While it’s the iPad that’s unshakeably synonymous with tablets, it’s Amazon that continues to dominate the cheaper end of the market. The company’s eight-inch Fire HD 8 is almost impossibly cheap. At £79 you could tile your floor with them.
Now, and for the first time since 2015, Amazon has lavished some much needed attention upon the big boy of the family, the ten-inch Fire HD 10.
They’ve kept the price way down – £149 for the 32GB model and £179 for the 64GB – but times have changed since the Fire HD 10 first launched. Apple’s cheapest iPad has fallen to £339, which closes the gap enough to entice you to open your wallet a little further.
But you still get two Fire HD 10s per iPad. That’s cheap enough that you can pop one in every room of the house and pretend like you’re living in the future.
Assisting you in this fantasy is the new Alexa integration. A first for the tablet range, Amazon’s virtual assistant can be woken up with a voice command rather than a physical tap, making her a more useful sidekick while cooking, juggling or being tied up by a nemesis.
The screen is sharp, colourful and (remarkably for a tablet range with HD right there in its name) fully HD for the first time. The brightly coloured plastic back is hard wearing but feels very Fisher Price. The speakers are a marked improvement over the eight-inch too.
So the hardware is resolutely fine. Much better than you’d ever expect for under £200, but nothing you’ll spill your peas about. This is the best basic tablet going. But, as ever, it’s Amazon’s software and App Store that limits usefulness, especially if you’re tied into a rival ecosystem. You can’t install most Google apps. So no Chrome, no Gmail and no Calendar.
As a media player it sings. The Fire HD range has long been thought of as a physical extension of its Prime music and video services. A kind of plastic outlet for video and songs on demand. In that role it performs beautifully. Ask any more of it than that however, and you probably need to think about ponying up a little more cash for a more full-featured tablet.