I f you’re looking for a tablet you could confidently give to your children or use as a shared family device, Amazon may have come up with the answer: the Fire HD 6, the latest in the company’s range of budget tablets.
While it’s clearly part of the same family, the Fire HD 6 is quite a departure from previous models. What’s immediately noticeable is just how small it is. With a screen only 6in across the diagonal, this dinky device isn’t much bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, and it can easily be held in one hand.
Despite this, it feels robust. For its size, it’s quite heavy, weighing almost 300g, and at 10.7mm it’s also fairly thick. While we didn’t subject it to a drop test, we’d expect it to survive a short fall.
The Fire HD 6 has two cameras: a 2-megapixel snapper on the rear and a VGA camera on the front: these produce noisy, low-resolution images.
On the top edge, there’s a headphone jack and a microphone, and a mono speaker is located on the rear. The power button is on the top and the volume buttons are situated on the left-hand side.
While there’s a micro-USB port, which can be found on the top next to the power button, there’s no microSD slot, so you can’t expand the storage beyond 8GB or 16GB (depending on which model you buy).
Speaking of which, the entry-level Fire HD 6 comes in at a very reasonable £79, while the 16GB model will set you back £99. Neither model will break the bank, and both are available in black, white, “citron yellow”, magenta and cobalt.
Apart from its size and build, what makes the Fire HD 6 a family-orientated tablet is the way it handles multiple accounts. As with the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9in (2014), it’s possible to set up this tablet with separate accounts for up to two adults and four children, with complete parental control over apps and time limits. Reading goals and other educational activities can also be set, so you can effectively make your kids earn their play time.
Aside from these changes, the tablet runs the latest version of Amazon’s Fire OS, which has the same advantages and disadvantages as previous incarnations. It’s simple to get to grips with, and accessing content you’ve already bought from Amazon is child’s play, but you don’t have access to Google’s core apps, nor the Google Play store. Amazon’s Appstore is passable, but it lags a long way behind, both in terms of the quality and number of apps.
Oddly, the HD 6 (and its larger, more expensive sibling, the HD 7) also lacks the Mayday function, which provides instantaneous, interactive online assistance on the firm’s more expensive HDX tablets.
Despite the low price, the Fire HD 6’s 800 x 1,280 IPS display is good. Brightness, in particular, is impressive: it reaches 435cd/m2 at maximum settings, which is on a par with the Apple iPad Air 2, and it boasts good contrast, at 1,046:1. We also found it responsive to the touch, without any noticeable lag.
However, in our tests, it was a little on the cool side in terms of colour temperature, and, at 76%, sRGB coverage is disappointing.
The Fire HD 6 won’t win any prizes for being a high-end entertainment device, but it’s fine for watching movies and playing casual games, such as Candy Crush Saga. In benchmarks, it performed reasonably well: its quad-core MediaTek MTK8135 processor (which comprises two 1.5GHz cores and two 1.2GHz cores) and 1GB of RAM achieved a single-core Geekbench 3 score roughly on par with the Tesco Hudl 2.
The HD 6 did less well when it came to the multi-core element of the test, scoring only 1,482, compared to the Hudl 2’s 2,132. A frame rate of 20fps in the GFXBench T-Rex HD gaming test isn’t too shabby, though: all but the most demanding games should be playable perhaps with some detail turned down to cope.
The device also put in a respectable 8hrs 43mins in our looping video test, lasting almost two hours longer than the Hudl 2.
When it comes to family-friendly tablets, it’s hard to argue with the merits of the Amazon Fire HD 6. Its child-friendly form factor, easy-to-use parental controls and low price make it ideal for use either as a shared tablet in the home or as a personal device for any children in your household.
However, if you’re looking for something with a bit of oomph, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.