Xiaomi Mi Max – Review

Xiaomi mobiles are always unique in one way or the other. Xiaomi comes up with new mobiles in segments where there is little or no competition. Whether you really need it or not, that is a different question. But Mi Mobiles have always been an object of interest for its uniqueness and disruptive pricing. Mi Max, as the name suggests is the maximum size for a mobile. It has a large 6.44 inch display and that makes it the largest phablet that can be still be called a mobile and not a tablet.

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Xiaomi could come up with many use-cases and a need for such a large mobile, but does that make sense to you. Lets dive in and check out the Mi Max.

Design

Mi Max is a metal mobile and is made of aluminium alloy which gives it a premium look. The body is not completely metal. It has plastic on the top and bottom for the antenna housing. While the metal body gives it an aesthetic appeal, choice of material for a mobile of this size is questionable. Metal and plastic don’t have the same tensile strength. So the mobile can come apart or pop out if slightly bent.

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Being a large mobile with 6.44 inch display, it surprisingly feels comfortable to hold and handle. It has slightly tapered edges which makes it easy to hold it in hand. But this mobile is not for single handed operation. I could easily slip it inside my jean pocket. But had difficulty sitting or riding with it inside my pockets.

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It has a curved glass over the display and the menu keys are back lit. The display has thin bezels and hence the display to body ratio is high. Reaching the power buttons or fingerprint sensor may be a problem but it is a matter of getting used to. Overall, the Mi Max design gives me mixed feelings. It is definitely not a mobile for everyone. It is purely a mobile for people looking for large mobiles, who don’t move around much with the mobile and need a tablet experience in a mobile.

Display

The mobile got my attention just because of its large display. The display measures 6.44 inch diagonally and it supports 1080p resolution. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The brightness and color reproduction are spot on. Xiaomi mobiles usually have a fantastic outdoor visibility. But on the Mi Max, outdoor visibility was just average. It has good viewing angles, but the mobile is best enjoyed indoors. A large screen is good for media content consumption and gaming. But I wish the mobile had more than 1080p resolution. A QHD display on this this size, makes me drool even in my dreams. But with what we have in hand(s), the mobile has a decent display. The size is definitely not for everyone, but it is something you may get adjusted or addicted to, over a period of time.

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Performance

Mi Max is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor and it has 3 GB RAM and 32 GB internal memory. Memory can be expanded upto 256 GB at the expense of the second sim slot. There is also another variant of the Mi Max with 128 GB onboard storage and 4 GB of RAM. It makes sense to buy the 128GB variant for Rs 5000 more. However my test unit was the 3 GB variant and it was a pretty smooth performer. I faced no glitches while playing graphically intense games even when they were set under high graphics mode. The device did get a warmer by 4-5 degree after continuous gaming for more than 30 minutes. The mobile handled the MIUI smoothly as the UI was perfectly optimized for the hardware. Well, this six-incher definitely is a pleasing performer!

The mobile has a fingerprint sensor at the back. Reaching the fingerprint sensor was a big difficult as it is placed high up. But it won’t be an issue, if you using both your hand to handle the device. The fingerprint scanner is fast and accurate. It never failed and it is multi-functional as well. It can be enabled to secure your app and files.

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Telephonic performance was good and network latching was on target for most part of it. I tried the mobile on 3G, 4G and VoLTE networks and did not face any issue with call quality. The loud speaker was loud, but wish it had dual speakers for better media experience.

Camera

Mi Max has a 16 MP camera on the rear and a 5 MP front facing camera. The rear camera has a f/2.0 lens with dual LED flash. It is a decent camera set up, but handling it and taking pictures felt a bit weird. Considering the size, Xiaomi must have given this mobile a dedicated camera shutter. There could be a counter argument that the fingerprint sensor or the volume button can be a camera shutter, but that not where we hold the mobile usually. I wish there was a camera shutter button accessible to the right hand.

The camera UI is not new as we have seen it already in many MI devices. The user experience of the camera interface aids to the imaging experience of any camera. The Xiaomi camera app is very intuitive.The buttons and icons used are very minimal and unobtrusive. A swipe from the right brings in 12 different filters that can be used to add a bit of fun to your photos. Swiping from the left reveals the 7 modes. The HHT or the Hand Held twilight mode is basically night mode which reduces the blur due to the hand shake vibrations under low light conditions as the shutter speed is very slow. We have a timer to set the auto timer. Then we have the beautify mode which smooths the skin. Then we have the Panorama mode. We also get a manual mode to have fine grain control.

Check out the Camera sample below. Click to open in Flickr for full resolution.
Mi Max Camera Samples

The image quality is pleasing under ample light conditions. The images are sharp and have great dynamic range. There color reproduction and exposure is spot on for most of the time. If you want to change exposure on the fly, it can be done with the focus track icon on the ui. The auto-focus was bit dodgy. But the camera was fast and instantaneous. Under low light conditions, the camera is a below average performer. The images are blurred and focus lock is difficult. The dynamic range goes for a toss and I would not use this mobile under low light conditions.

Software

The day I got my hands on the mobile, MIUI 8 beta preview was available and I could not resist myself from installing MIUI 8. The mobile comes with MIUI 7.5 out of the box, but for the entire period of my review, I had MIUI 8 on it. MIUI 8 also based on Android 6.0 like MIUI 7, but it brings in bunch of new features. I particularly liked the scrolling screenshot feature. The quick ball is an intruisive UI and i chose to close it. The Notes and Calculator app got more intelligent. Dual apps and second space are my top features in MIUI 8. MIUI has always been my favorite among all the other Android UI skins and you wouldn’t find me complaining about it at all. The UI works smoothly with the hardware. The visual design is pleasing to use. I got frequent updates, which gives me a feeling that there is someone working tirelessly to make my mobile experience better. Overall, the Mi Max has a pleasing UI and it is snappy and smooth.

Battery

Being a tech blogger, I had to travel occasionally to cover events. During my review period I had to travel to Delhi for a couple of events. Usually I carry a DSLR and a powerbank. With the Mi Max, I decided to get adventurous and left the DSLR and powerbank at home. Leaving the DSLR at home was a bad idea as the Mi Max camera was not good enough under low light or indoor situations. But the mobile has a beast of a battery. It is powered by 4850 mAh battery and I ended up with 30% of battery left while returning home to Bangalore from Delhi. I watched over 2 hours of movies during my flight. I used the mobile continously for clicking pictures, videos and tweeting them. I had the Jio SIM on it and the 4G data was always on. With this intensive usage, I was still left with 30% of power at the end of the day. Now that is what I call “impressive”.

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The mobile supports Quick Charge 3.0, but the stock charger is not a quick charger. I used my own charger and I was happy with it. If you don’t have a quick charger, you might spend over 4 hours to get this mobile battery from 0% to 100%

Verdict

The Mi Max is no doubt a large device to hold in the hand. But this six inch is not here to please everyone. It has its own target. Most people prefer a handy size, when it comes to mobile. But if you want to mix and match tablet and mobile use cases, the Mi Max is the one to go for. The 3 GB variant is priced at Rs 14999 while the 4 GB variant is priced at Rs 19999. I would strongly recommend to go for the 4 GB variant which comes with 128 GB of internal memory, whenever it is available. I could not find an alternative mobile for the Mi Max from any other reputed brand out there. This is an uncharted territory and the Mi Max is the only option available within this price range for a phablet of this size.

Availability

It is also a welcome sign to see that Xiaomi has moved away from flash sales model. The 32 GB / 3 GB variant is available to buy from Mi.com, Amazon and Flipkart, while the 128 GB is not yet available.