CPU: 2.0GHz octa-core CPU
Display: 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200-pixel
Storage: 32GB, 64GB
Ports: 1x USB-C, headphone jack, microSD
Battery life: 13:14 (13:46 with power saving mode enabled)
Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.5 x 0.4 inches
Weight: 17.8 ounces/1.1 pounds
The Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) takes an already-good tablet and applies incremental upgrades, such as a slightly brighter screen, 1GB more RAM and a smaller, lighter design. While it probably isn't a must-have for anyone who bought the 2019 model, it's certainly showing Amazon's ability to put out a value-driven slate that's good enough for many.
This keeps the Fire HD 10's spot among the best Android tablets out there, and one of the best tablets you can buy — especially if you're on a budget. Its biggest flaws, though, are nothing new. Amazon's Fire OS is still app-challenged, missing the Google Play app store. This means you can't get the full YouTube experience, among others.
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So, this Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review will pit Amazon's latest against two interesting competitors of similar size. Those are the 10.1-inch Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus ($179) and Apple's 10.2-inch iPad ($329). How much of a bump do you get for spending more?
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review: Price and availability
Right now, though, there's a Black Friday Fire HD 10 deal for $74.99, savings of 50%!
There's a $40 upgrade to double internal storage, bringing the tablet to $189. You could also spend $15 to remove ads from your lock screen. I'd pick the latter.
Amazon's also got a $225 bundle that takes the entry-level Fire HD 10 and adds a folding cover case you'd use when watching video, two screen protectors and a 15W charger for faster refueling.
As always, Amazon also sells a $199 Fire HD 10 Kids Edition, and that extra $50 gets you a 2-year no-questions-asked warranty, a protective case with kickstand and a year of Amazon Kids+ (aka FreeTime Unlimited).
This year, Amazon's got some new optional upgrades: the $179 Fire HD 10 (2021) Plus which has wireless charging and 4GB of RAM (upgraded from the 3GB in the entry level model), and the $299 (currently $249 on sale) Fire HD 10 Plus Productivity Bundle, which includes a detachable Bluetooth keyboard case and a 12-month subscription to Microsoft 365 Personal.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review: Design
The Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) is as simple as tablets get, with a matte plastic shell on one side and a glossy screen on the other. It's sold in black, denim (the dark blue seen here), lavender and olive.
Testing the Fire HD 10 at home, I can say it feels sturdy unless you grip it super-tight. Then, you'll notice a bit of flex in its shell — mostly in the center-back part.
One small change from last year's model is found in the overall dimensions, which you might not notice at first. The Fire HD 10 (2021) measures 9.7 x 6.5 x 0.4 inches, which differs from the 2019 model's 10.3 x 6.3 x 0.4 inch frame. What does that mean, aside from being not as long and a little wider? Well, its footprint is a little a little under two square inches less than it used to be. This year's model is also a hair lighter, at 16.4 ounces to last year's 17.8-ounce Fire HD 10.
The Fire HD 10 Plus (9.7 x 6.5 x 0.4 inches, 16.5 ounces) is a hair heavier, while the Apple iPad (2020) (9.8 x 6.8 x 0.3 inches, 17.6 ounces) is both a tad thinner and heavier.
The Fire HD 10 (2021) can lord its USB-C port over the iPad, which is still using the Lightning port. While both are reversible, Apple's port is far from universal, while USB-C is only growing in popularity.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review: Display
For a $150 tablet, the Fire HD 10's display is colorful and bright. Plus, this is the only Amazon tablet with a Full HD (1920 x 1200-pixel) screen, so if screen quality matters to you, don't look at the Fire HD 8 or Fire 7.
Watching the Prime Video movie The Tomorrow War, the dangerous red smoke behind Chris Pratt rendered accurately, while the sickly green and grey 'Spike' aliens also appeared correctly. Best of all. the giant explosions from supporting fire taking out these monsters looked bright and strong. Rippling water below the soldiers looked crisp and clear, and reminded me how much I could use a trip to the beach.
The Fire HD 10's display appears to be slightly better than that of the 2019, producing 106.5% of the sRGB spectrum on our Klein K10-A colorimeter, and emitting up to 420 nits of brightness.
That's a bit brighter than the 2019 Fire HD 10 (106%, 403 nits) and the Fire HD 10 Plus (107.9%, 403.6 nits). The 2020 iPad 8th Gen (97%, 484 nits) is a hair less colorful but even brighter.
The display on the Fire HD 10 may be a bit reflective (most tablets have this issue), but that doesn't interfere with viewing angles. As I watched an air raid drop even more bombs in The Tomorrow War, the explosions only darkened slightly when viewed from 45 degrees to the left and right.
The Amazon Fire HD 10's touchscreen has gotten a bit speedier since I tested the 2019 model. Not only is navigating the Fire OS home screens as snappy as usual, but I didn't see any lag when I pinched and pulled to zoom in and out of photos.
I'd also like it if the Fire HD 10's panel would wake upon tapping it. Alas, you need to tap the power button to turn on the panel.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review: Audio
The 2021 Fire HD 10's screen may impress at this price, but its speakers don't always match. As I turned on Frank Ocean's "Swim Good," I was immediately greeted by percussion instruments that had too much rattle, as the tablet's speakers produced them a bit too sharply.
Listening to LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends," though, I did respect the plinking piano keys. Looking for bass in De La Soul's "Rock Co.Kane Flow," I came up mostly empty, though MF Doom's vocals did sound correct and sturdy.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review: Performance
Armed with an octa-core 2.0 GHz processor and 3GB of RAM, the 2021 Fire HD 10's faster than the smaller Fire tablets, but is still not exactly speedy. For example, the simple pause when moving from an application to the home screen is slightly longer than it should be, and I saw a similar delay when opening the app-switching view. Moving through tabs in the Silk browser was a bit smoother than before, something to credit to the additional 1GB of RAM (the 2019 model only had 2GB).
Tapping through the many layers of Amazon-distributed content, I noticed that the Fire HD 10 2021 was speedy enough when doing most everyday tasks. The Fire HD 10 loaded tunes in Spotify and movies in Prime Video promptly.
That said, the Fire HD 10's 969 score on the Geekbench 5 multicore performance benchmark is not impressive. The A12 Bionic chip in the iPad earned it a much higher 2,685 score, while the 4GB of RAM in the Fire HD 10 Plus (octa-core 2.0 GHz CPU, again) makes all the difference for its 1,399 score.
In terms of gaming, the Asphalt 9 racing game only looked great in the opening moments, when cars weren't actually moving. When I sped a blue Mitsubishi around the streets, I noticed small, but visible, stutters through the collisions with other cars and when you do stunts off of ramps.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review: Battery Life
Reliable is an important word for battery life, and so I'm impressed when I say the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) lasts a while on a single charge.
The Tom's Guide battery test (web surfing on Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness) drained the Fire HD 10 in 13 hours and 14 minutes on the default settings, and at 13 hours and 46 minutes using Amazon's Automatic Low Power Mode that can kick in after your battery hits 20%. The latter time is a minute longer than the 2019 model's 13:45 time.
Both times longer than the iPad 2020 (12:57), but the Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus lasts longer: 14:02 by default and 14:35 with Automatic Low Power Mode enabled.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review: Cameras
The cameras in the Fire HD 10 (2021) will prove useful for utilitarian purposes, but not for any fine photography.
The new Fire HD 10 upgraded its rear camera to a 5.0-megapixel sensor from the 2.0-megapixel sensor in the previous model. That said, no matter how much I tried to use tap-to-focus, shots of my houseplants and toys still came out a bit soft. Hues looked OK, with green cacti and the blues of a tiny acid wash denim jacket looking correct.
A similar situation greeted me when I snapped a selfie. While my skin had the correct slightly-bronzed look (the luxury of getting some sun on the fourth of July weekend), my hair appears as a matted dark brown clump, and my facial hair didn't have much detail either.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review: Software
Fire OS, the version of Android at the root of the Fire HD 10 (2021), is the kind of thing you will either hate, tolerate or possibly appreciate. Count me in the first of those three camps, as the lack of a real web browser (Amazon's Silk browser doesn't count, and DuckDuckGo is not a worthy substitute either) or the real YouTube app are still sizable dealbreakers.
You might not mind the loss if you already have access to those apps on your phone, but as we learned when comparing Amazon's app store against Google Play, the Amazon app ecosystem is awfully barren.
If you live in the world of Kindle e-books, Prime Video and all the other Amazon-distributed content, you'll likely enjoy it. Much like Amazon's Fire TV platform, the Fire OS is practically made for maximizing the value of a Prime membership.
That said, the Fire OS charges $15 to remove ads from its lock screen. That's the secret price of a $150 tablet, I guess.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review: Verdict
The Fire HD 10 is still a quite competent tablet. As this Fire HD 10 (2021) review has shown, it has a bright and crisp display and excellent battery life (plus the ability to recharge with the same cable you may use for your laptop or phone).
If you're willing to spend more than twice as much on the $329 iPad, you get a much faster and snappier experience, a slightly brighter screen and all the apps you could ask for. But you're getting slightly less battery life, and with that kind of money you could buy two Fire HD 10 (2021) slates, one for you and one a relative (so you don't have to share).
The better call, if you think you'll be irritated by slight lags in performance, is to spend an extra $30 to get the $179 Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus, arguably the best Amazon tablet ever. That said, the Fire HD 10 (2021) is still going to be great for the folks who are looking for a device to casually peruse the internet and read e-books and watch video. It's just a matter of how far you're going to push it.