Xiaomi Mi Max 2 full review
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It has since been updated again, and the Mi Max 3 is bigger than ever with a 6.9in screen.
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.
Also see: Best Xiaomi Phones 2018
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)
Xiaomi Mi Max 2 core performance and hardware
As we touched on earlier, the Mi Max 2 features upgrades in the processor, memory, RAM and battery departments. Obviously these things are all welcome - the bumped up storage, for example, makes it much more likely that you’ll be able to get away without inserting a microSD card and thereby losing the phone’s dual-SIM functionality (it has a hybrid slot). (Also see: How to add storage to Android)
Our benchmarks don’t exactly tally with those of the Mi Max, since the applications have all been updated in the year that has passed in between their respective launches, but it’s fairly evident that the Mi Max 2 is not as fast as the original Mi Max. Rather, it’s on par with the Redmi Note 4 and Note 4X, which use the same processor.
You can view the benchmark results of all these devices in the graph below.
Of course we’re only talking about synthetic benchmarks here, and it’s real-world performance that matters most. With an extra couple of cores (now up to eight) the Xiaomi Mi Max 2 can handle multitasking, and so is capable of doing several things at once. We didn’t notice any lag in our testing, and think few users will be left feeling frustrated by performance.
So why is it slower in our benchmarks? Consider that the Mi Max ran a hexa-core processor with four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.4GHz and two Cortex-A72 cores clocked at 1.8GHz. In this setup the four A53s are tuned for efficiency, and the A72s for performance.
Now consider that the Mi Max 2 has more cores in the octa-core Snapdragon 625, each of which are clocked faster at 2GHz. Sounds ideal, except all eight of these cores are A53s and not A72s.
As a result performance may be slower in benchmarks but efficiency is much greater, and in the real world that should prove victorious. The Mi Max could last most users two days; the Mi Max 2 can do this and more, and light users may be able to achieve significantly longer from the device.
We’re also pleased to see Quick Charge 3.0 support, especially given the now higher-capacity battery that would otherwise take much longer to charge. Xiaomi says you’ll now get up to 68 percent in an hour. (Also see: Best phones 2017)
Xiaomi Mi Max 2 cameras
We noted earlier that the Mi Max 2 now has the same Sony IMX386 camera sensor as the flagship Mi6, though not in quite the same setup since this phone lacks the secondary lens. We took a variety of shots on the Mi Max 2, and were largely impressed with its photography skills.
First up is a shot of St Pancras International Renaissance Hotel, with automatic settings and then with HDR engaged.
We were really pleased with the accuracy of colours on these shots, although to be fair everything tends to look better in the sun. The clouds were rendered perfectly, and nothing about the image caused us any particular concern.
A lot of detail was retained, right up to the extreme edges of the image, and though it’s not quite possible to make out the characters on the road sign when captured from our seventh-floor roof terrace, sharpness on the whole is very good.
With HDR engaged the Mi Max 2 does a better job of dealing with highlights and shadows, though not as obviously as some cameras.
Next we tried a low-light shot, and admired how much detail and colour accuracy the Mi Max 2 managed to retain without suffering from too much noise. This is not the best representation of this scene we have seen, but most of the colours are accurate and the text on the bottle remains readable. Some detail is lost in the shadows on the digger truck, but a good effort.
The 5Mp selfie camera is acceptable but nothing special. The beauty mode has three settings: smart, pro or off. Pro mode offers a slider for ‘Slim’ and another for ‘Skin’, though we didn’t think either made much difference. We do like the fact the real-time filters are available for the selfie camera as well as the main camera, though. There’s also a GroupShot option here that will take multiple images so you can choose the best one.
Xiaomi Mi Max 2 software
Out of the box our Mi Max 2 runs MIUI 8.5, which is a customised version of Android 7.1.1 Nougat. It is the international version of the phone, so Google Play is preinstalled. You can pretty much pick it up and start using it as you would any other Android phone, though you might notice a handful of differences.
The most obvious of these is the lack of an app tray, with everything laid out on the home screen in an iPhone-esque fashion. You’ll also see some changes in the Settings menu, so take full advantage of the Search bar at the top to find what you’re looking for (it works well).
Some new features new to MIUI 8 include Dual apps, which in essence lets you run two instances of one app (this might come in handy if you make use of the dual-SIM functionality, for example), and in a similar vein you can also set up a second space on the phone - it’s almost like having two phones. There’s a Child mode, too.
You can individually lock any app on the phone, should you rather not lock the phone itself or you want a second layer of security, and you can tweak various things such as the theme and which side of the home button your back and multi-tasking options sit.
You can make use of a Quick ball, which places onscreen a shortcut to options such as screenshot and lock, and there’s the one-handed mode we mentioned earlier. It will likely come in handy on a phone of this size.
Xiaomi Mi Max 2: Specs
- 6.44in full-HD (1920x1080) IPS display with Gorilla Glass 4
- MIUI 8.0 OS
- 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor
- 650MHz Adreno 506 GPU
- 4GB RAM
- 64/128GB storage, microSD support up to 128GB OR dual-SIM dual-standby functionality
- dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.2
- GPS, GLONASS
- IR port
- 12Mp Sony IMX386, f/2.2 rear camera
- 5Mp f/2.0 selfie camera
- rear fingerprint scanner
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- stereo speakers
- 5,300mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0