With hands-free Alexa, Amazon’s new tablet edges in on Echo territory

On the surface, the big news about the new version of Amazon’s new 10″ Fire HD 10 tablet is that the company upped the display resolution to 1080p, ramped up performance by (Amazon says) 30%, doubled the RAM to 2GB, and increased claimed battery life to “up to” 10 hours. And it did so while knocking the price for the entry-level 32GB model down to $150, which is $80 less than what it previously charged for a 16GB 10″ tablet.

But the single most intriguing thing about the Fire HD 10 to me is that it now supports hands-free use of Alexa and improved on-screen cards for the information Alexa delivers in response to your queries. That gives you the ability to plop it down on a table rather than clutching it in your hands. It’s a little like a portable Amazon Show built into an eminently affordable tablet.

Amazon Fire HD 10

Among the scenarios Amazon devices general manager Kevin Keith mentioned when he gave me a peek at the new Fire HD is taking it into the backyard when you’re barbecuing, a situation in which using a tablet in a conventional manner would be impractical and messy. He doesn’t envision this tablet replacing an Echo or Echo Show–for one thing, it’s designed for use when you’re relatively close to it, not across the room. But its hands-free Alexa offers Amazon yet another opportunity to make its voice assistant an increasingly important part of its customers’ computing lives.