A decent filling, excellent display, convenient for the consumption of content on the road gadget format – and this at a price of $ 200. I’ll try to figure out whether Xiaomi Mi Max really offers the maximum for its money.

How I got sick with microplates

In 2013, Sony inadvertently created a new category of devices – microplates. Since then, a pair of decent, but expensive alternatives to the Xperia Z Ultra , including the 6.8-inch Huawei P8max, have appeared. A good gadget, but after a long conversation with the Huawei MediaPad X1, I was afraid to contact the “Chinese” again. There were a number of straining nuances in the proprietary shell, which could not be removed in any way due to the almost complete absence of alternative firmware.

I note that the main smartphone since 2007, I have an iPhone. Only generations have changed. Currently it is iPhone 6s Plus , before it was iPhone 6 Plus . As a backup gadget, I always tried to take something on Android – a joy for the Gadget man’s soul, plus an alternative OS is sometimes required for work.

Having worked with Samsung smartphones for a long time, I decided to experience exotics in the face of Sony Xperia Z Ultra. First of all, I was impressed with the convenient size specifically for the consumption of content on the road – watching movies, YouTube, surfing the web, reading. But there were downsides, like an erasable oleophobic coating, a mediocre camera, no flash, and little dynamics.

 

He continued to search for the perfect companion for the iPhone and tried the Huawei MediaPad X1 – good, but the video is worse because of a different aspect ratio (16:10 vs. 16: 9), plus brakes due to poor Android adaptation for the old generation of branded Kirin processors and the features of the Emotion UI branded shell mentioned above.

 

The next one was purchased by the Samsung Galaxy Tab S , which pleased the chic display, but upset by the weak autonomy and wild zhory of the battery in standby mode (up to 30–50% per night). It was possible to be confused with alternative firmware, but such a desire did not arise. Yes, and the size turned out to be too big, you won’t put it in your belt bag.

 

As a result, Samsung’s flagship tablet found a new owner, and I continued to experiment with the more compact One Plus One and Nexus 6 models . Excellent devices, and the latter is still in stock, but more often lies at home than traveling with me. It will soon become the main phone of the wife, as the old man Nexus 4 began to pass.

 

I finally came to the conclusion that when using a 5.5-inch iPhone as the main smartphone, there is not much point in the same diagonal of the display of the Android-phone in my case. Yes, it is a container for a second SIM card, but no more. The rest of the functions and copes with the iPhone – watching movies, surfing the web, social networks. No new impressions.

I wanted a broader functionality and here I remembered the experience with Xperia Z Ultra. Comparing it with other models tested for three years, I realized that such a format is an ideal version of the Android companion for the iPhone. Compact enough to take up minimal space in any, even belt bag, while the display diagonal is very comfortable for watching videos, surfing the web and other Internet activities. Plus, it’s good to work with the Google on-screen keyboard with two hands in any orientation of the display (typing on the road, mail, replies to comments, communication in social networks, etc.).

As it turned out, now there are a lot of cool alternatives to the old man from Sony. Among them, Xiaomi Mi Max , Huawei Honor Note 8 and ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra . So far only the first one is available on the market, and I have long wanted to touch the gadgets of this company and the branded MIUI shell. What actually did. I share my impressions.

Not for all

 

Only a small group of users who clearly understand the nuances of working with these gadgets will be able to play the role of the main phone of a monstrophy with a display diagonal of more than six inches. I tried to use Xperia Z Ultra in this mode and it did not last long for me. And the experience of operating Xiaomi Mi Max only reminded about those impressions.

Initially, enthusiasm is boiling with a sincere belief that you will get used to size, and the tablet will quietly replace both a full-fledged tablet and a phone. That is, it will not be necessary to carry two devices with you. But this is only until such time as you need to put it in your jeans pocket, and there is no possibility to take a bag with you.

The second point is using the phone with one hand. Even with 5.5-inch devices, difficulties and sufferings arise. Without fear of dropping the smartphone, you can only do the simplest operations, like calling a favorite contact (3D Touch rules here). But not more. Such manipulations with a 6.5-inch phone are fraught with its fall and sad consequences. Or damage to the joints of the fingers.

It is worth remembering about the cool chip Xiaomi with a decrease in the active area of ​​the screen from 3.5 to 4.5 inches for the user’s choice (configured in the options). He made a gesture from the Home button to the right or left, and the picture skukozhilas to the selected size, moving in the appropriate direction. In part, this should solve the problem of using a smartphone with one hand in a situation when “urgently needed.” In practice, the smartphone strives to fall out at the very moment when you try, holding it with one hand, to perform the aforementioned gesture.

 

But the fingerprint scanner on the back for a quick unlock of a large smartphone is very convenient, but I’ll tell you about it a bit later.

Hopefully, rose-colored glasses have flown away from potential users. Now you can discuss directly the gadget itself.

Tricky specifications

Mi Max has an interesting feature in the stuffing – the same model can be equipped with different amounts of RAM and processor cores. With the first in the past, only Huawei romped, but shamanism with cores is the know-how of Xiaomi.

In particular, the following device configuration options are available on the market :

  • 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of flash memory, 6-core Qualcomm MSM8956 Snapdragon 650 processor (two Cortex-A72 1.8 GHz cores and four Cortex-A53 1.4 GHz cores, Adreno 510 GPU);
  • 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of flash memory, a 6-core Qualcomm MSM8956 Snapdragon 650 processor (two Cortex-A72 1.8 GHz cores and four Cortex-A53 1.4 GHz cores, Adreno 510 GPU);
  • 3 GB of RAM, 64 GB of flash memory, 8-core Qualcomm MSM8976 Snapdragon 652 processor (four Cortex-A72 1.8 GHz cores and four Cortex-A53 1.4 GHz cores, Adreno 510 GPU);
  • 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB of flash memory, 8-core Qualcomm MSM8976 Snapdragon 652 processor (four Cortex-A72 1.8 GHz cores and four Cortex-A53 1.4 GHz cores, Adreno 510 GPU).

Other characteristics are identical:

  • Display : 6.44 inches, resolution 1920 × 1080 pixels, 342 ppi, glass Gorilla Glass 3, brightness – 420 cd / m2, contrast 950: 1, sRGB color coverage – 91%.
  • Network : GSM, HSDPA, LTE (FDD-LTE 1, 3, 7), support for two SIM-cards (microSIM, nanoSIM), support for 4G + and VoLTE.
  • MicroSD slot (combined with nanoSIM slot, supports cards up to 128 GB, FAT32).
  • Interfaces : Wi-Fi (ac / b / g / n) Dual-Band, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, microUSB for charging / synchronization, 3.5 mm audio jack, IR port.
  • Cameras : primary – 16 MP with autofocus and flash, f / 2.0; frontal – 5 MP, f / 2.0.
  • Navigation : GPS (there is support for A-GPS), Glonass.
  • Sensors : fingerprint scanner, accelerometer, ambient light and proximity sensors.
  • Battery : 4850 mAh, there is support for Quick Charge 3.0 (80% charge in 30 minutes).
  • Dimensions : 173.1 x 88.3 x 7.5 mm.
  • Weight : 203 g

What does it really mean

The real speed of the Snapdragon 650/652 processor is comparable to the Snapdragon 810, which stood in most of the last year’s flagships, including the HTC One M9, Sony Xperia Z5, Nexus 6P and Samsung Galaxy Note 5 . That is, such performance is more than enough for any needs of ordinary citizens.

Personally, in this regard, the apparatus is more than satisfactory. By the way, I took a model with a 3/64 GB RAM / Flash average performance and with an 8-core Snapdragon 652. There are no complaints about interface lags or incomprehensible delays when launching applications and switching between them, which is often seen in Nexus 6 (Snapdragon 805). The browser works fine, clients of social networks and Gmail fly, watching Full HD video in MX Player is great (also thanks to the large display).

Moreover, for those who like to play, the capabilities of a smartphone are also enough. Especially against the background of the fact that the resolution of the screen is Full HD, not 2K. Returning to the comparison, the Adreno 510 video chip lags behind the Adreno 430 in the Snapdragon 810 by about 50%, but is comparable in speed to the popular Mali-T880 (this is installed in the flagship Huawei, like Mate 8).

For example, graphically loaded Hearthstone flies, while on the Nexus 6 it fiercely slows down. One of the best modern scrolling shooters Sky Force Reloaded works well. Beautiful and high-quality Xenowerk functions smoothly, no worse than the iPhone 6s Plus.

 

Please note that we are talking about a model with 3 GB of RAM. There is a basic version with 2 GB – I do not recommend it for purchase. If you don’t notice much difference in the speed of the processor, the lack of memory can be felt. The fact is that in my operation scheme, 700–800 MB of RAM is usually free, that is, the device easily used more than 2 GB of memory, although no more than 5–6 applications were launched in the background (browser, social network clients, YouTube).

The display is one of the most important components, since it is for its contemplation that we spend most of the time when interacting with a smartphone. Xiaomi Mi Max has it all right. The picture is smooth (meets the canons of Retina), the color rendition is good, there is no blockage in warm or cold shades, comparable to the iPhone 6s Plus. The colors are slightly more juicy, and the black level in complete darkness is better than that of the flagship Apple. Glow almost imperceptibly when using auto-brightness.

This is a good display, but do not expect a miracle. For example, it glares more than the screen of the iPhone 6s Plus or the latest Samsung flagships. In the conditions of room lighting brightness is enough, but on the street, but on a sunny day, it is inferior to the flagship models. Although even in direct sunlight, the screen remains readable. Working with him in total darkness is also comfortable, the minimum level of brightness is impressive.

Auto-brightness is moderate. It adapts quickly enough when you come out of the dark into the light, but in the opposite direction – slowly. So, when I start reading in the dark, the first 20 seconds the phone shines like a flashlight, and then dramatically reduces the brightness to a comfortable level.

Sound – there are no complaints on all fronts. In particular, the speaker is loud enough for any conditions (even a noisy street) and aiming at their ears during a conversation is not necessary. The external speaker is one, located on the lower edge on the left, moderately loud and bass, at the maximum volume does not wheeze, but without revelations. Up to the level of iPhone 6s Plus does not reach, but does not cause negative emotions either. For games and videos on YouTube is enough. By the way, the same Nexus 6 is inferior in quality of acoustics – less bass and at maximum volume breaks into a rattle, but there is a plus due to stereo and two speakers.

 

There are no revelations for the 3.5 mm audio jack, excluding a set of equalizer presets for Xiaomi brand headphones. I use Poweramp with my own very decent EQ, so adjusting the sound is not a problem. Again, without revelations – the middle audio path, able to shake any headphones with reasonable resistance (up to 32 ohms). I myself switched to Bluetooth headphones , so I don’t bother with wired ones.

The telephone part and the microphones work fine. The interlocutor hears me well, and so am I. The signal holds the phone with dignity and the quality of reception is comparable with the iPhone 6s Plus.

The capabilities of the built-in cameras are enough to shoot some documents, or to create good photos and selfies in very good lighting (street, sun). In the daytime in more or less normal conditions of room lighting is also ok But when the light is not enough, then the result will be sad. This is a normal situation for most mid-level Android smartphones. Personally, this moment does not bother me, since the main smartphone is iPhone 6s Plus, and his camera is fine.

The advantages of the camera can only include a rich set of settings and effects, like fish. Quickly called svaypami.

The body of the Mi Max is mostly made of aluminum, only the top and bottom of the plastic insert. Due to the narrowing edges, it seems even thinner than it actually is, although there are no frills in the design. The camera protrudes slightly outside the case, and the transition between the plastic plates and the metal is a little rougher than we would like. But it is noticeable with direct tactile contact and in everyday use does not bother.

The display is covered with Gorilla Glass 3, and it is rounded at the edges, but the so-called 2.5D effect is minimal and not as noticeable as in the iPhone 6 and even in the Nexus 6. Nevertheless, it is in the subject.

I especially liked the hardware controls: the power button and the volume control rocker do not hang out, they are monolithic, click a clear and moderately hard. Random clicks have never been.

The phone is assembled tightly . I did not notice the squeaks of plastic inserts, which some smartphone owners complained about in the thematic discussion threads.

Separately, I want to highlight a fingerprint scanner , located on the rear panel. It works instantly and with 100% accuracy. I did not even expect such agility from the scanner in the middle-class Android-phone. In addition, his work is implemented very well, plus there is support in third-party software (for example, in 1Password and also at the system level).

 

The battery is powerful , but, most importantly, the software is perfectly adapted and there is no unnecessary zhora of energy in standby mode. For two days of very active use of the battery is easy enough. And if you use is not very active, then for three days. With an average brightness level, you can count on 12–13 hours of video playback, more than 8 hours of games, or more than 15 hours of work in read mode. Contribute to autonomy and flexible power saving settings (cleaning RAM on schedule, shutting down certain modules in standby mode or if the charge is less than a certain percentage, etc.).

Of the other hardware features like the presence of a notification LED to the right of the front camera – it is invisible when extinguished. Notifies about new notifications (blinking blue) and charging status (less than 80% – is amber, more than 80% is green).

 

There is also an infrared port for controlling home appliances – a trifle, but nice. Especially in conjunction with the proprietary utility Mi Remote, with which I connected the smartphone with the LG TV in the living room in just 30 seconds.

 

Finally, I pay attention to the support of two SIM-cards (both can be 3G or LTE). It is a pity that one of the slots is combined with microSD and that is nanoSIM. I had to look for an adapter c nano on microSIM in order to install both my SIM from Nexus 6 and a memory card. But it is better when there is a second slot than when it is not.

One feature is associated with microSD – although cards up to 128 GB are supported, inclusive, but only in FAT32 format, that is, you cannot write a file of more than 4 GB. For example, Samsung smartphones and tablets without any problems are dragging on progressive exFAT.

Operating experience and software

The smartphone runs on Android OS 6.0.1 and proprietary shell MIUI 7.4 . For younger models based on the Snapdragon 650 processor, global firmware with MIUI 8 is already available, but for versions with Snapdragon 652 the company promises to release it only in September.

The device obviously got to me with custom firmware, since there is still no official global for it even on the basis of MIUI 7, only Chinese. Nevertheless, the software works stably, and so far there are no complaints, excluding the fact that I will have to change it for the global firmware by hand and by wire, and not by air and in automatic mode. Well, at the same time I will test the Mi Cloud backup and synchronization system.

Even before the purchase of Xiaomi Mi Max, there were concerns about proprietary software – Chinese covers are too far from Google’s design guidelines for Android. Too radical, which was especially acutely felt when using the Huawei MediaPad X1: strong zakos under iOS, strictly square (and crooked) icons, the overall “weight” of the interface visually, many problems with security, to the extent that applications cannot display a window on the screen over the main UI, etc. But in the case of MIUI, the fears were in vain, and I understood why people praise this shell so much, often using Root access to install it on third-party smartphones.

In general, MIUI was pleasantly surprised on all fronts. One feels the great work of the Xiaomi team and the consideration of the wishes of users. So, I personally wanted to see many realized functions on other used devices. For example, the ability to temporarily disable touch buttons that can be accidentally pressed during a game. Here it is implemented from the quick settings curtain. To activate the buttons again, just double-click on Home.

 

Or how conveniently the flash operation in flashlight mode is implemented: activated through the notification shutter, clicking on the power button turns off the screen, a second click on it also extinguishes the flashlight. In other Android-based smartphones, including Nexus, to turn off the flashlight, you need to call the notification curtain and click on the corresponding icon (and before that press the power button if the screen has gone off).

Corporate task manager was pleased no less. Firstly, there is a display in the form of application icons or thumbnails, changing the gesture “pinch”. Secondly, you can block this or that application in the manager so that it does not close when forced memory is cleared (click the cross at the bottom of the screen). Just drag the icon or thumbnail down and release. Plus, the classic display in the form of cards instead of a cascade from Android 5+ I like a lot more. Somehow it is more functional and convenient.

Of the other pleasant things, which are actually a lot in MIUI, I want to draw attention to the convenient setting of the desktop. You can collect all the icons on different desktops in the buffer from the bottom and then unload them into the desired folder in a crowd, rather than push them one by one through all the screens. A good flexible system for setting notifications, up to the activation or prohibition of the display of icons in the status bar.

I am delighted with the work of the fingerprint scanner, when one touch immediately takes you to the desktop or to the screen of the application that was activated before clicking on the power button. This is also useful when using the phone with one hand. Activating it through a scanner in this mode with one hand is easy – the index finger itself rests on the sensor panel when you take the smartphone in your palm. That is, took the device out of the bag, one touch and now you continue reading in AlReader or Pocket (scrolling with the volume buttons in these applications also helps in one-handed mode).

By itself, the MIUI interface is easy, smart, with a good selection of transition effects between desktops, widgets (calculator, to-do list and calendar very much) and the ability to change themes. There is a theme and wallpaper shop.

Special mention deserves proprietary utility Security . In this regard, I have always liked the approach of Chinese manufacturers supplying their smart phones with ready-made solutions for protection against viruses and a set of utilities for cleaning and optimizing the gadget.

In this case, one place contains antivirus, application rights management services (autorun, permissions to certain actions), cleaning RAM and drive, tracking traffic, blacklist, autonomy optimizer and utility to protect access to applications using a fingerprint scanner. Yes, it is easy to block any program from curious citizens.

I also liked the “ Children’s mode ” when you yourself determine which applications are available to the child in it. The younger son often asks for a smartphone on the road in order to play if the adults go about their business and he misses. Naturally, a child can call and launch an application that he shouldn’t run, and can be found in the settings. In the “Children’s mode”, this problem is solved in the bud: the baby has an empty desktop with icons of allowed applications, that’s all. To get out of it you need a fingerprint of the parent or enter the code if you do not use the scanner.

Of the minuses, I ran into the fact that you can not install live wallpapers. Rather, they are installed and even run, but it is worth blocking the smartphone, unlocking and everything – a static picture returns.

The second caveat – while the Google Now On Tap function is not working . This is the one that, by a long tap on the Home button, scans the contents of the screen and gives accompanying clues (how to get to the café, transport schedule, translate text on the screen, etc.). I can not say that I was very annoying. On Nexus 6, I used it only a couple of times, but this is the case.

For the rest – continuous positive. The smartphone works smartly, the interface is nice, easily adaptable to my needs and much more functional than the “naked” Android on Nexus gadgets. I’d add Xiaomi an option so that the application icons do not fit into a square with rounded corners, and in general beauty. By the way, such a chip appeared in the Samsung Grace TouchWiz UI, which debuted in Galaxy Note 7 .

Do not forget that on the nose release MIUI 8, in which there was a mass of pleasant things and innovations. With a strong desire for custom firmware with the new interface, you can install it now, but I will wait for the global and official with updates over the air.

What is the result. The device perfectly replaced the Nexus 6, while I got a more nimble smartphone with the ideal display size for any content consumption, be it watching videos, reading, surfing the web, social networks, etc. Naturally, I filled it with video (aided by 64 GB own memory + 64 GB microSD) and everything you need to have an occupation in any situation.

Now, without fear, I give it to the child, in the assurance that he is not satisfied with the local Armageddon. I carry with me everywhere and always, plus this is a personal alarm clock and a bedside gadget. If you had a bedside table, the iPad Pro would use it, but there are no bedside tables, and it is not convenient to place a tablet by the pillow.

To recommend Xiaomi Mi Max

  • Anyone who is looking for a relatively inexpensive, but productive small-sized tablet with a SIM slot. Mi Max has everything you need. Without compromise and for very modest money.
  • Those who wish to get a truly universal smartphone to replace the phone and tablet, so as to carry only one device with them. Just be prepared for its size and the fact that it is almost impossible to work with it with one hand. Plus a rather mediocre camera.
  • Those who are looking for a replacement for Sony Xperia Z Ultra. The hero of the review is more compact (not so wide frames), has a better display and a very pleasant and highly customizable interface.

Alternatives

In fact, with the current cost of Xiaomi Mi Max from $ 200 to $ 380 (depending on the model), he has no real competitors among the monsters. But several interesting alternatives of this format still appeared.

So, recently Huawei Honor Note 8 was announced . It is distinguished by a 6.6-inch AMOLED-display with a resolution of 2K (1440 × 2560 pixels, 443 ppi), but the size increased by 0.16 inches is leveled by the fact that the Android system buttons are on-screen, not hardware. How good the color rendition is there is also a question. In the Nexus 6, the display is very yellow, and in the Huawei Nexus 6p, which supposedly has a high-quality Samsung AMOLED-matrix, an analogue of that in Galaxy Note 4, somehow it was not a fountain.

 

The processor is slightly more productive (about 20%), but the Mali-T880 MP4 GPU is similar to the Adreno 510 in terms of speed. Add to this an increased resolution in comparison with Mi Max and get only a minus in gaming performance. And the quality of adaptation of the drivers from the HiSilicon Kirin 955 branded chips still leaves much to be desired.

But the camera is definitely better, judging by the reviews of eyewitnesses, the assembly is better, the design is slightly more interesting, although the dimensions are larger (3 mm wider and 5 mm higher, but 0.3 mm thinner), and the battery less capacious (4500 mAh) . Price also decides. The younger model Huawei Honor Note 8 (32 GB of memory, 4 GB of RAM) will cost the same money as the older Mi Max (128 GB of memory, 4 GB of RAM).

The second modern alternative is ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra . It is very similar in characteristics (amount of memory, processor), but it has a larger display (6.8 inches, Full HD), the camera module is better and there is NFC. The price is much higher (+ $ 150 with a similar configuration). I personally would vote for Xiaomi ruble. But I will also look at alternatives with pleasure.

In the dry residue

Xiaomi Mi Max is undoubtedly good , but it’s worth skepticism about the devices of the company. To this end , I propose that you familiarize yourself with the sobering article of Nikita Goryainov and in many respects I agree with him.

First, quality control at Xiaomi, Meizu and other popular “Chinese” is simpler, except that Huawei keeps the bar in its flagships and middling. Often, buying a gadget turns into a lottery, although I was lucky with Xiaomi Mi Max . And there are comrades who are not lucky. In some, the display collapses in cold colors (“blues”), in others the uneven illumination of the touch buttons (the “menu” key almost does not glow), in the third, plastic panels creak.

Do not forget about software support. All is well, while the smartphone is new. But will there be an official firmware based on Android 7 for Mi Max ? I’m not so sure.

 

Whatever it was, but at the current time among the monstrophon competitors in price / quality, the hero does not have a review. I am personally pleased with them and just calmed down for the next six months with Android smartphones. Yes, I would like to touch Galaxy Note 7, but, as I wrote above, I do not see the point in an identical diagonal smartphone as a companion for iPhone 6s Plus. If I decide to change the main mobile platform, then I will pay attention to the Korean flagships. These are really worthy devices, albeit with their own “cockroaches”, such as problems with autonomy and “zhora” of energy in standby mode.