Xiaomi tried something different last year. Instead of continuing with the regular screen sizes (between 4-inches to 5.5-inches), Xiaomi introduced a smartphone with a massive 6.44-inch display. It wasn’t the first one to do so, however, as Lenovo had already released its Phab series back then. At the time of the Mi Max launch, Xiaomi India bet on a large display phone, almost nearing the 7-inch tablet size, along with a large battery capacity. Xiaomi managed to sell over three million units of the device.
Clearly, the device resonated with a lot of consumers. One year later, Xiaomi is back with the next version of the large screen device, simply called Mi Max 2. Will it repeat the magic of the first iteration? Let us find out below.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
The Xiaomi Mi Max 2 has undergone a design refresh, which is especially noticeable when you place it beside the earlier model. For starters, the edges have got the rounding treatment, and it's unlike the Mi Max, where the rear side of the phone just curved in around the corners. The body is all metal and there are no plastic bits on the top and bottom edge, as was the case with the Mi Max. Thereby making it slightly heavier than the Mi Max. The black coloured Mi Max 2 that I had for review has a metal back which can tend to get quite slippery at times. Whoever held the device, the first thing they pointed out was how slippery it was, this was even before turning it on (Take note, Xiaomi!). The antenna lines curve around the top and bottom edges, which tend to almost merge with the black colour.
On the rear side, you have the circular fingerprint scanner in the top half and the 12 MP camera module is present on the top left-hand corner along with a dual LED flash unit. The base houses the USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer. Beside the USB port are the speaker grilles, only one side of which houses a speaker. The other speaker section is within the ear piece.
Coming to the front, there is the 6.44-inch display, which has slimmer bezels on the side as compared to the top and bottom. At the top, you have the earpiece speaker, ambient light sensor and a 5 MP front-facing camera. The left-hand edge houses the hybrid dual SIM tray and on the right-hand side, there are the power/standby and volume rocker buttons. These are made of metal and have good feedback.
Overall, the build quality of the Mi Max 2 is quite good, but I would’ve liked a bit more grip on the device. But this can be overcome by putting on a cover. While the size of the phone is huge, it did manage to fit into my jeans' pockets, although with the top portion jutting out. One-handed use is out of the question though, unless you use it in the one-handed mode, which I would avoid as the phone feels top heavy when held in one hand.
One would assume that Xiaomi would have gone all out with the second generation Mi Max, but that is not the case. On the display side, things haven’t really changed. You still get a 6.44-inch Full HD display. It houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC which comes with eight Cortex A53 cores clocked at 2.0 GHz along with an Adreno 506 GPU. The Mi Max came with a more powerful Snapdragon 652 chipset. Now while the number may be higher, you need to note that the Snapdragon 652 was built on the 28 nm process, whereas the Snapdragon 625 is built on the 14 nm process. Overall, the result should be a device that's almost as powerful as its predecessor, but at the same time, much more efficient.
You get a 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage option on the Mi Max 2 along with the option to expand the storage to 256 GB. Since this phone comes with a hybrid SIM card slot, you will need to sacrifice one slot for either a microSD card or a second SIM card.
The rear camera is now a 12 MP Sony IMX386 unit with an f/2.2 aperture and there is a 5 MP front-facing camera. The phone comes with a "dual-stereo" effect with one speaker section on the base and the other being the earpiece speaker. A massive 5,300 mAh battery powers the device.
In terms of connectivity, you get dual band LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS and even FM radio.
The 6.44-inch display is the highlight of the Mi Max 2. Just like its earlier version, the Mi Max 2 also comes with a Full HD display. The 2.5D display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, thereby making it scratch and smudge resistant. The brightness levels of the display are quite good. It can get a tad reflective at times though, and you would like to avoid any direct light source in the background. But considering the 6.44-inch display, I would have liked to see scaling options which would let me add more app icons per row. As it stands, you can only adjust the text size and there are four app icons per row, which seems like an unnecessary waste of space. This is a bummer because if you have a lot of apps, there will be that many home screens to swipe through. Either that or you'll have to use multiple folders.
In terms of the video viewing experience, there wasn’t much of a problem. But viewing angles are not the best. You can immediately spot a contrast shift if you look at it from even a slight angle. For a smartphone which capitalises on the content consumption audience, this isn’t desirable. Agreed, you will be viewing content with the phone placed in a limited angle range. But it is still surprising that Xiaomi would even remotely consider compromising on this aspect of the display.
The text appears sharp. Black levels are not the best, but are good enough. There were instances when watching a dark scene in a video that we noticed some backlight bleeding. This does not affect the movie viewing experience, but if you are coming from an AMOLED display device, you will tend to notice these issues. Gaming was quite a good experience on the big screen.
OS and Software: 7.5/10
The Xiaomi Mi Max 2 runs Android Nougat 7.1.1 out of the box, of course with the MIUI 8.5 skin atop it. It does come pre-bundled with a lot of apps which you may or may not want to use. The UI has become familiar to a lot of Xiaomi users over the years. One interesting feature that is present on the MIUI 8 is Dual apps, which lets you run two instances of the same app on the phone. Think two WhatsApp accounts tied to different numbers on the same phone. Second Space lets you have two front ends for different occasions, such as work or home.
As mentioned in the display section, I would have liked to see the option of scaling the icons. It just makes sense to have that feature on such a large display so that you can pack more app icons per homepage. You also get the Reading mode, which cuts down on the blue light. The battery section is granular to a level where you can go into individual apps and set if you want it to run the background, for saving power. There is a Quick Ball button which lets you access quick functions or apps, up to five of them. It is quite a handy feature.
The split-screen functionality which Xiaomi advertises as one of the major features, and something that should be a no-brainer for a device with a large display such as the Mi Max 2, is yet to see the light of the day on the device. Right now, you will need to run a beta version of MIUI to activate the Split screen mode. Why it is not on by default is something only Xiaomi can answer.
There were a few instances when taking or cutting a call that I noticed some strange bugs. For instance, the music would sometimes not stop when receiving a call. At other times, I'd have to tap multiple times on the end call button to end the call. These are issues which can be resolved with software updates in the future.
First things first, the Mi Max 2 is a step down from the Mi Max in terms of performance numbers. The Snapdragon 625 along with 4 GB RAM gives decent performance numbers for its price segment, but it isn’t anywhere close to flagship territory, so don’t set very high expectations from the device. When it comes to day to day usage, there isn’t much to complain about. The segment towards which this phone is targeted is that one that values a large display and a big battery. And on those fronts, there aren’t many pain points (although the display does have some).
When it came to gaming, there was some micro stutter noticeable while playing Asphalt Xtreme. It isn’t a big problem though and does not mar the overall experience. One thing I really liked was the fact that there was no sudden heating of the device even while playing heavy, 3D games. This is a definite plus point in a hot country like ours. There were also no instances of random app shutdowns. Call quality is top notch, you just have to get used to handling such a large phone while taking a call. On the whole, I would not take away much from this section as there were no annoying issues with daily performance.
The Xiaomi Mi Max 2 bundles a 12 MP rear camera with 1.25-micron pixels, and an f/2.2 aperture. For the front camera, you get a 5 MP unit. There is no optical image stabilisation on board. The camera interface is similar to what we have seen on other Xiaomi smartphones with MIUI 8 on board. You get modes such as panorama, manual, beautify, tilt-shift, and even something called group shot, which lets you take multiple photos of groups so you can later select the best one.
In terms of image quality, it is hit and miss. I did manage to get some good shots when the subject was steady, but shooting moving objects is not so much fun. Daylight images turn out to be quite detailed, and focussing is quick. But indoors and under low light, the tables turn. The detail is missing on eight out of ten shots. Shooting at night on the streets ends up giving patchy images. The noise reducing algorithms seem to work in overdrive at times. Shooting far off objects in daylight or even indoors gives a noisy image. Getting a focus lock on a busy street is also a pain. Selfies are decent though, but only in daylight.
The video mode lets you shoot in up to 4K resolution and supports timelapse and slow motion recording as well. As with the still photos, the video shooting also throws up good results only in well lit situations. Since there is no image stabilisation on board, expect shaky footage.
Overall, if I want to capture some important moment or events, I know that the Mi Max 2 will not be my primary camera.
With a 5,300 mAh capacity battery, this is the only reason to think of investing in this phone. There were days when I could extract two full days worth of battery life from the Mi Max 2 — a 100 percent charge on Saturday morning, and going under 10 percent only on Monday night. The PC Mark for Android benchmark crashed the two times I tried it. Even with heavy usage involving streaming movies, playing music, surfing the web, multiple social media accounts on sync and gaming, you can still easily extract a day and a half of usage from the phone. Xiaomi also lets you use the Mi Max 2 as a powerbank to charge another phone, although you will need a USB Type C to Type A adapter for it. It’s not bundled with the box.
One thing I was really worried about with the large capacity 5,300 mAh battery was the charging time it would take. Thanks to the bundled charger though, that issue is taken care of and within two hours, you get a fully charged phone. This is impressive on all counts. So if you are planning to go on a weekend trip, and happen to forget your charger, that won’t be an issue for the Mi Max 2.
Verdict and Price in India
To put it in a nutshell, go for this device only if you have two major needs — long lasting battery and media consumption. The large battery and display are the unique selling points of this phone, as in every other department you can find better faring alternatives, some from Xiaomi itself. Also, the large size of the phone means that it is not suitable for use for everyone.
While the second entrant in the Mi Max series does not ace all the performance numbers, it still delivers a good overall user experience in real world usage. I liked the fact that the phone does not heat up when playing games or using the video camera. Fitting the phone into your jeans or trouser pockets can be challenging for some. There is always some portion of the phone that is jutting out.
It would have been great to have a consistent camera performance on the Mi Max 2, but maybe Xiaomi can try to fix that with a software update.
In the large display space, Mi Max 2 has little competition at its price and feature set. If you can extend your budget, there's the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, a 6.44-inch display phone, which comes with support for Google Tango and includes a 4,050 mAh battery. If the camera is an important requirement for you, then you are better off going for the Oppo F3 Plus which has a 6-inch display, 4,000 mAh battery, slightly better chipset and a better camera.