Xiaomi Mi Max 3 Review

Xiaomi Mi Max 3

Xiaomi Mi Max 3

Xiaomi

July, 2018
6.9" display, Snapdragon 636 chipset, Dual: 12 MP + 5 MP primary camera, 8 MP front camera, 5500 mAh battery, 128 GB storage, 6 GB RAM, To be confirmed.
EUR:€310
Rate It:User Rating: (Excellent)


Xiaomi Mi Max 3 Review

Xiaomi Mi Max 3 Review


Introduction

There was a time when cellphone manufacturers were in a race to develop the smallest phone. Well, those days are gone now as phones are getting bigger and bigger, with everyone trying to fit more screen real estate and Xiaomi is one of those smartphone manufacturers who excel at making really large devices. Their largest series, Mi Max, is getting a new variant this year, dubbed as Xiaomi Mi Max 3. With a tablet-sized 6.9-inch screen, Xiaomi Mi Max 3 is a phone for anyone who really want a phone bigger than an ordinary smartphone. This year, Xiaomi has updated their largest device to an all new display, new dual camera setup and a battery larger than ever. Everything about it on paper looks massive as this is a phone of a colossal size but question remains, is it also as massive with its caliber as it is with size? Will Xiaomi's new mammoth of a phone be able to impress users? Let's find out.

Design

As you might expect, phone's body is really big, as Xiaomi Mi Max 3 towers over even Samsung Galaxy Note8 by over half an inch in height. However, thanks to a bezel-less design, it is not quite approaching small tablet size in footprint. Slim bezels run up sides of phone, leading into a fairly slim forehead and chin. Not the slimmest I've seen, but not terrible for a midrange phone either. Front of device is all glass which combines seemingly into aluminum frame which extends all the way back of this phone. Corners are well-rounded which makes this phone fairly easy to hold, better than I expected. It is definitely not a one-handed device, but it still offers plenty of room to hold it in one hand.

At front, there's a large display which has very small side bezels. Top and bottom chin is there, but Xiaomi has implemented a thin bezel design which ensures 79.8% screen-to-body ratio. There are no physical buttons to be seen on bottom bezel, while top bezel holds an earpiece, front facing camera and some sensors.

Moving towards back of Xiaomi Mi Max 3, you'll find a dual-lens camera system with LED flash stacked vertically in an Apple iPhone X like design. Unlike Apple iPhone X, though, you will find a fingerprint scanner here, placed centrally fairly far up back of device. Due to a large form factor of this device, I found it kind of difficult to reach fingerprint scanner, especially while using with one hand. Rest of back is kept clean and simple with a minimal Mi branding on bottom. At right side of phone is where you have your power button and volume rocker while there's a dual sim tray slot on left. At top of device is where you will find much loved 3.5mm headphone jack, a noise deduction mic and an infrared port, and at bottom there's a USB Type-C port with bottom firing speaker and a microphone.

Overall, it is a similar design that we've seen on some other Xiaomi phones like Xiaomi Note 5 Pro, however, this time it is on a much larger body. Aluminum matte finish is great to touch and whole vibe of this phone just gets better with small bezels at top and bottom. Surely, Xiaomi fans will be glad to see this design implementation.

Display

Xiaomi Mi Max 3's display is absolutely enormous. It's a 6.9-inch IPS LCD Full HD display with a resolution of 2160 x 1080p, aspect ratio of 18:9 and pixel density of 350 ppi. Now, you might think that Full HD display on a phone of this size will ruin your experience, but this display is on par with all the other smartphones of this size available out there. Plus, larger sized display means more pixels, which in turn means a more detailed representation of all your movies, games and pictures.

Display on Xiaomi Mi Max 3 uses an LCD panel, like most Xiaomi phones, and while colors aren't as saturated as what you'd find on AMOLED, there's plenty to like here. Brightness level of this display is quite good. It can get a tad reflective at times though, even act like a mirror at times and you would like to avoid any direct light source in background. Considering its big size, 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 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 anything that bothered me in particular, however, viewing angles on Xiaomi Mi Max 3 are not best. You can immediately spot a contrast shift if you look at it from even a slight angle. For a smartphone which capitalizes on content consuming audience, this isn't quite desirable. Agreed, you will be viewing content with phone placed in a limited angle range, but it is still surprising that Xiaomi would even remotely consider compromising on this aspect of display. Text on the other hand appear sharp though and while black levels are not best, you are still good enough to go. There were instances when watching a dark scene in a video that I noticed some backlight bleeding. This does not affect whole movie viewing experience, but if you are coming from an AMOLED display device, you will tend to notice these issues.

Rest of display is a standard Xiaomi display, and I really hope this one doesn't suffer from screen burn issues as display on Xiaomi Mi A1 did. Overall, I would give Xiaomi credit to work out a way to add a decent display of this size at this midrange price point.

Hardware

Xiaomi's Mi Max line has traditionally been a midrange offering, despite its size, and Mi Max 3 is no different in that regard. It's powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor and Adreno 509 GPU, same processor on speedy Motorola Moto Z3 Play, and offers a choice between 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, or 6GB of RAM and a hefty 128GB of storage. There were some rumors that Xiaomi Mi Max 3 will feature a brand-new chipset from Snapdragon, called Snapdragon 710 but there's no sign of that yet. While it's unlikely to be the fastest phone on block, it's still likely to deliver good performance. For those who want even more storage, there's microSD card expansion available but you'll have to sacrifice 2nd sim slot for that.

Mi Max 3 mostly gets the job done, as its paired by an Octa-core processor and with Adreno 509, you get to experience decent gaming. However, during my performance test, there were lots of hiccups and lags while playing PUBG mobile on high settings. On lower settings, however, gameplay was much smoother with less lag. Talking about benchmarks, phone scored 119232 on AnTuTu benchmark which is pretty midrange, and just enough to tackle average games and everyday tasks. While playing some 4K footage on YouTube, video playback was choppy, especially on 4 GB RAM variant, while it was much better and smoother on 6 GB RAM version.

Standard connectivity options are present including dual VoLTE, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, and USB-C. Thankfully, company has retained 3.5-mm headphone jack which is very welcomed by a lot of people. There's a mono loudspeaker at bottom and earpiece takes some highs and mids when in speaker mode, but it's not all that loud. While this arrangement is loud enough for daily use, it doesn't get loud enough to match stereo speakers on some phones, such as Samsung Galaxy S9, Apple iPhone X and even its predecessor Xiaomi Mi Max 2. Fact that an older version had stereo speaker support and not this one is kind of a bummer. Other than that, it's a fairly standard Xiaomi device with a good combination of hardware for a budget friendly price point.

Battery

With those modest midrange specs, you might be wondering what large body of Xiaomi Mi Max 3 is filled with. Turns out it's full of extra power as phone is packing a massive 5,500 mAh battery. Most modern flagships sit around a 3,000mAh battery, with some particularly large batteries hitting 4,000mAh, making Xiaomi Mi Max 3's battery utterly enormous. It's also equipped with QuickCharge 3.0, and Xiaomi claims that this battery will charge from zero to 71 percent in an hour which is very impressive to be honest. Big 5,500 mAh battery should ensure that device lasts easily throughout the day and still have enough charge for next day.

There's not wireless charging on this phone, as it is made out of metal, but battery is big enough to even charge other devices, thanks to its bi-directional USB-C connection. Also, with Quick Charge 3.0 support, you don't have to worry too much about charging phone itself. It's a massive battery for a huge phone, and Xiaomi has been spot on in battery department of this brand new device.

Camera

Everything on this midrange phone by Xiaomi is massive, but they had to sacrifice at places to keep its price down while going big. That sacrifice can be seen in Xiaomi Mi Max 3's camera department, however, it still is a pretty decent camera for a midrange device. You'll find a dual-lens system installed around back, with a 12 MP main lens having an f/1.9 aperture. Secondary lens is just 5 megapixels and will be used primarily for depth-sensing in portrait shots.

During my camera test, I compared this phone with another Xiaomi midrange device in similar price point, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro. Photos taken in bright sunlight were average at best, while ones taken from Xiaomi Note 5 Pro were sharper, with better colors and a good dynamic range. It could also be due to the fact that Xiaomi Mi Max 3 has a smaller aperture which enables less light to enter camera sensors. On color side, photos showed pretty cooler temperature, but again with a very poor sharpness level as well. Details in pictures are not bad, however, but due to lack of light in them, they just look overall average. In low lighting conditions, camera performed really poorly. There was a lot of noise in pictures and a lot of times it seemed as if photos were taken from a two years old midrange device. On the bright side, its camera app supports AI scene recognition which enables camera to optimize settings according to subject in pictures.

Xiaomi Mi Max 3 is also able to capture 4K video at 30 frames per second, and slow-motion video at 120 frames per second, but only at 720p. There's gyro-EIS available at 720p video recording which stabilizes video footage to an extent, but it still appears to be shaky, as compared to videos taken from other midrange devices. At front, selfie camera is an 8 MP lens with an f/2.0 aperture. Selfies taken were pretty much like photos taken from rear camera, they lacked light and looked average. Videos can be shot till 1080p from facing camera and I liked them better than selfies taken from selfie cam.

Overall, it is a disappointing camera experience from a phone of a mammoth size. It can be argued that Xiaomi did not intend this phone to be for people enthusiastic for photography, and they had to cut cost at places to maintain a low price point. We can only hope that next iteration of Xiaomi's Mi Max series will have a better camera and wider aperture for better lit photographs.

Software

Xiaomi Mi Max 3 ships with Android 8.1 Oreo, but it is hidden under MIUI 9.5, latest version of Xiaomi's Android skin. MIUI isn't a terrible re-skin of Android, but it's certainly different, so it's fair to expect some different-looking menus and settings on Xiaomi Mi Max 3. However, Xiaomi's update game is good, and you can probably expect this phone to receive MIUI updates for Android P and Android Q.

Going through user interface, it is definitely speedy enough for smooth surfing through different menus and home screens. With pretty much same software from Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s's MIUI 8, Xiaomi Mi Max 3 is in great shape to offer smooth user experience. Xiaomi designers took great hints from Apple iPhone X's gesture-based user interface to develop a user interface which is easy and fruitful enough for anyone to use it as their daily driver for navigation. Swiping up from bottom goes to home screen while swiping up and holding it there opens recent apps. Swiping and holding to left side from right corner of display reveals an arrow pointing towards left and it also works as a straight shortcut to home screen. I personally like animations while swiping left or right as it shows a page bent animation on screen, something very pleasing to eyes. However, if you are still not sold on the whole gesture idea, you can still use standard Android navigation keys by turning them on in settings.

There are some really exciting features in MIUI 9.5, including Customizable App Lock. While MIUI interface has always let users lock installed apps for privacy, this feature has been enhanced in latest build. It lets users choose from three app lock styles, pattern, alphanumeric password and numeric pin. In order to access setting, users need to open security app, go to app lock and tap on settings. Inside settings option, one will be able to change the password and select desired protection type. There's also an improved web browser now as Xiaomi has made some structural changes to Mi Browser. Improved browser now comes with an overhauled start page and several performance enhancements. According to changelog, this browser gets quick search options, adjusted search bar position, optimized browser kernel, preset keywords for websites and a redesigned menu tab. Notably, you can also set keywords to search websites quickly. Anyone who has had a smartphone will know the pain of looking for a particular picture in gallery. Considering that our image gallery is usually flooded with a ton of pictures and videos, Xiaomi has come up with an interesting solution to tackle this problem. It has introduced a Favorites tab in gallery on MIUI 9.5. All you have to do is to long press on an image and mark it as a favorite. Once done, these pictures will reflect in dedicated tab, making it easier to find them.

Probably the most noticeable change in MIUI 9.5 is redesigned notification shade. According to Xiaomi, new notification panel in MIUI 9.5 has been designed to present information in a more concise and comprehensive way. Intended to declutter notification shade, latest MIUI iteration now groups all notifications from a single app in one place. Further, this update finally brings quick replies option, which lets users reply directly from notification itself without having to open corresponding app. Additionally, Xiaomi has also changed the way notifications look in landscape mode.

There's a theme store where you can download and change theme of your device, including icon shapes and colors. For security, together with a fast fingerprint scanner you also get facial unlock. It is software based and not as secured as on Apple iPhone X or Oppo Find X, but something is better than nothing. All you need to do is to record your face and then tap phone's display to wake up screen and it nearly instantly unlocks phone. Together with that, you get a voice assistant which is basically Google Assistant.

It will be interesting to see how Xiaomi will play its part in providing updates to this phone and improve software experience. It is already a decent software experience and with a sleek UI and navigation gestures, MIUI is my favorite custom OS on Android at the moment.

Conclusion

Xiaomi Mi Max 3 is available for pre-order right now in China and Singapore for 1,699 yuan (about $250) for 4GB/64GB model, 1,999 yuan (around $300) for 6GB/64GB model. Phone will be available in three different colors: Black, Champaign Gold and Blue. There's no word on Xiaomi for an international release date, but I'm hopeful there will be one very soon.

With a weight of about 221 grams, Xiaomi Mi Max 3 might not be for everyone but is a decent option for those who need more screen real estate and long battery life. I'll give Xiaomi some credit here as they have created a budget friendly phablet which is pretty user friendly, with its fantastic MIUI 9.5, which I'm hoping will be soon upgraded to MIUI 10. Phone looks great, can take decent photos and emails, playing games, watching videos is all done without too much sacrifice for general users and mid-tier buyers. There are some downers like a low-resolution display and mostly the quality of cameras at rear, but if you are willing to ignore that knowing that this device costs less than $300, there isn't much you won't like about this phone.

In the end, I would say that Xiaomi is one of those smartphone manufacturers who don't go crazy on design and aesthetics, but their hardware is one of the most reliable one coming from China. If you're on a budget looking for a phone with a great battery life, look no further as this is indeed the new reigning champion in that category.