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Review: Xiaomi’s Mi Max – a big-screen smartphone aimed at heavy media users

A huge screen and big battery, which come in a slim metallic chassis and with a relatively small price tag – Xiaomi’s Mi Max just might be the mid-range handset that you have been waiting for, as long as you are not big on taking high-quality photos or selfies.

Design and hardware

I went into the review dreading having to live with this behemoth of a phone, especially since I typically exercise with one. I was right for the most part. The Mi Max takes the term “phablet” to some extremes with its 6.44-inch display.

It’s not a comfortable fit at 88mm (iPhone 6+ is 77mm). My hands are small and I need two hands to operate it. Vertically, my thumb can’t get anywhere near that notification bar.

But thanks to the one-handed mode, a tap on the Home button followed directly by a swipe of the back button allows you to pick screen sizes between 3.5- and 4.5-inch simulations in the big screen. At least that is a compromise of sorts.

As for aesthetics, the design of the back is clean, occupied visibly by the camera and the fingerprint sensor. It would have been fine were it not for the two-toned colour between the aluminium body and the plastic caps at the top and bottom of the device. There is a visible seam between the parts and the colours are a shade off.

Another telltale sign: chamfers on the body are clearly shiny and metallic and those on the caps are not. What’s not forgivable is how the body bends at the slightest pressure. For a phone this size it should be doubly important for the structural strength to be extra high, but obviously that is not the case.

Display and features

The 6.44-inch LCD panel has a 1080p (1080×1920) HD display. Calculations show that this translates to roughly 340 pixels per square inch (ppi), which is slightly less than the 400ppi of the latest retina displays from Apple. Generally speaking the display quality is fine. Legibility remains unhindered under direct sunlight, as not only the brightness but also the contrast get an adjustment. Media consumption, videos, games especially are a joy on a screen this big.

But where is the Google Now On Tap? Holding the Home button brings up the standard Google search app rather than Google’s magical contextual aware search feature.

Camera

The 16-megapixel camera is the perfect example of one where megapixels aren’t everything (or anything, in this case). Whether you’re taking photos during the day, indoors or at night, you cannot hope for any sort of output that comes close to “good”. Every aspect of a poor camera – blur, muted colours, noise, grain… you can find in photos taken with the Mi Max. For bearable results, keep HDR switched on. You’ll be better off not taking the camera seriously and make use of the included effects for fun instead.

Performance and battery life

Equipped with a Snapdragon 650 processor, the Mi Max sits firmly on the mid-tier shelf. It’s by no means slow because on synthetic benchmarks it surpasses last year’s fastest chip – the Snapdragon 810 – comfortably.

It scores roughly the same as the Huawei Mate 8, which was released in February and was considered at the time one of the fastest phones this year. Under real world usage, it’s very serviceable and does not cause too many embarrassing stutters and wait times.

The giant phone, thankfully, comes with a giant battery. With a 4850mAh capacity, two days of medium usage is the norm.

Conclusion

The Xiaomi Mi Max is not the phone for everyone. It’s made specifically for the media consumption crowd – those who like to catch their TV shows and take their games with them will really appreciate the screen real estate. It’s too bad the speaker did not see the same amount of consideration as the display and remains tinny and unsatisfying.

My buying advice is, be sure you know you need a display this big. And while it does present a lot of value for money, you do get what you pay for. Not everything about the phone is great but it does follow through with its main selling points well – big display, big battery. Be sure you’ve got jeans with really big pockets.

Price: HK$1,799

Screen size: 6.44”, 1080×1920

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 32GB

Colour: Gold

CPU: Snapdragon 650, Hexacore

mi.com/hk/mimax/

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