The Fire Max The 11 is Amazon’s newest, biggest, and most powerful tablet. It’s also a tablet that no one wants or needs. Amazon has departed from its ultra-budget hardware to create a device that would be a decent mid-level Android tablet if it ran the latest version. But it doesn’t run Android at all; it runs Amazon’s Fire OS, a crippled, almost useless fork of Android that is now more than two full years’ worth of features behind Google’s mobile operating system.
Take mid-level hardware, slap on an OS that’s good for little more than consuming Amazon content, charge about as much as you would for an iPad, and you’ve got a tablet that can’t keep up competition. Even at half the price, as Amazon’s Fire tablets are usually on Prime Day and other sales, the Fire Max 11 is a tough sell.
When Premium Isn’t Premium
Out of the box, this is the best Fire tablet that Amazon has made for consuming Amazon content. The problem comes when you want to do anything other than consume Amazon content.
Amazon is selling the Fire Max 11 for $230. For another $100, you can get what Amazon calls the Productivity Bundle, which adds a keyboard, cover, and stylus. But you’re now in the price range of some better tablets that offer a better software experience.
Lest you think I have a pretentious dislike of Amazon hardware, I’m typing this review on a Fire 10 with a Finite keyboard. It’s my main writing tool when I leave the house (or RV in my case) and half the time when I’m at home. I modified the Fire tablet’s software, using the ADB developer tool to turn off all Amazon apps and install the ones I needed to work (Vivaldi and Termux), but the Fire 10 can definitely do my needs as a writer. That said, for $100 on sale, with little change, the Fire 10 is actually capable of being useful for work, which is great.
For that reason, I’m excited to try out the Fire Max 11—what’s not to like about a more powerful model, this one made of real metal instead of cheap plastic? The Fire Max 11 delivers what Amazon promises, which is that it’s the best Fire tablet the company has ever made.
The 11-inch LCD screen has a nice 2,000 x 1,200-pixel resolution that’s a bit dazzling, but no worse than other tablets. The 16:9 format suggests that the first priority here is consuming movies (and reading, if you rotate to portrait mode), but it’s not great for productivity. Maybe if Amazon updated Fire OS to access some of the tools in Android 12L, optimized for tablets, but Fire OS is based on an old version of Android without any features which is easy to use on tablets. More on that in a minute.
There’s a fingerprint reader on the side power button, which is a first for a Fire tablet. A microSD slot lets you expand your media storage, and the keyboard now connects via pogo pins, allowing it to charge and talk. Previous Fire tablets—like mine—had to connect to keyboards via Bluetooth, which was inconsistent and slow on the best of days and had to be charged separately. The Fire Max 11 also supports Wi-Fi 6 and has front and rear 8-megapixel cameras, making it better for video chats as well.
Underneath the screen are 4 gigabytes of RAM and either a 64-gigabyte or 128-gigabyte SSD (larger storage adds another $50). The Max 11 is powered by the MediaTek MT8188J chip, which uses an 8-core processor. Those specs put the Fire Max 11 right in the middle of most Android tablets—more powerful than its Fire siblings, but certainly nowhere near any OnePlus or Pixel Tablets. However, for Amazon, it qualifies as a high-end slate, relative to the rest of the Fire lineup.
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