Amazon Fire Max 11
“Amazon’s Fire Max 11 takes everything that’s good about the Fire tablet range, then adds great accessories for increased productivity.”
- Great screen for video
- Keyboard feels good to type on
- 10-hour-plus battery life
- Useful kickstand case
- Sparse app store
- Slow charging
The Amazon Fire Max 11 is Amazon’s most powerful tablet yet, but instead of simply being a big-screen portal into Amazon’s world of goods, music, and movies – which the Fire range has typically been – you can get it with a keyboard and a stylus, which says it’s a productivity device too.
It’s a new direction for Amazon’s Fire team, so has it pulled off this brave move?
The Amazon Fire Max 11’s design is just about as simple as it gets. It’s flat and grey on the back, flat and grey down the sides, and flat on the front too. There are two upward-firing speakers, a small and awkward rocker switch for volume adjustment, and another small power key that doubles as a somewhat reliable fingerprint sensor. That’s really all there is to it.
Adding the keyboard and rear kickstand case accessory gives it some character, though. Each has a soft, textured backing that adds grip and style, while the incredibly useful kickstand securely attaches to the rear of the tablet using magnets. The folding lower section allows plenty of adjustment, and the hinge feels very secure. I haven’t taken it off, and I love how useful it is to fully enjoy watching videos. The keyboard is also attached using magnets but is also backed up by two solid locator pins, and it hasn’t shaken loose yet.
At 7.5mm thick and 490 grams, the Fire Max 11 is very portable, even with the kickstand and the keyboard attached when it tops 900 grams, and I’ve happily carried it around in my bag. It weighs less than both my iPad Pro (2020) and the Magic Keyboard (a hefty 1.06kg) and my 1.29kg MacBook Air M1. Unfortunately, there’s no water resistance rating, but it does feel well-protected from shocks inside the keyboard and kickstand case.
This isn’t a tablet to buy if you want to make a statement. It’s never going to attract admiring glances or single you out as a trendsetter. Instead, it’s inoffensive, well-made, maturely styled (although reminiscent of the Apple iPad), and highly functional. This sounds like I’m putting it down, but I’m not. The Fire Max 11 isn’t trying to be something it’s not and is all the better for it.
I use a tablet every day, mostly for video and apps that benefit from larger viewing areas, such as Reddit and Autotrader, and I also use my iPad Pro (2020) to edit videos and for work when I don’t want to carry my MacBook. I’ve tried to replicate all this on the Fire Max 11, and just as expected, watching video emerged as the tablet’s forte.
In addition to Amazon Prime, Disney+, Netflix, ITVX, BBC iPlayer, Channel 4, and Now are all available in Amazon’s App Store, and each works perfectly. The 11-inch, 2000 x 1200-pixel screen looks great indoors, with natural colors and strong blacks, and I’ve enjoyed watching almost all of season three of Picard on Prime through it. The tinny speakers are disappointing, but I’ve connected several pairs of Bluetooth headphones to the tablet, had no issues with linking them, and it improves the audio experience a great deal.
I subscribe to some magazines through Amazon and use the Kindle app to read e-books too, and the Fire Max 11 does both really well. I like the convenience of having a color screen, which is better for magazines, plus access to my Kindle library on the same device. It’s not as comfortable to read books for long periods as an e-ink Kindle reader, but magazines look much better here than on a slow, monochrome screen.
It’s good for casual games too. The MediaTek MT8188 octa-core processor handles Asphalt 9: Legends and Candy Crush Soda without a problem, and the kickstand accessory means you don’t have to hold the tablet all the time to play games like this either. The chip does struggle to keep a high frame rate playing Asphalt at times, and with only 4GB of RAM, this isn’t a tablet that will be happy to play graphically intensive, top-level games on.
The list of things the Amazon Fire Max 11 does well is impressive.
Obviously, shopping on Amazon is fast and easy, and the store app is right there on the home screen. I’m assuming you’re an Amazon customer already if you’re interested in the Fire Max 11, and rest assured the company makes it effortless to spend money in its stores, as is connecting to Alexa devices and using the voice assistant on the tablet itself.
The list of things the Fire Max 11 does well is impressive, and as a media machine, it’s a great value. Unfortunately, the list of things it doesn’t do well is equally as long. The biggest issue with the Fire Max 11 is the software and, in turn, the apps it will run. The software (called Fire OS) is a variation of Google’s Android but without Google Play installed, and you grab apps from Amazon’s own curated app store. There are ways to install Google Play and to get apps like Chrome, Gmail, and Drive, but this isn’t how the tablet will be delivered.
Using Fire OS is like stepping back in time, which isn’t a surprise as it’s based on outdated Android 11. There are no gesture controls, only the old-style Android three-button system at the bottom of the screen, app icons are boring squares, the Settings screen is condensed and ugly, and there are straight lines absolutely everywhere. It’s not slow, but it is painful to use because it looks and feels like an Android tablet that hasn’t been updated since 2018.
The Amazon App Store is sparsely populated, and the apps that are there don’t always work well on the tablet’s screen. Twitter is laughable to use, and Instagram only works in portrait orientation, for example. I use LumaFusion to edit videos, but this is not available in the Amazon App Store, and neither is Autotrader or Discovery+. Stick to watching the video apps that are there or using Amazon’s apps, and you won’t notice these problems. However, you may have spotted I haven’t mentioned YouTube yet. There’s no app for YouTube (or any Google app), forcing you to watch through the Amazon Silk Browser, where the experience is poor.
Apps are a key consideration when considering the Fire Max 11, but luckily you can check out the store for yourself quite easily. Apps can be searched for through the online Amazon store, or you can download the App Store itself onto any Android phone. It’s definitely worth doing this if you have specific apps you want to use on the tablet.
While I like watching videos on the Fire Max 11, I do miss a high refresh rate screen. It’s a 60Hz refresh rate here, and it’s noticeably less smooth than Apple’s ProMotion screens or any modern smartphone with a high refresh rate screen. However, it’s not a dealbreaker at this price.
I know I would quickly get frustrated with the Amazon Fire Max 11 and Fire OS if I forced myself (and it) to do lots of things. But by treating it as a video player, magazine reader, e-book reader, and a way to give even more money to Amazon by shopping in the always-convenient store, I enjoy using it. Definitely take a moment to think about how you want to use your tablet before buying, as it may be a better idea to look at an Apple iPad instead if you want to regularly do things outside the Amazon ecosystem.
Most Amazon Fire tablets have been good for video, light gaming, and shopping in Amazon’s store — so the Fire Max 11 should be great at all this, and it is. However, you can also buy it with a keyboard and stylus, taking it beyond these basic tasks and turning it into a tablet you could use for work.
The good news is it can be used as a laptop substitute – I have written the majority of this review, and the Asus Zenfone 10 review, using it – but there are some serious drawbacks you need to be aware of before chucking out your MacBook. On the positive side, the keyboard is very good indeed. The amount of key travel is well-judged, and the spring rate is excellent, so you can get a really good flow going. It’s not too noisy, and it doesn’t feel plasticky or cheap either.
However, it’s not solid like the iPad’s Magic Keyboard, so it’s not really suitable to use resting on your lap, as it awkwardly flops about. There’s no backlight either. The trackpad below the keyboard is quite small, isn’t especially accurate, and the button has an unpleasant clicky motion. There are some convoluted gestures to learn, including some that use three fingers, which take up most of the trackpad itself — even with my fairly small fingers.
The tablet’s screen isn’t bright enough to be used outside, even in modest sunlight, where the cursor entirely disappears, and you have to carefully position the angle of the screen to see anything at all. It’s fine in the shade and indoors, though, but the brightness is almost always at maximum. This is also something to consider if you want to read outside, as an e-ink Kindle will be far more legible.
But worst of all is the lack of word processing software options. The Amazon App Store lets you download Microsoft Office, which is great if you use it and pay for the subscription already, but otherwise, you get a three-month trial period before you’ll have to pay up. Obviously, Apple’s Pages isn’t present, but WPS Office’s absence is a surprise, and there’s no Google Docs app, forcing you to use the web version.
This means connecting to the internet, but there’s no LTE on the Fire Max 11, so you have to rely on public Wi-Fi or your phone’s hotspot feature. I’ve used the Fire Max 11 connected to an iPhone 14 Pro and several Android phones, and it has worked reliably enough, but it’s a little slow to get the connection up and running. All this adds up to it being a decent, simple work machine, but in reality, it’s best used inside with a Wi-Fi connection — and by those with an Office 360 account already or who are willing to pay the subscription.
If you want to work more than watch videos, a ChromeOS two-in-one should be higher on your list.
It’s tempting to think the Fire Max 11 is only taking on the iPad for casual work tasks, but it’s actually more likely to take business away from two-in-one devices that run ChromeOS. Lenovo, Asus, HP, and Acer should all be looking at the Fire Max 11 with a degree of fear, as unlike those machines, it’s biased more towards entertainment than productivity, and that may have wider appeal. However, if you want to work more than watch videos, a ChromeOS two-in-one or a Chromebook should be higher on your list.
There are a few other things we should mention about the Fire Max 11. There’s an 8MP camera on the front and the back, where it has autofocus, but you’re not going to want to take many photos with it. Also, be aware it saves photos in the annoying HEIF format by default, which can cause problems if you want to edit and share them on other devices, so it’s best to change it to JPEG in the Settings menu. The front camera is fine for video calls, and apps like Zoom, Skype, and Facebook Messenger are available in the Amazon App Store.
You can get a stylus for the Fire Max 11. It has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and is powered by a single AAA battery cell, which is included, and it magnetically attaches to the side of the tablet for easy storage. Once the battery is inside, it connects to the Fire Max 11 automatically (and is actually compatible with any device that supports USI 2.0), and Amazon expects the cell to last for about six months.
Unfortunately, there’s no pre-installed art or note-taking app, so you will have to go and find one in the Amazon App Store. Microsoft OneNote and Picsart are available, but apps like Google Keep and Evernote are not. There is some lag when you scribble away on the screen, and the tablet doesn’t immediately recognize when your palm is against the screen, so it doesn’t disable buttons. But it has some weight to it for a pleasant feel, and my handwriting looks surprisingly neat. The stylus has a side button that acts as an eraser when pressed.
There’s a 7,500mAh battery inside the Fire Max 11, and in my experience, it will last for around 10 hours on a single charge if, like me, you prioritize video. Watching for around 45 minutes steals 10% of the battery, and playing games is about the same. Spend an hour working online with Google Docs through the browser using Wi-Fi, and it only takes a few percent, meaning the Fire Max 11 is quite efficient during general tasks. Amazon quotes 14 hours of total battery life on a single charge with mixed-use.
It’s recharged using a USB Type-C connector, and Amazon does include a charging block and cable in the box, but it only has 9W of power. This means a disastrous four-hour recharge time, and it seems it only supports a maximum of 15W charging anyway, so even with a more powerful charging brick, the recharge time isn’t less than about three hours.
An approximately 14-hour battery life exceeds that of the 10th generation Apple iPad and the Google Pixel Tablet by a few hours. Apple’s latest iPad tablets, including the $449 10th generation model, support 20W chargers and take around two hours to recharge, while the Pixel Tablet takes closer to three hours.
The Amazon Fire Max 11 is yours to buy now, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you where it’s sold. There are a few different options to choose from when you come to buy it, which affects the price. The 64GB tablet costs $230 with lock screen ads or $245 without ads. If you want 128GB of storage space (the Fire Max 11 has a MicroSD card slot too), it’s $280. If you want the whole kit with the 64GB tablet, case back, keyboard, and stylus, it costs $330 with ads or $345 without.
In the U.K., the 64GB tablet with ads is 250 British pounds or 260 pounds without ads, and the whole kit with case, keyboard, and stylus is 375 pounds with ads. There are further ways to customize your Fire Max 11, such as not having the stylus, to get the best price possible. Amazon regularly uses special promotions like Prime Day to reduce the price of its hardware, but the Fire Max 11 may be too new to get much of a discount in 2023.
With the Fire Max 11, Amazon definitely saw a bit of the iPad and two-in-one productivity market and wondered if it could get in on the act without sacrificing the attractive multimedia capability that makes its other keyboard-less Fire models so attractive (and likely earns it so much money). If this was the briefing, Amazon has succeeded.
The Fire Max 11 is just powerful enough to cope with light work tasks, the keyboard is excellent, it’s suitably compact and portable, the design is subtle, and the price for the whole kit is very reasonable indeed. The screen is excellent and makes the tablet really enjoyable to watch videos on, and I’d definitely recommend the rear cover with its kickstand if you do plan to use it for video.
The software and app availability lets it down, and we urge you to make sure the apps you want are easily installed before buying. The more adventurous may choose to side-load Google Play, but not everyone will want the hassle. Personally, I didn’t find much use for the stylus, and the glacial charging speed borders on the unforgivable.
These few negatives aside, the Fire Max 11 is a well-conceived, value-driven, and truly multi-purpose device — and an intriguing push in a new direction for Amazon’s tablet hardware team. It deserves your attention.