The 10-inch tablet gets an optional keyboard and office apps, but it’s still best used as a cheap way to access all your Prime content.

The Fire HD 10 isn’t the best tablet you’re ever going to use. Not even close. But it is cheap, decently powerful, and good enough for many of us.

Amazon’s 2021 update to the 10-inch Fire HD 10 mirrors what we saw last year with the 8-inch model. There are now two variants, one with 3 gigabytes of RAM and a “Plus” model with 4 GB. Amazon has also added something it calls the Productivity Bundle, which consists of a Fire HD 10 tablet (3-GB RAM model), a Bluetooth keyboard case, and a 12-month subscription to Microsoft 365 (which automatically renews if you don’t cancel it).

Yes, you read that right. Amazon is positioning the Fire HD 10 as a device you can get real work done on. Surprisingly, this turns out to be true as long as you don’t need to use Google apps. The Fire HD 10 is still hamstrung by Amazon’s Fire OS, which doesn’t have the bevy of apps you’ll find on Google’s Play Store. Still, with a keyboard and slightly better screen, the new Fire HD 10 is something like a netbook—a small, cheap, capable, go-anywhere device.

Small Workhorse

The new Fire HD 10 has uniform bezels on all sides, but otherwise isn’t much different on the outside. It still sports a 1080p, 10.1-inch display, although Amazon claims it’s 10 percent brighter than the 2019 model. I wasn’t able to compare them side-by-side, but I didn’t have any trouble using the Fire HD 10 in bright light. The screen isn’t going to knock your socks off, but it’s fine for browsing the web, watching videos, and anything else you’re likely to do with it.

The extra RAM is immediately noticeable. There’s no longer any jittering when scrolling, and opening apps is fast and smooth. I didn’t notice any pauses or noticeable delays, which have always plagued low-end Android tablets. Like last year’s 8-inch model, this update finally makes the Fire HD 10 fast enough to no longer even realize you’re using a low-end device.

Battery life remains at about 12 hours. Obviously, this depends on what you’re doing. Streaming back-to-back movies will eat up battery faster than just browsing the web. But it’s still within the range of much more expensive competitors. As for the build quality, Fire tablets have always been surprisingly durable despite their bulkiness and plastic shells. I’ve cracked the screen on two iPads, but I’ve never had the same happen with a Fire.

If you opt for the Plus model ($30 more) you get an extra gigabyte of RAM, the option to charge it wirelessly (see our guide for our favorite wireless chargers), and some extra colors to choose from. Amazon sent me both the regular and the Plus models for testing. Most of the time I did not notice a big difference, but for only $30 more, extra RAM will make for a more future-proof purchase.

The most interesting upgrade is the Productivity Bundle with the Bluetooth keyboard and Microsoft 365 subscription. That latter makes up for the fact that Google software is noticeably absent from the Fire HD 10. That means no Google Docs, Sheets, Drive, or even Gmail (you can connect with Gmail through Amazon’s default email app). Worse, even the web versions won’t load in the included Silk web browser, and there aren’t any popular alternative browsers available in the Amazon App Store.

Microsoft 365 is capable of doing everything Google’s online office suite can do, but if all your colleagues are using Google, and you need to be able to edit shared documents in Google, then that’s a moot point. After playing with Microsoft 365 for a week, I actually came to prefer it to Google’s offerings, but that still doesn’t help me long term, since I rely on Google apps for work. 

Amazon Fire HD 10
Photograph: Amazon

Despite this snag, this is a perfectly capable device for some light work. There’s a new split-screen mode in Fire OS, which is handy for multitasking. I frequently put the browser on one side and a Word doc on the other to write notes while researching. I wrote and published this review entirely from the Fire HD 10 and it worked great. 

The keyboard is definitely small; if you have large hands you may find it difficult to use. The closest competitor here is probably the equally cramped Lenovo Duet, which has a trackpad, something Amazon does not offer. I didn’t miss it much, but it would be nice to have. The keyboard has quite a few special keys to handle common tasks, and these are customizable so you can set up whatever works best for your workflow, which is nice.

It’s a start. Apple’s original iPad keyboards also lacked a trackpad, so there’s hope Amazon will improve on its current offering (or you can get a 3rd-party keyboard with a trackpad). For now, even if my experience was OK, I don’t suggest you get this Fire HD 10 primarily for work. 

If you’re interested in an Amazon tablet, you’re probably an Amazon Prime member, and this is where the Fire HD 10 excels. Prime gives you access to thousands of movies, original TV shows, music, books, and games. The list of Amazon Prime perks might surprise you, but either way, the best use of a Fire tablet remains consuming Prime content. 

Best Tablet Under $200
Amazon Fire HD 10
Photograph: Amazon

I have not tested the Fire HD 10 Kids version, but it’s worth noting that Amazon has changed its Kids lineup as well. There are now two Kids versions, and the difference here isn’t RAM, it’s padding and functionality. For kids under 6, the padded case remains unchanged, the specs match the adult version, and the same locked-down kid-friendly content is available.

Then there’s the Fire HD 10 Kids Pro aimed at older children (6 to 12). It has a sleeker, less padded case, a new app store, a web browser, and the ability to make voice and video calls. The app store is locked down and limited in selection, but you can expand it to include other apps like Minecraft. The kid-friendly web browser comes with built-in parental controls, which can be used to filter out sites, only allow certain sites, or disable the browser entirely.

Kids version or not, if you can afford the entry-level iPad, it’s a more powerful tablet with a nicer screen and a much better selection of apps. It also has decent rear and selfie cameras if that’s your jam—the ones on the Fire HD 10 are awful. But that slate is $300 to the Fire HD 10’s $150. Neither device includes a keyboard at those prices, but there’s almost nothing else as nice as the Fire HD at its price point.

Here’s the thing though: Don’t buy the Fire HD 10 at full price. It usually goes on sale for roughly 50 percent off several times a year, including Prime Day, Black Friday, and other holiday sales. Score a Fire HD 10 for around $80 and you have yourself an unmatched deal.