I’ll admit right off the bat that I’m not a fan of big phones. I believe mobile phones should be, well, mobile and therefore usable when you are mobile. This includes when you’re hanging on to grab handles in a bus or train or just browsing the internet with one hand while using the other to have lunch. Xiaomi’s Mi Max series of phablets aren’t meant for that sort of application. Yet, when I reviewed the original Mi Max last year, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the device. It may not be compact or ideal for single-handed use, but there’s certainly a market for phablets since these devices serve the sort of users who want their phones to do a lot more than just serve as secondary mobile communications devices.
Don’t expect me to get into the specifics of that, or even tell you whether it works at all as an all-rounder here, because we are going to focus entirely on the design and build quality of the Mi Max 2 in this article. And that’s great because Xiaomi has upped its game with the Mi Max 2. That’s doesn’t mean the original Mi Max cut corners in this department. The phone’s sturdy aluminium/plastic hybrid chassis went above and beyond what was expected from a phone costing as much, but Xiaomi has outdone itself with the Mi Max 2 by incorporating a gorgeous unibody aluminium construction for roughly the same price.
An All-Metal Doppelganger
Gone are the plastic panels found at the top and bottom ends of the original Mi Max. The Mi Max 2 instead sports an all metal body with antenna separators that blend imperceptibly while following the natural curvature of the top and bottom edges. The phone has nearly the same dimension as the original Mi Max, but if one were to pick some nits, it’s longer by a millimetre. It’s remarkable how at 211 grammes, it’s only 8 grammes heavier than its predecessor. That’s remarkable because the Mi Max 2 has a heavier all-metal body and a larger (and hence heavier) 5300 mAh battery with nearly 10 percent more capacity. While it’s technically heavier than the original Mi Max, you still can’t tell the difference. The icing on the cake being the extra rigidity and durability offered by the unibody aluminium construction.
The Mi Max 2 has nearly identical design compared to its predecessor, with all the components in the exact same place. That means the power and volume rocker buttons are within reach on the right-hand side of the device, whereas the backlit capacitive Android menu buttons lie in the same familiar order and location at the bottom. But this also means that the fingerprint sensor location at the rear could be hard to reach for those with smaller hands. The left-hand side edge houses a hybrid SIM tray that can take a primary micro SIM and secondary nano SIM, or you can forsake the latter for a micro SD card. There’s also the trusty 3.5mm headphone output at the top.
But there are some notable differences to the Mi Max 2 and they are all isolated to the bottom edge. For starters, it’s amply evident that Xiaomi has done away with the micro USB charging port and replaced it with the snazzy new USB type-C version. The improvements don’t stop there. Dual speaker grilles, this time around, actually house stereo speakers. And the sound quality has improved by leaps and bounds as a consequence. There are a pair of exposed screws at the bottom, but that was also the case in the original Mi Max. I wish Xiaomi had engineered these away, but they aren’t quite visible and let’s not forget the sort of features value this phone offers on a relatively tight budget.
The display is another major change that isn’t easily apparent. For starters, the brilliant 1080p IPS LCD panels is bonded closer to the Corning Gorilla Glass 4 substrate, which not only improves quality but gives the Mi Max 2 that distinctively premium feel. While the screen-to-body ratio has largely remained unchanged, the bezels on either side of the display are ever-so-slightly thinner lengthwise. Combine the vibrant display with the all-black matte variant review unit I received, and the Mi Max 2 makes for a competent media consumption device. It’s all screen and no distraction in this avatar. The front camera might be the same, but the rear camera has been bumped up to a 16-megapixel setup. However, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference because Xiaomi has interchanged the camera and dual-LED (dual-tone) flash position to differentiate it from the original Mi Max.
Overall, the Mi Max 2 not only looks gorgeous compared to its predecessor, but it’s sturdier, more rounded, and feels much better in the hand. The matte black finish isn’t slippery and doesn’t pick up fingerprints easily either. Design and build quality wise, the Mi Max 2 a definite improvement over the original Mi Max.