Android & iOS App & Software Review

Amazon Fire Max 11 review: not the productivity tablet you’re looking for

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What does it take to make a pill greater than only a content material consumption machine? We’ve seen Apple’s evolving concepts for a productiveness pill for over half a decade; Microsoft instantly leaned into productiveness from the beginning.

Amazon, however, doesn’t appear to have a clue. The corporate has been promoting “Productiveness Bundles” for its Fireplace tablets for years, however except for a cursory acknowledgment that typing on a keyboard is best productiveness than typing on a glass display screen, it doesn’t go a lot additional than a reputation.

I hoped that the brand new Fireplace Max 11 would present me that Amazon has lastly cottoned on to what makes productiveness pill, one thing extra than simply a big display screen you employ to look at films on the sofa or entertain a toddler on an airplane. Perhaps this may be the Amazon pill that I may advocate for individuals who wish to get work finished on a price range — it’s $329.99 all in with keyboard and stylus, in spite of everything. (You may also purchase it for $229.99 with out the equipment.)

Sadly, that is only a continuation of the identical previous story with Amazon Fireplace tablets: the Fireplace Max 11 is a superb system for watching films you acquire on Prime Video (or most some other streaming service of your selection), although it’s not markedly higher than Amazon’s even cheaper options. Nevertheless it’s definitely not one thing I can actually advocate for work. And sure, you guessed it, it’s due to the software program.

How we price and assessment merchandise

The Fireplace Max 11 definitely appears the a part of a productiveness pill, particularly while you get it with the keyboard case and stylus. It’s obtained a metallic chassis, an eight-megapixel digicam within the bezel on the lengthy fringe of the display screen (i.e., the proper spot), a keyboard with built-in trackpad that snaps to the underside edge through magnets, and a stylus that adheres to the facet of the pill, additionally utilizing magnets. There’s even a fingerprint scanner constructed into the ability button, a primary for a Fireplace pill. 

The purpose is the Max 11 doesn’t appear like a typical Fireplace pill, with their plastic backs and usually awkward circumstances. Amazon made an effort to justify the Max 11’s greater value with a nicer design, and in that respect, it succeeded. Squint onerous sufficient, and you could possibly mistake it for a way more costly iPad Professional or Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3.

Cease squinting, although, and it’s straightforward to see the place Amazon didn’t go far sufficient. The 11-inch LCD display screen has a 2000 x 1200 decision, with punchy colours and huge viewing angles. It’s vibrant sufficient for many any indoor atmosphere and, in a pinch, would possibly even work open air within the shade. However its 5:3 facet ratio is cramped when shopping the online or working in paperwork, and attempting to make use of the Max 11 in portrait orientation is clumsy and awkward. Put it facet by facet with Apple’s entry-level ninth-gen iPad, and you’ll see how a lot larger the iPad’s display screen is due to its 4:3 facet ratio.

The keyboard magnetically attaches to the underside of the Max 11 and is powered by the pill, so there’s no Bluetooth pairing or separate charging to fret about with it. The keys are spaced effectively sufficient aside and have first rate journey, plus there’s a row of operate keys for media and system controls.

The Max 11’s keyboard isn’t horrible, however the trackpad is terrible.

The Max 11 is the one pill in Amazon’s lineup that has an aluminum chassis.

However the trackpad frankly sucks: it’s cramped and sticky, which makes two-finger scrolling and gestures onerous to carry out. It additionally solely helps inverted scrolling (“pure scrolling,” in Apple parlance), with no possibility to alter it to a extra standard scrolling course.

Like different tablets that use this sort of keyboard case (the Tenth-gen iPad and already talked about Chromebook Duet 3 are however two examples), the Max 11 is floppy and wobbly when attempting to apply it to my lap. You actually need to be parked at a desk or desk to make use of the keyboard with the pill.

One vibrant spot right here is the stylus. It’s a USI 2.0 pointer, full with a button on the facet, and writes easily with no perceptible lag. It feels similar to utilizing an Apple Pencil on an iPad. Samsung’s out-of-the-box writing expertise is best with its S Pen, however when it comes to {hardware}, there’s little to complain about with Amazon’s pen.

The eight-core MediaTek processor Amazon’s utilizing within the Max 11 is extra highly effective than those it makes use of in its lower-tier tablets, and it reveals: the Max 11 is snappier and faster to reply than the others. I may even stream 4K video within the browser, which wasn’t potential on the Fireplace HD 10 Plus I examined two years in the past. The Max 11 received’t hold with Apple’s chips when it comes to uncooked horsepower, however it’s fortunately not a complete canine, both.

The Max 11’s skinny facet ratio means it has a lot much less usable display screen house than a ninth-gen iPad, particularly in portrait orientation.

As a lot as Amazon appeared to place effort into the Max 11’s {hardware}, it looks like it utterly forgot in regards to the software program. The Max 11 runs the identical Fireplace OS discovered throughout Amazon’s lineup, with no enhancements or modifications to make it extra helpful for productiveness work except for making certain help for the stylus and keyboard. It even has advertisements on the lock display screen until you cough up one other $15 to take away them.

The newest model of Fireplace OS (8.3.1.9) relies on Android 11, a platform that’s almost three generations outdated. It lacks gestures for navigating the interface, relying as a substitute on three digital buttons on the backside of the display screen for again, dwelling, and up to date apps. It’s able to split-screening between two apps, however there are not any different tweaks or concessions for productiveness or multitasking such as you’ll discover on Android tablets with extra trendy software program. No app dock, no fast launch tray, no pop-up home windows.

The homescreen stays a spot for Amazon to push you into shopping for content material and merchandise from its numerous shops, which rapidly will get tiresome and spammy-feeling. There are not any configurable widgets, no information feeds, nothing past primary folders.

The Fireplace Max 11’s homescreen is mainly only a place for Amazon to promote stuff it desires you to purchase.

Two apps facet by facet is the extent of the Max 11’s multitasking functionality.

If you recognize something about Amazon’s tablets, you in all probability know that they don’t have Google’s apps and providers accessible on them, and the Max 11 is not any completely different. That’s not an enormous drawback while you’re simply utilizing a pill to look at video (until that video is on YouTube or YouTube TV), however it’s a whole nonstarter for a lot of on the subject of productiveness.

Along with missing Chrome, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Drive, Google Meet, and so on., the Max 11’s app retailer is lacking numerous different apps used for getting work finished. Outdoors of Microsoft’s Workplace suite and Zoom, it’s a ghost city.

Essentially the most irritating a part of that is that is the very same drawback I encountered two years in the past. I’ll save myself the difficulty of writing and simply copy and paste what I wrote in regards to the Fireplace HD 10 Plus in 2021:

Right here’s a listing of productiveness apps I exploit every day for work which can be nowhere to be discovered on the Fireplace HD 10 Plus (or some other Amazon pill):

• Slack

• Asana

• Google Meet

• Feedly (the poorly rated third-party app I attempted crashed on login)

• Todoist

• SwiftKey

NY Instances (the app within the Amazon retailer is only a bookmark to the web site)

• Bitwarden (Additionally lacking are LastPass, 1Password, and Dashlane. Logging in to apps with my passwords requires juggling my telephone and the pill, and it’s an enormous ache.)

• Two-factor authentication apps

• Pocket (Pocket was once within the Amazon Appstore, however the firm has eliminated it and now instructs Fire tablet owners to sideload the app from its web site.)

I’ll add Airtable, Instapaper, Evernote, and Apple Music to that listing at present. Past the truth that there’s been zero progress on accessible apps in two years, Amazon didn’t even trouble to develop a notes or drawing app for use with its stylus on the Max 11 prefer it did for the Kindle Scribe. Each Apple and Samsung have constructed very competent note-taking apps that reap the benefits of the options of their respective styluses, however Amazon didn’t even attempt — it expects you to search out one thing in its decrepit app retailer.

For those who’re hoping to make use of the Max 11 for drawing or art work, you received’t discover many widespread artwork apps in Amazon’s retailer. There’s no Sketchbook, Clip Studio Paint, or Infinite Painter. (There’s an app known as Infinite Painter in Amazon’s retailer, however it’s positively not the one accessible on different Android gadgets.) 

Right here’s one other paragraph from my two-year-old assessment that’s simply as relevant at present:

You may get round this drawback by sideloading the Google Play Retailer and its associated providers onto the Fireplace HD, however that requires disabling safety features, downloading software program from websites that don’t have authorization to distribute it, and putting in it in a selected order. Frankly, it’s not one thing most individuals are going to do, and if Amazon desires to market one thing known as a “Productiveness Bundle,” it must do a significantly better job at making its pill extra helpful for work duties.

I used to be capable of draft this text in Google Docs through the Max 11’s rudimentary browser, and I managed my inbox utilizing Microsoft’s Outlook app. (Amazon’s built-in Mail and Calendar apps are so bare-bones, I couldn’t even get them to work with my Google Workspace account.) However when it got here time to finish this piece, enter it into our CMS, edit and prepare the photographs, and publish it, I needed to depart the Max 11 behind. These are issues I can do fairly simply on an iPad and even Samsung’s tablets.

If my workflows had been extra depending on Microsoft’s apps, resembling Phrase and Groups, I may maybe use the Max 11 for extra issues. However even then, the display screen is cramped, the trackpad sucks, and I’d simply have a significantly better time on one other pill or perhaps a laptop computer.

The Fireplace Max 11 is an inexpensive pill for watching video and never a lot else.

In the end, the Max 11 doesn’t change something about Amazon’s Fireplace tablets. Its draw is that it’s low-cost: the bundle with the stylus and keyboard and 6 months of Microsoft 365 is similar value as simply the ninth-gen iPad alone. That argument is okay for a pill you’re solely going to make use of for watching video or perhaps hand to a child to maintain them entertained on a flight or at a restaurant. Even nonetheless, if that’s your deliberate use circumstances, Amazon has even cheaper choices that work simply as effectively for these issues.

However when it comes time to get work finished, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to spend slightly more cash and get one thing that really works.

Images by Dan Seifert / The Verge

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