There was a time, not too long ago, when it was not uncommon to see people carrying 7-inch tablets around as their primary phones. As ridiculous as it looked, it was a trend that caught on and we have Samsung's affordable Tab series to thank (or blame) for that. Last year, we witnessed Lenovo attempting to get in on that action with the Phab Plus (Review), and today, we have Xiaomi taking a stab at this niche market with the Mi Max.
Just like Lenovo's offering, the Mi Max focuses purely on content consumption (and perhaps a bit of creation too), be it videos, games, or even apps. Given its feature set and specifications, the Mi Max can be considered a larger rendition of the Redmi Note 3 (Review), another very popular phone. But has Xiaomi got the formula right with the Mi Max? We've spent nearly a week with the device and here's what we think.
Look and feel
It's not rocket science to make a large-screened smartphone, but the ability to achieve a balance between size, weight, and ergonomics is what sets the good ones apart. The Mi Max features a 6.44-inch full-HD display with Gorilla Glass 3 and the company's proprietary Sunlight Display tech for better outdoor legibility. Make no mistake, this screen is massive, and the Mi Max manages to make even an iPhone 6 Plus (Review) look small in comparison. However, Xiaomi tries to make up for this by trimming the side bezels and space above and below the display, except for what's absolutely needed. The front glass is also slightly rounded, thereby avoiding any sharp edges.
The Mi Max is fairly slim at [url removed, login to view] and there are chamfered edges along the metal body. The volume and power buttons are placed on the right and work well, with good tactile feedback. The hybrid SIM tray sits on the left. You can either have two SIM cards or one SIM and a microSD card (up to 128GB).
The mono-speaker is placed at the bottom, along with the Micro-USB port, while the headphones socket and infrared emitter are on the top. The metal surface makes the phone quite slippery, so getting a rubber case wouldn't be a bad idea.
Around back, we have the primary camera, dual-tone LED flash, and fingerprint sensor. The metal rim around the camera juts out a bit but we didn't encounter any major scuffing during our usage. The Mi Max is a heavy phone at 203 grams but honestly, it's hard to tell when you hold it. Single-handed use for typing is quite difficult as you have to juggle the phone around.
It's not an easy phone to live with and even after a week, we found ourselves struggling to cope with its sheer size during daily commutes. It's also a task stuffing it in a pocket. Trousers are manageable but good luck trying to get it all the way into your jeans pocket. The Mi Max is sure to grab a lot of attention, not only because of its size but also because it looks premium and well-built.
Our test unit came with a charger, cable, some instruction leaflets, and a SIM ejector tool.
Specifications and software
The Xiaomi Mi Max is powered by the tried and tested hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 SoC, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. The company plans to launch a higher-end variant soon which will have an octa-core Snapdragon 652 SoC, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Other specifications include dual-band Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, USB OTG, 4G with VoLTE, and FM radio. NFC isn't present.
In terms of software, the Mi Max runs on a customised version of Android Marshmallow called MIUI 7 (tested on v184.108.40.206), which is similar to what we've seen before on the Mi 5 (Review). Some features of Marshmallow like Now on Tap aren't currently present but Xiaomi tells us that it is the works and will be added soon. In the coming months, the phone will also be upgradeable to MIUI 8.
In order to make it easier to perform simple tasks like typing, the Mi Max comes with a 'One-handed mode' in the settings menu, which shrinks the contents of the display down to either 4.5-inches, 4-inches or 3.5-inches. You can perform t