Guess Android tablets aren’t dead just yet. Following Google’s official launch of the Pixel Tablet last week, Amazon has unveiled a new Fire tablet called the Max 11. For just $230, the Fire Max 11 offers an 11-inch LCD screen, slim aluminum frame and smart home controls courtesy of Alexa. I was able to briefly check out a sample at a briefing last week and am impressed by how much Amazon is offering for the money.
This isn’t your average Fire tablet, by the way. While the company’s previous slates have found a niche as affordable, kid-friendly mobile entertainment devices, the Max 11 is all grown up. With slimmer bezels, a more-premium aluminum build and weighing just over a pound, it’s designed for those who also want to do some work and multi-tasking. To that end, the tablet uses an octa-core MediaTek processor that Amazon said is almost 50 percent faster than its “next fastest tablet.”
There’s a fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button, making the Maxx 11 the company’s first tablet to offer this feature. The 11-inch screen, which Amazon says is its “biggest, most vibrant… tablet display,” has a 2,000 x 1,2000 resolution and is certified for low blue light. It also supports WiFi 6 and runs Fire OS 8, which offers some split-screen and picture-in-picture features to let you fire off emails while keeping an eye on your favorite YouTube livestream (like the Engadget Podcast, perhaps?).
More importantly, though, the company also made a keyboard case and stylus for the Max 11 that you can get for an additional $100. If you don’t need the pen ($35), you can get just the case for $90. It attaches to the device magnetically and connects via pogo pins, too. I like that the cover comes with a kickstand, and in my brief experience it was sturdy enough to prop the tablet up and various angles. The keyboard is detachable so you can peel it off when you don’t want it in the way. Its keys were surprisingly springy and deep, with a well-spaced layout. Though I think the trackpad is a little small, I’m glad that Amazon at least included one instead of ditching it altogether.
I also enjoyed casually scribbling my name and random greetings with the “Made For Amazon Stylus Pen,” which uses a replaceable AAA battery that the company said should last six months. Palm rejection on OneNote was effective during the briefing, and you can also write directly into search and message fields, and the Max 11 will convert your scrawl into text that you can submit.
Of course, this is quite a different device from the Pixel Tablet, which comes with a speaker base that keeps it charged and turns into a smart display when attached. But lest you forget, Amazon already offers Show Mode on its tablets, which turns them into dashboards for your connected home, a la its Echo Shows. The same is true for the Max 11, and with the kickstand on the case, you can basically turn it into a smart display. Sure, it won’t always remain charged unless you plug it in, nor will it have a superior audio system when left standing. But you can sort of replicate the Pixel Tablet experience here for $150 less. Alexa can always be listening, too.
The Max 11 itself will last 14 hours on a charge, according to Amazon, and 64GB and 128GB models will be available. For those who are curious, the device will have 4GB of RAM and 8-megapixel front and rear cameras. And in case you’re clumsy or expect the kids in your life to fight over this tablet, it should be reassuring to know that Amazon claims the Max 11 is “three times as durable as the iPad 10.9′ (10th generation).”
Like the company’s other tablets, the Fire Max 11 supports comprehensive parental controls and multiple user profiles so you can share this with some peace of mind. For just $330, the Fire Max 11 offers plenty of features that make it seem like a solid value. It’s certainly cheaper (when you include the price of the keyboard case) than the Galaxy Tabs, Surfaces and iPads that have long dominated the tablet market. There are companies like Lenovo to look out for, of course, but given the strong foothold Amazon has had in the family-oriented slate space, the Max 11 appears poised to find its home in the backpacks of many school-going children soon. You can pre-order the Fire Max 11 starting at $230 today.