Xiaomi, known as the ‘Apple of China’, is one of the largest smartphone manufacturers in the Mainland which set foot outside the continent to capture other markets on the globe. The tech giant made headlines and a massive turnover after they entered India two years ago and now there’s no stopping them. They have managed to impress almost the entire world by offering high-quality products at surprisingly affordable prices.
With the Mi 3 and Mi 4 flagships, a hit and the budget Redmi series being favoured by the budget-conscious segment, Xiaomi has been catering to both the budget and premium smartphone seekers with a cost-effective solution. After success of the Redmi Note 3 here in India, Xiaomi launched another mainstream smartphone, the Mi Max with a colossal 6.44-inch display.
The phablet barely managed to enter the tablet zone, has raised eyes in the market since all large smartphones today don’t exceed displays larger than 6-inches. However, Xiaomi says that they have studied the market well and are confident that the Mi Max will be favoured by many, if not most.
The Xiaomi Mi Max is really a large smartphone—no kidding. In fact, with similar hardware and features, it is just a ‘larger’ Redmi Note 3. The only possible differentiating factor would the large 4850mAh battery, the 6.44-inch display and the 16MP rear camera. When the first news hit me that Xiaomi is readying a large smartphone with a whopping 6.4-inch display, I said to myself, ‘will this product even work out?’ Well, after the teaser ads were out, Xiaomi boasted that the mammoth Mi Max is not really the Gulliver that we all are thinking of. They put out ads with the Mi Max comfortably sitting in the front pocket of a denim Jean. Well, they'd better impress me in person, I would say! Even the iPhone 6S was not favoured by many and most of the people I know are comfortable with a maximum 5.5-inch. That goes with the Redmi Note 3, a size similar to most flagships available today. But the Mi Max was huge! Really huge!
When I finally got to witness the Mi Max at the launch in June, I was still hesitant if the product really impressed me. However, my opinion changed after I started using the device myself for a few days. I personally own a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, which is barely above the 5-inch mark. Using the larger Redmi Note 3 for a while was comfortable though. in contrast, the Mi Max, did not seem as ‘big’ as one would expect—provided you get used to the large-screen device for a few days.
The Mi Max is definitely a giant—there’s no second though on it. However, after a few days of use, and you will probably change your statement about it. The product is great—looks good, is perfectly slim, has a decent performance, long running battery and definitely a sweet price tag. The large screen can benefit a plethora of uses, which include gaming, movies, web surfing, reading, online shopping, navigation, and more. nevertheless, the Mi Max is not a device that is meant for all. The device is aimed to those who would want a larger display to enjoy movies and photos and find browsing the internet on a smaller screen a little difficult.
The Mi Max is a 7.5mm slim Android smartphone and weighs 203g. The smartphone sports a white bezel around the display with an aluminium frame and rear panel. The Max sports the conventional capacitive touch buttons for home, back and recent. The SIM card tray is on the left, while the power and volume rocker takes its place on the right. The bottom sports a micro USB slot sandwiched between two grilles, of which one is a speaker and the other is a microphone. So basically, it has a mono speaker and not a stereo. The top highlights the headphone jack and an IR blaster which allows the Max to be used as a remote controller for your home appliances. The rear is a tad akin to that you would see on a Redmi Note 3—metal housing with capacitive fingerprint sensor towards the top-centre. The primary 16MP camera takes its place on the extreme edge of the top—similar to the Mi 5, and is accompanied by a dual tone LED flash. The device looks elegant, but the large size could be a slight giveaway.
The Mi Max sports a mammoth 6.44-inch full HD 1080p LCD display with a Gorilla Glass 3 protection and it features the Sunlight Display that Xiaomi seems to keep as a norm on all its smartphones ahead. Below the hood is a powerful mainstream Snapdragon 650 chipset with a hexa-core processor clocked at 1.8 GHz. Coupled for performance is 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 510 graphics processor together with 32GB of onboard storage. The storage can be expanded to an additional 128GB using a micro SD card. Xiaomi has also announced another Mi Max variant in India, which will feature 4GB of RAM and a whopping 128GB of storage with a Snapdragon 652 chipset and priced it just around 30 per cent higher. The 4GB/128GB variant will be on sale in later this year. The Mi Max actually sports four different variants—the two others are 3GB/16GB and 4GB/64GB, but they will be only sold in China. Presently, the models in India are only available in Gold and Silver, of which, the silver variant looks classy.
Moving ahead, the Max sports 16MP primary and a 5MP selfie camera. The connectivity options are Wi-Fi ac, Wi-Fi Display, Bluetooth 4.2, and 4G LTE dual SIM dual SIM hybrid slots (3-choose-2 hybrid SIM tray — nano SIM + micro SIM, or micro SIM + microSD card) The battery powering the Mi Max is a huge 4850mAh rated, and can easily give you around two days of casual use between a full charge.
The Mi Max will feel huge in your hands, especially if you have smaller palm sizes. Those with a larger palm could find this phone interesting. Since the Max is targeted to those who prefer a larger display for watching movies, internet browsing and gaming, I found it working for my daily work. It was a pain when using it while driving or using my bike—trust me, it is not comfortable when you are riding a bike with the Max in your pocket. However, I found it very useful when mounting it to my dashboard in my car. I did not need to strain my eyes as the large display fulfils the requirements for maps, directions, casual messaging chats and alike. At the same time, mounting it on the dashboard did give me one inconvenience—the fingerprint sensor. Since it is placed on the rear panel, reaching it was a huge task, and I only had the option of the pattern lock, which made my life a little miserable while driving. Xiaomi should implement a ‘drive mode’ feature where it probably would keep the smartphone unlocked and the display active when in transit.
The display is crisp, bright and the 1080p panel is great for video entertainment and gaming. I did not strain on locating where the pigs were in Angry Birds 2—the one and only game I seem addicted to. Using the smartphone whilst I was moving around the office was a little inconvenient too—I definitely would need a silicone case for additional grip. Using the Mi Max with a single hand is almost next to impossible—unless you turn on the one-hand-mode. However, typing on the large onscreen keyboard is a big welcome. The screen features Sunlight Display, which will allow you to comfortably read in broad daylight by adjusting the brightness and contrast depending on the ambient lighting. It sports a 450nit brightness, with a contrast ratio of 1000:1 and a NTSC color gamut of 72%. The dispolay also sports Night Display which will ensure reading comfort and reduce eye strain at night. The display also features colour adjustment from cool to warm.
Watching movies or playing games is absolutely bliss since the display is large. Watching a movie on a long journey or showcasing a short video to your friends, the larger screen size comes in handy. Playing games gives you a larger area to watch and control onscreen actions and keys. However, it will also depend on the games you play—if the controls on the display are far apart, those with smaller hands would find it difficult getting their fingers across. Also the large body would be a difficult to handle while playing certain games. Since the body has a smooth surface, we would advise using a silicone case to avoid it slipping off your hands. As in my case, I had a better experience when using it to navigate on Google maps when driving my car – one gets to see a larger area on the screen as compared to phones with smaller displays. As for the audio, I felt that Xiaomi should have done some more research on a louder speaker kit. The audio is just as loud as an average smartphone. If you are in an open area (outdoors), you would still have to strain to listen to vocals or dialogues. In a small, closed or silent room, it’s decent, but it lacks good-quality audio. I would suggest using a good pair or earphones to help with the audio.
The internal hardware is similar to the Redmi Note 3—infact, you stretch the Redmi Note 3 a little, and you would have a Mi Max. While using the phone in the initial stages was making me comfortable, a few days of regular use made me get used to the giant. Reaching out to the fingerprint sensor time and again was a little disturbing as my older smartphone had it on the home button, which was convenient. However, the rear fingerprint sensor is also convenient as when you hold your phone in your hand, your index finger automatically reaches (or rests) on the fingerprint sensor. Nevertheless, post the review period, I switched back to My Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and found myself imagining what using an Apple iPhone SE felt like.
The Mi Max runs on Xiaomi’s own home-brewed aftermarket custom Android-based ROM MIUI V7. The company announced the next version of MIUI (v8), which will be released in the next few weeks, and boasts of features that most phones don’t sport. MIUI v8 will make Mi Max better—a few functions on the MIUI v8 will make it easier to operate the giant phone.
As for the performance, the Mi Max is above average. Playing mid-range to a few high-end games is no issues. The phone will tend to heat up a little, but it cools down as fast as it heats up. No problems here.
The 16MP camera on the Mi Max does a fair job. It is not at par with the one on the Mi 5, but a few notches below. Though the quality seems above average, I struggled to get the camera focussed at macro range—had to be at least 6 inches to get a proper shot. I had a tough time trying to focus on tiny subjects in the frame. In low light, the camera struggles to focus on the subject. In brightly lit areas, the camera manages to capture come impressive shots. Brightness, contrast and colours are natural, but brightly lit areas in the frame tend to get overexposed. However, the results will not disappoint you.
As for the battery life, the Mi Max will surely give you an ample amount of run time. In my case, where I was using it intensively for work and play, I got a good 1.5 days until I had to hit the charger. If you are a moderate or light user, you can expect 2 + days on an average. However, the battery life completely depends on the amount of usage per day, the amount of apps you have been running in the background and the types of apps you are using.
The Xiaomi Mi Max is not the only smartphone – er – phablet – in the market which sports a larger than normal display. The Asus Zenfone 2 Ultra and the Huawei P8 Max stand at a whopping 6.8-inch screen, while the LeEco Le Max sports a 6.33-inch display. While they cost differently depending on the features they provide, the Mi Max is only one, which has an affordable price tag.
All in all, the Xiaomi Mi Max is a good smartphone, but I am not sure if it may please many. If you are a movie buff or prefer entertainment and gaming, and don’t want to spend too much on a smartphone, you could consider the Mi Max. Those who are uncomfortable with larger handset sizes could stay away, but we would still suggest that you use it before you decide—you could change your mind. As for the performance, you can expect above-average satisfaction. With a price tag of Rs 14,999, the Mi Max with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage is a sweet phablet to consider. With just Rs 5k more, you could opt for a 4GB RAM 128GB storage variant which will give you an added advantage, which includes a larger storage and slightly better performance. You have to witness and experience the Mi Max to change your perception about large-screen phones. While the Mi Max worked for me (though not completely) it is a catch 50-50 situation where some may need it or love it, while others may resist it completely....