The new Amazon Fire Max 11 (launched in May 2023) is a formidable contender for the best budget tablet available. It represents the 13th generation of innovation from Amazon with Fire OS which underneath the Amazon launcher is based on Android 11 with API level 30. Fire Max 11 promises to redefine your digital media consumption experience and it delivers. You can also turn it into a pro level editing and communication tablet if you want to add android apps to make it better at everything but there's a catch, and that is that you must take some time to learn just enough about Android tools, side loading and the free and open source app stores and their apps to make it into your perfect tablet. This is not difficult, does not require any firmware hacks or rooting the device and it is well worth the effort.
I bought an Amazon Fire Max 11 tablet, vivid 11in display, octa-core processor, 4 GB RAM, 14-hr battery life, 128 GB, Grey, without Ads on Prime day (for £189.99 - it went back to regular pricing of £299 after so wait for an offer to come along. On 25th August it was on offer at £209.99 and the deal was back as of 10th October 2023, you can expect it to return for Amazon sales events. I have been using it for a few months now, so this article is based on my real world lived experience of this device not just a freebie reviewers passing inspection. I'm using it more than my iPad Pro 11 (4th Gen) which is around 5-6 times the price. I didn't buy the Amazon case, keyboard or stylus instead i opted for an Amazon Basics 1TB microSD card (£100 from Amazon, £62 from CeX), a Black, soft back, anti-vibration and anti-slip case (£12) and a Matte anti glare screen protector (£7.95 for two). The total cost of the tablet and all these accessories was £271.91. At under £20 to protect your tablet from scratches, I'll never understand why people don't bother with cases and screen protectors!
Anyway, lets transform this tablet from Amazon consumption only to wow it can do everything I need. Read on.
- What is the Amazon Fire Max 11?
- Downloaded music and movies
- Making the tablet perfect
- Critical and useful apps including free and open source apps from f-droid
- For me its for consumption not creation
- Technical Specification
- See Also
TL:DR — It's a keeper.
What is the Amazon Fire Max 11?
Source: Amazon UK, product image
Fire Max 11 is not just a gadget; it's Amazon’s most powerful tablet ever, with a claimed 14 hour battery life and powerhouse of advanced features usually found only on tablets costing four times more. One indicator that it is a modern design is the USB-C port which not only enables faster charging and headset support but also facilitates faster data transfer, saving you precious time.
The quality is obvious in the thin high quality case, upward firing Dolby Atmos sound, microSD card support, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.3 BLE, together with a vivid 2000 x 1200 IPS screen and a fingerprint sensor built in to the power button. The cameras are both 8 MP, which is good enough for a tablet given tablets aren’t for photography anyway.
There's wide ranging support for audio and video formats. For my needs FLAC audio, and MKV video are the things I care about and are supported perfectly and you can cast the screen to a supported TV.
There’s also an optional keyboard and stylus. This device is designed to disrupt the market. It is a very nice device, built to last.
Which one should I order?
You can order Fire Max 11 with 64 GB or 128 GB of storage and with or without advertising. I chose 128 GB without advertising but on reflection, having added a 1TB microSD card, the 64 GB model would be plenty.
Out of the box experience
The Amazon Fire Max 11 is not really marketed as an Android tablet and it doesn’t come with Google Play Store. Instead, it comes with the Amazon App Store, and an Amazon oriented Home screen launcher which steers you towards Amazon Prime, Music, Kindle, Photos, App Store, Alexa and of course the Amazon shopping app. There’s also a web browser, a maps app and a weather app. And even a trial of Microsoft 365. If you’re an Amazon Prime customer then you will love these apps which run beautifully on the Fire Max 11 and that your content is front and centre of the tablet. If you're an experienced Android user you will find that the Launcher is a bit limited compared to typical Android tablets but it is absolutely good enough and does not warrant expending effort to try to swap it out.
Remember the Fire Max 11 is compatible with Android 11 and although you can’t quite expect every feature of a Google based Android 11 tablet there is a lot more you can do with this tablet beyond this out of the box experience.
For me the Fire Max 11 is for consumption not creation and editing
I first installed Plex and IMDB, both from the Amazon App Store. These apps work beautifully on this tablet. I was able to watch the content from my Plex media server, with subtitles, with no obvious issues. IMDB works well and is really suited to the landscape layout on the device.
Plex on Fire Max 11
IMDB on fire Max 11
Downloaded music and movies
Next step for me was music and movies. I know it is considered to be old school but I have tons of ripped music and videos and I don't always have the ability to stream them. The solution for me was to find two apps which are old friends. VLC for Fire, and Neutron player. Both of these apps have been around since before Android began. VLC for Fire is available from the Amazon App Store. Neutron Player from their website. Download it and allow the Browser permission to instal it. This is called sideloading, downloading an app but not from an app store. Its perfectly OK to do provided you trust the source site. VLC for Fire can play audio too but it is the best video player out there and I love the pro music and pro audio settings in Neutron Player. I can’t recommend these apps highly enough. Try them.
VLC for Fire
Making the tablet perfect
So you have the apps to play local content but how do you get your music and movies to this device which is clearly aimed at streaming services from Amazon? Despite the complexity this is really easy to do and to update.
The answer wasn’t immediately obvious to me, I spent a few hours working my way through the many file transfer, ssh based sync tools, rsync based sync tools, commercial sync tools which were almost all variations of rsync and ssh under the covers, and even a third party ExFat file system manager for Android. None of these things really gave me what I was looking for. Simple, reliable, sync and update of my music and movies on the Amazon Fire Max 11 tablet. Thats because of a couple of things about this tablet that need to be understood.
That 1TB microSD is only really useful as adopted storage
Fire Max 11 supports a whopping 1TB microSD card, liberating you from storage constraints and allowing you to carry your digital world with you wherever you go. There’s a catch however! To support files larger than 4GB you will need to use adopted storage which means that you cannot use the microSD card for file transfers by pulling it out of the tablet. It effectively becomes a permanent storage device. When you put a microSD card in the tablet for the first time it asks you if you wish to do this. Do it. You can use the network or data cable to sync your device with all your movies and music later!
Wait, what is this adopted storage thing?
There’s a good technical reason to use adopted storage for your 1TB microSD card and although some would say it is a limitation I think that is a little unfair because it is more nuanced than it seems.
The reason goes like this. To use a filesystem for removable storage that supports large files, (like mkv movies), and is compatible with the majority of computers these files might be coming from, you end up needing to use a filesystem called ExFat. ExFat is proprietary and you have to licence it. The owners, Microsoft, charge a royalty per device. The royalty is tiny but it adds a significant cost to the bill of materials for each tablet and Amazon would also have to disclose how many tablets they made to their competitor. Amazon probably decided that FireOS doesn't need ExFat because the internal filesystem for Android supports these large files just fine. So again probably, they took a decision that it wasn’t necessary and didn’t licence it (Note: This is my conjecture, I don’t know what happened, I'd love to know!).
So without exFat a 1TB microSD card isn’t really useful for file transfer, especially of movies, since you cannot have a single file larger than 4 GB. Many MKV files of DVD’s are larger than that these days, Blu-Rays certainly always are. You could use a tool to compress everything to 4 GB but why bother. Instead then you need to transfer the files old school iSync style - remember that. Unfortunately iSync sunsetted years ago and in any case was Mac only. Theres an explanation of what to do further on in this article that works cross platform, and is relatively easy to do and very repeatable for scripting or updates.
TL:DR – To make the most of your 1TB microSD card you need to use adopted storage, but thats OK.
Sync content to your Fire Max 11 using Android SDK Platform Tools
The solution was actually staring me in the face the whole time - its called ADB and its part of the Android Platform tools provided by Google. Don’t be worried about developer language here like debug, this is honestly very easy to do and it is FAR easier than setting up ssh or rsync properly. The tools are robust and if you need to sync content to a local Android device this method will change your world.
Android Debug Bridge (ADB) has been around since the first Android devices began to appear. Its a command line tool for working with a connected device. ADB is a developer tool for logging, opening a terminal, installing and uninstalling apps, backing up and restoring images and getting files from and putting files to the Android device. It has a sync command but that's not the right one. The command we are interested in is
adb push –sync, but how do you get it going?
There’s two parts to it. Firstly you need the ADB tool, which comes with the Android platform tools provided by Google and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. You’ll probably have these if your’e a developer, otherwise you can download them for your computer from Google, and if you do you'll earn a little badge for your Google Profile (see image), which is nice! You can put the downloaded folder anywhere really, although it is better if you add the folder to your path so the tools can easily be found from the command line, otherwise you have to use the full folder name to run the adb command.
Secondly you need to enable Developer tools for your Amazon Fire Max 11.
To do that theres a guide on Amazon's documentation site Connect to Fire Tablet through ADB (Fire Tablets)
In summary : Go to Settings > Device Options > About Fire Tablet. Tap your Serial Number seven times. Return to Device Options. A new menu appears called "Developer Options." Congratulations, you're now a developer.
Now connect your Amazon Fire Max 11 to your computer ideally using a USB-C to USB-C cable.
Go to Settings > Device Options > Developer Options. Scroll down to USB debugging and enable it. You’ll be asked for approval to authorise the computer to connect. Approve it.
Now in the terminal type % adb devices and you should see your device is available to the computer.
% adb devices List of devices attached GCC2DM01234567890 device
If you’ve got this far you’ve cracked it. If not go back and check your USB settings or authorisation. Unplug the cable and try again.
Now navigate to your music folder at the command line in your terminal on your computer and you can sync it to your Fire Max 11
% cd ~/Music % adb push --sync . /sdcard/Music
This tells adb, to send all files newer than those existing from the current folder (which is denoted by a dot (.) to the Music folder on your Amazon Fire Max. It might take a very long time. Once you have done it one time though, if you add a track on your computers library and run this command again it will only sync the newer files. This is exactly the behaviour I want. Now you have to make sure your music is DRM free and in a format that the Amazon Fire Max can deal with. Mine is mostly in .flac format which is fine.
You can do the same operation for your movies. I put 800 GB of movies in one folder from my Plex Server, and ran this command. It took about 24 hours. It didn’t crash. It worked perfectly. I was able to check by running a command on the folders to verify that the file count was the same. find . -type f |wc -l. You can run this command on your Amazon Fire Max using ADB too. % ADB sh opens a terminal on the device itself and the find command works fine. ADB works on Macs as well as PC’s. The end result is I have a very very simple process to sync my films and music. I don't need to do it every day, but when I add to my content I can sync it with one or two commands and a USB-C cable. You can also do this over wifi, which is much quicker but slightly more complicated. It is explained in another article on this site.
Other useful apps including free and open source apps from f-droid
There are a few other apps I have added to my device and lots more you might find interesting. To get more choice of Android apps than those from Amazon's App Store you can install another App Store.
F-Droid, the free and open source Android app store.
F-Droid is an app store for Android, which has been around for years, and serves a similar function to the Amazon App Store and the Google Play store. The main difference is that it contains only free and open source apps. Now, I am sure I don't need to explain that free and open source apps have terrific benefits in terms of avoiding vendor lock in, transparency about functionality and vulnerabilities, but for this particular tablet they are an excellent choice because they won’t have proprietary google specific services baked into them which don’t function on the Amazon Fire Max 11. Go ahead and use the Amazon Silk browser to download F-Droid from https://f-droid.org/ and install it. It is robust software and can be trusted.
You’ll have to give permission to the Silk browser to install F-Droid. Then run it and let it refresh itself. You’ll find thousands of Android apps, some useful, some not, but most very likely to work just fine with your Amazon Fire Max. I used F-Droid to downloaded ‘connectBot’ and the Hackers Keyboard from F-Droid so that I can ssh into my Mac and Linux machines. And AVNC also from F-Droid so that I can remote desktop into my Mac and Windows machines.
macOS screen shared on the Amazon Fire Max 11 tablet
AVNC is lovely. Rendering my 34in monitor at full resolution without issues. It might be reason enough to get the Amazon Fire Max 11 Keyboard Case (Only compatible with 13th generation tablet, 2023 release), but it is an expensive option for my primary requirement of content consumption. The possibilities though are endless especially for remote work where you need access to your Mac and don't want to cart it round the world with you. Just leave it on, and connect to it securely!
macOS via AVNC
This tablet is primarily for content consumption and these last few apps are essential tools.
I downloaded NewPipe, which is a superb free and open source video player for YouTube, SoundCloud, Bandcamp and more.
Why not Google apps?
You absolutely can install email and social media apps on your Amazon Fire Max 11, but I’m not going to. I have phones, computers and an iPad for that. You can, with some effort, install Google Play and Google Play services and it is perfectly legitimate to do so as an individual and does not contravene their licence although Google don’t make it easy to find how. But it is a sub par experience and quite difficult to do reliably so I don’t recommend it especially since you can sideload android apps that are available for direct download or get them from F-Droid where they are unlikely to be tied to Google Play services or the Amazon App Store, where they will have been to some extent tested on Fire OS.
Real world use
Now that I've been using the Amazon Fire Max 11 for a few weeks I can tell you what it's really like to use.
The feel of the device is high quality. I bought a screen protector and a case more cheaply than the official Amazon ones but they are great. The device is nice to hold watching a movie. The speakers are at the top so they are not muffled if you put it in a stand. My music works perfectly, Neutron player is a high quality audio player and exercises every capability of the Fire and its speakers to deliver incredible quality sound. A couple of my movies stutter a bit, but for the most part I have had perfect fidelity of Blu Ray or DVD quality cinema on my screen. Sound and subtitles are in sync and the screen is perfectly sized for widescreen use. The volume control is a bit fiddly but perfectly ok once you get the hang of it. Some apps work better in Portrait orientation but this is not much of an issue and more about their heritage as phone apps. For ConnectBot in particular, portrait is better as you get a terminal window in perfect size with a keyboard below it.
With a total storage of 1.2 TB you can say goodbye to storage anxiety, as the Amazon Fire Max 11 has ample space for all the movies, music and photos you need on the go, perhaps away from an internet connection.
On the downsides. Amazon Fire Max 11 doesn't have cellular connectivity so there's no SIM card slot. It doesn’t have GPS and relies on WiFi for location. The cameras are low res compared to high end phones. Google Play is not supported. You need a Wi-Fi 6 compatible router to benefit from Wi-Fi 6 support, Some Fire Tablet models come with adverts on the lock screen. No stated water resistance. USB-C Headset or Bluetooth only.
I think the upsides and the incredible price point completely outweigh the downsides. I paid £189 for 128 GB no adverts on Prime day. My 11in iPad Pro was five times more expensive.
|Name||Fire Max 11 (2023, 13th Gen)|
|Screen Size||11 inches|
|Screen Resolution (pixels)||2000 x 1200 IPS|
|HD Support||2000 x 1200|
|Abstracted LCD density||213 PPI|
|Internal Storage||64 GB / 128 GB|
|External Storage||MicroSD up to 1 TB|
|Peripherals||Stylus (sold separately), Keyboard (sold separately)|
|System on a Chip (SOC) platform||Mediatek MT8188J|
|Application Binary Interface (ABI)||32bit / 64bit|
|GPU||ARM G57 MC2@950MHz L2 512KB|
|Wifi||Dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (Wi-Fi 6), 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz|
|Initial Fire OS version||Fire OS 8|
|Latest Fire OS version||Fire OS 8|
|Android version & API level||Android 11, API Level 30|
|Heap size (default)||128 MB|
|Heap size (large)||384 MB|
|Front-facing camera||8 MP|
|Rear-facing camera||8 MP|
|Camera AutoFocus||Rear facing: auto focus, Front facing: fixed focus|
|Microphone||Yes - dual|
|Speakers||Dual speakers - Dolby Atmos|
|Multi-touch||5 - simultaneously|
|Connectors||USB-C (charging, data, audio), microSD card slot up to 1 TB|
|HDCP||Enabled for secure mirroring|
|H.263||D (HW) baseline, 1080P@60fps|
|H.264 AVC||D (HW) Constrained Baseline, Main Profile, High profile, L5.0 1080p@60FPS (secure) / 2K@60FPS (non-secure), E (HW)|
|H.265 HEVC||D(HW) Main Profile, L5.0 1080p@60FPS (secure) / 2K@60FPS (non-secure)|
|MPEG2||D (HW) Main Profile @High 1080P@60FPS|
|MPEG4||D (HW) Advanced Simple Profile@L5, Simple Profile@L6 1080P@60FPS|
|VP9||D (HW) Profile 0/2 1080P@60FPS (secure) / 2K@60FPS (non-secure)|
|AV1 with film grain||Supported|
|Low Latency Video||Supported|
|AAC LC||D (SW)|
|HE AAC v1, HE AAC v2, AAC ELD, OPUS, MIDI, Vorbis||D (SW)|
|AMR NB, FLAC||D (SW)|
|MP3||D (SW) MPEG1-Layer3, MPEG2-Layer3|
|EAC3 JOC||D (Dolby)|
|Dolby Post Proc||Supported|
|Low Latency Audio||n/a|
|Amazon Audio Virtualization Algo (AMF1)||n/a|
|FEATURES AND FORMATS|
|MP4, 3GP, MKV, OGG||Supported|
|MPEG TS, HTTP(s) Prog DL, RTSP (RTP/SDP)||Supported|
|HLS (HTTP Live Streaming)||v4|