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Fire Max 11: Amazon Finally Has a Real iPad Alternative

Amazon's new premium tablet offering starts at $230 and is designed not only for fun but work, too, with an optional keyboard case and stylus sold separately.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
6 min read
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Amazon's Fire Max 11 tablet has an 11-inch screen, faster processor, better cameras and supports a stylus.

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Amazon Fire tablets have always been the value alternative to Apple's iPads, allowing Amazon Prime members and often their kids to tap into the company's vast library of entertainment content, including "free" movies, ebooks, games and more that are bundled into that membership. The problem is, Amazon didn't have an option for people who wanted to do more with their tablets. With the new Fire Max 11, Amazon now has a premium iPad alternative.

Equipped with a faster MediaTek processor and better front- and rear-facing cameras than the previous Fire tablet models, the Fire Max 11 features an 11-inch screen with 2.4 million pixels (2,000x1,200 resolution -- 213 pixel-per-inch density) in an aluminum body rather than plastic. The Fire Max 11 starts at $230 with 64GB of storage with lock-screen ads enabled and is also available with a keyboard case and powered stylus for $330. (Not coincidentally, that's the same MSRP of Apple's baseline 10.2-inch iPad, sans accessories.) It's available for preorder today and ships in mid-June.  

After spending some time using the Fire Max 11 at a product preview meeting with Amazon, I was generally impressed with the build quality and performance of the new tablet. Think of it as Amazon's Fire tablet version of its premium Kindle ebook readers that rarely get discounted -- the Kindle Oasis and the more recent Kindle Scribe. Those models also have aluminum designs and the Fire Max 11's aluminum back and slim bezels definitely give it a higher-end look (you won't mistake it for a budget product). It weighs in at 17.3 ounces (490 grams) or only slightly more than the $150 Fire HD 10 (16.4 ounces, 465 grams).

The Amazon Fire Max 11 is available in a bundle with a keyboard and stylus
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The Amazon Fire Max 11 is available in a bundle with a keyboard and stylus

I got a bit of hands-on time with the new Fire Max 11, using it with the new Amazon Keyboard Case and Stylus Pen.

David Carnoy/CNET

In my limited time with the tablet, the performance didn't quite match up with the iPad (10th Generation), but it certainly feels zippier than previous Fire tablets, including the Fire HD 10, which is an exceedingly good value, particularly when it goes on sale for around $100. Amazon lists the screen spec for the HD 10 as 1,920x1,200 with over 2 million pixels (224 ppi) so the Fire Max's larger 11-inch display with 213 ppi isn't quite as sharp.

By comparison, Google's new Pixel Tablet has a 10.9-inch screen with 2,560x1,600 resolution and 276 ppi. But that tablet starts at $500 with an included dock. The Pixel Tablet runs Google's Pixel-flavored version of Android 13 while the Fire Max 11 runs Amazon Fire OS 8 on top of Android 11. Like other Fire tablets, you don't get the Google Play Store (and are limited to Amazon's app store), though many people sideload the Play Store on their Fire devices. 

Improved cameras

Amazon reps told me the company noticed a shift in how people were using their tablets during the pandemic that has continued as people still work from home at least part of the week. More people were using them as productivity devices rather than just as entertainment devices. That included using them for Zoom and Microsoft Teams video conference calls, even if the cameras weren't that great from a resolution standpoint. 

With that in mind, beyond the design upgrade, the biggest changes are to the front- and rear-facing cameras and the faster processor. The step-down Fire HD 10 is equipped with 2-megapixel front-facing and 5-megapixel rear-facing cameras with 720p HD video recording. By contrast, the Fire Max 11 has 8-megapixel front- and rear-facing cameras with 1080p HD video recording. 

The Amazon Fire Max 11 has an aluminum chassis

The Amazon Fire Max 11 has an aluminum chassis.

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

The Fire Max 11 is almost 50% faster than the Fire HD 10 Plus, Amazon promises. It's powered by a MediaTek MT8188J 2.2GHz octa-core processor with 4GB of RAM. It also supports faster Wi-Fi 6 wireless connectivity and has a fingerprint sensor (a first on an Amazon tablet) along with a microSD expansion slot to add up to 1TB of additional storage. A three-month free trial of Microsoft Office 360 is included.

More expensive Android tablets like the Pixel Tablet and Samsung's Galaxy Tab S8 come with 8GB of RAM. But the entry-level Samsung Galaxy Tab A8, which starts around $350, only comes with 2GB of RAM while the iPad (2022) has 4GB of RAM. More RAM prevents your tablet from getting bogged down when using multiple apps at the same time and makes the tablet perform better overall.

Keyboard and stylus support

You can get a keyboard case for the Fire HD 10, but the Fire Max 11's design includes a set of pogo pins to attach Amazon's new Keyboard Case ($90) to the tablet magnetically. The new Amazon Stylus Pen ($35) also adheres magnetically to the side of the tablet. As noted earlier, you can buy the Fire Max 11 in a bundle with the Keyboard Case and Stylus Pen for $330 or $25 less than what the items would cost if purchased separately. 

The Keyboard Case did seem pretty nice and also has an integrated touchpad for mouse support. Meanwhile, the Stylus Pen is powered by a replaceable AAAA battery that lasts up to six months with moderate use. As for the tablet's battery life, it's rated to get up to 14 hours of reading, browsing the web, watching videos and listening to music on a single charge; it charges via its USB-C port, but does not have a wireless charging option like the HD 8 Plus or HD 10 Plus.

I was given a demo of how handwriting recognition works with certain apps. You can also write a URL in the web browser address bar and have it convert into text. You probably wouldn't bother with that if you had the Keyboard Case, but some people really like to use their styluses.  

Ultimately, the value proposition here is that for around the price of the entry-level iPad, you're getting not only a competent and sturdy tablet (the Fire Max 11 is "three times as durable" as the iPad 10.9-inch, Amazon says), but you also get a keyboard case and stylus. Apple's Magic Keyboard Folio costs $249 and an Apple Pen (2nd generation) lists for $129.

Like the Kindle Oasis and Scribe, I wouldn't expect the Max 11 to be regularly offered at a steep discount, even during Black Friday sales. You might find some small sales on it, or perhaps Amazon will offer deals on bundles that include a standard case or the Stylus Pen, but its price should remain fairly fixed while we continue to see flash sales on Amazon's other Fire tablets. 

We'll have a full review of the Amazon Fire Max 11 around the time it ships.

Fire Max 11 key specs, according to Amazon

  • 11-inch touchscreen made out of strengthened alumino-silicate glass 
  • 2,000x1,200 resolution with 2.4 million pixels. Fire Max 11 has 410 nits (typical) brightness with 213 ppi pixel density, 70% (typical) NTSC color gamut, 1,000:1 (min) and 1,400:1 (typical) contrast ratio
  • 64GB or 128GB of internal storage with support for microSD cards up to 1 TB for additional storage
  • Mediatek MT8188J octa-core processor
  • Arm G57 MC2 integrated graphics
  • 4GB of memory
  • 17.3 ounces (490 grams)
  • Up to 14 hours of battery life; fully charged in under 3.5 hours with a 15-watt adapter
  • 8-megapixel front- and rear-facing cameras with autofocus and 1080p video recording
  • Dual speakers with Dolby Atmos, USB-C audio and external volume controls
  • Dual-band 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) wireless
  • Bluetooth 5.3 BLE with support for A2DP stereo headphones, speakers, microphone and LE accessories
  • Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, hall effect and fingerprint sensor
  • Optional accessories: Keyboard Case ($90), Made for Amazon Stylus Pen ($35) and Slim Cover ($50)
  • Third-party Bluetooth and wired keyboards can be connected. Third-party USI 2.0 styluses are compatible, though will have some limited functionality compared to Fire Max 11's MFA stylus pen
  • Hands-free Alexa (you can enable always-on Alexa voice assistant)
  • Show Mode (full-screen Alexa experience)
  • Starts at $230 with 64GB of storage. Productivity bundle with Keyboard Case and Stylus Pen starts at $330