Top critical review
Disappointing for HDX owners, but ... [Updated Dec. 10, 2017]
October 16, 2017
This review is for the 64GB, no special offers version of the tablet, regardless of how Amazon shows it. Kept trying to get the right version to show but finally gave up.
11/26/2017 - I've added an update about the Google Play Store
12/10/2017 - Update on MayDay and Keyboard
I own 4 Fire tablets: the original 7", the 2012 8.9", the 2013 7" HDX and the 2014 8.9" HDX. In other words, I was buying a new Fire tablet every year. Then Amazon decided to concentrate on the low end of the market. My HDX tablets are 3 & 4 years old. Since I use the 8.9" daily, the battery has almost completely lost its ability to hold a charge (I can get maybe 2 hours if I limit myself to reading, browsing and Twitter). So, needless to say, like many other HDX owners, I've been waiting for an upgrade. I bought the 64GB no-special-offers model because Amazon gave me no other choice (it doesn't sell refurbished HDX tablets and has no facility for replacing the battery in those older models).
If you've owned only one of Amazon's low-end Fires of the past several years, I think you will be impressed by the quality of this new model. If you're an HDX lover, you'll probably have very mixed feelings. It's faster and more responsive, but the screen resolution is inferior.
It's a bit hard to believe what a difference 1+" and about 4.5 ounces can make in a tablet. The 7" models fit quite nicely in small messenger bags; the 8.9" won't add much weight to a backpack or briefcase. But the 10-inch model is big, too big and heavy for me to hold comfortably in my hands, too large for a messenger bag, too weighty an addition to a backpack.
Caveat: I'm on the short side with correspondingly smallish hands, so if you're on the tallish side, the 10" model may not be a problem for you. (Note: the HD 10 is the same width as the HDX, but it is taller and heavier.)
Amazon's cover is almost useless as a stand for the HD, unless you're putting it on a solid surface. With a stand, the tablet's good for watching videos because, of course, the more real estate the better.
The 1080P Full HD, 1920 x1200 display is, without question, the major improvement over Amazon's previous low-end Fires. So, as I indicated above, if you're "moving up", you will be pleased. For we HDX owners, the 1080P matches the video quality, but the resolution is still lower than the 2560 x 1600 we are used to. And it is noticeable.
CAMERA & SOUND
The cameras aren't great but, honestly, who depends on tablets for taking pictures? As for the sound? I'm not an audiophile so don't feel qualified to judge. If I'm listening to music where sound quality matters, I use headphones or a Bluetooth speaker. For the many podcasts I listen to, the speakers are just fine.
The operating system (5.5.x) is only slightly different than what we've had since the 2014 HDX (whose OS was just updated). For me, it has always been, in some key usability areas, less friendly than the 4.5.x OS on the 2013 HDX. There are rumors that Amazon is planning to push out a major revision later this year. If that happens, I will post an update to this review.
Yes, for you Android lovers, it is not a true "Android" system, but if you have bought into the Amazon ecosystem, especially if you are a Prime Member, that shouldn't bother you. As for the complaints from professional reviewers that the design of the OS is confusing, too focused on selling Amazon products? They baffle me. I paid the extra $15 to avoid special offers and turn off Amazon's recommendations in the Settings. I have a number of complaints about the UI but what on earth is complex or confusing about the sections (For You, Books, Video, Games, etc.)?
The keyboard on this Fire does not have a "split" option nor a "voice to text" option. I don't know why Amazon did this. In addition, I'm finding the keyboard much less comfortable to use, and I'm not sure why. With covers on both my 8.9" HDX and this HD10, the two devices are essentially the same width. But it is easy for me to type on the 8.9, much more difficult to type on the HD10. Alternate keyboards are available from the App Store but I haven't yet tried any.
Amazon has discontinued the MayDay help feature on the HD 10 (2017). It is still available on my HDX tablets. Again, I don't know why Amazon did this. However, when I called tech support with a problem that needed visual confirmation (i.e., seeing what I was seeing would be much easier than trying to explain what I was seeing), support was able to initiate a Mayday session from its side.
GOOGLE PLAY STORE - NOV. 26, 2017 UPDATE
Special Note: every professional reviewer repeats endlessly that Amazon's App Store is not as good as Google's or Apple's. True. The store has fewer apps. But in the years since Amazon launched its first Fire, I've managed to acquire over 200 apps and games, almost all for free. I pretty much have every app I want or need.
It has always been possible to sideload apps (download an APK and install it) to the Fires. For the past year, it has also been possible to install Google's Play Store, without rooting, on any Fire tablet running Fire OS 5 (which means any tablet going back to the 2014 models). Several web sites have instructions, either in text or video (I prefer the text) for downloading the components you need. I suspect Amazon won't let me post a link, but if you search for "installing Google Play Store on Amazon Fire", you will find several. Look them over, follow the steps in whichever source seems to make it easiest for you. It takes only a few moments and, so far, I've been able to install and use the few apps I want which are not available in Amazon's store or do not work without Google's Play services.
Alert: Some users, including me, have reported problems with Books always needing to be re-downloaded. It appears, at this date, that the problem may be due to the Play Store's updating Amazon apps, including Kindle. The Amazon Digital and Device forum has several messages on how to fix the problem if this has happened to you.
As a general rule, if you don't need the Google Play Services for an app or game you want, it is probably smarter to get the .apk file directly (or through 1Mobile). Single non-Amazon apps are less likely to cause global problems.
If you do need the Play Services, after installing the Store, go into "My apps" and turn off automatic updating. Manually update only those apps/games you got from the Google store; don't update Amazon apps or apps/games available from the Amazon store. But remember: there may be other incompatibilities with Amazon's current OS or with any future OS updates. So be aware.
I own two Echos. Alexa and I have a fraught relationship. She understands random words on the TV more often than she understands me (unless I shout). I don't ask much of her (playing the same two radio stations and setting timers cover 90% of my interactions), but she hasn't gotten any more responsive over the years. Today I tried to get her to run Silk (the browser) on the tablet. She didn't understand me. Par for the course.
Update: I had to change the tablet's wake word to "Amazon" to ensure that the Echo responded to "Alexa". Amazon has a "range discriminator" setting but, as far as I can tell, if you're holding the tablet and your Echo is across the room, the tablet will always respond. Not a major issue since you can use one word for the tablet and another for the Echo but one of these days, Amazon may want to permit users to select a call word.
I'm baffled by the professional reviewers who complain about the colors, feel, metal vs. plastic body, etc. of Amazon's tablets. (These reviewers must be the same folk who buy designer clothes and deluxe cars.) I use my Fire tablets more than I use my smartphone. It's my goto device for reading books, surfing the web for fun and Twitter. I suppose I'd be upset if it came in some garish color, but black is just fine with me and Amazon does offer options for both the device and covers.
MOVING FROM ONE FIRE TO ANOTHER
Amazon does not make this process easy, although it's gotten better over the years. The Silk bookmarks came through just fine. Some apps and games were downloaded as part of the automatic installation process. Others I had to download manually. If you play games like Candy Crush and have a King or Facebook account, your level will be restored but your boosters won't be. (King stores those locally and Amazon doesn't transfer them). You'll also need to manually install your documents and any other non-Amazon content. A real pain.
The worst part? Recreating the collections on my Home screen. A truly annoying, hours-long process due to a user interface whose designer should be sent to Purgatory.
As I struggle to hold this "huge" tablet, I can't help but be dismayed by Amazon's decision to abandon the high-end tablet market. For whatever it cost the company to produce a 10" tablet, couldn't it have simply stuck a new processor in the 2014 HDX and re-launched it at an equivalent price point?
But I want to be fair. The 2017 HD 10 seems to be reaching for a sweet spot, a middle ground between the high-end and low-end tablet markets. I'd say that it succeeds.