Amazon’s biggest tablet introduces a frisson of premium design to the Fire family, but Fire OS holds it back
- Great performance and battery life
- Bright and colourful display
- Decent optional keyboard and stylus
- Fire OS 8 is highly limiting
- Mediocre colour accuracy
- Quite pricey with all the accessories
Amazon’s family of Fire tablets has long been synonymous with cheap, functional slates, but the new Amazon Fire Max 11 is looking to shake things up. With an altogether sleeker and more premium-looking silhouette, the Fire Max 11 sees the brand stepping boldly into a new market – but can the Fire formula play in a higher price bracket?
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The disappointingly short answer is no: the Fire Max 11 offers an inferior experience to rival tablets available for similar money. That’s not to say it’s awful, though, as it’s anything but. Indeed, if you’re happily nestled in the Amazon ecosystem and the software limitations don’t put you off, the Fire Max 11 is undoubtedly the brand’s best tablet yet – it just could have been so much more.
Amazon Fire Max 11 review: What you need to know
As the name implies, this is an 11in tablet, making it the largest in the Fire lineup thus far. It’s moderately sleek, measuring 259 x 164 x 7.5mm, and light enough at 490g, but it definitely needs to be held with two hands.
Up front, the 2,000 x 1,200 display uses an IPS panel and has a 60Hz refresh rate, while an 8MP selfie camera sits in one of the long bezels, with its twin tucked in the corner on the back.
Under the hood, the Fire Max 11 runs on a MediaTek Dimensity MT8188J, backed up by 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of onboard storage.
Amazon hasn’t clarified the size of the battery, but it does claim that the tablet has “14-hour battery life”. On the charging front, the tablet comes with a 9W charger that can fully charge the battery in just over four hours. The tablet supports charging up to 15W, which would fill the battery in around three-and-a-half hours, but you’ll need to provide your own charger to get these speeds.
Amazon Fire Max 11 review: Price and competition
The 64GB model of the Fire Max 11 retails for £250 and the 128GB version starts at £290. Both models have ads on the lockscreen, but you can go ad-free for £10. The next closest member of the Fire family is the HD 10 Plus, but you can’t buy one new at the time of writing, with the best option being a certified refurbished model, starting from £171.
Outside of the Amazon stable, there are a couple of rivals to consider: the recent Oppo Pad Air (originally £329 but down to £209 at time of writing) is incredibly light and offers impressive battery life, and the Honor Pad 8 (launched at £270 but currently £199) has decent battery life and performance, in addition to a bigger 12in display. Our favourite Android tablet for value is currently the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, which is markedly pricier at £349, but it combines good looks and performance with a bundled stylus.
Amazon Fire Max 11 review: Design and key features
The Fire Max 11’s aluminium frame feels a world away from the plastic that adorns the rest of the Fire series. Dark grey may not be the most exciting colour, granted, but the understated colourway and metal chassis make for a rather classy pairing – much more so than the Fire Max 11’s smaller stablemates.
Hold the tablet in landscape orientation and you’ll find the USB-C port on the right hand side, the microSD slot (capable of taking cards up to 1TB) below it and the volume rocker and power button just above. The power button doubles as an efficient fingerprint reader, which is handy as the tablet doesn’t support face unlocking. There’s also no 3.5mm jack, nor any option to insert a SIM card for LTE capabilities.
The cluttered right-hand edge can make it a bit fiddly to use the buttons while charging the tablet: it feels like the left flank could have taken some of the slack, but Amazon has left it bare so that the optional stylus can clip on magnetically. The bottom edge is occupied with the connectors for the keyboard case, while the top edge houses a pair of upwards-firing speakers. These can get a little tinny at maximum volume, but they’re functional enough for most uses and support Dolby Atmos to boot.
Amazon Fire Max 11 review: Display
Displays have always felt a point of compromise on Fire tablets, but the Max 11 bucks the trend. The 11in IPS panel is still a 60Hz affair, so scrolling isn’t as smooth as premium tablets, but the 2,000 x 1,200 resolution is noticeably sharper than the smaller Fire models.
Amazon has also forgone the 16:10 aspect ratio used by the Fire HD 10 to go for a wider 5:3, and this is a great fit for movies, leaving less of a black bar around the picture, although web pages and documents can feel a bit cramped compared to something like the 4:3 Apple iPad (2021).
This is also the brightest Fire tablet we’ve tested so far, with a peak brightness of 504cd/m². It may still struggle with glare in direct sunlight, but you won’t need to close the curtains on a sunny day to enjoy the display.
Image quality is pretty good for a budget tablet. The average Delta E of 2.51 means that colour accuracy is largely on the money, if not up there with the best, and the contrast ratio of 1,657:1 is very respectable. The sRGB gamut coverage of 90.5% and the volume of 95.8% is nothing to get too excited about, however.
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Amazon Fire Max 11 review: Performance and battery life
The Fire Max 11 put in a strong showing in our performance tests. The octa-core Mediatek Dimensity MT8188J processor has a maximum clock speed of 2.2GHz and is paired with a fairly modest 4GB of RAM. Nevertheless, the Fire Max 11 left its rivals in the dust, beating the next best (the Oppo Pad Air) by over 80% in the single-core benchmarks and around 29% in the multicore.
The only model we don’t have figures for is the Fire HD 10 Plus, due to issues with Fire OS running our benchmarking software – more on that in the next section.
The opposite problem cropped up for the GPU tests, with the Fire HD 10 Plus running the benchmarks and the Fire Max 11 failing to do so. Subjectively, though, the Fire Max 11 is no 3D powerhouse. The fact that Amazon bundles the Fire Max 11 with a Luna controller might suggest that the tablet is ready for gaming, but my time in Fortnite was plagued with stutters and frame-rate drops. Stick to casual titles and the Fire Max 11 will be more at home.
The quoted 14-hour battery life turned out to be a modest underestimation on Amazon’s part, as the Fire Max 11 lasted for a hair under 20 hours in our standard looping video test. This is well ahead of most of its peers, beating the Oppo Pad Air by over an hour.
Amazon Fire Max 11 review: Productivity bundle and Fire OS
Like the HD 10 before it, the Fire Max 11 has some optional peripherals that transform it into a productivity-focused laptop replacement. The Made for Amazon Stylus Pen costs a further £35, the Keyboard Case is £90, or you can get both for £125.
The keyboard case comes in two separate pieces: the backplate connects magnetically to the rear of the tablet, with the lower half folding outwards to produce a built-in kickstand, while the keyboard itself snaps into magnetic docks on the bottom edge. Both pieces are covered in the same fabric you see on the standard flip cover, which adds to the premium feel of the tablet.
Typing on the keyboard is surprisingly satisfying, though you’ll need to use a desk as it’s too flimsy to sit on your knees. The trackpad is a bit jittery, and mistaken clicks aren’t uncommon, but it’s serviceable overall. The basic stylus lacks pressure sensitivity or the ability to charge via the tablet, but once again, it gets the job done. Hurried notes convert well into text and tracking is accurate enough for doodling. It’s a shame that there are no official notes or drawing apps preinstalled on the tablet, though.
As serviceable as these peripherals are, they’re held back by Fire OS 8: despite being based on Android 11, Amazon’s OS is sorely lacking compared to rival productivity-focused tablets. The homescreen doesn’t support widgets or floating windows, there’s no quick-launch app dock, and the Silk internet browser doesn’t allow you to open two windows side by side.
You’re stuck with Silk, too, as Amazon’s app store lacks all of the other major web browsers. Google apps are missing entirely, so there’s no Chrome, Gmail or Drive, and messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Slack are absent as well. Microsoft’s Office and Teams apps attempt to fill the void, but that’s scant consolation for Google users.
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Amazon Fire Max 11 review: Verdict
On the surface, the Fire Max 11 has plenty going for it: the design is stylish, performance and battery life are terrific and the display is crisp and colourful. Better still, the optional keyboard and stylus are competent enough to – in theory – make the Fire Max 11 a solid laptop replacement.
All of these improvements, however, just serve to shine a harsher light on the limitations of Fire OS 8. Cheaper Fire tablets excuse the OS’s shortcomings by virtue of their low price, but the Fire Max 11 is encircled by a variety of much more capable rivals.
Stretch your budget a little and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite and a stylus are a great option for £349. Alternatively, both the Oppo Pad Air and the Honor Pad 8 are discounted to around £200 at the time of writing, and both offer much more capable and user-friendly productivity tools.