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Fire HD 10 Plus (2021) review: Amazon’s top budget tablet upgraded | Amazon

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Amazon’s top 10in Fire OS tablet has had a makeover and now has faster performance, without costing iPad money.

The 2021 Fire HD 10 comes in either a standard version costing £150/US$150 or a “Plus” version, as tested here, costing £180/US$180, with a few more bells and whistles.

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The tablet has a 10.1in LCD touchscreen that is slightly brighter than its predecessor and is designed for movie-watching with its widescreen ratio, compared with the iPad’s squarer screen. The new Fire HD 10 adopts the slimmed-down and rounded aesthetic introduced to the 8in Fire HD 8 last year, which makes it look significantly more modern, and is 36g lighter than the model it replaces.

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus review
The Fire HD 10’s body is hard plastic while the HD 10 Plus (shown here) is made of soft-touch slate-grey plastic, which feels nicer but picks up fingerprints and smudges easily. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The screen is good for the money: fairly sharp, with good viewing angles, and bright enough indoors, though it struggles in direct sunlight. The pair of top-mounted speakers are reasonable for watching movies or getting answers from Amazon’s integrated Alexa voice assistant. A 2-megapixel webcam above the screen is reasonable for video calling in good light too.

Specifications

  • Screen: 10.1in 1920×1200 LCD (224ppi)

  • Processor: 2GHz octa-core

  • RAM: 4GB

  • Storage: 32 or 64GB plus microSD card slot

  • Operating system: Fire OS 7 based on Android 9

  • Camera: 2MP front-facing, 5MP rear cameras

  • Connectivity: Wifi 5, Bluetooth 5, 3.5mm headphones, USB-C, Qi wireless charging

  • Dimensions: 247 x 166 x 9.2 mm

  • Weight: 468g

Performance

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus review
All the ports and buttons are in the right side of the tablet, while the microSD card slot for adding more storage space is in the bottom edge. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Fire tablets are typically fast enough, but won’t beat more expensive rivals for raw performance. The Fire HD 10 Plus is no exception. It has the same processor as the regular Fire HD 10, but with 1GB more of RAM for a total of 4GB. That’s twice the amount of the previous-generation machine, which significantly improves multitasking. A dedicated game mode automatically optimises the tablet for games, turning off hands-free Alexa and other background tasks when playing.

Battery life is very good. The tablet will last a couple of days with mixed use or more than 12 hours streaming video over wifi, according to my testing – but of course, playing graphically intensive games significantly decreases battery life. The tablet charges really slowly, taking at least four hours with the included 9W power adaptor. Using a 15W charger shaved 30 minutes off that time, whether wired or wireless for the Plus model.

Sustainability

Amazon does not provide an expected lifespan of the battery in the tablet. Batteries in similar products typically last for at least 500 full-charge cycles while maintaining at least 80% of their original capacity. The Fire HD 10 and HD 10 Plus are generally repairable. They contain 28% post-consumer recycled plastic. The company offers trade-in and recycling schemes and publishes information on its various sustainability efforts.

Fire OS 7

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus review
No mainstream web browsers are available in the Fire OS app store, leaving Amazon’s Silk browser the main choice – which means you have to sync your bookmarks from Chrome using an extension. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The new tablet runs the same Fire OS 7.3 as the previous version and the Fire HD 8, which is based on Android 9 but lacks Google’s services and the Play store, instead relying on Amazon’s App Store and services. Amazon typically supports its tablets for longer than low-cost Android rivals, with at least several years of software and security updates.

The interface is fairly simple, with a traditional home screen of apps flanked by pages called “For You”, featuring app and content suggestions, and “Library”, listing things you own such as Kindle books, games, movies and other bits. The search bar at the top takes you to results from the web, Amazon’s shop and your content, emails and other bits.

Amazon’s App Store has most of the media consumption apps you’re likely to want in the UK, including Spotify, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Netflix, Disney+ and Sky Go, but BT Sport, Google’s various apps such as YouTube, Chrome and Maps, and Apple’s Music and TV are a no-go. Zoom, Skype and Alexa are available for video calling, while the store features a fairly large range of games, even if many of them are rubbish. Note that Fortnite is not available for Fire tablets, even through the Android Epic Games store.

You need an Amazon account to use the tablet, plus a Prime subscription giving access to Prime Video to really make the most of it.

Observations

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus review
‘Show mode’ allows you to turn the tablet into an Echo Show-like Alexa smart display, either manually or automatically when placed into an optional charging dock (which isn’t currently available in the UK). Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • There’s a new smart-home button in the bottom left of the navigation bar that gives you instant access to devices such as lights and speakers you’ve set up with Alexa.

  • There’s a little flex in the body and the screen when pressed too hard, but the tablet feels robust.

  • The lack of popular password managers makes logging into apps and services extremely tedious if you rely on one that isn’t available in the Amazon app store.

Price

The Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus starts at £179.99/US$179.99 with 32GB of storage, which comes with ads on the lockscreen. Removing the ads costs an extra £10/US$15.

The regular Fire HD 10 costs £149.99/US$149.99 with 32GB of storage.

For comparison, Amazon’s Fire 7 costs £49.99, Fire HD 8 costs £89.99 and Apple’s 10.2in iPad costs £329.

Verdict

The 2021 Fire HD 10’s revamped design and reasonable performance have done just enough to keep Amazon at the top of the budget tablet pile.

There are very few competitors that offer the level of software support Amazon does for Android tablets at this low cost. The screen is pretty big and crisp, the speakers are fairly good, plus long battery life makes it an excellent lower-cost media consumption tablet as long as you’re happy to swim in Amazon’s ecosystem without access to Google or Apple’s apps.

The Fire HD 10 Plus version adds a soft-touch finish, wireless charging and 1GB more RAM, none of which are really required for a tablet like this and so I would recommend saving the extra £30/US$30 with the standard model. Watch out for deals too as Amazon frequently offers deep discounts on its Fire tablet range.

It won’t beat an iPad, Fire OS has a more limited selection of apps and games, and it is thoroughly undercut by its smaller £90 Fire HD 8 sibling, but the Fire HD 10 is great if you want a bigger screen for watching TV.

Pros: good screen, good speakers, great battery life, microSD card slot, USB-C charging, headphones socket, reasonable performance for the money, Alexa integration, wireless charging (Plus version only).

Cons: cameras aren’t great, slow charging, no Google Play or Apple apps, some apps missing from Amazon App Store, no Fortnite, requires Amazon Prime subscription to make the most of it, significantly undercut by Fire HD 8.

Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus review
The Fire HD 10 is built for watching movies and TV shows, either from Amazon’s Prime Video or one of the many streaming services available through the app store. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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UK competition watchdog unveils advice for antivirus firms • The Register

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The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has unveiled compliance principles to curb locally some of the sharper auto-renewal practices of antivirus software firms.

The move follows the watchdog baring its teeth at McAfee and Norton over the issue of automatically renewing contracts.

The CMA took exception to auto-renewal contracts for antivirus software that customers in the UK signed up for and found difficult to cancel. Refunds and clearer pricing information (including making sure consumers were aware that year two could well end up considerably costlier than the first) were the order of the day.

Today’s principles build on that work, and are aimed at helping antivirus companies toe the line where UK consumer law is concerned. They are a bit more detailed than a simple “stop being horrid.”

The focus remains on auto-renewing contracts, where a customer signs up for a fixed period, then is charged again for subsequent periods. The CMA acknowledges that such arrangements are convenient, but they risk the consumer being locked into an agreement they no longer want or that they get stung with higher fees at renewal time.

While the principles are intended to be helpful, lurking in the background is consumer law and the threat of a potential trip to court for vendors stepping out of line.

First up comes a requirement to make sure customers are informed about auto-renewal, rather than hiding the detail in an End User Licence Agreement (EULA) or burying it in hard-to-read text through which a user must scroll.

Price claims must be “accurate” and “not mislead your customers” – so only show discounts against the normal price. It must also be possible to turn off the auto-renew easily, keep auto-renew turned off once it is off and, if on, make sure customers are reminded in good time that an auto-renew will happen.

Getting a refund must be easier and customers should be able to change their mind when auto-renewal happens. If the customer has stopped using the product, safeguards are needed around auto-renewal.

The last principle could pose a few challenges – how does a vendor become aware that a customer is not using its product? The suggestion from the CMA is to check if software updates are being received rather than simply charging users year after year.

The Register contacted McAfee and Norton for their thoughts on the principles, and will update should the companies respond. ®

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Grocery start-up Gorillas raises nearly $1bn in round led by Delivery Hero

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Just a few months after hitting unicorn status, Gorillas has raised another major round of funding from big-name investors.

German start-up Gorillas has raised nearly $1bn to expand its on-demand grocery delivery business.

The Series C funding round was led by Delivery Hero, the German food and grocery delivery giant that recently took a stake in Deliveroo.

Gorillas also received backing from existing investors including Coatue Management, DST Global and Tencent, as well as new investors G Squared, Alanda Capital, Macquarie Capital, MSA Capital and Thrive Capital.

The fresh funding comes just a few months after the company’s $290m Series B, which brought its valuation to more than $1bn.

Gorillas was founded in Berlin in 2020 by Kağan Sümer and Jörg Kattner, promising grocery deliveries in as little as 10 minutes.

It now operates more than 180 warehouses and has expanded to more than 55 cities in nine countries, including Amsterdam, London, Paris, Madrid, New York and Munich.

The company plans to use the latest funding for its next phase of development. This includes reinforcing its footprint in existing markets and investing in operations, technology and marketing.

“The size of today’s funding round by an extraordinary investment consortium underscores the tremendous market potential that lies ahead of us,” said Sümer, who is CEO of the start-up.

“With Delivery Hero, we have chosen a strong strategic support that is deeply rooted in the global delivery market, and is renowned for having unique experience in sustainably scaling a German company internationally.”

On-demand grocery delivery is a growing area in Europe that’s attracting investor attention.

Swedish start-up Kavall raised $5.8m in August, Czech player Rohlik hit unicorn status after its €100m Series C round in July, and Spain’s Glovo secured a €450m Series F round in April to expand in the grocery market.

Gorillas differentiates itself from other players in the market, such as Deliveroo, by employing its delivery drivers rather than relying on gig workers.

However, as the start-up has scaled rapidly over the past year, it has seen delivery workers protest over working conditions and pay, and been put under the spotlight for its treatment of employees.

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.

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ICO to step in after schools use facial recognition to speed up lunch queue | Facial recognition

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The Information Commissioner’s Office is to intervene over concerns about the use of facial recognition technology on pupils queueing for lunch in school canteens in the UK.

Nine schools in North Ayrshire began taking payments for school lunches this week by scanning the faces of their pupils, according to a report in the Financial Times. More schools are expected to follow.

The ICO, an independent body set up to uphold information rights in the UK, said it would be contacting North Ayrshire council about the move and urged a “less intrusive” approach where possible.

An ICO spokesperson said organisations using facial recognition technology must comply with data protection law before, during and after its use, adding: “Data protection law provides additional protections for children, and organisations need to carefully consider the necessity and proportionality of collecting biometric data before they do so.

“Organisations should consider using a different approach if the same goal can be achieved in a less intrusive manner. We are aware of the introduction, and will be making inquiries with North Ayrshire council.”

The company supplying the technology claimed it was more Covid-secure than other systems, as it was cashless and contactless, and sped up the lunch queue, cutting the time spent on each transaction to five seconds.

Other types of biometric systems, principally fingerprint scanners, have been used in schools in the UK for years, but campaigners say the use of facial recognition technology is unnecessary.

Silkie Carlo, the director of Big Brother Watch, told the Guardian the campaign group had written to schools using facial recognition systems, setting out their concerns and urging them to stop immediately.

“No child should have to go through border-style identity checks just to get a school meal,” she said. “We are supposed to live in a democracy, not a security state.

“This is highly sensitive, personal data that children should be taught to protect, not to give away on a whim. This biometrics company has refused to disclose who else children’s personal information could be shared with and there are some red flags here for us.”

The technology is being installed in schools in the UK by a company called CRB Cunninghams. David Swanston, its managing director, told the FT: “It’s the fastest way of recognising someone at the till. In a secondary school you have around about a 25-minute period to serve potentially 1,000 pupils. So we need fast throughput at the point of sale.”

Live facial recognition, technology that scans crowds to identify faces, has been challenged by civil rights campaigners because of concerns about consent. CRB Cunninghams said the system being installed in UK schools was different – parents had to give explicit consent and cameras check against encrypted faceprint templates stored on school servers.

A spokesperson for North Ayrshire council said its catering system contracts were coming to a natural end, allowing the introduction of new IT “which makes our service more efficient and enhances the pupil experience using innovative technology”.

They added: “Given the ongoing risks associated with Covid-19, the council is keen to have contactless identification as this provides a safer environment for both pupils and staff. Facial recognition has been assessed as the optimal solution that will meet all our requirements.”

The council said 97% of children or their parents had given consent for the new system.

A Scottish government spokesperson said that local authorities, as data controllers, had a duty to comply with general data protection regulations and that schools must by law adhere to strict guidelines on how they collect, store, record and share personal data.

Hayley Dunn, a business leadership specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “There would need to be strict privacy and data protection controls on any companies offering this technology.

“Leaders would also have legitimate concerns about the potential for cyber ransomware attacks and the importance of storing information securely, which they would need reassurances around before implementing any new technology.”

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