Xiaomi Mi Max 2 review
Xiaomi recently updated its giant 6.44in-screen Mi Max with a second version that offers even more battery capacity, more storage, more memory and an improved camera. As of yesterday the new phone is now available in India as well as China, but as you’ll discover in our review you can buy the Mi Max 2 in the UK too. (Also see: Best Chinese phones 2017)
Xiaomi Mi Max 2 UK price and availability
Xiaomi phones aren’t officially sold in the UK, so you won’t find them through any high-street mobile operators. However, they’re easy to get hold of via Chinese importers such as GearBest, which supplies all our Xiaomi phones for review. The only thing is you'll need to buy them upfront and pair them with a SIM-only deal, but prices are good.
GearBest lists two versions of the Mi Max 2: one with 64GB storage and the other 128GB. Both are international models, which means they support Google Play out of the box and are easy to get on with for UK users with none of the Chinese-language apps and notifications you often see on Xiaomi phones.
We’re reviewing the 64GB model in gold here, though there is also a black version available elsewhere. At the time of writing it costs £216.24 from GearBest, and if you’re buying outside the UK it’ll cost $279.99 in the US and 245.47€ in Europe. That's a fairly budget to mid-range price, but for the money the build quality and spec is very good.
Shipping is free (unless you opt for an express service), but you should factor into your budget import duty - you may be contacted before the phone is delivered and asked to pay 20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork plus an admin fee of around £11.
The Mi Max 2 supports expandable storage through microSD, so buying the cheaper model and bolting on more storage if and when required may be the more attractive option. (See How to move to SD.) We think 64GB of internal storage is pretty generous in any case, especially for a mid-range phone. But if you are going to want more than this GearBest lists the 128GB Mi Max 2 for £299.94 or $388.36 in the US and 340.47€ in Europe.
Before you dive in with the purchase, O2, Giffgaff, Sky Mobile and Tesco Mobile customers should note that they will not be able to receive 4G LTE connectivity on the Mi Max 2. That’s because it does not support the 800MHz band (Band 20), which is the only frequency on which those operators offer LTE. If 3G isn’t fast enough for your needs you will need to connect to Wi-Fi or look elsewhere. (Also see: How to tell whether a phone is supported by your network.)
For more advice on buying Chinese tech read our guide.
What’s new in the Mi Max 2?
The original Mi Max featured a hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and a 4,850mAh battery. These core specs have been updated, so now you get the octa-core Snapdragon 625 with 4GB of RAM, 64GB (or 128GB) of storage and a 5,300mAh battery that can now be charged significantly faster using Quick Charge 3.0.
Performance is lower, but efficiency is improved and the Mi Max 2 is much less likely to overheat. As it stands you’ll easily get two days of use from the Mi Max 2, but some users could potentially get a lot longer.
Potentially more interesting for consumers is the fact the Mi Max 2 also features some upgrades in the camera department. Whereas previously the Max featured a 16Mp (f/2.0) camera at the rear, the Mi Max 2 now has a 12Mp camera. (It has the same 5Mp selfie camera as its predecessor.)
The primary camera might sound like a downgrade, but in fact it uses the same Sony IMX386 image sensor as the flagship Xiaomi Mi6. It’s not quite the same camera setup, since the Mi6 also has a secondary telephoto lens, but in Xiaomi’s flagship it does a fine job.
As you’ll learn from our best smartphone camera group test, the Mi6 does a grand job of producing sharp, well-exposed images that are very detailed in good light. In low-light it manages to retain detail yet also do a good job of keeping noise at bay. All in all that’s a good sign for the Mi Max 2.
Xiaomi Mi Max 2 design and build
With a massive 6.44in screen and a giant 5,300mAh battery, the Xiaomi Mi Max is one of the largest phones we’ve ever reviewed. It is a perfect fit for those who admire the larger screens of tablets for consuming media, but don’t feel they need a second mobile device. (Also see: Best big phones)
Xiaomi has done its best to prevent the Mi Max 2 from becoming unweildy, and the chassis is just 7.6mm thick. It’s a flat slab with rounded corners and slim bezels to the left and right - the screen-to-body ratio is just under 75 percent. There’s also 2.5D curved glass atop the display, and all these things combined can give the impression of a smaller phone than what you’re actually seeing.
There are the usual software tweaks to make one-handed use possible too, with a special mode that allows you to shrink down the display size to 4.5-, 4- or 3.5in.
The metal unibody design has been enhanced so that no longer do you see separate panels top and bottom on the rear, but a truly one-piece body. There are new antenna lines top and bottom, but these are virtually unnoticeable thanks to the way they border the extreme edges of the phone.
Also gone are the chamfered edges, and the new Mi Max 2 displays much smoother, more rounded curves. It’s ever so slightly larger, now measuring 174.1x88.7x7.6mm and tipping the scales at 211g.
The new camera now lies flush to the rear of the phone, with its dual-tone flash sitting to the left rather than the right. There’s also a new USB-C charging port on the bottom, with the original Mi Max specifying Micro-USB.
You still get a series of drilled-out holes that allow sound to escape from a speaker on the right, but now there are just six holes on each side of the USB port rather than the previous eight.
In all other respects you could be forgiven for mistaking this Xiaomi for the original Mi Max. You see the same black border running the circumference of the screen, which remains a 6.44in full-HD IPS panel with realistic colours and strong viewing angles. Brightness is pretty good, given the price, and we measured a maximum 430cd/m2.
You might think stretching so few pixels (many of today’s flagship phones are smaller but with Quad-HD resolutions) over such a large area would result in a terribly fuzzy, pixellated appearance, but actually the Mi Max 2 is very sharp, and with a 342 pixel density every bit as good as the iPhone in this regard.
The build quality is, again, difficult to fault. It feels very sturdy and the Gorilla Glass 4 screen protection is another comfort, knowing this phone is more likely to end up falling out of your hands than most. A rear fingerprint scanner is in a useful position and works well. And we like the fact Xiaomi has retained the IR blaster at the top, since these are becoming increasingly rare. (Also see: Best Android phones 2017)