At first glance, not much has changed with the new generation of the Fire HD 10, launched in 2021. While the screen remains the same size - and the device is a similar construction to previous models - you'll spot a change in the dimensions.

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Like the shift in design of the Fire HD 8 Plus, the new HD 10 has narrowed the bezels at the end of the display, making for look that's more uniform. It's more attractive, more modern, and helps move this range of tablets forward.

The construction is very much as it was before, with a plastic back and soft curves around the edges. It can't compete with the premium finish you'll get from the Apple iPad, but at half the price, we're not sure anyone would be expecting that.

The advantage that the Fire HD 10 Plus has is that the back doesn't gather fingerprints - it's easy to wipe clean and it doesn't damage easily. There's a sort of bulletproof aesthetic to Fire tablets and having passed many through the hands of children over the years, durability is one thing we know they are good at.

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It's also not the same hard plastic as the previous generation on this Plus model. It's a softer touch so it does look more premium, and with glossy buttons on the end.  

It's worth noting that the regular Fire HD 10 (which is slightly cheaper) doesn't have such a premium finish - so there is something 'plus' to the Plus - but if you're using a case you won't see (or feel) that.

Display

  • 10.1-inch LCD, 1920 x 1200 resolution (224ppi)

One of the major reasons that people will pick the Fire HD 10 Plus is because it has the largest display of Amazon's tablets. Importantly, it's a higher resolution panel than the rest of Amazon's Fire tablets - and that suits the larger size.

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It measures 10.1-inches on the diagonal, and packs in 1920 x 1200 pixels across its 16:10 aspect ratio - making it as resolute as a Full HD telly (well, a little more, actually). That results in quality that won't match, say, the iPad - but it's not far off in terms of resolution and pixel density. 

It's not the most capable tablet display around, but it fits the price point. That means it's not quite as vibrant or bright as you'll get on some other mainstream tablets, but it's well suited to what you might use it for. It's perfectly adequate for watching TV while in bed - although it won't deliver HDR (high dynamic range) content - but the only time you might struggle with ambient brightness is when outside, such as if you happen to be sitting by a bright window on a train.

There's one minor detail to note. If you wear polarising glasses then this tablet blacks out entirely when in portrait. We only mention that because Amazon sees a future where people use the Fire HD 10 Plus as more of a productivity device, so you might take it out and about for working on in a way you never considered doing with previous fire tablets.

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That's also not a huge problem. The whole user interface is designed around landscape orientation use, so that minor detail regarding portrait orientation is unlikely to ever be a problem - unless you plan to read a book on it while wearing your sunglasses.

Hardware and performance

  • MediaTek Helio P60T, 4GB RAM
  • 32/64GB storage + microSD
  • 12 hour battery life
  • USB-C, 9W charging
  • 15W wireless charging

There's new hardware powering the Fire HD 10 models, with both the Fire HD 10 and Fire HD 10 Plus having essentially the same core. The Plus model, however, gets an extra gigabyte of RAM - not that you'll notice much performance difference - while it also supports wireless charging.

The supplied charger is a 9W unit that will charge the tablet in about 4 hours, while the optional charging dock will charge at 15W, meaning it can be charged in 3.5 hours total. Of course, you have to buy the charging dock separately - but it will work with other Qi compatible wireless chargers.

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Using the dock isn't just about charging it. With hands-free Alexa on board, you can have Show Mode turn on when you drop it on the dock so it does basically become an Echo Show.

The Fire HD 10 Plus' battery life is cited as 12 hours - and that's a realistic measure for this device. That's great as it will see you through a transatlantic flight or last you through a day of work on a single charge.

In the battery settings you'll also find a handy report on battery stats, the time since last full charge, and the screen usage since then. For us, at the time of writing the review, we have 20 per cent remaining, the last full charge 19 days ago, with just over 10 hours of screen use in total. Fire tablets are pretty good at hanging onto this battery life - you can set one down for a couple of weeks and return to it with some life remaining.

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We keep mentioning work because Amazon is also offering the Fire HD 10 Plus as part of a bundle. Called the Fire HD 10 Plus Productivity - which includes a Bluetooth keyboard case and a 12-month subscription of Microsoft 365 - it's not something we've seen in person, so we haven't reviewed the keyboard, but we have used the Fire HD 10 Plus with Microsoft Office.

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What's really changed here is that the Fire 10 HD Plus feels like a tablet you could use for something other than just entertainment. It feels faster and more powerful. And having written some of this review in Microsoft Word on this very tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard, it's perfectly possible.

That is, once again, a reflection of the changing world we live in: while Apple has been aggressively shifting its iPad from sofa companion to portable productivity device, Amazon is keen to show off that its plucky HD 10 Plus can also do that and at a fraction of the price. And it can, to some extent.

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The Fire HD 10 Plus has the power to run things like Zoom for video calls, with an audio experience that's great too, so it has a lot to offer - but you're still some distance from the experience that Samsung is offering on its productivity tablets.

Using Amazon's Silk browser feels a little siloed, without the ease that comes from Safari across Apple devices or Chrome. While Silk will give you access to everything online, it's just not as streamlined as other ecosystems.

It feels more like Amazon wants the Fire HD 10 to be more useful - and after the year we've had with school closures and working from home, having an affordable device that can do some of this stuff is useful, just don't expect it to be the same as you'll get elsewhere.

It's still a great entertainment device

  • 3.5mm headphones socket
  • Integrated Alexa control
  • Dolby Atmos speakers

For those not interested in working, the Fire HD 10 Plus remains a great choice for entertainment. With apps for popular streaming services, it's an ideal tablet for streaming, catching up on the latest Disney+ release or Netflix hit.

One of the things that will help that along is the sensible approach to audio. There's 3.5mm headphone socket as well as Bluetooth, so those options are well covered whether wired or wireless.

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But there are also very capable speakers on the Fire HD 10, claiming to offer Dolby Atmos. This has been a trend for Fire tablets for a number of years and it's hard to fault their performance - the sound is great, adding substance to video you might be watching.

There are also a range of games available on the Fire HD 10 Plus, drawing on the Amazon Appstore, and this includes some premium titles, like Minecraft or Real Racing 3, but you might find that some Amazon versions aren't as recent as those you'll find on iOS or Android.

That's really the biggest drawback of the Fire tablet: it doesn't have the software prowess to compete with those big platforms, where a tablet from Samsung might just give you a better experience that's more comparable with your phone.

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Instead, Amazon has an ecosystem of its own - and that's likely to be something that pulls customers into the Fire tablet. Once you sign in to your Amazon account, it will give you access to all your smart home devices that you might have setup through Alexa previously, so you can view your connected cameras, turn the lights off, or whatever else - and most of it is just a swipe away.

We've mentioned hands-free Alexa, which you can disable this on the Fire tablet easily enough if you don't want it, but you still get access with a swipe to those connected devices for smart home control.

Fire tablets have always been great for kids and the Fire HD 10 Plus is no exception, as it's easy to setup household profiles either for adults or for children, with the latter giving you plenty of control. If you want more curated content for children, there's the option to subscribe to Amazon Kids, although if your primary usage will be with kids, it's worth looking at the Kids Edition of the Fire HD 10, which offers a couple of advantages - like the 2-year guarantee, protective case, and bundled subscription.

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Fire OS isn't comparable with Android and isn't a patch on Apple's iPadOS. That's not just about app support - it's also not as slick in use and doesn't feel quite as modern as the latest iterations of other platforms. Stick to watching movies and you'll find it perfectly capable, though, but once you start trying to use your tablet more aggressively, you'll find it doesn't have the pace to keep up with those more expensive rivals.

Verdict

The Fire HD 10 Plus is Amazon's attempt to move this tablet from entertainment to something a little more productive. While typing up a Word document is easy enough, as is joining in video calls, the experience doesn't match more capable tablets from the likes of Samsung and Apple. If productivity is your primary aim, you might want to look elsewhere.

But the Fire HD 10 Plus does feel more like a device designed to cover all these bases. It's at its best when consuming apps like Amazon Prime Video or Netflix or keeping the kids happy with the games it offers. But it can do yet more.

The real draw of the Plus is its wireless charging - so it only really makes sense if you're buying the wireless charging dock and plan to use it in Show Mode too. Otherwise, you might be better off with the standard Fire HD 10, which offers much the same experience for less money.

Alternatives to consider

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Apple iPad

The iPad dominates the tablet space. It's considerably more expensive, but it also sets the standard when it comes to ecosystem and functions - with a better offering for those seeking productivity options.

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Writing by Chris Hall. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 23 June 2021.