- Extremely large display for media consumption
- Excellent build quality
- Long lasting battery life
- Decent mid-range camera
- Phone may be too large for some
- Portrait mode can be better
Back in 2016, Xiaomi released the Mi Max, a device considered extremely large back then with its 6.44-inch display. However, most flagship devices these days sport a similar screen size, and it is considered normal. Fast forward to 2018, and Xiaomi released the Mi Max 3, which sports an even larger display measuring at 6.9-inches. We managed to get our hands on one and I used it as my daily driver for a couple of weeks. So how did it fair? Continue reading below to find out!
Design and Build Quality
The Mi Max 3 sports a rather simplistic design, with its basic but sleek look. I’m not complaining here, and I do personally tend to prefer simple looks compared to more extravagant phone designs of today. However, there are certainly modern aspects to it, including the aspect ratio of the display which is 18:9. Thankfully, it doesn’t look weird and skinny, instead it looks rather proportional to its body. What’s great about this aspect ratio is that Xiaomi was able to fit such a humongous display in a rather small frame. Most hands would be able to grip the phone with ease, though one-handed usage will be tough for sure.
At the back, Xiaomi has placed a vertical dual-camera setup on the left-hand side of the device which does come with a bump unfortunately. Moving towards the centre, a fingerprint scanner is strategically placed and is reachable with one-handed usage. The typical Mi logo can be found towards the bottom. Also, the rear panel has a nice curvature to it, which aids in gripping the phone. It’s sleek and smooth, which as mentioned previously is basic but works. The antenna lines are visible, but not to the extent that you’ll notice it right away. At the bottom, there’s a USB Type-C port (thankfully) and also a downwards firing single speaker. On the right-hand side, the power button and volume rocker can be found, but it is a stretch to reach them. Meanwhile, the left-hand side only houses the SIM-card tray, which is a hybrid one, meaning it can hold two nano-SIMs or a nano-SIM and a microSD card.
Truly, the highlight of this device is its behemoth screen of 6.9-inches, which is just below tablet territory. If you are someone who needs a tablet but can’t be bothered to bring two devices everywhere, then this phone caters to your needs. Content viewing is extremely pleasurable on such a large display, and on top of that, the colour accuracy is on point. Blacks are as deep as they get on a LCD display, and contrast is comparable to flagship grade devices which cost much more. Also, the resolution is high enough that content is clear and not a hint of blurriness was noticeable. The one drawback of having such a large display is one-handed usage which is definitely a struggle. You risk dropping the device, and only the largest hands can use it comfortably with a single hand. Gaming can also be quite hard, and controls will have to be adjusted before a gaming session. However, with the bottom and top bezel still around, accidental touches shouldn’t be an issue.
When it comes to legibility under bright conditions, it is an okay performer. Content is still viewable under direct sunlight with the screen brightness cranked to the max. I didn’t experience any issues with using the phone under bright conditions. Minimum brightness is also pretty good, and I didn’t find myself being blinded by it when using it in pitch darkness.
Backed by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 and 4 / 6GB of RAM, the Mi Max 3 is a decent performer when it comes to day-to-day usage. Basic tasks such as browsing of social media and the Internet can be done with ease. Opening of apps was quick and I didn’t experience any crashes. However, it does take time to load graphically intensive apps such as games. Once loaded though, the game will definitely be playable, including PUBG: Mobile which can be played on Medium quality graphics.
I’m also glad to report that despite being primarily made out of metal, the Mi Max 3 rarely heated up, and won’t be causing any burns to anyone. This behemoth won’t be winning any speed tests against the latest flagships, or even ones from 2017 / 2018, but it definitely can perform any task thrown at it.
Battery Life & Charging
Okay, so the Mi Max 3 has a HUGE screen right? Well, that’s definitely gonna consume lots of battery life eh? Of course it is! But Xiaomi has also included an equally large battery to keep it running throughout the day. When I say large, I mean like 5,500mAh large, which is pretty much the size of a standard powerbank. What’s even more amazing is that the fact that they were able to fit it in such a thin device. Okay okay, so we’ve established that the battery is large in capacity, small in size, but all of that doesn’t matter if it doesn’t last. Thankfully, I’m glad to report that the battery life on this phone is stupendous! On average I would be able to get 7 – 8 hours of screen on time, and battery would be at about 19 – 20% after over a day of usage.
When it comes to charging, the extremely large battery took about 40 minutes to reach 50%, and about 2.15 hours to reach 100% from 0%. This likely thanks to the included Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0.
Rear Camera Interface
The rear camera on the Mi Max 3 consists of a 12MP primary shooter with an f/1.9 aperture and also a 5MP depth sensor. Dual pixel AF and EIS is also part of the package, which should help with focus speed and stability respectively. The UI itself is very typical Xiaomi, with the camera modes arranged side by side, and can be changed with a left or right swipe. At the top there are toggles for the usual options such as AI mode, flash, HDR, and filters. Settings can be accessed via a hamburger menu.
Let’s take a step back first and look at the camera UI. The camera has the modes arranged side by side for you to change by swiping left and right. Sadly, swiping up/down doesn’t switch between front and rear camera – there’s a button for that. There are toggles for flash mode, HDR, and a set of filters and a hamburger shortcut to the settings.
Pictures taken with the Mi Max 3 are good at best, and won’t be winning any smartphone photography awards. However, at its price point, pictures taken with the device are really good. When it comes to image quality, the details in images are aplenty, and colours are accurate under bright conditions. Saturation is also pretty nice, and the Mi Max 3 can definitely take pretty nice images under direct sunlight. HDR doesn’t really make much of a difference in images, and the effect is rather subtle. Low-light photography is not too bad as well, with majority of details preserved, and noise levels are still bearable. There’s a HHT option which is supposed to aid with low-light photos, and it does help to decrease noise to a certain extent.
There’s a portrait mode available, and it works reasonably well especially when taking images of people. The edge detection is good, but it could be improved. It does look as if the bokeh effect is generated by software instead of the dedicated 5MP shooter.
Consisting of a fixed focus 8MP f/2.0 shooter, selfies taken on the front-facing camera are sharp. However, colour accuracy suffers, and the camera becomes unusable under low-light. Like other Chinese smartphones, beauty mode is the main feature on the selfie camera, and I immediately turned it off when using the front-facing camera. Portrait mode is also available, and it delivers mediocre selfies.
Speaker & Security
Consisting of a single bottom firing speaker, the Mi Max 3 can get quite loud without any form of distortion. However, it is rather easy to accidentally cover it up while watching a video on landscape mode. All-in-all, the speaker is decent and there isn’t much to complain about.
Like most phones these days, the Mi Max 3 comes with a host of unlock methods. This includes password, pattern, PIN, fingerprint recognition, and face ID. However, there isn’t a dedicated scanner for the face ID, therefore it is not as secure as the other unlock methods. It does work though, and it’s pretty fast, though it is a hit or miss under low-light. The fingerprint scanner on the other hand is pretty fast, and accurate.
UI & OS
At the time of writing, the Mi Max 3 has been upgraded to MIUI 10 running on top of Android 9.0 Pie. The current interface is very fluid and I had no issue getting used to it. With such a large display, it is recommended to enable to on-screen gestures feature, which will allow you to replace the navigation bar. Swiping up from the bottom will bring you to Home, swiping up and holding will open the task switcher. Finally, swiping from the edge will bring you back to the previous screen.
Xiaomi has included a number of features to improve the user experience, including a Security app, Game booster, and its own proprietary apps for Music, Calculator, and Video. However, one of the most useful features would be the Second Space. This feature allows you to have second home screen with a copy of apps you wish to clone. That means you can run for instance, two WhatsApp accounts at any given time. MIUI 10 is simple to use, and it has gotten very fluid over the years.
The Mi Max 3 is a great phone, but it isn’t the phone for everyone considering its humongous display. It’s perfect for those who consume lots of media, and its ideal if you have large hands. If you are considering getting one, it is best to get a hands-on with one of these behemoths beforehand before pulling the trigger. The Mi Max 3 currently retails for RM 1,069 for the 4GB of RAM + 64GB of internal storage variant. At the moment, there aren’t any other phones in the size category of the Mi Max 3. However, if you do want a cheaper option, the Mi Max 2 is still a good buy, though it isn’t widely available any longer.