Xiaomi Mi Max
Xiaomi’s Mi Max is a beast of a smartphone, with a hulking 6.44in screen, decent performance and a mammoth battery.
Our review unit came from GearBest, which offers free shipping to the UK, though you will more than likely be called on to pay import duty on its arrival in the UK.
As we will discuss below, you get an awful lot of phone for your money with the Mi Max, making it incredible value - especially to those of us used to paying in excess of £600 for phones of this quality. However, UK users should note there will be a few differences to the phones that are officially sold inside the UK.
First, although our review sample was preinstalled with Google Play, Xiaomi phones are not usually distributed running the software. If yours isn’t you can easily download it yourself from the included Mi App Store, at which point you will probably also like to download a UK keyboard such as the Google Keyboard.
As it stands you’ll find some Chinese preinstalled apps on the Mi Max (some of which you can uninstall; others can be tucked away from view in a dedicated folder), but on the whole it’s easy to find your way around.
Checking which frequency bands are supported by your network is also important when buying a phone such as the Mi Max. In the UK, for example, it supports the 1800- and 2600MHz 4G LTE bands, which is fine for all operators except O2, which relies solely on 800MHz for 4G (also Giffgaff and any other operators that piggyback O2’s network). You can still use the Mi Max on those networks, but you can’t use 4G.
We’ll start by stating the obvious: the Mi Max is enormous. Measuring 173x88mm and weighing 203g this is the largest phone we have ever reviewed. And yet it is incredibly thin – just 6mm thick – which stops it becoming overly unwieldy. It’s almost impossible to believe there is a 4850mAh battery inside, which promises excellent runtime.
The Mi Max is too big for this reviewer, but Xiaomi has made several software tweaks that make it easier to manage, and for many people it will be an ideal device for uses beyond making phone calls and sending texts (though the large screen will also come in handy here for those with eyesight problems). If you want to play games, view films and video, use a smartphone for navigation or as a drone flight controller, you absolutely can’t beat a huge-screen phone – and that’s exactly what we have here.
The Xiaomi Mi Max is fitted with a 6.44in full-HD screen, which runs virtually edge to edge (a thin black border surrounds it), and there is space at top and bottom for the back-, home- and recent buttons, and a speaker and front camera. This is a 2.5D curvededge panel, which combined with the slightly curved rear edges of this handset, make it easier to hold, with everything sitting flush to everything else. The screen is very decent, crystal clear and with good brightness and contrast, and excellent viewing angles.
If you want to play games, view films, use a handset for navigation or as a drone flight controller, you can’t beat a huge-screen phone
Build quality is impossible to fault. This is a metal unibody smartphone with a fingerprint scanner set into the rear, an easy index finger’s reach up as you cradle the Mi Max in your palm. Twin speaker grilles sit either side of the bottom-facing Micro-USB port, and a power button and volume rocker sit just within reach of the thumb on the Mi Max’s righthand side. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and, something that is becoming increasingly rare these days, an IR blaster.
Despite its enormous size, the Mi Max is a very good-looking phone: it’s big and it’s beautiful.
That’s not all the Mi Max has going for it either, since performance is outstanding at this price point – in general processing, in graphics and in runtime. We ran the Mi Max through our usual benchmarks, for which you can see the results below, but it’s important to note that even in real-world use this phablet feels fast and capable of whatever task you have in mind.
That’s not a huge surprise, fitted as it is with a hexa-core, 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor clocked at 1.8GHz, the Adreno 510 GPU and 3GB of RAM. Clearly flagship octa-core phones with 4GB (or now even 6GB) of RAM will outperform it, but this is sufficient muscle for everyday phone jobs.
More compelling still is the amount of storage packed inside this Xiaomi, with 32GB as standard (of which around 26GB is available) and an extra 128GB possible through microSD (though you will forfeit the second SIM slot in doing so). See all smartphone reviews.
And battery life is immense. We have seen smartphones outperform its 10-hour-dead Geekbench 3 result (6001 points), but none with a screen of this size. The battery doesn’t support wireless- or ‘Quick’ charging, but it is ridiculously capacious at 4850mAh.
For general performance analysis we ran the Mi Max through Geekbench 3 and AnTuTu 3D, and it managed respectable scores of 3825- (multi-core) and 74,156 points respectively.
We’ve touched on this earlier within this review, but the Xiaomi Mi Max is a 4G LTE Dual-SIM dual-standby phone – excellent for separating work and play, but with some limitations. Firstly, it doesn’t support the 800MHz 4G band in the UK, leaving some customers (particularly those of O2 and Giffgaff) in slower 3G territory. Secondly, you use the extra SIM slot at the expense of microSD support – though with 32GB of storage built in that may prove not to be too much of a hardship.
There’s no support for NFC, but the Xiaomi covers all other connectivity bases. There’s a decent fingerprint scanner, an IR blaster, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth.
The Mi Max is fitted with a 16Mp, f/2.0 camera at the back and a 5Mp, f/2.0 camera at the front. We found it took decent enough photos with vibrant colours and no glaring issues. As usual some missing detail is evident when viewed at full-size, but not enough that you can’t read a street sign from our seventh-floor roof terrace. On the whole, the Xiaomi is a good smartphone to have on hand when a photographic moment arises.
You get the same camera software as you do with other Xiaomi phones, which means a selection of real-time filters sit a swipe in from the right of the main camera interface, while camera modes are a swipe to the left. You’ll find the usual suspects, including panorama, timer, manual and beautify, as well as HHT, Tilt-shift and Fish-eye. Pressing and holding the shutter button can activate a burst mode, while HDR mode is accessed from the main camera screen. We found it did a good job of sorting out the shadows in our test shots (you can see our test pictures of St Pancras Renaissance Hotel opposite, first in Auto mode and second in HDR).
For video recording you can choose between standard (up to 4K video recording is possible), time-lapse and slow-motion modes, although we found the resulting footage a little jerky and sharp.
The Mi Max will be one of the first phones to run the MIUI 8.0 custom UI when it becomes available in August. Until then, our review sample is running MIUI 7.3 (based on
Android 6.0.1). As we’ve said many times before, Xiaomi phones aren’t the best-suited to novice users, since out of the box they don’t (usually) offer Google Play and there are several preinstalled Chinese apps and a Chinese keyboard. These are all things that are easy enough to sort out with a little know-how.
That’s assuming that the absence of Google Play and Google apps will be problematic to you, of course, and actually MIUI is a decent Android OS in its own right, with apps for just about everything you need, including email and media playback.
There are some nice features in MIUI, but also some notable differences. There is no app tray, for example, with app icons laid out on the home screen in an iOS-like fashion. The drop-down notification bar is also different, with a selection of quick access settings as you might expect but also a second pane for your notifications. And the Settings menu itself has a slightly different layout – it took us forever to discover how to adjust the screen timeout, which is not in the Display menu but in the Lock screen and password menu.
A couple of software features can make it easier to deal with – or perhaps benefit from – the enormous screen on the Mi Max: one-handed mode shrinks the screen size down to 4.5-, 4- or 3.5in with a simple gesture, while the ability to shrink or enlarge the system font and text size can either fit more onscreen or make full use of that space.
You’ll also find quite a lot in the way of customisation, with a number of themes available, plus the ability to tweak the notification LED colour. A pinch on the home screen brings up options to move apps, add widgets and alter the wallpaper and effects (the transitions as you move between home screens).
We also like the Child mode, which lets you allow access only to certain apps installed on your phone before handing it over to the kids.
If you want a huge phone and you don’t want to pay as large a wedge of cash, the Xiaomi Mi Max is a fantastic phablet with good looks, decent performance, strong runtime and, most importantly of all, a gigantic screen. Not ideal for novice users, but otherwise the Mi Max is a highly recommended smartphone.