Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus (2021) review

Two minute review

For years now, the Amazon Fire devices have been the go-to tablets for cheap, easy media consumption – the iPads are nice but expensive, very few decent Android tablets exist (the Galaxy Tab S series being the main exception), and that's left Amazon to pick up a large part of the market with its affordable, inoffensive, low-spec slates.

But what have we here? 4GB of RAM? Up to 64GB of storage? An extra 'Plus' on the end of the name? Wireless charging? A bundle option including Microsoft Office and a Bluetooth keyboard? Yes, the Amazon Fire series is apparently growing up and getting serious – the newly introduced 10.1-inch Plus model wants to do more than let you just browse the web and watch movies on Amazon Prime.

Those extras are welcome of course, but they don't actually move the needle all that much. Even though the Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus is the best of the series yet, it's still going to appeal mostly to the same audience as before – those who want a cheap, reliable tablet for doing some social media checking, some online reading, and some music and video streaming.

If you're the kind of person who slaps a keyboard on your tablet and fires up Microsoft Excel, the improvements that the Fire HD 10 Plus brings with it aren't really going to tempt you away from the alternatives.

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

On the positive side, this is a well-built tablet, with a good display and perfectly adequate battery life. Alexa can't be faulted, and you get easy access to all of Amazon's apps and services – photos, music, movies, ebooks, audiobooks, and everything else (the software also does a capable job of remembering where you are up to in your various bits of content). It's not all that fast, but it doesn't need to be.

As for the negatives: well, it looks like a cheap tablet, on the whole. The Fire OS software is based on Android, but lacks a few key apps, including all of the Google ones (and YouTube, unless you want to visit YouTube in a web browser) – if you're heavily invested in the Google ecosystem, you might well be better off looking elsewhere.

It's still super-cheap though, starting at just $179.99 in the US and £179.99 in the UK. And really that's what every gadget review comes down to: value for money. The Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus offers plenty of it, and assuming you're aware of and can live with its limitations, we're happy to recommend it.

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus price and availability

  • Out now in the US and UK
  • Starts at $179.99 / £179.99 (around AU$330)

The Amazon Fire tablets remain very affordable. For the 32GB of storage model, this slate will set you back $179.99 / £179.99 (around AU$330), and that goes up to $219.99 / £219.99 (roughly AU$400) for the 64GB model. Those prices include lock screen adverts – if you don't want those, add another $10 / £10 on. You can of course buy these tablets direct from Amazon.

At the time of writing if you want the official Wireless Charging Dock with your purchase, that's another $40 / £40, while the Bluetooth keyboard and a year of Microsoft 365 is another $60 / £60. The slate isn't currently available in Australia.

Design

  • Plastic back and big bezels
  • Feels light enough for extended use
  • Only comes in one color

There are no real surprises in the design of the Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus, with the familiar cheap and cheerful aesthetics of this tablet series in evidence again.

In terms of design, there's no difference between the Plus model and the standard Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) tablet – both are lighter and thinner than the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019), but with reductions of 0.6 millimeters (0.02 inches) and 36 grams (1.3 ounces) respectively, you'll hardly notice.

Despite display bezels that are very chunky for a device launching in 2021, the tablet isn't a bad-looking bit of hardware, with nicely curved edges and corners that add to the visual appeal of the slate as well as giving it an air of toughness (it's the sort of gadget you don't feel like you have to treat with particular care).

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

There's a nice smooth plastic backing to the tablet, with a subtly embossed Amazon logo, and a gray-ish shade that Amazon calls Slate is your only color option. It's actually exclusive to the Plus model – the standard Amazon Fire HD 10 comes in Black, Denim, Olive and Lavender – so if you like the look of it, you'll need to pay the extra for the more expensive model.

If you hold the tablet in landscape orientation (so it's wider rather than taller), with the embedded webcam above the screen, all the action is on the right-hand side: you've got the volume controls at the top, then the power button, then the USB-C port, and then the headphone jack.

It does feel a bit crowded on that side of the device, and it's not great positioning for when the Fire HD 10 Plus is in portrait mode, but we can live with it.

The tablet feels light enough for extended use with one hand, though it's tempting to wonder how much more compact it would be without those thick bezels.

Still, on a device this cheap the money has to be saved somewhere, and overall the Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus looks more elegant and premium than you might expect given its price. It's no iPad in the design department of course, but then it does cost significantly less.

Display and audio

  • 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 LCD display
  • Reasonable quality but no HDR
  • Decent stereo speakers

We've got no complaints about the 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 resolution, LCD screen on the Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus – although this is perhaps one of the areas where you can see how Amazon gets these devices cheaper than rival slates from Apple and Samsung. It's a decent screen but it's not up there with the very best.

For the size of the tablet, the resolution is high enough to get a nice and sharp picture, and the brightness ramps up to a respectable level too. There's no HDR here, so while watching videos some details can get lost in particularly dark and light areas of the frame, but it's not a huge issue.

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Even without HDR and the quality and richness of an OLED screen, this is a great tablet for enjoying movies and TV shows: despite the power user extras that Amazon has added for the Plus model, you get the feeling that this is still first and foremost for media consumption, and a 10.1-inch screen gives you plenty of room for that.

It does just fine for document reading and web browsing as well, and for reading digital books at a pinch – though of course it's not as easy on the eye as an ereader (like the ones Amazon itself makes). On the audio side, you can pick from actually-quite-impressive stereo speakers, the 3.5mm headphone jack, or Bluetooth speakers, and there is support for Dolby Atmos.

Specs, performance and cameras

  • Dated but acceptable chipset
  • Basic cameras
  • No Google Play Store so app selection is limited

In terms of specs, there's no trouble with storage – 32GB or 64GB, or more if you add a microSD card – and 4GB of RAM is good enough for this kind of device, but it's a shame to see the same MediaTek Helio P60T chipset here that was fitted inside the 2019 models. While we didn't see any major lag or glitching, it's hardly the snappiest tablet we've ever seen in terms of responsiveness.

Yes you will be able to do everything you want to do on the Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus, but you might also be waiting a few more milliseconds for certain operations to complete than you might like.

Serious image and video editing and high-end mobile gaming aren't really on the table, but users with those kind of demands are likely to have their eyes on more expensive tablets anyway.

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus

(Image credit: Amazon)

Camera duties are handled by a 2MP front-facing camera and a 5MP rear-facing camera, and they're functional but not much more than that. If you really must go around taking photos with your tablet, be prepared to be underwhelmed – we'd say the Fire HD 10 Plus cameras are just about passable for video calling but no more than that, and still images come out as rather noisy and blocky.

Software is a bit of a mixed bag. Alexa is on board of course, and we like the way the tablet can turn into an Echo Show if needed – Amazon's digital assistant gets better all the time, and needs no introduction. All of Amazon's apps and services, including Prime Video, are easily accessible and work very well.

On the downside, the Fire OS variant of Android that Amazon has developed and puts on its tablets doesn't have Google Play Store access, so not all of your favorite apps will be available.

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Spotify and Tidal are here, but not Deezer or Apple Music; Netflix and Disney Plus are available, but there's no native YouTube app (you have to open up the mobile version of YouTube on the web instead). Zoom is here, but not Slack.

In fact there are no Google apps – no Gmail, no Google Maps, no Google Photos. These omissions might not be deal-breakers, depending on what you want from your tablet, but make sure you're aware of them before buying this.

As they've always been, these devices are best for accessing Amazon apps and services, with a few extras (like Microsoft Office) thrown in on top.

Accessories

  • A wireless dock lets you turn it into an Echo Show
  • Bluetooth keyboard and Microsoft 365 bundle is good value

We already mentioned some of the accessories available for the Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus up at the top. The official Amazon Wireless Charging Dock, for an extra $40 / £40, is an interesting proposition: it's good for charging up your tablet and for using it more like an Echo Show that you keep in the corner of the room.

It doubles up as a stand, so it can come in handy for watching movies and typing up essays as well.

We think $60 / £60 for a Bluetooth keyboard and a year of Microsoft 365 is pretty good as well actually (Microsoft 365 usually costs $69.99 or £59.99 a year on its own). We can't vouch for the quality of the keyboard, but it looks solid and stylish enough.

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus

(Image credit: Amazon)

Battery life

  • Long-lasting battery
  • Slow to charge

The benefit of a modestly performing processor and a lower-resolution screen is better battery life, and the Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus doesn't disappoint here – you'll get around 10 hours of video watching between charges, and that's with the screen brightness ramped right up. It'll last through a day or a really long plane journey no trouble at all.

The battery capacity hasn't officially been stated by Amazon, but Amazon says you can expect around 12 hours of use from the slate. That feels a bit on the optimistic side unless you're just listening to an audiobook on headphones with it, but based on our testing you'll probably get close to that most of the time.

We don't have official figures for the charging speeds, but with wired USB-C charging the battery gains about 10% in 15 minutes – it'll take you a couple of hours to charge fully.

We weren't able to test wireless charging, but expect that to take even longer. Note that wireless charging is exclusive to the Plus model, and isn't available on the standard Fire HD 10.

Should I buy the Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus?

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus

(Image credit: Amazon)

Buy it if...

You don't want to spend much
The main reason to buy an Amazon Fire tablet has always been because it's affordable – the 10 Plus is the most expensive of the current range, but it still counts as a budget slate.

You use a lot of Amazon apps
The secondary reason to buy an Amazon Fire tablet is because you want quick and convenient access to everything Amazon does: Alexa, Prime Video, Audible and so on.

You need better performance
The 1GB of extra RAM you get compared with the standard Fire HD 10 model should make a difference when working with multiple apps simultaneously, or with larger files.

Don't buy it if...

You like your Google apps
You can sideload Google apps on this tablet, but it's messy and buggy. This is not the tablet to get if you rely on Gmail, Google Docs, and everything else that Google does.

You watch a lot of YouTube
On a related note: there's no YouTube app here. You can still get at YouTube through Amazon's rudimentary web browser, but it's far from an ideal user experience.

You like premium design
The Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus looks like a cheap tablet, though there are some nice design touches. You won't find many devices with display bezels this thick launching in 2021.

First reviewed: June 2021

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