Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: The 2021 editions of the Fire HD 10 tablet continue to offer a lot of bang for your buck, with large HD screens, more RAM, and even wireless charging options with the HD 10 Plus. But what takes the Fire HD 10 line to the next level is the Productivity Bundle, which turns the affordable tablet into a part-time productivity powerhouse.
More RAM for faster performance
Best-in-class parental controls
Solid Bluetooth keyboard case in Productivity Bundle
Microsoft Office 365 and 1 TB of OneDrive in Productivity Bundle
Wireless charging option with HD 10 Plus
The cameras are still bad
No official waterproof rating
No built-in camera cover
Google services not included
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Amazon has been busy churning out a whole host of new devices and upgrades to existing devices over the past several months. Earlier this year, I reviewed the excellent Echo Buds (2nd Gen), and even the fantastic Echo Frames (2nd Gen), have since been updated to include options with sunglass and blue light filtering lenses. In early May, we also learned that Amazon was refreshing the Echo Show 5 and Echo Show 8 and that it was even rolling out its first Echo Show for kids.
While newer and more novel products like the ones mentioned above often see a faster update cycle, more mature devices like Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets go longer between new versions. In fact, the last update to the Fire HD 10 line was back in 2019, so, understandably, Amazon was ready to reinvigorate its flagship tablet. Not only did it update the specs and colors on the Fire HD 10, but it also gave us a second version in the Fire HD 10 Plus.
Amazon sent me the regular Fire HD 10 (2021) with the new Productivity Bundle to review. However, after having used both the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus last year, I think it's fairly safe to assume that the experience using the Fire HD 10 Plus will be largely similar for most people, save a few extra perks added to that more premium edition. The changes Amazon made with the standard Fire HD 10 aren't revolutionary, but they are enough to make it the best tablet under $200 and the one you should probably buy for your family.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021): Price and availability
Amazon announced not one but two models of its popular Fire HD 10 tablet in late April, 2021, alongside a new tier of Kids Pro Fire Tablets. The devices were immediately available for pre-order and shipped out to customers at the end of May 2021.
The two "adult" tablets announced were the Fire HD 10 and Fire HD 10 Plus, which followed a similar release strategy employed with the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus. Both the Fire HD 10 and Fire HD 10 Plus come in 32GB and 64GB base storage configurations and start at $150 and $180. The Kids Pro Fire tablets are priced at $100 for the Fire 7 Kids Pro, $140 for the Fire HD 8 Kids Pro, and $200 for the Fire HD 10 Kids Pro.
As with the Fire HD 8 line, the main differences between the Fire HD 10 and Fire HD 10 Plus come down to the available RAM, wireless charging, and color options, all of which we'll address below. Amazon offers several different bundles, including a Productivity edition with either model that includes a custom, "made for Amazon" Bluetooth keyboard and a 12-month Microsoft 365 Personal subscription. The HD 10 Plus model also offers a bundle with a custom wireless charging dock, similar to the one offered with the HD 8 Plus. Customers have the option to purchase the Fire HD 10 as a Lockscreen Ad-Supported version or Without Lockscreen Ads.
You can purchase both the Fire HD 10 and Fire HD 10 Plus directly from Amazon and Best Buy, though the bundles can only currently be found through Amazon. We expect the tablets to be available through additional retailers in the coming months.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021): What's new
The Fire HD 10 is typically Amazon's flagship tablet, but it had been nearly two years since we'd seen any update or refresh to the device. The Fire HD 8 and 8 Plus, which have themselves been out for almost a year, gave us a good preview of what to expect for the newest big Fire tablets, so before we get into what I liked and disliked about the device, let's take a quick look to see just what has changed.
|Category||Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021)|
|Operating System||FireOS 7 based on Android 9|
|Display||10.1-inch, 1080p, full HD|
1920x1200 (224 ppi)
|Processor||8-core 2.0 GHz|
|Memory||3GB RAM (Fire HD 10)|
4GB RAM (Fire HD 10 Plus)
|Storage||32GB or 64GB|
|Expandable Storage||Up to 1TB via microSD|
|Wireless Charging||Only on Fire HD 10 Plus with wireless charging dock accessory|
Alexa mute switch
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 2.4/5GHz, Bluetooth 5 LE with support for A2DP headphones and speakers|
3.6mm headphone jack
|Audio||3.5 mm headphone jack and dual integrated speakers|
|Battery||lasts up to 12 hours|
|Dimensions||9.73 x 6.53 x .36 inches|
|Weight||16.5oz without keyboard or case|
|Colors||Black, Denim, Olive, Lavender (Fire HD 10 only)|
Slate (Fire HD 10 Plus only)
The basic dimensions, including size, weight, display resolution, battery life, and storage configurations, haven't changed since 2019, but there are definitely enough upgrades to make this version worth considering, even if you have the previous model.
For starters, while still not great, the rear camera is nearly three times as good as before, upgrading from a 2MP sensor to a 5MP sensor. And while the internal storage configurations are the same as last time, you now get twice the external storage capacity of up to 1TB via a microSD card.
Of course, the biggest change to the 2021 model(s) is that there are now two Fire HD 10 devices. Both have increased RAM over the 2019 model (3GB for the standard Fire HD 10 and 4GB for the HD 10 Plus). Both are available in a Productivity Bundle, including a surprisingly nice Bluetooth Keyboard case and a 12-month subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal edition. Interestingly, both devices also comply with Amazon's Climate Pledge Friendly program and are comprised of over a quarter of post-consumer recycled content (more on this later).
These two new models differ in the available RAM (mentioned above), the color options (mentioned in the table here), and the fact that the HD 10 Plus can charge wirelessly with a compatible wireless charging dock.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021): What I like
I've owned or reviewed more than a half-dozen Fire tablets over the years, and the one thing that you can consistently say about them is that they've been consistently good.... enough. Amazon has skimped with specs in some areas (like the cameras or materials) and instead provided its customers with affordable portals to enjoy its and other partners' content. You've always had pretty decent screens, expandable storage options, headphone jacks, and ridiculously rugged durability. On the other hand, the Fire tablets have been relatively underpowered for productivity, can't (easily) run Google apps and services, and haven't had as many good Bluetooth keyboard accessories. Well, much of that has changed now with these new Fire HD 10 tablets.
The Fire HD 10 (2021) pretty much looks and feels like its predecessors, but that's not a bad thing at all. Because it's made out of plastic, it's light, durable, and easy to hold for long periods of time, whether you're reading a Kindle book or catching up on your favorite streaming series. Many have scoffed at the plastic build, but one thing's for sure — you don't have to baby this thing. It can take most bumps, scrapes, and even drops and keep on rolling. That just adds to its value, in my opinion.
I appreciate that Amazon continues to include a headphone jack with the Fire HD 10 (2021), which is something my current couch companion — the Lenovo Chromebook Duet — does not have. I also like how easy it is to cast content (even web pages) to my Echo Show and Fire TV devices. I realize you can do this with Google Chrome and Chromecast devices, but it's still a nice perk here.
When it comes to performance, I've never been overly impressed with the speed or responsiveness of Fire tablets, but this edition has changed my tune. Scrolling is just as fast here as on my Lenovo Chromebook Duet, which is to say it's mostly very smooth with nary a noticeable stutter. That's no doubt due at least in part to the bump in RAM over the previous version, and it's good to see here, especially on a device that's intended to be used (at least partially) as a productivity machine.
Of course, it's great to see USB-C in Amazon's largest tablets, and like the Fire HD 8 Plus, the Fire HD 10 Plus is capable of charging wirelessly with the available wireless charging dock. Both versions of the Fire HD 10 support hands-free Alexa access (with a shortcut in the notification shade to prevent Alexa from listening). Both versions also support Show Mode, which essentially turns your Fire tablet into an Echo Show device when it is docked and charging, and both also have the Devices Dashboard, which gives you quick access to control your connected home devices.
But aside from now offering two versions of the Fire HD 10, the big update is that both versions can be purchased as part of a Fire HD 10/Plus Productivity Bundle. For around $70 over the base price of each device, this bundle includes a bespoke Bluetooth keyboard (made by accessory maker Fintie), as well as a 12-month subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal edition, which itself includes 1TB of OneDrive storage.
I've wanted the option to do light work on Fire Tablets for years, and this first-party implementation is actually pretty good. When it comes to productivity, I'm heavily invested in the Google ecosystem and have been using Google apps and services like Docs, Gmail, and Drive for almost a decade and a half. It had been even longer than that since I'd regularly used the Microsoft Office suite, so I expected a bit of a learning curve. However, I'm pleased to report that just wasn't the case. While compatibility and interoperability with Google services aren't really there, I had no issues using the Microsoft services in a similar manner to how I use Google's. I also liked how Microsoft's offerings allowed me to scan and sign PDFs, convert PDFs to Word docs for editing, and even let me scan QR codes and create forms. That's pretty productive for a $150 tablet.
The Bluetooth keyboard and case snap around the Fire HD 10 quite snuggly and securely to provide additional drop protection as well. I found the typing experience pretty good, whether on a hard surface, my lap, or pillow while on the couch. Compared to the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, the biggest difference was that the screen on the Fire HD 10 wobbled a bit when typing (because it doesn't have a kickstand to support the back). It wasn't a dealbreaker by any means, but it was noticeable at times. The key travel was good, though the keys were a bit loud and clacky for my tastes. I did appreciate how you can tab through apps on the home screen and use the arrow and search keys to navigate the UI without taking your hands off the keyboard. Still, I would have appreciated a trackpad or pointing device for more precision and flexibility.
There is a split-screen mode that works well for multitasking, and the keyboard has built-in shortcuts for locking the screen and opening apps like email, files, and internet browsers. Better still, you can customize what those shortcut keys open and assign them from Amazon's built-in apps to ones like Outlook and OneDrive. The keyboard also charges via USB-C, so you can just pack one cord with you when you go out (not that you'll need to because it can hold a charge for over 400 hours).
Even though Amazon has a Kids Fire tablet lineup consisting of six separate devices, parents still have plenty of options to implement age restrictions, parental controls, family profiles, and family library access, and there are plenty of durable cases available if the tablet is intended to be shared with other members of the family.
There are many accessibility features built-in to Fire OS, including a Voice View feature that helps people with vision problems navigate the UI. The tablets also feature Braille Display Support and Braile Screen Input with compatible connected devices. Other accessibility features include settings to adjust the font size and magnification, high contrast text, color correction, inversion, audio descriptions, closed captioning, etc.
Finally, I wanted to acknowledge my appreciation of Amazon's commitment to sustainability. These new tablets comply with its Climate Pledge Friendly program, using 27% post-consumer recycled plastics for the device, 27% post-consumer plastics for the case. Even the packaging is more sustainable, consisting of 95% wood fiber-based materials that Amazon says have been acquired from "responsibly managed forests or recycled sources."
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021): What could be better
It's hard to get too critical of a device that offers such good value for the money, but there are a few things that I'd like to see improved in future Fire HD 10 tablets.
When it comes to the build quality, I've already mentioned how durable the Fire HD 10 is, but it sure would be nice if it had some form of official water and dust protection. Just something to protect it from accidental spills, surprise splashes, or occasional Cheeto dust that this tablet is sure to encounter would be nice to have.
For the Productivity Bundle, I would love to have a version of the Bluetooth keyboard case with a trackpad or pointing device of some kind. While I preferred the typing experience to that on the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, the Duet's keyboard won out for me in terms of usability because of that handy trackpad (and the kickstand on the back).
Not that you should, or will, take a lot of photos with your Fire HD 10, but I'd like to see an improvement in the sensor and image processing in the next version. Yes, this 2021 edition has a much-improved sensor (at least on paper) to the 2019 version — 5MP compared to 2MP — but it's still ... not great.
As you can see with these indoor shots below, there is very little dynamic range, and the images are particularly muddled. "Potato cam" is the phrase that first came to mind. Granted, these were taken in low-light conditions, but they're not impressive at all.
When you take the Fire HD 10 outdoors or into a more well-lit space, the results improve. The colors look ok, though highlights can get blown out, and the detail still isn't very crisp. This kind of quality is to be expected in a tablet camera, especially one that costs under $200, but it's something you may want to know if you're considering picking one up.
Finally, I have to bring this up with every Fire tablet review because it's the elephant in the room, but Amazon's tablets don't have ready access to Google Play Services, the Play Store, or Google apps. You can sideload them, but it's a bit of a process, and most consumers aren't likely to bother. This is nothing new, but I hadn't realized that you couldn't even access most Google services from the built-in Silk internet browser. Whenever I tried to go to docs.google.com or sheets.google.com, I was redirected to the product info pages and couldn't get the web apps to open. I could get a version of Gmail in the browser, but it wasn't a great experience, and I was better off just adding my Gmail account to the built-in Amazon email app or Outlook. However, if you intend to buy the Productivity Bundle with Microsoft services, this probably won't be a huge loss for you.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021): Competition
Fire tablets have always been a good value for content consumption, and their low prices are part of why we still include them on our roundup of the best Android tablets. Most of the other Android tablets on that list are priced significantly higher than Amazon's offerings, so it's a little challenging teasing out just who makes a compelling alternative from a financial perspective.
From a hardware perspective, it's hard to dispute that Samsung's Galaxy Tab S lineup is the king of the Android camp, but the Galaxy Tab S7 and Galaxy Tab S7 Plus are crazy expensive. Thankfully, the company has announced lower-cost options in this lineup in the form of upcoming Galaxy Tab S7 FE and Lite versions.
One of my personal favorite alternatives (and the device I often turn to at the end of the day) is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. It offers a very similar experience to the Fire HD 10 Productivity editions at a comparable price point. It's priced comparably to the Fire HD 10 Productivity bundle, and you get the flexibility of running both Chrome OS and Android apps, and even Linux, if that's your thing. Plus, the keyboard case includes a trackpad and kickstand, making it much easier to be productive, at least in my opinion.
Arguably the best alternative is Apple's entry-level iPad. While that is a fantastic device for the money, it's still twice as much as the Fire HD 10, and that doesn't count all the accessories you might want to pick up, like an Apple Pencil, Bluetooth keyboard, or protective case.
Finally, if you want to save a little money and don't need the Productivity Bundle, you can get nearly the same experience with either the Amazon Fire HD 8 or Fire HD 8 Plus . The only major compromise here is in screen size.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021): Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You're already invested in the Amazon/Alexa ecosystem or are assistant agnostic
- You use and are comfortable with Microsoft apps and services
- You want a good, casual consumption tablet with the option of doing some light work on it
- You need or want a super-affordable secondary productivity device
You shouldn't buy this if ...
- You need a more robust productivity platform
- You're ensconced in the Google ecosystem
Amazon's Fire tablets have always been a great value for consuming content, whether watching videos, playing games, or reading books and comics. Still, they've never been a valid option for getting real work done — even light work. However, now that they come equipped with more RAM, a purpose-built Bluetooth keyboard case, and a year of Microsoft Office 365, they're a legitimate challenger to cheaper Android and Windows tablets and convertibles and even low-cost Chromebooks.
Small price with big possibilities
Those who want a serious portable device should still look at a mid to high-range Chromebook, iPad Pro, or Surface tablet. Still, for around $200, it's tough to argue against the new Fire HD 10 tablets with the Productivity Bundle. I'm happy to stay in my Google-centric world and stick to Chromebooks and Chrome OS tablets, but if you took those away and told me that I could only use the Fire HD 10 (2021) with Productivity Bundle, I'd get along happily.
If you're not interested in the productivity add-ons, I recommend you stick to the base model Fire HD 10. The reasons are the same I gave when I compared the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus last summer. I suspect that most who purchase a Fire tablet won't notice the extra GB of RAM, nor need the wireless charging option, especially if they're sharing it with family members. And while 32GB of storage is not a lot, you can easily and affordably expand up to 1 TB with any of the best microSD cards if and when you need to.
The 2021 editions of the Fire HD 10 tablet continue to be great, but the Productivity Bundle turns this affordable, basic tablet line into something more powerful.
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