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Amazon just launched a new version of the Fire HD 10 tablet with some neat improvements. Its low price (displayed below) makes it a compelling buy. But before you add it to your cart, there are a few things you should know.
The big news is it comes with smart voice assistant Amazon Alexa in a hands-free, always-listening mode. There are some other improvements too, and some things sadly remain the same. And that $150 price tag has a catch.
So here are 10 things you need to know about the new Amazon Fire HD 10 before you buy it.
1. Same Size, Better Screen
The new Fire HD 10 has the same size as its predecessor, with a 10.1-inch screen. But the screen’s resolution has been bumped up to 1920×1080 pixels. Technically, this is the Fire “Full HD” 10.
The higher resolution leads to sharper text when reading books, magazines, and comics. Your movies and TV series will also look better, but don’t expect a big change.
2. Don’t Expect an iPad Quality Screen
Resolution isn’t everything when it comes to picture quality. Sure, you will notice a difference going from HD to Full HD at this size, but don’t expect the Fire HD 10 to rival an iPad’s screen.
A screen’s quality depends on much more than resolution. The type and quality of the panel, the backlighting, the image processor, the software calibration, and other components all come together to determine how a picture looks.
In short, the 2017 Fire HD 10 is better than its predecessor. And that’s all.
3. Dolby Atmos Sound for Better Audio
Amazon is trying hard to make this your single multimedia tablet at home. The Fire HD 10 is fitted with Dolby Atmos sound, which is a nice tag to have but doesn’t really mean much.
Most reviewers who got a demonstration of this said that the sound is definitely louder and clearer. But it’s not richer or better. The idea is basically to let you watch a quick video or listen to something without reaching for your headphones.
To be honest, that’s something I wish more tablets did. Budget tablets generally come with weak speakers, requiring headphones if you want to hear anything. The Fire HD 10 would be more convenient than any of those.
4. Faster Processor, More Storage, More RAM, More Battery
We have long said that you shouldn’t buy a Fire tablet for kids. But with the 2017 Fire HD 10, Amazon has fixed many of the issues that stopped this recommendation.
With a better processor and double the RAM, the tablet is faster than before and you won’t get much lag. Amazon has also made it easier for parents to install apps and download videos by doubling the internal storage to 32GB (there’s also a 64GB model).
And if you were worried about an always-listening Alexa draining your battery life rapidly, rest easy. That has been boosted too, now claiming a battery life of 10 hours compared to eight earlier.
5. Alexa is Always Listening
And then there’s “Hands-Free Alexa.” You no longer have to press a button to start Amazon’s voice assistant. It’s always listening, so just issue your commands after you say, “Alexa.”
So while watching a video, you can play, pause, rewind, fast forward by simply saying something like, “Alexa pause.” Alexa reads books aloud, launches apps, tells you the weather, and has a bunch of other skills you need to try.
6. It’s Plastic, and the Buttons Still Suck
Unlike most other tablets, Amazon has stuck with a plastic body for the Fire HD 10 Sure, it feels a little cheap, but it’s sturdy nonetheless. You’ll get used to the feel in no time. And if your kids are using this tablet, you’ll feel a little more secure than with the fragile iPad Pro.
But Amazon has also kept the buttons on the same side as its predecessor. The Fire HD 10’s buttons are at the top when you hold the tablet in portrait mode. That’s incredibly inconvenient. You can’t reach the buttons from your normal holding stance. And I was quite annoyed with how often I had to brush off the headphones wire. They are small irks that add up, you know?
7. Amazon Really Wants You To Buy Stuff
On the software front, it’s the same old Fire OS as before. But Amazon has added a new “For You” section to give you recommendations. Amazon Prime gives you a lot of content, and the company is doing its best to sell it to you.
The tablet tracks everything you are doing. Based on what you watch, read, play, or listen to, “For You” will display recommendations on what to do next. Amazon wants you to spend more time with your tablet, and content is the best way to do it.
8. No Google Play Store Yet
The same old Fire OS means that the same old problems persist. In case you didn’t know, Fire OS is based on Android. But the tablet does not have the Google Play Store.
Instead, you are forced to use Amazon’s app store instead, which includes several of the popular apps. But it doesn’t have everything. Don’t worry too much about it though, since you can install Play Store without rooting the tablet.
9. The $150 Version Has Ads
Everyone loves that the 2017 Fire HD 10 has a big price cut, as Amazon is selling it for $150. But well, that $150 price is if you are ready to get ads from Amazon delivered to your screen.
When you’re buying, you’ll see two buttons: “With Special Offers” and “Without Special Offers.” In Amazon’s language, “Special Offers” translates to ads that it pushes to your tablet. These ads will appear as a screensaver whenever you aren’t using the tablet, instead of the default black screen.
You can try to remove these ads and make Fire HD 10 look like stock Android. But removing ads costs whatever you didn’t want to initially pay.
If you want an ad-free version, the “Without Special Offers” Fire HD 10 costs about $165. I’d pay the extra $15, but it’s up to you. Either way, that’s the price you should compare the Fire HD 10 against its alternatives with.
10. The Alternatives Don’t Fully Match-Up
The thing is, even counting those extra 15 bucks, the Fire HD 10 comes out on top. But that’s if you want a 10-inch tablet and nothing else will do. It’s a question of choice on which size of tablet is right for you.
The best alternative, in my opinion, is to get the Asus T100 Transformer 2, one of the best mini PC tablets or convertibles. It costs more, but it runs Windows, so it’s a full-fledged computer too. And you get a keyboard dock as well. Not too shabby!
But as far as a media tablet for your home, the Fire HD 10 is an excellent purchase that you won’t regret.
Will You Buy the New Fire HD 10?
The Amazon Fire HD 10 strikes the right balance between features and price for a media consumption device. It’s not a tablet to create new things, like the iPad Pro. It’s a tablet to watch, read, play, and listen.
So will you buy the new Fire HD 10? Do you think there is a better tablet for a similar price?