No phablet can dare compete this large and bold warrior in its price range! The stretched out Redmi Note 3 is just perfect for large-screen lovers.
How large can a smartphone be? If large, does it still have the right to be called a smartphone or will it get a name “phablet”? The latter seems apt because anything these days with a screen size of over 5.5-inch is called a phablet, being in a category between smartphones and tablets. Let’s talk about Xiaomi Mi Max – what should this be called?
It is not as large as a tablet but nowhere close to a size that might seem comfortable as a phone. The Xiaomi Mi Max has a large 6.44-inch display, and that is enough as a proof to say that it is not a regular phone for everyone. But what is it? Xiaomi has included not one, but two SIM card slots to help with the regular calling. But the company isn’t surely looking to sell this as a large phone. It is rather being called a device for perfect digital media viewing.
Look at the current best devices from Xiaomi, the Mi 5 has a 5.2-inch screen, the Redmi Note 3 has a 5.5-inch one, while the Mi Pad is a perfect 8-inch tablet. Irrespective of the reason why Xiaomi felt a need for launching such a large phablet, the end point is that the users now have quite a few options to choose from.
Let’s review the Xiaomi Mi Max, and check out how well does it fare in the PRP rating!
Important Specs and Features
- 6.44″ IPS LCD display with 1080p resolution; 342ppi; Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection
- Metal back, dimensions of 88.3 x 173.1 x 7.5 mm
- 32GB storage model with Snapdragon 650 chipset (2x Cortex-A72 at 1.8GHz and 4x A53 at 1.4GHz cores); Adreno 510 GPU; 3GB RAM
- 16MP rear camera with F/2.0 aperture, Phase detection autofocus, dual-tone LED flash; 2160p video at 30fps;
- 5MP front-facing camera with F/2.0 aperture, 1080p video recording at 30fps
- 4G LTE; Dual-SIM
- IR blaster; FM radio; Fingerprint reader
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow with MIUI 7
- 4,850mAh non-removable battery
Now that we’ve seen all the specs, let’s talk about the experience. If it was a standard sized device, you know at least a bit of what to expect, but here, the Mi Max is differently sized for a phone.
What would you use such a big device for? That’s what Xiaomi is trying to explain on its website – Entertainment, movies, games, Internet browsing, etc. That is quite true, and if you extend the possibilities, this screen size does look good for regular video chats as well.
What’s in the box?
The unit that we got in India has a box that is unexpectedly small for the size of the Xiaomi Mi Max. But then, knowing Xiaomi, we’d expect nothing less from them. The box package houses the Mi Max phone, the documentation including user guide and warranty booklet, and the accessories are not in numbers. It is only the MicroUSB cable and the 5V,2A charger provided in the box. There are no headphones in the box.
Design, Hardware, and Display
If it was a war of large phablets and their designs, Xiaomi might be one of the top in them because of the Mi Max. Though excessively large, the Max is made slim enough to keep the weight and thickness under a good limit. Though, because of that height and width, you’d never be able to stretch out your finger of the same hand holding the phone, to reach the corner of the screen. Single-handed operation is impossible, and so is handling the device while trying to play with the screen.
Forget about small hands; even the large hands cannot easily hold the phone, and that is a con because the metal back adds to the slippery nature of it. On the other side, if you are okay with how you hold it, the weight of 203gm seems too good for this because a phablet with over 6-inch display should easily weigh more than what the Xiaomi Mi Max does.
On the front, even though the screen area looks almost bezel-less with only a slim bezel on the sides, it is when the screen is turned off. When you turn it on, there is another black border on the inner side of the bezel on all the four sides, making it look bad and unnecessary.
While the front offers a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection, the edges on the back have a chamfer to add to the curvy nature and offer a non-sharp body. Though such a large one, the buttons are quite accessible for most of the hand sizes because the power button is set at almost half of the height of the device, and just above it is the volume rocker button.
On the left is the SIM card tray that can be ejected using a pin, and it has slots for two SIM cards, of which one can hold either a Nano SIM or a MicroSD card for expanding the storage. On the back of the phone, a 16-megapixel camera reaches almost the top left corner along with its low-light partner, the Dual LED flash.
Where are the antenna windows? Exactly where the camera rests on the back, and towards the bottom too. These differently shaded top and bottom panels on the back are for the antennas, and these are made of plastic, unlike the major mid-section that is made of metal.
The top of Mi Max has three important inclusions – a 3.5mm headset jack, an IR blaster and a secondary microphone that would assist in noise cancellation. The bottom has two grills, one on the either side of the MicroUSB port, but don’t get mislead by the grills. Only one of them, i.e. the right grill has the speaker within itself, and the other one is only for a symmetrical feel and just to add to the aesthetics.
Finally, the front. Apart from that large display and the black border, you can see an earpiece grill above it and on the either side of it, the front-facing camera and the set of sensors. Below that, you can see the three navigation buttons, i.e. Menu, Home, and Back key. These navigation buttons are not widely placed far from each other, and that’s quite a good thing.
For a large display, you’d think that the display resolution needs to be high so that you don’t see any pixelation and low content output quality. But the pixel density of 342 PPI due to 1080p resolution is almost equal to the Retina display, and the display is sharp, so we won’t miss the QHD resolution here, especially when the compromise in resolution equals to a cut in the price.
It is an IPS LCD panel, and while on default, the colors are coming out to be good, the device has options to change that to Warm or Cool. Also, for someone who doesn’t need the fuzz of regularly changing things manually, Xiaomi has given the Automatic contrast setting as well.
The touch sensitivity is great, and so is the viewability under bright sunlight when the brightness is pushed to the max. You better not play with the settings much the default settings are doing well with the color output. There is a reading mode included for those who use the phone a lot at night and want the blue light filter to get activated. What’s with the night and blue light? It is apparently said that the Blue light emitted by the displays are heavy on the head and cause sleep disturbances. The Read Mode filters out blue light and sends warm light that is easy on the eyes.
Though it is not the MIUI 8 that the Xiaomi Mi Max that we reviewed is running, still, Xiaomi has managed to bring out the MIUI based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow OS, and the device we are using has the stable MIUI 188.8.131.52 version.
One of the reasons why MIUI is famous in China is that it offers a good custom interface to the users, and this is very much unlike the stock Android interface. There are loads of special features that are limited to only this ROM, but there is no necessity that each of us should like this custom interface from Xiaomi.
Since this is the Indian unit, we can see the full suite of Google Apps that are usually missing in the Chinese ROM. While setting up the device for the first time itself, you can set up its fingerprint scanner. If not, you can do that later. The lock screen usually is bypassed and is not visible if you are using the fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone regularly.
On the other side, if you are skipping the usage of the fingerprint sensor and are usually sliding the lock screen up to unlock the device, you will be welcomed by a Wallpaper carousel on the lock screen.
Since the phone is large and you don’t want to always stretch your hand to reach the buttons, there are a few important features in the MIUI of Mi Max.
- Double tap screen to wake: This is a much-needed one because a double tap on the slept screen wakes it and lets you use it with the lock screen activated. This is available as a feature under Display settings.
- One-handed mode: Under the additional settings, you can see the One-handed mode setting. It allows you to make the size of the interface smaller and accessible for smaller hands when needed. The allowed sizes are 4.5-, 4.0-, and 3.5-inch. It is a simple swipe from home key to left or right buttons to activate the One-handed mode on the respective side.
- Font size toggle: One of the common issues with large screens is the way text becomes smaller to view. The MIUI on Xiaomi Mi Max has a toggle to change the font size, with a total of six sizes to choose from.
Now that we’ve mentioned what’s available for the large screen, everything else is quite the same with any other MIUI based device. No app drawer is seen and what you see when the notification panel is dragged down, is a two-paged content – one for the notifications and the other housing a bunch of quick settings.
The Multitasking / App Switcher section seems quite similar to iOS, where you see a horizontal list of app thumbnails that can be reduced by size to just have an app icon for each. For the pre-installed apps, we can see Themes, Mi Account, Mail, Updater, Recorder, Clock, FM Radio, Calculator, Compass, Mi Remote, Scanner, Security, Calendar, Notes, Weather, Music, Mi Store, and File Explorer.
To change the look of the interface, Xiaomi offers Themes with a dedicated app for it. To take it further into customization, the interface offers options to change wallpapers, lock screen style, system icons and font too. The Security app also has a lot of options – Cleaner, Data Usage Manager, Blocklist, Virus Scanner, and Permission manager for apps that are downloaded from the external sources.
The other mentions include Do Not Disturb Mode, Child Mode, options to change the function of normal and long press of navigation buttons, Mi Mover app to transfer content from and to the Xiaomi Mi Max and Android phone.
We’re using the unit having Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor and 3GB of RAM. There’s one variant with Snapdragon 652 and 4GB of RAM too. The one we are testing is quite powerful and shows it in the performance.
It is an hexa-core chipset that is used even in the much popular Redmi Note 3. Even if the chip changes in the higher variant, the GPU remains the same so you don’t need to expect a lot of difference with the graphics output. The benchmark scores are impressive for the specs, but then, relying on these scores don’t help.
Three gigs of RAM is quite enough for good multitasking, and the RAM management is not bad either. The interface is smooth and very responsive.
|Geekbench 3 Single-core||1520|
|Geekbench 3 Multi-core||3638|
|GFXBench OpenGL Car Chase||5.5 fps|
|GFXBench OpenGL 1080p Car Chase Offscreen||5.3 fps|
|GFXBench OpenGL Manhattan||14 fps|
|GFXBench OpenGL 1080p Manhattan Offscreen||15 fps|
|GFXBench OpenGL T-Rex||31 fps|
|GFXBench OpenGL 1080p T-Rex Offscreen||31 fps|
|Basemark OS 2||1351|
Even while gaming, the Xiaomi Mi Max does well and rarely frets or shows any lags or issues. We’re talking about the high-end games here, which includes ones like Modern Combat 5. If the device can run those games with such ease, you know what to expect when using the phone in the long-run.
The above benchmark scores already talked a lot about how powerful the combination of processor, GPU, and RAM is, but now, after using the phone for over a couple of weeks, we are convinced that we are looking at a large phablet that can take anything that is thrown at it for day-to-day usage.
It is the same camera combination that the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 carries, and it is a decent one, detailed as follows.
- Rear Camera: 16-megapixel, Phase detection autofocus, F/2.0 aperture, Dual-LED Dual-tone flash, 4K video recording
- Front camera: 5-megapixel, F/2.0 aperture, 85-degree lens
One feature missing in the Redmi Note 3 was the 4K video recording, which is well supported by the chipset but Xiaomi offered 1080p videos at max. Here, things are changed, and you can record 4K resolution videos using the back camera of the Mi Max.
The camera app in Mi Max has two sections, photo, and video. The settings, filters, and modes for them are separately available based on the section you have chosen to use. Swiping across does offer a lot of help, for example, swiping up will bring out filters and swiping down will show the available modes. Also, swiping on the side switches between the front and back cameras.
Some modes are quite interesting. One of them is the HHT (Hand-held Twilight) mode. This mode captures and combines multiple shots, with the aim to reduce motion blur and keep the ISO high, and ultimately lessening the noise in the pictures that usually results from the high ISO levels.
While the rear camera was super quick with the captures, the way the app tries to optimize things for selfies, it takes some time between captures. Every important aspect, i.e. color saturation, white balance, are all maintained so well that you see a natural looking shot in the end while using the rear camera, and for what is offered, it does a good justice.
The HDR mode works very well in retaining not just the colors but also with the shadows. But then, you would be able to easily tell whether it is a natural one or not, thanks to some white pointers that are due to the oversharpening done by the software.
For the selfies, the app has a funny tool that guesses your age and you know it isn’t accurate but it is for fun. Beauty Mode is included as well, and even when turned off, the captures in broad daylight are simply good. With the light levels falling down by the end of the day, the front-facing camera starts acting up but when was the last time a device of this price range had a very good selfie camera that can work in any light condition?
<Camera samples to be added soon>
Ok, ending it here about the camera, the Xiaomi Mi Max is packed with two decent shooters, both of which are doing their assigned jobs quite well, thanks to the added support by the software.
If we’re to talk about one of the best features of the Xiaomi Mi Max, it has to be this. The battery life. You can already expect a great battery life with that capacity of 4850 mAh, but sometimes only a good capacity isn’t enough to get a great life. Here, thankfully, the Xiaomi Mi Max does a good justice to the offered power and lasts easily for over a day on heavy usage.
Using two SIM cards together on the device too doesn’t show a lot of difference here, and the standby is great. On 3G, that’s what is the network in India allowing calls (4G calling is not yet available on all networks), the talk time averages over 18 hours (though we calculated that based on an hour-long call).
For those who don’t have their heads on the screen all the time, the device can easily last for up to 48 hours on a single charge. We’ve been using it regularly for about a couple of weeks and can still count the number of times we had to charge the Xiaomi Mi Max. With large batteries, comes an issue of a long time it takes to charge the battery fully from zero.
The box package of Xiaomi Mi Max doesn’t come with any quick charger, but then if you want to know if it does, well, the device does support fast charging using the Qualcomm Quick Charge feature, so if you are ready to cash out some amount and get a quick charger, you can charge this large battery much faster.
The call quality – Superb. The voice on both the ends are well cleared, and the secondary mic on the Mi Max cancels the background noise to a level where it seems negligible.
Speakers – Decent in output levels but we had expected more than this, since devices like this are more for entertainment and you would like to have it produce good sound levels rather than depending on external speakers. There is zero to rare distortion on highest volume levels, no matter what kind of sound comes out of the speakers.
It is a single speaker, though, and not two unlike how it looks like on the bottom frame of the device. There are two grills, and they are more for the appearance than for the functionality.
Fingerprint scanner – A security feature that has become much common these days, and an important one. Xiaomi has included one in the Xiaomi Mi Max, and it works quite well. The fingerprint recognition is quick, registration didn’t take more than a few seconds while setting it up for the first time, and you can tap on the scanner with the registered finger even when the screen is turned off, to unlock the device and reach the home screen directly.
IR Blaster – Xiaomi had offered this feature even in the Redmi Note 3, and now the Mi Max also rocks this nifty feature, i.e. the IR blaster for helping use the device as a quick remote. It is the Mi Remote app that works fluently with several smart electronics at home. Once set up, you can share the same remote settings with others having the app when connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
Multimedia – We used the Xiaomi Mi Max more like a music and video player than as a smartphone. It does offer every functionality of a smartphone, but it equally seems odd to hold next to the ear for making calls. As an entertainment device, the Mi Max does stand a great chance and the standard Video app has enough to take advantage of the whole screen and make a point about what the device can offer regarding multimedia viewing.
The Mi Max from Xiaomi is one of a kind. You won’t find a matching or a better device with this size and at this price point. There have been some phablets in the recent past, and with phablets we’re talking about the ones with 6-inch and above in size. None of them could do well. What’s the probability that the Mi Max will be the odd-man out? There’s no probability and it doesn’t need any because not each of buyer out there will see this as the size, but that very size will be the reason why the specific set of buyers will choose the Mi Max over the others.
There are several highlights to take away from here. The same feature that can be an advantage for someone would be a big disadvantage for someone else. Xiaomi usually is slow on Android OS updates, though MIUI updates keep arriving regularly. Here, the company tried to tackle that issue by offering Android Marshmallow OS based MIUI 7 on the Xiaomi Mi Max, and the MIUI 8 is soon to be rolled out.
It is a punchy device, with enough power to stand tall against all the competitive smartphones and phablets in its range. The battery packed into the Mi Max adds up as one of the other big reasons for people to ditch a tablet device as the choice, and so does the inclusion of a Dual SIM card slot. In a way, if you are comfortable with the size and have been using a 5.7-inch to 6-inch device before this, the Xiaomi Mi Max is what you should be getting, but on the other side, the device is far more appealing to those who are looking to get a decent 7-inch tablet. No matter if the screen is a bit smaller than what you wanted, since you are getting a full-fledged device rather than a compromised one that comes with clauses like a variant with / without SIM slot, etc.
Pros of Xiaomi Mi Max
- Excellent display with a sharp content output, brightness, and the read mode function
- Good performance, thanks to the Snapdragon 650 chipset and the optimized MIUI interface
- Android 6.0 based MIUI with several custom features that are not seen on the stock Android
- Good rear camera with modes like HHT, and color saturation well retained in pictures
- Amazing battery life, over 36 hours of usage on a single charge using two SIM cards
- Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection on the front and a metal body on the back
Cons of Xiaomi Mi Max
- Speaker performance is average, the sound output is not high
- Video recording is not appreciable, especially the 4K video resolution
- Too many restrictions with app permissions need a lot of manual changes
- Not easy to use with a single hand
Best Alternatives to the Xiaomi Mi Max
To be fair to Xiaomi, the alternatives that we are suggesting are either higher on the price aspect if the specs are being matched, and if the budget is kept around what the Mi Max costs, there is no decent phablet available, making the Xiaomi Mi Max the ultimate winner. But then, if you still need to know if there are some competitive devices, here are a few.
Sony Xperia XA Ultra: This 6-inch phablet comes with a Full HD display, MediaTek Helio P10 processor, and a great camera combination having a 21.5MP rear camera and a 16MP front-facing camera, with both cameras supported by flashlights. But, all this will be powered by a 2700 mAh battery.
LeEco Le Max: The Le Max is almost as big as the Mi Max (with a 6.33-inch display) and that is the only similarity between the two if you tend to overlook the material the devices are externally made of. The Le Max has a QHD display, Snapdragon 810 chipset, 21MP camera on the back and a 4MP camera on the front. There’s a 3400 mAh battery powering the device.
Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016): Another large phablet with a 6-inch display, the Galaxy A9 and the A9 Pro for 2016 are decent options, but they carry a hefty price tag. The devices have a 1080p display, Snapdragon 652 chipset, and the battery is a killer on in the A9 Pro, with the 5000 mAh power and a 4000 mAh battery powers the A9 2016.
Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra: The biggest of the lot, the ZenFone 3 Ultra from ASUS has a 6.8-inch display and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 chipset powers the phone, just like in the Galaxy A9. If there is one perfect contender to the Xiaomi Mi Max, it has to be this. A 4600 mAh battery is included, and the camera combination includes a 23MP rear shooter and an 8MP front-facing shooter.
Not to forget, while we are talking about the alternatives, you need to keep in mind to check out about the Dual SIM functionality, the storage expansion, the build quality (Xiaomi has kept a good metal build), and the good display protection on the front. The readability is surely great on the Xiaomi Mi Max due to the large screen size, but it isn’t much different on the competing phablets and thus, no credits to the Max for that – it is the screen size that takes the credit, and Xiaomi isn’t alone to offer a device with such a large screen.